Daisy Jones

MYSTERY STORY
Setting: The Golden Acre, 1985, basement shopping level, 2am
Characters: a know-it-all teenage, a sullen postmistress, a secretive botanist, a manic undertaker
The shock: a man lying in the passage

The sullen postmistress: She started working in the Robben Island post office after her father died. She never intended to stay — of course not, — handling the dirty laundry of the pathetic villagers. Don’t imagine she or her father ever got to touch, with their sun-spotted hands, the letters addressed to Nelson Mandela or Oliver Tambo. Oh no, the prison post was handled separately, with maximum fanfare: great shows of uniformed security, procedures and processions. It must have been in the late 60s that postmistress Hanna Pretorius took to folding her arms over her chest. As the years went by her chest got fuller and her arms knotted tighter. Her clothes were always synthetic. There was no Edgars on the island, my dear, and no free time for Miss Pretorius to dart across to Cape Town with the island wives.

I already told you, officer … officer Maseko … sorry? Sergeant? Fine, Sergeant Maseko, I told you, I was waiting for a friend. Hm? Yes, technically I was moving, I was walking to our meeting spot. As I said earlier — you could check your notes, you know — as I said, the last ferry back to Robben Island was cancelled. The shopkeeper and I had supper at Ocean Basket, then we chatted in her car — yes, that was where I phoned my friend, Elrena du Toit, to fetch me on Strand Street. So I left Ms Visagie, the shopkeeper, and took the short cut to the corner of Strand Street and Adderley Streets, through the Golden Acre … Yes, that was a wise decision. I have lived on Robben Island for my whole life Mr, sorry Sergeant Maseko, I am not afraid of some bedless street children lurking in the basement shopping level of the Golden Acre between Fashion XPress and King Pie. I have been around criminals my whole life, Sergeant Maseko, more than you have, I can handle myself in a shopping mall, for heavens sake. Sorry? No, I was not “alarmed” when I saw the teenager. How do I know what he wanted there at 2am? I didn’t consider it. I am not a small woman. I can handle a schoolboy on his own, even if he is holding a skateboard. So, yes, I walked on. I walked into the basement, yes, I walked down the passage. Where did I see him? Jussie, Sarge! Must I draw a picture now? Outside Sports Connexion, with an arm on the welcome mat. He was on his back. His arms like chicken wings, his one leg bent up, like he was running. Yes, I heard the boy vloek. Yes, the man lying on the ground was well-dressed. He looked like a commuter, an office worker, on his way to the station. Only five hours late for the last train, jussie. I stopped the boy. Yes, he will say the same. I used his smart-android-fancy-pantsy phone and I called 10111. We stayed on the scene. But you guys didn’t make it here before that mal undertaker who, apparently, was “on his rounds”. What nonsense is that, I ask you. An undertaker “doing rounds’? At 2am in the city centre? Hmn!

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Daisy Jones

GOLIATH

He might well have noticed my belt. Goliath I am, of many years experience in battle, alone and in squadron, in battles at home and on foreign sand. My belt is smaller now, not bigger. Fixed in the fifth sweat-stained leather hole, not in a hole beyond the sixth, a raggy hole, off-centre, made with the point of his sword. Idiot. He could have risen to Colonel but now his belly hangs over his harness, and him no older than my father’s third son. I would have sat ahead of him at harvest meal and he dares to mention my belt? Goliath I am, the oldest son, a personal favourite of the general. My feet are broad in my sandals, my calves swell like boulders, my legs are like rolling logs. My chest is metal, I have made it so. Goliath I am, a bull of a man, a gift to my mother, a treasure, the head of the household now. There is no man, not flabby gut or any other, who would dare even knock on my mother’s door. She is forever safe with me.

Is this a messenger? This woolly lamb? This lad? I came here to fight. I, Goliath, stand on the sand, in the sun, the leather of my tunic shading my thighs, my mighty back gleaming, my sword too heavy for a woman to lift, but what does this girl do? He has a strap of leather — I thought for a moment it was a bird, a pet, released by his hands, two dark wings against the sun. He is bending to pick up pebbles. It is nothing for me to wait. War is in the waiting. This tree is rooted for as long as the general decrees it so. For as long as it takes my enemy to fall.

