Category Archives: Short Story

Connection monologue

Partly inspired by DalitNation.com.

What can I do about it? Nothing now, the past is the past. But the past has a way of lingering in the present, doesn’t it? Laxmi Soundararajan, what have you done?

Have to make sure no-one finds out! Keyo will have to keep his mouth shut. Oh, he’s not from our clan, our tribe, our country, even our continent! Why did I have to fall for him? I’m already the lowest of the low! At the merciless mercy of the aunties’ ever-watching eyes and ever-judging tongues, the uncles’ leers and wayward hands, the young boys’ simultaneous hatred and fetishising of me.

Me, whose only hope of success is after this life if I do my dharma, accept my lot, and stay within my kind…

God, I’m blabbing to myself – out loud. Am I going mad? Oh Brahman, I hope no-one’s hearing me! I’m already dark, fat, Dalit, female and infatuated with a Gambian man! I don’t need to be mad on top of that like Mother! Good, Keyo’s still asleep.

Mother. Those scars. Those hideous acid scars…

I can’t relive that agony! How will I get out of this? Even if Keyo does keep schtum and agrees to stop meeting me in public places – never going to happen ‘cause he’s always the centre of attention – what if someone already saw us?

What if someone’s preparing the acid right now? Or gasoline? Or running to tell Dad? Oh no, his honour! I’ve ruined his honour irreparably!

What about my karma? Lord Brahman, I beg you! Never have I shamed myself before, never have I sinned before. If You get me out of this alive and well, I’ll never do this again! I’ll even dump Keyo if…

That’s it! That’s the only way out.

But… do I really want to?

© ONE TAWNY STRANGER, MAY 2016

Short Story: Making Changes

“We need to talk,” said Nike. Her uncharacteristically solemn face told him it wasn’t good. He stepped gingerly into the kitchen.

“Please sit,” he said, gesturing to the table. He did, and she followed suit. The took a simultaneous sharp breath but words didn’t come. They scratched their Afros and and gazed at each other.

The suspense was killing him. “What have I done?”

She began. “Gurey, you know I love you. You’re the kindest gentlest man I’ve ever known. I can never forget when we first met, how you kept your eyes on my face. The way you asked me how I like it when we first made love, it was incredible.”

“I get the feeling you’re disarming me for something,” he blurted.

Her full lips broke into a smile. “And straightforward, I can always count on you for that.”

He combed his tapering brown fingers through his beard in anticipiation.

“There’s just one issue. It’s been bothering me for a while now, and please don’t get offended. It’s just… you eat too much.”

“Huh?”

“Yeah! You’re like a lion: let the woman get it and finish most of it yourself!”

Gurey hung his head. “I get hungry. What can I do?”

Nike burst out laughing, catching him off guard. “How can I get angry at that face? Stop it, let me nag properly!”

“OK,” he agreed, imitating a cave man’s face. The woman was in hysterics, with snot flying out of her nostrils!

“My god this is embarrassing!”

Gurey’s hand dived into his pocket and whipped out a tissue at mach speed. He tenderly wiped the slime off her upper lip.

“Thank you sweetie, but this doesn’t change anything. If you’re gonna eat so much, start paying for it. I’m not rich yet you see how I’m generous, right?”

“Yeah.”

“I always give to those I love – even if don’t love me back. Always been my weakness. Please, I know you’re not taking advantage but greater contribution would be fantastic.”

Gurey reached for an apple from the bowl before him.

She screeched, “What did I just say?!?”

“Sorry. I was listening, I’m just seriously hungry. Didn’t eat anything yesterday,” he said before taking a bite. “Wow this is juicy.” He paused.

“So?”

He looked into her deep sable eyes and said, “OK. I understand your point, and I know I eat like a pig. Please know I’m trying to contribute. It’s just… I never told you about my dad did I?”

“No.”

A scowl overshadowed his face. “He was a filthy khat addict. Could never trust him with anything in the house, always had to hide our money in case he stole it to fuel his habit. Sometimes me, mum & my sister had only 1 meal a day to share between us.”

“Wow. I had no idea.”

“Being stingy & greedy helped us save enough money to come to England, leave his backside in Somalia. I know it’s bad but it literally kept us alive. But I’m glad you brought it up. Really.”

