2 Levity le Grunge and the Apparition on her Shoulder

Chapter 2 of my fictional creation. I would like to think it is John le Carre meets Dune and Frantz Fanon, but fear will be more akin to The Magic Faraway Tree as described by Marvin the Paranoid Android. Still, gives me pleasure …

Levity - http-::seraphym-blog.blogspot.co.ke:

Levity got grunt. She’s tough. And she’s a smart one. Like she went to university.

Levity’s parents wanted a girl as first-born. May their souls rest in peace. They reckoned she could help raise the sons. She came out last but still got the job lookin after her four big brothers. May all their souls rest in peace.

Her folks give her that name cause they thought she’d be light and airy. She turned out real serious. There were things that made her that way. Sure she can laugh, but her jokes are cold like.

We saw a dead guy once, a big fat one. The rats and dogs was rippin at his body. He must have crossed a gang cause they’s had cut a small hole in him and led his guts across the road so the cars would splatter it. Levity looked at the dead guy and said, “I guess he won’t be ordering eggs hollandaise for breakfast.”

Levity and me is bestest friends – ain’t nobody closer. I’m her confidant. The person she tells things to that she tells no one. And I tells things to her. I’m the eyes in the back of her head. Or like I’m inside her head. Usual you finds me on her shoulder. Levity needs me.

I saved Levity from the darkest of places. If youse kind to me then maybe one day I’ll tell ya how we met. She calls me her “fantastic phantasm” or her “happy skellem”. I likes that. Then she says “you are caught in your own purgatory and we need to get you out of there.” Which makes me confused.

It weren’t always so sweet. When we started out together Levity she crushed her nose and said, “Toko, you stink and your breath is putrid”. Well I had been lost a long time. With no friend or nuthin. Now Levity makes me wash myself at least one time each week, and she puts this green stuff in my mouth and swills it about. She holds me mouth shut so I can’t spit it out, and then she says “now you smell sweet”. Levity says that maybe its time to get me a new set of clothes but I says I likes them this way cause they lets the breeze through.

“If you dressed well then you would be much more presentable.”

“Yeah but the one’s that can sees me don’t care and them’s that cain’t don’t matter.”

“It would help me. Sometimes I feel embarrassed. I mean like it is really hard standing up to people who always seem to know what they are doing. My confidence –“

“Youse the smartest person is the whole wide world,” I says but Levity gives me such a brutal look I shuts up. Levity can cuts a person to bits with just one look.

She got a sort of tough stocky ‘come-on’ thing about her. Her lips are tight and determined, and her nose crunches up. Yet her eyes sparkle like black jewels shooting stars.

I says, “I reckons you got mountain blood in yer,” and a tear pops into Levity’s eye. That means I’ve rumbled somethin and she’s thinkin of her family so I goes and gives her a big hug. Then she smiles, one of them glory smiles where her teeth glitter like mirrors in the sun. Then she tickles me under the chin cause she knows I loves that.

“You are right. Grandma was Piriantu. She came to the lowlands when the government drove them off.”

“Why’s they do that? Government don’t like peoples do they?”

“They turned it into a national park, and then sold it to themselves. So they had to get everyone out. Grandma made azak which strong men claimed sent them flying. No one messed with Grandma.” She rubs the back of her neck where the tatt is.

Levity swings her arms and stomps her feet to show how strong she is. I seen Levity lift bags of maize just to prove she can. And she done it a dozen times cause the boys said she couldn’t. She strutted off proud. She spent the next few days in bed nursin hurt muscles, but she didn’t let anyone know that. And nows I sees her thinkin and I knows whats she’s thinkin. She’s thinkin about her grandma who was a wild one and wonderin if she took on more than just the shape. Then she goes back to tying to fix the window.

The burglar bars are rusted and Levity can’t afford a welder and the landlord sure not going to pay for it. So I freed some razor wire from the wall of a posh folks house but we’ve not got any gloves and it is real nasty sharp. So we got to be extra careful twisting it around the bars to hold them together, and we get little pricks on our fingers and bits of blood on our hands. Blood don’t bother Levity cause she seen too much before now. Everyone here done seen death since when they was a little kid. It’s things from what peoples done seen that goes and makes them.

Once we fix the burglar bars we goes to the bus station cause Levity got another job. She keeps doin different things cause she gotta survive. This time she’s callin herself a researcher. She dun that before and peoples at the university reckons she’s a good one. Well nots all. There’s this professor don’t like her but others say she does a good job. Levity prides herself on a good job.

