Chelsea Haith, Short Story Course, Assignment 1
Later I sit down at my desk, seeing not the empty table top but a desk ruled by the laws of organized chaos and covered in manuscripts and notes from a life I recall was once mine. The rain has broken and a steady pattering taps across the roof. I look around me. I do not want to leave this place. This study is my sanctuary, this house my home. I love the quirky clock, the smell of aged wood and the corrugated iron roof that allows the rain to lull me to sleep. Should I give this up for a job I enjoyed and a city life I knew? I shake my head. No, it's not that. Could I give up the life that was over and weave my own anew; effectively start over?
The rain becomes a downpour and drums heavily upon the roof. I watch it wash down through the leaves of the tree outside and remember the invitations, the dinners, lunches, parties and meetings that I'd declined. I remember too the long nights in the weeks after the funeral when I'd cried in grief and then out of relief and shame. I remember the year past and realize that while I've spent a year dealing with my loss and finishing up what was left of my husband's life, I've avoided this last step, remembering him. The memories come.
Harold had loved the rain. It had rained that night, angrily pounding on the roof. I was angry too, as I so often was then. Late in the evening he called quietly for me. His voice was as weak as his body and I'd had to bend close to him to hear the words. "The last... of... the," an unsteady breath, "morphine." I remember my heart sinking and rising as I nodded, knowing what he was asking me.
Yael Barham- Smith, Short Story Course Assignment 5
"What's going on, Rob? You expecting someone?"
"What?" asked Rob.
The heavy footsteps came back into the room. "There are two plates set out in the kitchen, Rob," Anna heard the rough voice say. "Who are they for?"
"Umm... er, no one, I just thought maybe you guys were hungry." Rob sounded strained.
"And what's with the heart made of strawberries?" the rough voice asked. Anna gasped remembering how she had decorated the plates for Rob.
"I bet you've got someone coming over," the rough voice accused. "I've told you before about keeping this secret. If someone finds out about this, I'll..." the voice stopped and Anna strained to hear.
"What's this?" the rough voice came again, but this time it was quieter. Anna could hear the deadly anger in it.
"Oh, that?" Rob's voice shook. There was a pause. "That's just my girlfriend's bag. She left it here when she came over last time."
"Really? Only I don't remember seeing it earlier"
"Maybe you missed it and ..."
"You know what I think? I think you've got your little whore stashed here, haven't you?"
"No. No! I don't! There's no one here."
"I don't believe you."
"Bill, please, I swear, there's no one else here."
"So you won't mind if I look in there."
Anna sprang back from the door. She looked around desperately for somewhere to hide. The room was too small. The door crashed open and a huge man loomed in the doorway. Anna backed away but her legs bumped against the bed and she fell heavily on the mattress. The man strode across to her and grabbed her hair, dragging her to her feet.
"Well, what do we have here?" he sneered.
Tina Kitching reveals the dark side of the MacDonalds meat supply. (Short Story Writing Course)
Later that evening, Dave waited in front of McDonalds. He checked his watch ten times when he didn't see her.
"Pssst... Dave, come in through the back door by the kitchen."
He walked around the building and shoved down the handlebar of the back door. It was a bit tight.
"Maureen?" It was too dark to see anything.
"I'm here. Follow my voice."
He fell over something heavy on the floor and bumped his head on pans that were hanging from the ceiling. She led him into the back of the kitchen. There was a passage.
"Come down the stairs."
"I can't see anything. What stairs?"
"Wait a while until your eyes adjust then." The place had a rotten smell. It definitely wasn't old food. Maybe something raw.
"I .. eh .. I don't like this. It's weird."
"Fine, I'll come get you, you big mole. Wait there."
"Fine." His head was throbbing from the pans.
"Hey Dave, sorry about that." She threw herself into his arms and hugged him. She also smelled rotten.
"Let's just lock up and leave. It's creepy and I want to go home."
Her hands stroked up and down his back.
"I'm afraid I can't let you do that, Dave." He could feel her nails steadily scratching his back.
Patti Smith deals with a stolen wallet. (Short Story Writing Course)
It's when I'm third back from the counter that I spot it and now I know why today is so special: it's a wallet on the floor hard up against the kickplate. I'm mesmerised by it and can't understand why nobody else has noticed it. It's bright red, for goodness sake, how hard can it be? I casually look around, taking in the surroundings. I might look dopey but guess what? When it comes to money, I'm no slouch.