Nike was confused as he reached for his wallet.

“I knew I’d only change if someone had the guts to tell me.” He fished out a £50 note and handed it to her. “Before I chicken out again, take it.”

“Are you sure?”

“Take it.”

She slipped it gingerly from his fingers. “You’re doing this because you want to, not because I told you to?”

“Take it.”

“You’re not angry at what I said?”

“Why would I be?”

“ ‘Cause men don’t like women telling them what to do. That’s been my experience growing up in Nigeria.”

Gurey leaned in, cupped her bistre cheeks in his hands and replied, “Not me. Do you know why I love you?”

She smirked. “My 42NN breasts.”

“Yes, AND! Your straightforwardness. Your confidence. You always make sure people take you seriously. You know your worth, you make others know it, and you make me want to be worthy of you.”

She stroked his hands. “You already are.”

“Not yet. But I am getting there. Let that 50 quid be the start of showing my appreciation for everything you’ve done for me.”

Nike stared into his deep sable eyes. “Are you sure?”

With a smile he nodded. “I’m gonna change. For you.”

 

Solitary Victory

(Apologies for such a long gap since my last post. Hope this new story makes up for it! Also available at: http://www.wattpad.com/86363587-solitary-victory?d=ud)

A rat sprinted across the floor as the young woman lay on the mouldy mattress mulling over her predicament. Moonlight cascaded into the cell. Normally this would comfort her.

But not today.

Today she wanted the shadows to envelop her, to clothe and protect her from reality.

Her imprisonment was yesterday and it stuck in her mind’s eye as fresh as if it were still happening. Justice Pooterledge’s sentence rang like church bells:

“Mrs. Nikopolis, you have been found guilty as charged of the crimes of:

  • interrupting the executions of several hundred enemies of the Law,
  • consistent refusal to pay citizenship tax,
  • non-satirical ridicule and criticism of His Holy Excellency Majesty Carters,
  • and claiming the existence of a social order superior to ours,

all of which contravene the Pan-American Anti-Terrorism Act of 2056, dictum 1043.1. I hereby sentence you to death by flaming crucifixion at noon, December 24th 2099.”

“Tomorrow,” she whispered to herself, tears hanging suspended from her lower eyelids. She untied her headwrap and dabbed them away, which only served to send them cascading down her auburn cheeks. Try as she might, she could no longer hold the full torrent of recent events out of her memory. Husband and all three children shot dead by police, and house burnt down by an angry mob convinced she was the enemy of Pan-America.

And she didn’t want to die, not like this! Not when so many fellow Afro- and native American citizens were being subjected to her fate daily and she was still alive to stop it! But how could she stop it now?!?

After some hours of manic sorrow and subdued rage, the tears dried out. She unfurled and hoisted herself off the mouldy mattress, and her usual gentle unthreatening face she disposed of. She forced herself to the bars of the cell door, her gaze piercing the hinges and walls for any structural weaknesses. Nothing. And the bars were too close together to let her slip through.

Gaze pierced the window. Nothing.

Floor. Nothing.

Ceiling. Nothing.

Walls again. Nothing!

“What the hell?” she screamed. Her blood buzzed with desperation and indignation, her limbs began to quiver and her newfound scowl tightened.  Her hands ached to grab something, to seize control of this hellish environment, seize control of her life.

Nothing!

Except the bed…

Good enough! She tore away the mattress, hoisted the solid metal frame into her arms, and with Herculean strength she swung the frame at the bars.

BANG!

Steel reverberated against steel, the clang was deafening! She dragged the bedframe back into her arms and hammered the bars with it again, silently thanking God she was in solitary confinement and the guards had all gone home.

BANG! BANG! BANG!

Another hour or so passed. The noise was muted in her ears and her arms numb to the vibrations so she powered on. The bedframe, however, wasn’t faring so well. It crumpled under the punishment but she couldn’t afford to care.

BANG! BANG! BANG!

The cell bars weren’t looking any worse for wear.

BANG! BANG!

Her arms were finally starting to tire.

BANG!

“No! It can’t end like this! Matoaka, come on!”

BANG!