Levity’s lookin into what she calls fatalism – which I think means why peoples don’t do nothing even ifs they should. It’s not a sickness but if it was then I reckon the whole worlds got it.

We’s at the bus station cause Levity wants to talk to the passengers that protested to stop the price hikes. She wants to know why they don’t do nothing about shoddy buses and deadly drivers, or mebbe that’s shoddy drivers and deadly buses. But theys the same same. Levity figures understandin whys they don’t do nothin, even when they shown they can do something, says somethin about “the intrinsic interrelationship between fatalism and disempowerment.” Whatever that means.

I likes the bus station cause there’s always lots goin’ on. Over there is two cops shakin down someone they reckons got a spare dollar or two. There’s a couple of sharks conning a woman to open her purse. And then you gets the soapbox preachers fleecing anyone that gets too close.

The sun’s real bright today and it comes through the dust making the touts sellin tickets look like red ghosts. Sorta ether real. “They’s shoutin’ “Hurry, hurry the bus is about to go”, even when no ones on board.

Then there’s the young mens and womens selling water or softs or lollies or nuts or fake sunnys. They sells maps or baby toys, anythink to try and make a livin. There’s the smells of cookin all different things – dough balls in oil, eggs and sausages, plantains. Thes people are artists cause they can cook, talk, sell, take money and move all at once.

Over there watchin from the side and acting like rulers is Griffin and his Mongrels. They’s nasty. They got knives and big guns. ‘N bubblewrap for brains. We don’t like them so we’s stays in the middle where’s everyone can sees us so theys can’t touch us. They don’t like Levity cause she smart and makes them look stupid. They’s both fears me and they’s wants me. Theys scared cause they knows what’s I can do to em. But they’s knows me parts is worth lots and they wants to get holds of me. So we keeps away from them.

Levity don’t like bus stations too much. “It is the epitome of the world. Everyone rushing everywhere and not really sure why they’re doing it.” She still don’t fully trust people and she reckons when theys going in all directions thens you can’t see whats happenin and that’s when you get dun. Like the guy that came up and started rubbing against her and she felt his hard on in the small of her back. She swung around and hit him in the goolies with her right hand, the one where her fingers are missing and the stubs are like fork prongs. That woulda hurt him. I stood on her shoulders and bit him on the nose so he ran away squealin. I thoughts it was real funny and was laughin till I thought’s me head was gonna fall off. Levity she was ferocious and steamed so much that the top of her head did come off. You shoulda seen the fumes. Phewee. It was so hot that’s I got scolded.

“Come back here you slimy piece of dead goat’s sperm,” she screamed after the guy. But I reckon he hasn’t stopped runnin. And he’s probably still trying to find his ball sac.

Anyways enough with the introductions. We got a story to tell and it’s a big one.

Levity done interviewed a few people. Some folks don’t want to talk, somes talk a bit then rush off, and others once they start there’s no stopping them. It’s like no one ever asked them anything before now they gots a chance then nuthins stopping them. When there’s ones like this I lets off a smelly and that makes em move.

Levity says, “I have to go the Mothers Club.”

“I know,” I sez, “cause you told me.”

“It is their anniversary and I am close to them.”

“I knows. And you said you gotta go and then we’s gotta be back later cause you got another job tonight.”

“Are you coming with me?”

“Yeah. Of course.”

Levity looks at me curious, like as if she don’t believe, and says, “OK.”

I sez, “Them clouds lookin like they gotta a grumble so mebbe a pikipiki no good. We better take a bus.”

Levity groaned but we gets on one and sits at the back so we can see everything happenin, Levity munchin on a mix of grilled cicada dipped in honey washin it down with fermented sugar cane. I was right bout the clouds cause day went night and the sky became a waterfall. That don’t stop the driver none. He’s just driving like he’s trying to prove Einstein wrong. Maybe he’s full a ‘phenes, what with his reflector sunnies, seat set back as far as it can go, and foot glued to the floor.

Levity’s screamin’, “Slow down! You will kill us all you fool!” but the driver don’t hear. He’s got a bit of hippity-hop berrydoo-chop-chop playin so loud he can’t even hear his brain changing gear.

‘N old lady lean over, well I reckon she’s old cause she got grey hair and wrinkles and I ain’t got one of that and I’s infinite, and she says, “Don’t worry dear. It is all in God’s hands.”