The people at the front have moved away with their burgers and I edge further forwards. Still no-one has spotted it, so when I move up to the front I drop my shoulder suddenly so Ichabod is thrown off balance. He's used to this trick so he screams and leaps onto the table behind me. While the people in the queue behind me try to catch him, I lean down and scoop up the wallet in one easy movement. I'm so good at this that even if you had been watching you still wouldn't have seen it.
By the time I place my order Icky is back on my shoulder and we find a seat outside in the sun to share our burger. A quick check to make sure no-one is looking and I open up the wallet to see what I've scored. Hmm, not much. Credit cards, absolutely no use at all, unless I'm ordering on line, and as I don't have a computer or even a cell phone, they're no use to me.
Kirti Ranchod... a young boy deals with the death his brother. (Short Story Writing Course)
"I know that Sean's death has been hard for you. We've just been so caught up in our misery that we forget to comfort you. I'm sorry for that."
"It's okay, Dad, I understand. I can see what it's done to you and Mum."
"If you need help, you need to let us know. I guess, though, today has shown us that you do." His Dad ruffled his hair, like he used to when he was five.
"Your Mum told me a little about your conversation earlier. None of us will ever understand why this happened. I know that telling you not to feel guilty won't help. I think all of us feel it - all the things we should have and could have done, all the 'What ifs'. We can't change any of it, though."
"But Dad, I was his big brother. I should have been nicer! I remember telling him that he was too ugly to date Nicole, and that he was just so stupid, he should give up trying to play chess!" He replayed these scenes every nightas he tried to go to sleep, hoping that he could somehow change what had been said.
"Did you do nothing nice for Sean, at all, Robert?"
"No, Dad. I can't think of a single thing. I've been trying for months to figure out if I did anything to make him happy. I've got nothing! Nothing!"
"I know that you always let him have the front seat if he wanted it. You always knew which flavour of ice cream to get for him, and you let him wear your favourite T-Shirts."
Final assignment by Bianca Wright (Basics of Creative Writing Course)
Dimitria giggled as Koos kissed her nose. His lips moved up to her eyes and then back down to her mouth. He tasted like Doritos and Coke. Lately, all of their arguments had evolved into passionate make-out sessions - and tonight had been no different. She had shooed her mother and father out of the door as soon as closing time had announced itself on her father's old clock, and promised to do all the cashing-up herself. Koos had arrived as soon as Maria and Stavros crunched out of the parking lot out back - parking down the street so that nobody saw him arrive.
"Mmm ... all this arguing has its benefits." Dimitria smiled between kisses.
"You need to tell them, Demi - we need to start making plans." Koos relaxed his grip around her waist and opened his eyes to look at her. Her pale yellow sundress glimmered in the moonlight that shone through the slats on the windows like a detective's torch. He loosened one hand to untie her curly pony-tail and gently twisted a few strands around his index finger. Her hair was soft and smelt like conditioner.
"I will, Koos." Dimitria pulled him closer. "Soon."
Final assignment by Yvonne Erasmus (Basics of Creative Writing Course)
Where is Pat, Dale wondered. Could it take so long to get a drink? Dale felt alone and anxious without her at his side. He threw a quick glance at the door to see if he could spot her, but could only see strangers standing around in the corridor. He smelled the stale cigarette smoke sticking to their jackets as they came back into the courtroom. Dale was afraid to look around, but he could hear the whispering behind him.
What did these people care, he thought, feeling anger pushing up from the pit of his stomach. These vultures would go back home, and he might lose everything.
As the sun shone down on his face he had forgotten for a moment where they were heading and why. But now, the warmth and welcome of the summer sun did not reach the inside of the courtroom. A fluorescent light in the middle of the room was twitching, throwing intermittent shadows in the corners.
Dale looked at his watch. It was one o'clock exactly. He knew he was supposed to be hungry, but how could he be when all he felt was numb.
Juanne de Abreu, Short Story Course Assignment 1
He stands there moving the jasmine bushes, beating them slightly with a stick. The smell bursts through the cracked open window. A familiar smell and the comfort of memories rush through the soul, in the blink of an eye. Frosty tipped shivers dance up and down my skin thinking back to times when he was not just a dark figure in the garden. It's fairly dark outside yet his eyes are clearly staring up towards me. Who is the hunter and who the hunted? I cannot let him inside!
