69 Jerusalem Street
72 pages
English

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72 pages
English

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Description

In her debut collection of short stories, Lindiwe Nkutha takes us through the minds of people you may overlook on an ordinary day: The wayward neighbour you vaguely remember seeing every day as a child until the day he vanished. The face you see every weekend at the local drinking hole, you exchange a polite nod but know little about, not even her name. The young woman who is caught between her faith and her love for a woman. Their lives are untidy, tainted with the pain, joy and violence as they share with us stories they wouldn't share with anyone else. Nkutha's words weave in and around the weights we drag behind us from one place to another, with a sensitivity and wit required for such vulnerabilities and intimate moments.

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Informations

Publié par
Date de parution 22 février 2021
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781928433033
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0350€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.

Exrait

Publication © Modjaji Books 2020 Text © Lindiwe Nkutha 2020 First published in 2020 by Modjaji Books Pty Ltd www.modjajibooks.co.za
ISBN 978-1-928433-04-0 (Print)
ISBN 978-1-928433-03-3 (ePub)
Edited by Katlego Tapala
Cover artwork and lettering by Jesse Breytenbach
Author photograph by Rorisang Putu
Book design and layout by Liz Gowans
Set in Aldine401 BT

This work is based on the research supported by the National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences
This book is dedicated to all the women who, in their own way, have shaped the person I am and am becoming.
Especially those from whom I come: uNaRadebe, uMaMfusi, and uMaMgoza.
CONTENTS
Rock
69 Jerusalem Street
The Glasspecker
Confessions of Karelina
The Reader
Black Widow
Jocasta’s Hairballs
JV Mdluli Estates
R OCK
Now, as far as music goes, I’ve always preferred rock ‘n’ roll and nothing else. I love the kind of guitar sound that fills my head and pulls my heart in different directions. In fact, I’ve always dreamt of learning to play the guitar one day. Just like my mother, even though she hasn’t played in a long time. I guess this is how the nickname ‘Rock’ stuck to me. What I should really say is, I hope that is how. The truth is different though, and it wears many faces. One version, which I suspect is truer than most, has a little something to do with the fact that I’ve been rocking and rolling – on my makeshift wheelchair, that is – since I was seven. Throughout my childhood, I had to make peace with the other children in my neighbourhood whispering ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ every time I rocked and wheeled myself from my house to the shops, and from school to my house.
I lost both my legs to hunger. Thanks to the ravenous appetite of our neighbour’s dog which had not been fed for over a week, my legs were mistaken for lamb shanks. As a teenager, I managed to convince myself that it was no intentional ill will on the dog’s part, just a hunger that could not be ignored. I could relate to that. There were moments in my life when I, too, had been so hungry I fantasised about eating the same dog. I guess the dog got to what was on both our minds before I did, and I thought that was fair. This thought reminded me of a bumper sticker pasted on the back of a guitar that stood next to my mother’s bed, the same one she had not played in years: EAT OR BE EATEN, it said.
My mother, who was as inconsistent as she was pragmatic, did not share this philosophical analysis of my fate. She was determined to sue our neighbours for my deformation, in the same way she had seen people do on American television. Had it not been for Malum’ Justice’s intervention she may have actually gone ahead and done just that.
It was Malum’ Justice, my mother’s younger brother – and the only member of my family to have spent more than two semesters at a university in his short-lived attempt to study the law – who pointed out to his sister that in order to sue, one had to have some money in the first place.
‘To pay the lawyers, Sis’ Ncedi,’ he had said in a voice befitting a freshly-struck-off-the-roll barrister, in answer to the ‘Why?’ that never quite made it from my mother’s lips.
It was a fact that did not need stating that Sis’ Ncedi did not have any determinable coins to rub together. In fact, there were church mice that had managed a level of affluence higher than hers, both by human and mouse standards.
There are a lot of things that I find do not make a lot of cents – I mean sense – in my head. The list, if I cared enough to produce one, would stretch to the horizon. So, every now and then, I allow different puzzles to drift in and out of my mind. Just last week, I wondered about two things. The first was why it is that people with money find it necessary to rub coins against each other. The second was why Mother, who as I have already said was a woman who did not have any coins to call her own, let alone rub together, had wanted to sue people who had even less than she?
Bra Phandi’s dog was the culprit.
Bra Phandi was the sort of fellow who fits neatly into the government’s newspeak-inspired definition of ‘previously and currently disadvantaged’. A feat which life accomplished for him when the Unharmonious Gold Mines closed down and lost him his job. Exactly six years before his dog mistook me for Sunday lunch.
