Tuesday Shorts: Stillness is not august – Katleho Kano Shoro

When I was eight years old my childhood friend abandoned our union on the bum-poking carpet floor of Auntie’s home. In a piercing wail, she accused me of keeping an invisible companion as a best friend. My stillness told her that my companion would be around for my lifetime but our span was uncertain. Her lament made me hurriedly vacate myself – terrified that she would turn herself into shards if she didn’t escape to take refuge in my emptied shell. I believed this is how you protect those you adore; by running out on your own skin to make space for them or covering them with your breathless spirit so when they explode, they only scatter into you. Mine was too tiny; pieces of her flew over my head and under my armpits. Eventually she gathered her fragments from the roof, curtains and carpeted floor. She left my bedroom door ajar as if meaning she was coming back after fetching translations for the looks and emotions she charged at me during our playdate. It was only when Auntie called me to wipe the plates before she dished out on them that I realised that I had remained in the exact same position with a mouth glued with spit since the beginning of our playdate.

Months went by. I grew closer to silence.

My aunt, who had an array of black handkerchiefs, asked me to be a braver mourner at her husband’s burial. She told me it was healthy for family members to torment each other with their agony. At the graveyard under the B3 tent, I concentrated really hard as the skinny strong men lowered the shiny casket. I dodged blinking when particles dived into my eyes. It helped. As Auntie took me by my nine year old hand so we could pour an insignificant amount of soil into the big hole, I tipped over the single teardrop I’d built right over my dry cheek. Auntie seemed satisfied as she dabbed us both with the least moist corner of her hankie.

Performing grief for Auntie over the years was exhausting.

The dusk before Auntie’s own funeral, eleven years later, I snuck into her room, into her pine wardrobe, to get one of those hankies. I toiled intently under the garage spotlight motivated to construct the most august sets of tears to send off Auntie. I scrapped my palms with a peeler, carefully cut my fingers while chopping veggies and later balanced the drie-voet with my bear forearm during my stirs. Auntie’s daughter, my sister-cousin, mistook how I wiped away gratings, bloody droplets, steam and pus – with her mother’s hankie – for crying. She even thanked me for sharing of myself so courageously saying that I had now grown into a real member of a family that raised me. But the departed cannot be persuaded without sentiment. Auntie has been known to drop-in on the dreams of relatives who wept wildly at her funeral. She has never come back to visit me.

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Tuesday Shorts: Tsebo – Katleho Kano Shoro

Frantically highlighting her copy of Ngugi’s Decolonising the Mind, another wonder interjects Tsebo’s consumption of his enduring perspectives on the 1960s language debate. She raises her head, ahead, the shoulders of the Quantum driver and front seat passenger seem to swallow Booysens Road as they drive closer to Jozi’s CBD.

Did my high school English teacher leave out the politics of language because she was too afraid that we would sprout into the heavy complexity of our blackness prematurely? Was that one Achebe book on the leisure bookshelf meant to subtly tame our syllabus or a moral obligation Mrs Larange had no capacity to expound?

Without attempting to answer just yet, Tsebo gets back to layering neon yellow on the pages. Her subsequent thoughts create a labyrinth. In it, she turns right whenever she gets what Ngugi is saying and left when she chooses to ponder later. After turning left, a solid wall plastered with more questions erects itself.

Could I ever be like Ngugi and just decide to substitute all this English for Sesotho? Fine, he only did it in his creative works but since I’m not a renowned novelist or anything, would I ever insist on submitting my essays ka seSotho? Argh! It would take FOREVER to translate from English first. Maybe we start with WhatsApp…?

She backs away from the wall and takes an immediate left. This she will have to co-ponder with her news-obsessed, philosophising Rangwane.

“Corner Bree!” Two passengers harmonise. Tsebo puts the softcover in her backpack and plants the bag onto her shoulders – thumbs tucked under each strap as she holds it tightly. Taller bodies, taxis and fruit vendor stalls are sidestepped until she finally meets the back of one of the many meandering lines. To Tsebo’s routine question “Auckland Park?”, the wedges-wearing lady at the line’s tip confirms with a look up from her phone and a “Yebo”. The ease of their exchange and the lady’s response has Tsebo remembering the few times in high school when she used taxis instead of Metro-buses. The ranks seemed overtly powered by seZulu. To Tsebo, Ayi Kwei Armah’s argument for seSwahili to be the continent’s lingua franca was like insisting that Jozi needed to uniformally adopt seZulu for passengers and drivers to communicate efficiently. Tsebo struggles with Ayi’s vision.

Did the seZulu-insisting taxi drivers even know that someone was opting for us to all speak in seSwahili? Say we lived on a bordeless continent and I came here ka seSwahili sa ka, would I have lived to hear the end of it?

In her labyrinth, she can’t quite turn right in her understanding of yet objecting to Ayi. Plus, she secretly yearns for someone to consider seSotho for such esteemed roles.

The lines move, taxis continue to speedily fill the space then emptying themselves from it, rats dash from one end of the rank to the side occupied by the vendors, different languages are tossed between people, Tsebo keeps wondering…

Chris is Dead – Malefu Mahloane

It was during a time when a woman’s confidence depended upon the number of ‘Likes’ they received on Facebook. When it was normal for men to ask girls out using cyber messengers saying things such as “Looking at your pictures has really got me falling for you. I would like for us to be an item. Where are you based?” During this time, for most women, receiving a message in their inbox on social media was plenty, the men did not even have to ask for mobile numbers – everything could start and unfortunately, end on messenger. Private messaging meant that out of the five thousands friends and strangers-turned-to-cyberfriendships a lady had on their database, at least one person was going an extra mile to communicate to them at a one-on-one level. So, there was no time for these women to critically analyse the insults that men threw at them; the women accepted this as flirting; as being wanted and worthy of someone’s data.

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The Myopic Watchman – Boipelo Maetla

We had all thought that peace dealings were eminent. That all the kings had finally come to the realization that we had lost more than we could ever get back, that our mouths had grown tired of being stretched open in war cry. We were old now, the last batch of soldiers who really understood the war. The new generation was already calling us savages at the dinner tables, our own dinner tables. They did not see us as heroes, only little boys who bullied their matriarchs when they had returned home, for that lousy week. There was no gratification received from these senseless killings, we were on the verge of death ourselves, and insanity. There was not a single night that was not full of nightmares, ghosts from everywhere, seeking vengeance. It was time for peace and we all acknowledged that… well most of us. The irony of the king and the servant is that he uses us to do the most gruesome tasks, we are more powerful than he can ever be. There is many of us in numbers and in strength, we have formed all kinds of friendships while in those training camps. We have seen each other through the very most, shielded each other from literal physical and spiritual death. Not the sovereign king, but us. Yet, by virtue of mere royal blood, everyone bows down to the mighty kings’ commands, bends themselves backwards to fulfill his wishes, that is why we could never turn on him, no matter how badly we wished to.

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Tuesday Shorts: The Pigeon’s Nest – Sibongile Fisher

My grandmother could bargain with death. She knew who was to die and it was always up to her to let them die or to trade their life for that of someone else. My turn came twice and both times she traded my aunt Mophi and my sister Limpho. Mophi was her least favourite child. She was not quiet and not shy but somehow unmemorable. Limpho on the other hand was sickly, she seemed the better one to die. When my grandmother found a dead pigeon on our doorstep she called for a family meeting. No one came— not even my mother—who lives two streets away. I don’t remember my mother’s face. She only contributes to my existence by showing up once every three years.

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