I cannot let him inside. I have to get rid of him quickly. He is not welcome here...he has this burly chest covered in soft hair? And strong arms? He is a total Adonis! Maybe I'll just go outside and hear what he wants.
It's been six years since the first time we met. The first flirtatious bump into each other on the dance floor and the first "Can I buy you a drink?" Few words were uttered that night. The music vibrated my veins and he swayed his hips into mine. Staring into the colours of a fire, with its blend of red and orange, white and blue, is staring into his eyes, the colours flicker and blend so effortlessly. Nothing else exists except the amazing blue colour pallet.
But he knows not to come here. He knows never to contact me. With a cigarette in his mouth he lights it and the bright flash of fire confirms it's him.
Jane Scobie, Short Story Course
"Can I take Dad's new car?" his face brightening, imagining a detour to his girlfriend's house on the way.
"No," replied Alison, holding out the keys to her aging hatchback.
"Aww c'mon Mum, Dad's new car is awesome. The sound system is sick." Towering over his mother, Robert put his arm around her shoulder and bestowed his most endearing smile. "Aren't I your favourite son and aren't you the best mother in the whole world?"
Alison smiled despite herself. Placing some cash, her keys and empty pastry case packaging in his hand she said "You are my ONLY son, you can take my car or walk. You choose, but you had better be back in 20 minutes and make sure you get the same brand."
"You don't have a car," said Robert with a wry smile, "It's a motorised shopping trolley, my skateboard has more grunt. What are you trying to do to my rep?"
"19 minutes. Goodbye Robert", said Alison dismissively.
Robert expelled an exaggerated huff and shuffled off, resigned to his mission. .......
Alison busily set to finishing her food preparations and was pleasantly surprised when Robert duly returned with the correct pastry cases. She was just commending him on his good timing when Lucy stormed into the room.
"Robert! How dare you," she punched her brother in the arm. "You hacked into my Facebook page."
Robert couldn't resist a jibe at his sister's recent gothic makeover. "Hey MORTICIA," he chuckled as he rubbed his arm, "I didn't HACK into it, maybe you left it open? You've no proof it was me, you need to be more security conscious. Anyone could have done it." he smirked.
"You changed my status to single and wrote on my wall that Steve dumped me because I have halitosis!" She lunged again at her brother.
"Whoa! Back off sis," Robert flapped his hand in front of his face, "you seriously have bad breath."
"You shit for brains arsewipe -"
"Cut it out you two," called Alison from the kitchen. "Your Dad will be here with his boss any minute. Lucy, watch your language."
Tessa Ainsbury, Short Story Course Assignment 6
I only ever read about this place in the news. I normally drive past it. Today I drive into it, navigating my way past a myriad of pedestrians, buses and taxis. As I trudge up the hill towards the entrance, I contemplate the building. It is a sprawling medical metropolis; a mismatched marriage of old and new architecture situated at the foot of a magnificent mountain. The effect is discordant. I equate it to a slum in the middle of a picturesque painting.
Outpatients, the sign above a grubby swing-door proclaims. I smile wryly. I am a patient alright, and I am "out", in a manner of speaking. Too poor to afford a battery of expensive tests, and too rich to access State assistance. I am a taxpayer on medical aid, and, in this instance, totally screwed. So I'm here to try to my luck. I look like a frightened blowfish, swollen and prickly. I have cut out every conceivable allergen, and am living on air and over-the-counter medication. My employer has stopped sending prospective clients to me. Colleagues avoid me. I have no significant other, and won't get one at this rate. I am Quasimodo, and desperate to fix it.
Through the swing-doors, and into a dark and doleful corridor. It looks funereal; meagre shafts of sunlight penetrate smudged windows creating dark shadows on mustardy yellow walls. The bright and sunny day is banished from this place. I have stepped into a different world of muted gloom.
David Hamilton, Short Story Course Assignment 1
Rose had started keeping a knife close to her bed. She reached out and gripped the handle tightly, drawing comfort from its weight.
"Who's there?" she called. She tried to make her voice sound commanding but it quavered just a little. She drew back the curtain and looked out into the black. For long moments there was nothing. Then a large shape sprang into view, filling up the window. Rose screamed and dropped the knife. The shape paced back and forth on the windowsill, then sat and regarded her with two huge yellow eyes.
