So that creates a bit of a conundrum. What becomes of the near-complete novel manuscript?
I figured, if nothing else, it could at least find an audience here. So I give you the first bit of the first chapter of Home Scar.
By S E Bhamjee
because I can
Wee Willie Winkie runs through the town
Upstairs and downstairs in his nightgown
Rapping at the windows
Crying through the locks
Are the children in their beds?
It’s past eight o’ clock
I don’t know why Mummy likes teaching me that nursery rhyme.
You have to know your nursery rhymes before you go to school, Asma. I don’t want anyone thinking Madam Patel raised a domkop.
Or even why she likes telling me about him when she wants me to go to sleep.
Come now. Early to bed. Early to rise. Makes Johnny healthy, wealthy and wise. And you don’t want Wee Willie Winkie to catch you awake past eight. She wags her finger at me.
Just so you know, my name isn’t even Johnny.
Just so you know, my name isn’t even Johnny.
But I don’t like him, this Wee Willie Winkie man. He’s scary. When I’m lying in my bed, alone, in the dark, listening to Mummy and Daddy trying not to fight too loud, I know Wee Willie Winkie is just outside, standing there with his red eyes, peeping in my window. Sometimes I even see a little red glow from his eyes squeeze through the gap between the curtains. Then I feel like I need to pee even though I just went to toilet before getting into bed. I squeeze my legs together and pull the blanket over my head. And then I peep. I peep out from under it. Peep at my room door, left just a little bit open because I won’t let Mummy close it completely, open enough so a slice of light can crack the darkness, and I wish I could just forget about Wee Willie Winkie. Because he reminds me of other scary things. Like Sara.
Sara’s eyes are just like Wee Willie Winkie’s. They shine like hot red coals in her dark face. I think they’re actually black. Black like all bad things. Black like the night where Wee Willie Winkie and other scary things like the Jinns live. And just like Wee Willie Winkie, Sara scares me.
Mummy, how come Sara’s eyes are so black? We’re having breakfast. Daddy is still asleep. Mummy is getting ready to go to school.
Asma, how can you say Sara’s eyes are black? Didn’t I teach you your colours? Sara’s eyes are brown. Like chocolate. Remind me to go over your colours with you when I come home. No child of mine is going to school half baked.
Mummy says such funny things. How do you bake a person, I wonder? And do people smell lekker when they bake? Like biscuits and cupcakes? I’m about to ask Mummy this question and then she’s gone. Mummy is always gone. Sometimes she’s gone even when she’s here.
I know I can’t ever tell Mummy this, but I like Daddy more. He hugs. Sometimes he tickles me. And sometimes he still throws me in the air and catches me just in time like he used to when I was smaller. Then he groans about how his back is so sore now because I’m growing up and getting so heavy. I know he’s acting. Daddy is a good actor.
My stomach feels like there’s ants in it when I see Daddy get ready to go to work. I don’t want him to go. When I smell his aftershave, my stomach starts to pain. I know that when he goes, I’ll be alone at home with Sara.
I don’t like being alone at home with Sara. Mostly, she’s okay. She lets me help her wash dishes. Sometimes I wash vadoeks with her too.
Eye, mara your mother. I don’t know which stupid told her that a old vadoek must be white.
Sara, she complains a lot. She complains about the house.
Hawubo! Mara why must three people live in such a makhulu house, eh?
She complains about the bathrooms.
Two bathrooms? Makula, they like to mosha. For what must so small family have two bathrooms?
Sara is silly. Doesn’t she know that one bathroom is for Mummy and Daddy and one is for me? Mummies and Daddies must mos share a bathroom. They also share a bed. And a bedroom. And I don’t know why Sara complains about the vadoeks. Washing them is fun.
There’s so, so many soapy bubbles. I try to count them sometimes but then I get to a hundred and I must start again. Some of the bubbles have rainbows inside. I try to catch the rainbows but the bubbles always pop in my hands. Sometimes I blow the bubble cloud in the basin and one floats away. And then I climb in the bubble and float off in it. Up, up. Up. Out of the kitchen door. Over the peach trees. Over the houses. High over the mountains.
Haikhona! Sara shouts. u Ya mosha. U ya ganga, wena.
I don’t know what that means but when Sara says that, I hold my breath. I hope she won’t decide to punish me. I don’t like it when Sara punishes me.
I don’t know what to think sometimes. Daddy says I’m the best girl ever. Mummy likes me sometimes. And sometimes she doesn’t because I don’t know all my colours or because I forget that after 36 comes…er… 37. And Sara? Well, Sara lets me play with bubbles, but sometimes when her eyes get red she punishes me. Sara says the Polices will come if I tell anyone about her punishment. And when she says that, all I can think about is floating away in a big shiny bubble.
At least then the dreams will stop. Mummy calls them nightmares. When I wake up screaming, she always rushes into my room. Sometimes her hair is all upside down and she’s wearing mixed up slippers. One of hers and one of Daddy’s. Then she sits next to me and pats me back to sleep. I like how that feels.
She reads for me. She says my Kalimas and duas will keep the nightmares away. They work. Most days. But maybe what really works is feeling Mummy touch me. Mummy and Daddy’s touch doesn’t make me feel dirty like Sara’s does.