Sis’ Ntokozo, Bra Phandi’s wife and sole breadwinner for that same period, had over the years developed a case of arthritis so severe, the only comfortable position she could find for her hands was suspending them in the air. This habit gave her the aura of a piano maestro at strain to decide which concerto to play next. So acute was her condition that the flood of laundry which had once flowed into her house demanding that she wade through it for pay – if pay is what it could be called – soon dried up and made her and Bra Phandi first runners up in the privation contest.
All of that changed, though, when Bra Phandi, realising that their condition was not about to alter itself anytime soon, decided to make peace with the hand that life had dealt him. To his credit, he took over his wife’s duties and established himself as the neighbourhood’s first male washerwoman – a move which earned him instant brownie points with all the women folk and again opened up the floodgates of laundry.
When he decided to be entrepreneurial about his new vocation suggestive grunts referring to him as ‘Aunty Phandi’ soon vanished to the communal gut of swallowed words. The first thing that showed that he meant business, was the improvised billboard, followed by the ubiquitous pamphlets bearing his name and the services he offered. These were handed out house-to-house and at every street corner by his overly zealous army of sales representatives – neighbourhood children aching to supplement their non-existent weekly allowances. He paid 50 cents for every distributed pamphlet that resulted in actual business. In no time, our whole area was awash with ‘BRA PHANDI WASHERWOMAN ENTERPRISES’. In one stroke, Bra Phandi had managed to turn the mundane chore of washing other people’s clothes into a lucrative business and news over which countless cups of tea were drunk.
‘At least he is being responsible and manly enough to take care of his wife. Something we can’t say about the lot of you,’ Green Mamba used to say.
Green Mamba was a woman who lived two streets away from us, a friend of no one in particular. She ordinarily went by the name Jacqoubeth, when she was not being spoken of by my uncle.
Malum’ Justice would say, ‘There is nothing that anyone who walks around wearing a green towel so skunky and worn that it brings up images of a snake shedding, deserves to be called other than “Green Mamba.”’
He presented a really persuasive case. So, in my mind too, Jacqoubeth began to exist as Green Mamba.
‘At least she is nothing like your work-shy-beer-thirsty stingy backside, linked to a head full of a tiny knowledge of the law, Justice!’ my mother said as rejoinder in support of the green one every time Malum’ Justice expressed a different opinion.
He had made it his business to always do that. He called it ‘the art of being contrary’. In his larynx he carried a barrage of retorts, of which he had perfected the flair of administering. Not a word was lost with him. He was so particular about his words that he would not utter a single one unless he knew that its departure from his lips was destined for a bullseye: where it hurt the most. Where he felt defeated by my mother – and this was seldom – he always resorted to asking her the one question he knew she wasn’t willing to entertain.
‘Awusho, Ncedi, do you ever intend on restringing that guitar that has been showing us its armadillo smile for what is beginning to now feel like eternity?’
He knew that if there was a line guaranteed to silence my mother and sully her mood, that was the one.
Although the grin of the toothless guitar, nobly resting on a small strip of red carpet, was one we woke up to every morning, like me, no one spoke about it. It stood leaning against our wooden kitchen scheme, which was itself precariously held together by fewer than three nails and kept erect by what remained in the wood’s cellular memory of when it used to be a tree. No one who knew what was good for them dared bring up the subject of the guitar or its original owner.
There was a loud but unspoken pact between my mother’s friends and customers to keep silent about the guitar. In order to achieve the near impossible double exploit of keeping her mind off the guitar while earning a living my mother had started operating a casino out of the capsule we called home. I guess ‘casino’ is an elaborate but suitable term to describe a place where women and men congregated with the sole purpose of winning, but most likely losing, a little money.
They came. All sorts. They came to make sacrifices to gods with unknown names. But, for their sorrows and joys alike they offered libations to each other under the pretext of offering these to their gods. Yoked to each other, they massed to help lug the crosses lassoed around their necks, the weight of which seemed to them lighter when carried as a shared burden.
I used to watch them from the vantage point of my Rockmobile. I would study their faces and tell myself stories about them. That was the only way I got to know them. None of them ever spoke to me. To them I was in every sense as good as everything Ncedi owned: there but not fully functional and thus not worthy of any serious attention.
In our capsule, mind travel rapidly became my favourite pastime and the most entertaining reprieve from the punishing disregard I felt from others. Seeing as

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