Her heart beat a fast rhythm in her chest and she sucked in a big breath as the fright faded away. She opened the window and the big cat jumped in onto her bed. It padded around, clawed the covers and sat down. It was jet black, its fur seemed to drink the light in. Its eyes were bright and reflective. It watched her for a few seconds, then slowly closed them. Rose put out a hand and ran it down the cats back. It was soft, cold on the outside from the night but warm from body heat closer to the skin. It began to purr. She felt its ribs as she stroked it, it was lean despite its size.
"You must be hungry, poor thing," she said.
"I think I've got some tuna around here somewhere," she said, searching the pantry, "Dan doesn't like it so we never eat it. Aha."
She pulled out a blue can with a faded label.
"Expired six months years ago but that won't bother you will it?" The cat rubbed its head against her legs, purring loudly.
An excerpt from the novel 'Conspiracy' by Hazel Carlstein, from the Advanced Novel-Writing Course. Chapter 29.
Deidre lies next to Simon, sniffing. She can smell the strong camphor odour of the Vicks Vapour Rub, a thick daub on her chest and throat. She swallows to pop her ears and her throat is so sore and tender that it feels as if she has scraped her skin across an unplastered brick wall. She reaches towards the tissue box and pulls out a wad of tissues and blows her nose, raw and red.
She hears the agitated rise and fall of a siren and the rolling sound of tyres on tar and a soft scraping sound. She lies, unmoving. A swirling sound of an aeroplane circling in the distance blocks out the sounds outside on the steps or at the window. Her eyes dart from side to side. The shadow on the ceiling is like a gigantic tarantula. The body next to her in the bed snores. A car door is closed. She lifts her head from her pillow. "Simon."
A soft crackling sound drifts towards her. Something falls down; a thump outside. "Simon! Wake up!" and she digs him in his side, below his ribs.
He rolls over. "What? What the hell is going on, Deidre? I'm trying to sleep."
"There's a noise; someone's around outside."
"There're always noises outside, Deidre," but Simon gets up and walks around the flat, checking the doors and windows. He returns to the bed and he tosses and turns trying to get comfortable again and erase from his mind the scribbles of concern. Now he listens and he watches Deidre, the mole on the side of her neck rising and falling with her laboured breaths. He hears nothing unusual and his head falls backwards and he sleeps.
As Deidre opens the door of the flat the next morning, the wind cuts through her scarf and thick black coat and she screams, "Oh my god! Oh my god! What is this on the mat, Simon?" And she bobs up and down, shaking her gloved hands, as she steps back into the lounge. "Take it away! Take it away, Simon."
Simon looks down at the tiny staring, unseeing eyes. They are as unmoving as black pearls, set in the fox-like face. He sees the small clawed feet and the wings, like stiff, thick plastic, that encase the frozen body. There is a hook on the end of each wing. The nose is pointed and the blood from the mouth is congealed. The chest with brown fur and the shoulders with white tufts of hair are broad; the body of the bat surprisingly large.
Simon fetches a Checkers packet and picks up the dead bat. The note is under the body, DON"T CARRY ON! Dried blood has stained the mat. He pulls a tissue from his pocket and picks up the note and places it on the table inside his flat, determined to bag it and send it for analysis. Then he walks down the stairs to the outside bins and throws the bat away.
He looks over his shoulder and he walks around the block of flats and behind the concrete pillars of the parking bays. The morning air is freezing. He thinks about the note but he can only feel his father's thick hand swiping his ear and he can only remember his father's voice from so long ago, "Hau, you must be the most stubborn child God ever made." And Simon knows that he won't stop, at least not yet.
Final Assignment by Daniel Andrews, Basics of Creative Writing Course
John pushed the car door shut and leaned back on the bonnet, taking deep breaths as the latest wave of pain faded from his chest.
'Damn feeble body,' he grumbled to himself. Checking his gold Rolex, he saw it was only two o'clock and cursed under his breath the hours of lost work this afternoon's sick leave would cost him. Stress, he thought, that was what was afflicting him, and keeping his fling with Angela, the new secretary, secret was stressing him more than usual. 'Damn it!' he cursed, ruing the day that his business partner, Marty, had gone against his advice and hired that tart. John was sure that Marty had been lured by her copious cleavage of silicon which her push up bra thrust out the top of her shirt and her scandalous thigh length skirts, but ironically it had been him that had ended up in her clutches. Now she was threatening to tell his wife unless he paid her off. That one night was the single most regretful incident of his life,
'God, don't let Sarah find out,' he prayed, thinking again how devastated he would be if Sarah had cheated on him.