Daisy Jones

MYSTERY OF MY LIFE: The mystery of the gypsy: “You are pregnant,” the gypsy said. “The child will bring you great joy.”

From the point-of-view of the gypsy fortune teller’s daughter. She was a teenager then, peeping through the curtain, but she’s older now, telling the story to her own daughter. Gumma is the gypsy who foretold my mother’s pregnancy with me.

Gumma couldn’t have known she was pregnant. She was as thin as a wand, that one. She didn’t mind being thin either, she was in a pencil skirt — navy, I think — and a white button-up blouse. Heels. Oh, I don’t know, they might have been two-tone, expensive-looking anyway. No, the thing I remember was her hair. Not all bouffy and beehived like the other girls at the fair. Quite the modern thing she was, with hair cut like a boy’s, snipped close to the head. A bit like, you know, Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music. That straight fringe and shiny kitten fur hair at the back, in the nape of the neck. She wasn’t rich — awful handbag, cheap lipstick — but she was something to look at it. She was with another lass, frumpy she looked, next to the tall, skinny one. Her sister it was. Don’t ask me how I know. I know. Gumma had the gift good and proper but it didn’t pass me by entirely, you cheeky wotsit. Now, this short-haired woman sat down opposite Gumma in the tent. You could tell she wasn’t planning to believe a bit of it, that she just came in for a lark. She must have got a start when Gumma got going. There was always something in her voice that took the glad grins off people’s faces. Not just her accent. She knew and they knew she knew. So the woman went quiet, got stiffer, in the body. She leant forward a bit, started rolling her wedding ring around on her finger. When Gumma told her she was pregnant the girl smacked back against the chair. She recovered herself just as quick, got all proud, embarrassed and shot back: “That’s impossible!” Gumma just watched her. I watched her too. I had to be careful not to rustle the curtains, or burp or fart. I was so close to your Gumma’s table it might as well have been a table for three. I was on my haunches — a danger for me was bones creaking, but I was young then, just a girl, not much older than you are now. Gumma waited for the news to sink in, like she always did, respectfully-like, and then she said: “The child will bring you great joy.” I knew the woman wouldn’t forget hearing that. I never did either. When I was pregnant with you I kept remembering her saying it, wishing she’d been alive to say it to me. She would have too, you know. And it would have been true.

Daisy Jones

Walking through the garden she notices that the fence around the flowerbed was carefully built. But the mint won’t grow. She can see why. There’s not enough sun, probably not enough water either. She knows from experience that mint thrives under a dripping tap, in blazing sun, even reflected off a white wall. It was like that in Parkhurst, the house she lived in when she was first married. She had grand ideas of a herb garden, an assortment of herbs, a variety of her favourites that she imagined she might snip at sundown prior to preparing the evening meal. It was a stupid fantasy. Did it come with a straw hat and a flat basket, she wonders. No, her herb garden was unsuccessful. Most of the seedlings died, or if they survived, soon got leggy and brown. Eventually they went to seed. She’d not known enough then to look after plants. But the mint grew obscenely, in an arrogantly bright green orb, outside the bathroom window, under a dripping tap. It grew thicker and lusher, greener by the day, shaming its spindly flowerbed fellows further down the lawn. There was something yobbish about that mint. It was so loud. She’d thought mint might be difficult, it being a ‘soft’ herb, but it bushed and bristled at the abluting end of the garden — alongside the toilet outlet pipe, truth be told — with a proudly pungent posture. it was like a gang of youths, that mint bed, she mused. So verdant, so coarse, so plump with stink and so oblivious.

Daisy Jones

100-word novel

As a newlywed she’d fantasised about a herb garden, imagined snipping stalks at sunset. Had that fantasy come with a straw hat and flat basket? Most of the seedlings had died, or if they survived, had soon got leggy and brown. But the mint grew obscenely, arrogantly. She’d thought it might struggle, being a soft herb, but it bushed at the end of the garden — alongside the toilet outlet pipe, truth be told, — with a pungent posture. It was like a group of youths, that mint bed, she mused. So verdant, so coarse, so plump with stink and so oblivious.