Levity says, “Maybe God wants us to make a decision instead of us expecting everything all the time.”

“God is always with us dear. Just pray and you can be assured.”

“What if God’s gone for a cup of tea?”

“Then that is God’s will and we will join him all the more sooner.” The old lady gives Levity the sweetest smile, like fair floss with chocolate sauce on top. Levity gives back a smile like vomit in a vanilla slice. She give up prayin a long time back. She did it once, then lost it, and then now she’s somewhere between sort of. It’s like … well I’s digressin and that’s part of how we’s met so it can wait.

We does get’s to the end of the route OK.

“Have a wonderful day,” Levity says to the old lady as if she means it.

“Always dear. Life is full of praises. You just keep that song in your heart as it will help you get rid of the ugly on your shoulder.”

I was gonna bite her for that but Levity’s grabs me and pulls me away.

The Mother’s Club is havin their anniversary at the Church Hall. There’s lots of coloured streamers showin the way and inside we can hear voices. Lots of peoples there.

“You can’t come in,” Levity says.

“What do you mean? I always come with you.”

“It’s a women only celebration.”

“That’s OK cause I’s not a man.”

“You are also not a woman.”

“Don’t blame me cause I’s that way.”

“Look,” I sees Levity’s feet shiftin’ which means she gonna sez somethin she reckons I don’t want to hear. But I wants to hear everythink. “Perhaps I should have told you but I didn’t want to hurt your feelings. The old women. They can see you and you scare them.”

“I won’t do them no harm.”

“I know that Toko, but they don’t. Please wait outside. You can listen through the door.”

Then she goes in and closes the door on me. I don’t likes this place. It smells funny. I wants to know what’s happenin so I’s close me eyes and press my ear real hard to the door. I wuz tryin’ to listen to what they was talkin’ about but being outside it was tough. Like I was hearing the volume on voices going up and down but I couldn’t make out the words.

Something was under me skin that made me unsettled. That’s true. It wasn’t quite right and my alerts were full bore, yet cause my head was into listenin I didn’t see them come round the corner. It took me by surprise and that made it easy for them’s to grab me.

This was the fear that I had me worried. Cause it weren’t my home turf and I’s get snapped. I got swarmed by a plague of putrids who took me as their afternoon’s entertainment. First I thinks maybe theys either wants to kill me, or chop off me parts. But I’s lucky ‘cause at least they ain’t the rampaging rabies – if it had been them then I wouldn’t be here to write these words. These mongrels just want to use me as a game. They did try for me eyes – everyone flips over me eyes – but I foughts them off.

I was mocked and prodded. My pockets were emptied into their hands. I got kicked from to the other and back again. Then they tied me shoes over a power line while my feets was still inside them. Theys left me hanging the wrong way up.

That’s when things started happenin that no one person ever could figure would. Like the world went real weird and started shiftin. And I’s there helpless, dangling upside down watchin it.

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1 Perhaps A Little Bit Perverse

Someone suggested that my less than worldly travel experiences could be worthy of a story, especially the African parts. Which seemed to me would be pretty boring, a chronological tour of mildly recidivist behavioural patters, but perhaps could become basis of a piece of creative fiction. So here goes. Welcome to chapter One.

CH 1Edvard Munch 1

 

Codger Spumante stood on the veranda of his club staring into the darkness. The tobacco in his pipe had extinguished, yet its odours mixed with the scent of whiskey to swirl around his head.

Codger loosened his necktie. Dinner suits had never appealed and he only wore them as a necessity. His choice would be shorts and open neck shirt, even if the body was decaying.

It had been a fine evening. He felt gratified to people who had gathered to wish him well in retirement. After all, there was not that many left. Some had died, of old age or other, possibly suspect, reasons. Some lambs still rotted in jail, the sacrificial lambs to a deceased regime. Members of the old crew had brought their wives with them, while others had lost theirs in one way or another. Marcus sat at the back with his husband, which bought a brief snicker to Codger’s lips. It wouldn’t be much more than a decade ago that such proclivities were illegal. While everyone had their suspicions about Marcus it remained unspoken, although he never received a promotion.

Codger realised his brother may have been of the same inclination given he had never married. Which would explain why there was no one to continue the family farm after he was killed in the car accident three years ago. Yet as it had been decades since they had been in contact Codger would always remain uncertain. He wondered what state the farm was in.