The bars stood scratched but totally unmoved. The young woman collapsed, the bedframe fell into mangled pieces. Scowl giving way to tears once more, she dragged herself to the bars and against her own better judgment pounded at the bars bare-handed. This barely rattled the bars but she persisted. How much time had passed could not be known. How many times she pounded and pounded away to no avail could not be known. How many pints of sweat, tears and eventually blood she’d shed could not be known.

Yet the bars still stood.

Moonlight was no longer shining through the window as clouds hid the moon from view. She yawned, her beating quickly reducing to mere tapping, head bobbing back and forth from weariness until at last she – Matoaka Nikopolis, who’d never before known the meaning of quit – was finally ready to give up. She fell forward, her forehead clanging hard on the bars, and

CRRRREEEEEEEEAK!

She snapped back to life just in time to see the lock fall out of the wall – and the door open! Exhausted as she was, she clambered to her feet and wrapped her sweaty bloodied crown of curly black locks under the soggy headwrap.

Then an idea came. She turned back to the bedframe and snatched two detached bedposts, which her hammering had conveniently reshaped into stakes, and hobbled out.

As she made it to the endless winding staircase, an eerily familiar voice – Dad’s – whispered, “You’ve devoted so much to your cause, and for what? You’ve roused the wrath of the King of Pan-America, alienated your kith and kin, and become wanted as a terrorist! Why, just because Afro- and native American lives are inferiorised? We’ve survived for centuries by enduring; why risk OUR lives for the remote chance of victory over injustice? I mean, what does victory mean to you?”

She furrowed her brow briefly before a giggle bubbled up from her chest. At the empty darkness she panted, “This.”

SHORT STORY – Power to Change One Thing in South Africa

I asked my son if he’d like to go to South Africa. I think I’d like to go, see the most democratic country in Africa in the flesh. So to speak.

My better half Belinda was up for it. She’s Zulu and hasn’t been back since she moved here in 2000. She calls me deluded for thinking it’s democratic but she loves her country all the same.

My son Homer looked at me. He didn’t answer the question but he looked at me. For a 14-year-old boy looking at his parents is promising. I decided to push my luck and ask again.

“Homer, I want to go to South Africa. Obviously your mum wants to go too. How do you feel about it?”

His lips clenched, like he wasn’t sure how to answer.

Belinda tutted. As far as she was concerned teenagers never know what they want so asking them was pointless, but I’ve always believed in including all family members in major decisions.

“Yes or no? It’s alright with me either way.”

He averted his gaze and murmured something.

“Sorry? I can’t hear.”

“I don’t know,” he said softly. In the corner of my eye a vindicated Belinda smirked.

“What do you mean you don’t know? You love travelling, and you’ll get to see your mum’s side of the family. Her brothers, sisters, cousins.” Then came the dreaded word. “Parents.”

“Dad you don’t have to sell it to me. I do kinda want to go.” Sensing a but, I raised an eyebrow. And he continued. “It’s just… it kind of scares me.”

“Don’t worry. We don’t have to see your mother’s cantankerous parents after all,” I blurted, not realising how close Belinda was behind me. She gave me one good slap round the head!

“OW!”

“My parents are not cantankerous! They just have a deep sense of honour and tradition!” she shouted.

Head bowed, I squeaked, “Yes dear. Sorry dear.”

Homer stifled a laugh.

“Ey! Do not take your father’s side!” she snapped.

“Hey hey! I wasn’t, I wasn’t! I’m not sacred of Granny & Gramps. I mean I’m scared of South Africa itself.”

That got both of our attention.

“I heard about that show at Barbican Theatre, the human zoo thing. The guy who made it is South African isn’t he?”

Belinda looked around the room in embarrassment. “He’s Boer, I’m not claiming him. But carry on.”

“That’s really bad,” he said with widened eyes. “I saw the posters for that show, all they show are black people – and no-one else – in chains and cages and stuff. For a post-apartheid country to still be displaying us like helpless animals and victims for the sake of art, that’s evil. I mean, if they can get 150 people to willingly put themselves in that light for the world to see, what does it say about what they think of us – and what they want to do to us?

“Not to mention all their ads only showing whites as happy and problem-free, while we’re always shown as beggars and drunks – when we’re shown at all. That image scares me. Images shape realities and lives, and I don’t want my life shaped in a way that makes me powerless and suffering. If I could change one thing about South Africa, it’d be to give the natives – Zulu, Xhosa, Khoikhoi, San and all the rest – the power to control their lives, and show themselves as they want to be seen so make the world treat them better.”