Putting past mistakes out of his mind, he turned up the collar of his business shirt against the cold and wiped the mist from his glasses before sizing up the path to his house. Firstly, a dash over the curb and footpath, both covered in a carpet of red and gold leaves still wet from last night's rain. Second, through the old iron gate and up the drive lined with oaks on either side, and finally, through the front door of his splendid two storey white house, where a warm fire would be waiting and his wife would be able take him to the doctor.
Final Assignment by Kara Netzler, Basics of Creative Writing Course
Marcus couldn't work out what was going on. Josh had instructed him to meet with him behind the school gymnasium at 3.35pm on the dot. It was now 3.40pm, Marcus was there, Josh was there, and also there... their entire class. No one said a word. Perhaps they didn't want to compete with the howling of the wind swirling around them. Marcus shivered as it snaked its way down the back of his neck and beneath his shirt.
C/mon Marcus shake it off. It's just a bit of wind, no biggie... What's Josh waiting for? Everyone's here. He's such a drama queen. Maybe he wants us to pass out from the stench of that cheap 'deodorant' he insists on wearing. Yeah that'll be it. Marcus would never have the guts to say any of this aloud - he wasn't scared of Josh, he knew he could take him down if he had to. He was scared of the repercussions that such action would have on his image. There was nothing more important to him than that. What else is there?
The location seemed odd to Marcus. What was the significance of meeting behind the school gym? Marcus looked around, taking in the imposing barriers around him - the concrete block wall of the gymnasium, the line of tall trees so dense that you couldn't see through them to know what was on the other side, and the high barbed wired fence; not to mention the bodies of the children who had formed a tight semi-circle around him. Ordinarily Marcus would have counted each and every one of them as his friend or at least someone he could have a laugh with; looking at their faces today though Marcus could see only their obvious indifference towards him. Today they were uncompromising and a force to be reckoned with. It dawned on Marcus that if he had to make a quick getaway for whatever reason, he would be hard pressed to do so.
By Shelley Blignaut (Short Story Writing Course: Module Three Assignment)
“Robert Anderson, what were you thinking?” Anne said as she ran her trembling fingers over the dent in the car.
“Is it that noticeable, Mom? Maybe he won't even see it; it's on the passenger’s side door and he's either hung-over or trashed when he walks out of the house, he can't even see straight.”
Anne's eyes widened in fear as she looked around in panic. “Ssshh, Rob, the neighbours are already suspicious, the last thing we need are more social workers poking their heads around here, remember how your father reacted the last time”
Robert jerked his head away as if some imaginary hand had slapped him. A moment later he turned his face back to her, now etched in determination.
“Yeah, and that's never gonna happen again, Mom. If he ever lays a finger on you, I swear I'll...”
“Okay Rob. Let's just calm down.”
Rob put his fists down and breathed out heavily. The thickness of the night hung around them and he suddenly realised what he had done: he had given the monster inside his father a reason to rear its head. He had made his mother vulnerable again as he knew she would take the fall for him. How could he have been so stupid?
Anne must have seen the despair in his eyes,
“We are going to handle this without your father's temper flaring up.”
She walk toward him and gripped his defeated shoulders, she lowered her voice and said steadily,
“We both need to have the same story, with the exact same facts to make it sound believable”
Robert could see she was petrified; even though she was trying to keep it together, he could feel her hands shaking as she held him.
“Mom, I am so sorry. I'm such a dumbass for getting us into this; it's just with starting this new school and all, I was just trying to cut it with the other guys. They all drive their dad's wheels and I couldn't pitch up on my bike, all of them would have been like 'Who’s that loser who can't drive yet?”
Anne dropped his gaze and let herself smile a little. For one brief moment she felt like this was normal, this is how it should be, her teenage son apologising for something stupid he did, explaining the need to fit in, succumbing to peer pressure. And she allowed herself to think about what should happen. She should ground him of course, a month would be fair, and then he would work shifts at the video store down the road to pay for the panel beating of the car. He would moan and curse and hate her for a week, but he would learn valuable character-shaping lessons. But this was not a normal family and she hated her husband for that. She could take the beatings and verbal abuse, but to rob her of these opportunities to be a mother was inexcusable….
The Character - by Venisa Chinnasamy (Short Story Writing Course: Module Eight Assignment)
My name is Mpho-Sanna but Madam calls me Sanna. She says it’s easier on her tongue. I hope someday to build up enough courage to insist she calls me by my full name. As I hear the cars zooming past our chugging bus. I realize I’ll be late for work again.