He tapped his pipe so hard it almost broke. A twinge of pain crossed his eyes. The words of Botox Delux delivered as final homage, lingered in his memory. Botox, Codger’s chief and long-standing accomplice, had been in full flight, dramatically raising his arms and throwing his voice.

“I am coming towards the end of this little meander through Codger’s career, so let me tell one final story. It is an infamous one that no doubt some of you have heard before but it is a good one that goes to the heart of Codger’s character.

“We had been interrogating a prisoner and the time had come to put the young man out of his misery. We had relocated to a suitable cornfield and I don’t need to tell you the advantages of a decent sized cornfield for disposal of unwanted items.

“Well the damn gun jammed. Wouldn’t fire. We had forgotten to bring any other and it was too far to go back. Couldn’t use service pistols of course as that would leave a trail. So we were stuck with quite a nasty little dilemma until Codger stepped up to the mark.

“Announcing he would settle it he picked up the shovel and before any of us could respond began battering the prisoner. Right across the head. All trussed up the prisoner could scarcely do anything to protect himself. Even after he hit the ground Codger kept going until all that lay at our feet was bloodied pulp.

“We were stunned by the audacity let me assure you. Indeed when it came time to do Codger’s performance appraisal I did have to tick the box that said ‘displays innovative problem solving techniques’. I think I even got you a bonus for that one, didn’t I Codge?

“But the best is yet to come. Codger bends down to check to pulse to ensure that the deceased actually is the deceased. He look up to us and says ‘Well is there a pleasant way to die?’

“Indeed is there? We must have laughed for at least five minutes before we realised that we had forgotten to get the prisoner to dig his own grave. And Codger was too exhausted after his efforts. So we had to dig the damn graves ourselves. Even I lifted a shovel, which is a rare occasion let me assure you.”

Botox held up his soft hands as evidence. He was laughing raucously with many in the audience joining in. But he did notice, “Yes, yes. I can see some of you are shocked. No doubt with good reason. But you really had to be there. At the time … oh dear … come to think of it … I think that is one body that has never been exhumed. We really have to keep that one to ourselves, Chatham House rules and all that. What with all these investigations and retributions going on we do not need any more skeletons coming to light, now do we?

“So in conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to charge your glasses. Let us cheer on dear old Codger to many glorious years in his retirement, and when the time comes that he does find a pleasant way. To Codger.”

Once upon a time Codger had displayed self-effacing good humour when hearing this story, masquerading embarrassment. Now it left emptiness in his stomach that alcohol could not suppress. His stomach gave a small heave. Soon it shall be over and I can be freed of these memories.

He noticed Botox sauntering towards him, in that self-assured way of his, the usual half empty glass in hand.

“Well old boy. A jolly fine evening. Supremely organised, if I say so myself. Everyone was full of congratulations. The best farewell yet they said. We have had too many recently.”

“You can’t let it go, can you?” Codger kept looking into the night.

“What … oh … your most famous action. Well, what ones would you prefer I share? The time when we thought you had crossed? I have kept that little one secret you know.”

“You damn well knew what was going on.”

“Plausible denial, old boy, plausible denial. Yes it was brave of you to take that risk. We did well didn’t we, even if you did have us scared for a while. Thank goodness we managed to pull you back at the last moment. I would have missed you. Anyway, let’s not dwell on it. What is the past for except foundation to our everlasting friendship? Time for a night cap, what do you say.”

Botox finished his whiskey, feeling its warmth run through his veins and tickle his brow. He signalled the waiter to replenish their glasses. Codger looked at his empty glass, wondering if he wanted a refill. He glanced over at his old friend, starting to feel grateful that a separation was coming.

“It is just one big game for you isn’t it? One jolly big roller coaster ride with every bend another thrill. You care nothing for the havoc left in the wake as long as you get what you want.”

“My good man,” Botox took a breath. “In any conflict achievement of your objective comes with collateral damage. You only need to determine the acceptable level of expendability. We have been though this before.”

“You had kept me in the dark.”

“Some matters cannot be shared outside the inner circle. Anyway, let’s not dwell on it. What is the past for except foundation to our everlasting friendship? Time for a night cap, what do you say.”

Botox finished his whiskey, feeling its warmth run through his veins and tickle his brow. He signalled the waiter to replenish their glasses. Codger looked at his empty glass, wondering if he really did need another refill.

