by Gerald Monsman
At “Big Dutch,” Eastern Cape Province. The Present.
KRUGER AND JOUBERT raised the alarm with paroxysms of barking. I thumbed back the hammer, tightened my finger on the trigger, and prayed to any appropriate deity that the powder in the cartridge had kept its kick these last thirty years. For sheer horror, nothing can match the smoldering craziness behind the glassy eyes of a Cape cobra. The snake hung in the noon sun in a thorn tree barely fifty yards from the house where the yellow weaverbirds nest, the light in its hypnotic, unblinking eyes coming and going. As sweat stung my vision, I steadied the front sight of the flamboyant silver-plated Colt on those copper-red pools of fire blazing at me. The blast stunned my eardrums, tore at my wrists, arms, and neck. The snake, airborne, slammed backwards, pink bits flying out. As the dogs circled, I caught a whiff of “Colt ozone,” black-powder smoke–thick, hard, and masculine–that conjured up a forgotten Sunday morning a half-century ago.
by Leila Aboulela
New in Town
I pushed open the door that said ‘Black Bastards’ in pen, and stepped into the mosque. A woman was taking off her shoes, untying laces, left shoe then right. I greeted her and after she replied, I said, ‘Where can I get soap and water to wipe what’s written on the door?’
She said, ‘Leave it now, we must be quick’.
I took off my shoes and hurried after her down corridors thick with toddlers, little girls in long braids, fights over bubble-gum.
When I reached the hall, I heard the imam say in a loud voice, ‘Straighten the lines! Straighten the lines and pray as if this is the last prayer.’
by Stanley Onjezani Kenani
Your head feels like it will soon split in two. You have done your best for it to mend, but it seems even your best is not effective enough. Any slight noise that, on normal days, you barely notice, now annoys you. Someone upstairs, for instance, is walking about at a constant pace on what seems to be a wooden floor, and the noise, gentle as you have always considered it to be on normal days, is now like a tinsmith’s hammer pounding unceasingly on your mind.
You try to take some very hot sugarless tea. Somebody once told you taking tea is good when you have a headache. But an hour after taking the tea you feel no change. The headache started not because you have lost your job or you’re failing to buy food. In any case, it’s been a long time since you last roamed the Cornavin train station looking for food in the dustbins of cafés there. You also have not started worrying about accommodation yet. Mr Manyama, the Tanzanian owner of Umoja Pub where you work as barman, has, in exchange for cheap labour, generously allowed you to sleep in the storeroom at the back of the bar, where there is space for a small mattress that can accommodate one slender person like you. Still, compared to those dark days of Rosarno, where you slept in a shack without electricity and water, where you wondered whether you had indeed landed in the Europe that had for many years resided in your head, the place you now sleep, here among the crates of Heineken and Feldschlösschen, is like a five-star hotel. No, the headache has nothing to do with all that.
It started a few days ago when your sister Mayamiko – or Maya, as you and everyone in your family back home call her – told you on Facebook that she is coming to Geneva for a week-long seminar a few weeks from now.
by Nnedi Okorafor
It was due to a stupid thing done in a fit of panic that Fwadausi Bello altered her life forever. It’s amazing how sometimes the things we worry about most don’t happen and what we should worry about are often those very things we never imagine. So was the case with Fwadausi.
For the last few months, she’d been losing little things, including her favorite pencil from school, the plastic bracelet one of her friends had given her, and her lip gloss. It was infuriating, because her auntie and uncle rarely gave her money, so she couldn’t replace anything. This fateful day, she lost something not so little– she’d lost the key to the house and she was terrified of her uncle’s wrath. She had good reason to be.
Her uncle, a tall man with arms bulging like pineapples, had the violent temper of a demon, especially when it came to money. Only two weeks ago, he had beaten Fwadausi for spilling a pitcher of milk. She’d fallen and hit her head, knocking herself unconscious for thirty seconds. She’d come to still lying on the floor as her uncle was shouting at her auntie not to help her.