Wow. I’d never before heard my son admit to being scared. He always said fear was for weaklings, but he couldn’t have looked any stronger in my eyes right then. And to express such a well-argued thought-out opinion…

“Meganie was even crying about it, she was so scared.”

Belinda snapped out of her compassionate trance. “Who’s Meganie?”

“Erm, my friend.”

Louder, she asked. “Friend? Who is a girl?”

“Yeah,” he squeaked.

“So she’s your girlfriend?”

Silence.

That was it. She stepped toward her son, he stepped back and soon they broke into a run.

“How dare you? You know you’re not allowed to have girlfriends! Ever! Get back here!!!”

SHORT STORY: Armed Verbal Conflict

I had this one lying around for a while. Again this story was just for fun, not for competitions or anything. 

They stared at each other, their mutual hatred festering further, breathing hard, eyes refusing to blink. Though both unarmed they were well within arm’s length of their weapons, and they refused to let that change.
 
The one stood there, clad in mottled greens, browns & yellows that barely contained his bulging muscles. His cropped strawberry blond hair poked out beneath his black beret slanted to the right, ice blue eyes only flinching to ensure he was seeing all his adversary’s slightest movements. His right hand twitched next to the trigger of his machine gun, eager for the chance to use it.
 
The other stood at the opposite end of the cavern, his shoulder-length black ringlets and beard faintly wavering in the midday breeze. His sandy brown turban and robes lent themselves well to blending into the cave walls, and concealing his chiselled physique. His seal-brown eyes kept an equally hard gaze on his enemy’s movements, and his left hand made sure to stay within 2mm of his AK47’s trigger. Though their skins contrasted like day & night, their faces were equally flushed with simmering crimson fury. Their lips were likewise clenched in readiness for action of some sort.
 
“Why are you here?” the first man spat in his regimental English accent. The man before him stayed silent. “I asked you a question. Why are you here?”
 
More silence.
 
“Do you speak English?” demanded the soldier, annoyance blossoming into full-on anger. “Can you understand me?”
 
The second man, reluctantly, opened his mouth and replied in a deep semi-Arabic accent, “Yes but I ignored you because your question was foolish.”
 
“Sorry?” said the Englishman, finger just hovering over the trigger.
 
“Why am I, a native Egyptian, here in Egypt?” the African man relayed. “I should be asking this to you.”
 
The questioner sneered, “I’m here on behalf of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces of Great Britain, fighting terrorism in your country.”
 
“What you mean is,” corrected the Egyptian as he waved his hand dismissively, “you’re a man trying to implement a ruling system that failed at home, in a land you have no knowledge of whose people don’t know you. Yet you have the cheek to say we have terrorism here.” With a titter he finished, “Spoken like a true terrorist.”
 
“I fight for peace and freedom!” said the Englishman in a raised tone, which triggered an outburst of unabashed laughter from the Egyptian. In fact, he laughed so heartily he completely withdrew his hand from his gun.
 
“Fighting for peace in a place where no war was declared, fighting for freedom by invading a nation that neither needs nor wants you,” the Egyptian laughed. “Utter fool.”
 
The Brit winced at his enemy’s brazen words. Unsure whether to be worried or offended, he stated, “Sir if you do not desist I will be forced to use lethal force.”
 
Drawing enough breath to still his laughter, the African retorted, “Against what? Words of criticism? Is that what your Queen trains you to do? Is that your democracy?”
 
“Sir you are trying my patience,” the Brit said, ever more annoyed.
 
Staring at him square in the eyes, the African said – slowly & deliberately, “When your patience runs out what will you do?” He crossed his arms to make his reach from his gun even farther. The Brit’s eyes twitched back and forth to the unmanned AK47 as the Egyptian took slow deliberate steps toward him. “Still claiming the moral high ground, while running amuck amongst unarmed civilians to end a threat of your own making.
 
“The wolves have become the shepherds, and now you cry because the rams are growing horns.” He sneered then turned around to walk back toward his weapon.
 
The Englishman’s finger was on the trigger at last. And he pulled it. 
 
 
© ONE TAWNY STRANGER 2013