“It’s just one big game for you isn’t it? One jolly big roller coaster ride with every bend another thrill. You care nothing for the havoc left in the wake as long as you get what you want.”

“My good man,” Botox took a breath. “In any conflict achievement of your objective comes with collateral damage. You only need to determine the acceptable level of expendability. We have been through this before.”

“Our battle was for nothing. We lost.”

“Did we?” Codger took his refilled whisky glass and raised it to the light. “Look at the colour of that. Pure gold. If this is defeat old boy long may it run.”

“You know what I mean.”

“I am aware that in you have been remarkably inconsistent your whole life. You confuse yourself and that is your greatest weakness. Really, how often have I put myself out on a limb for you. You should really be more appreciative of the efforts.”

“I’ve been used, abused and bruised.”

“When it comes to abusing you’re the one with form.” Botox stepped back when Codger’s eyes flared at him. “Sorry old boy, I didn’t mean to hurt but you only have yourself to blame for that particular lost love.”

Botox gave one of his smart-arsed grins, the sort that says ‘I might be saying sorry but I don’t really mean it’. He skolled his whiskey and signalled the waiter for a refill.

“There is individual responsibility you know. You cannot spend your life blaming others. Face up to it. The instinct was there. It’s an inherent part of you.”

Codger gazed reflectively into his glass.

“I have to accept responsibility for my actions. But … Bah! What does it matter? That’s what we always say when things don’t turn out right isn’t it? What does it matter? Nothing matters. Who cares? Now I care and it is too late. Perhaps. I don’t know.”

“Just know that when you fail, as I fear you will, here you will find a welcoming fireplace, a comfortable arm chair, and a glass of delightful whisky. Plus the companionship of old friends who will welcome your return with a cheer. We do care for you, you know.”

“With a good deal of mocking I dare say.”

“Only the most generous.”

The night air was filled with subtle disturbances. In the distance a truck revved its engine. In the garden beyond the veranda screens insects buzzed. A moth that had manoeuvred through the barricade attacked the wall light. Nearby a gecko’s darting tongue captured any bug errant enough to come within range.

“Still no word I take it?”

The growl in Codger’s throat grew until he almost spat. “Of course not. After all these years there never will be.”

“Not even from the girls?”

“Cynth called to tell me I had become a grandfather again. Just to humiliate me because I know she will never let me see them. Let it go. It is gone.”

Servants had begun cleaning up the dining room from the evening’s entertainment. The guests had wended their way home, apart from those who continued to deny advancing years and sought out the city’s vibrant nightclub scene.

“You don’t have to go you know,” Botox said.

“Too late now. No turning back.”

“No one would blame you if –”

“I don’t want to. My mind is set.”

“You cannot run from yourself.”

“The hole in the soul? Perhaps not. But I do not have to stare it in the face each day.”

“You’re mad.”

“Not at all.” For the first time that night Codger smiled. “Possibly just a little perverse.”

They stood there. Two ageing inter-dependent colleagues. Whiskey glasses in hand, faces pointed into the crisp night breeze. Botox Delux with the opaque grey eyes known as the man of many face-lifts. And transplants. In vain desire to deny the ageing process Botox had undergone an endless series of surgical procedures – from hair to chin to organs to cellulite. Rumour had it that there were more fine scars on Botox’s torso than flowers on a peacock, or bodies buried beyond reach.

The external scars on Codger were of the more mundane variety. White cuts on the arms amongst the first signs of melanomas on tanned flesh. A nick over the left brow from a wayward strand of thornbush. Calloused hands with a permanently missing nail on one finger as symbols of hard work. If a wedding ring had once left a mark that had long since dissipated. His untamed grey curls and whiskers offset the crystal blue eyes that were too often bloodshot. Codger still stood erect, tall, thin and wiry, but for the bloated belly.

He rested his hand on the timber beam that marked the veranda perimeter. To think I once thought I could be an artist and now I am just a portrait in decay. My best friend taking delight in my worst memories.

Botox was having his own reflections. He was finally acknowledging that he was generally mistrusted by the world at large, and that he was about to lose his last remaining friend.

They neither felt nor heard the person hover into their terrain, as her mammoth frame silently glided over the floor.

“Hello boys,” Lindilulu Oqwanti said in her quietly mocking tone. “Two old spies never bought to justice soaking up remembrances. How sweet.”

*          *          *

Portrait of Edvard Munch