Eish, this life is not easy. I cringe at the cold creeping through the crack in the windowpane and penetrating my arthritic joints. Although the corrugated iron sheeting of my shack is also not weatherproof, I’ve not yet adapted to the Johannesburg winter. I hear the rest of the passengers on the bus, all domestic workers like me, boisterously making jokes at the expense of their employers. Usually I join in. I’m a pro at mimicking Madame Naidoo’s shrills.
This morning I need the time to sulk. I am at my wits end with my fifteen-year-old son, Vusi. He has stolen the entire contents of my coffee tin. I have been saving to buy a brick house for the last five years. It is my dream to own a house like the one father built. Tears prick my eyes. I refuse to cry. Crying won’t help me. To come up with a plan to get the money to pay Thuli’s school fees is what I must reserve my energy for. Except for bus fare for the rest of the week, I don’t have a cent. I still find it difficult to believe that boy spent two thousand, five hundred and fifty rand on shoes, and clothes.
I pull at the threads straying from of seams of my only set of work clothes, curl them around my forefinger, and snap them out. This outfit has deteriorated way beyond my skills as a seamstress.
I admit I’m an angry woman but I have grounds to be. After one and a half decades, I still feel the rejection of my father. He died without forgiving me for running away from home at sixteen. Both Vusi and Thuli’s fathers have abandoned me. No wonder Vusi behaves so badly. His father is a worthless drunkard. Now, Thuli’s father leaves me in the lurch again by reneging on his promise to pay her school fees. The final straw is Vusi demolishing my hard-earned savings.
I try to stop moping and think about something pleasant. Thinking about Thuli always makes me smile. My nine-year-old is an easy child to please, always pleasant, taking pleasure in the simple things in life. She seldom complains.
Busiswe Chaane (Short Story Writing Course: Module Five Assignment)
“Let’s go, we’re getting late,” Amanda called out as she opened the door to the garage. “Bertha, Molly, where are you? It’s way past half-past.”
“Whose lunch is that on the table?” Amanda was back from the garage to try and herd the girls into the car before the traffic gridlocked. “Bertha? Where’s your lunch?”
“No, I’ve got mine in my bag, Mum. Bagsy sitting in front,” said Bertha quickly.
Amanda shot her twin a look but said nothing. The girls threw their bags into the boot. Amanda reversed out of the gate and out of the complex.
“Mum, did you see Aunt Priscilla driving in just now? “ Molly asked from the small seats at the back of the four-wheel drive MPV as they edged into the busy intersection. “She waved at you.”
“No, I didn’t,” replied Amanda, “but I’ll be seeing her and Aunt Moira at coffee later. How I hate this morning scramble. I’m going to take the back road today.”
“Thanks, Mum!” Molly smiled as her mother stopped outside the school. She blew her mother a kiss and ran to catch up with Bertha, who was already talking to a group of boys at the school gate. Amanda smiled back and swung out of the school car park.
Minutes later, she was passing the rotund lollipop lady at the busy intersection with the new mall, and she smirked to herself as she nipped in front of a slow-moving hatchback and a taxi as she made for the slip road to the motorway. She reached across and selected her favourite CD of the moment and sighed slightly as she thought of where she was going.
As she settled back into her seat and looked at the road ahead, she could see a figure up ahead, a woman, it looked like, standing under a small thorn tree. Her right arm was stretched out, the thumb up as she peered anxiously into each passing car. Amanda had enough time to think about her response before she drew level with her. On a normal day she wouldn’t even have noticed a hitchhiker. But today seemed a little different. Amanda didn’t know why, but she felt strangely dislocated from her surroundings, from her everyday chores and school runs, her usual suburban preoccupations.
Amanda started as she realised that she was reducing rather than increasing speed to join the motorway. She realised she had automatically checked her rear-view mirror, signalled to the left and was stopping, yards from the lone figure who was indeed a woman, in well-used army fatigues.
“Where are you headed?” Amanda asked, opening the passenger-side window. The woman, with short, brown hair wore no makeup or earrings, her sunburnt face and neck were liberally lined, evidence of well-travelled skin.
“I’m trying to get to the bus station, madam, on the other side of the motorway. Just looking for a ride... y’know.” The woman talked with a drawl; Amanda couldn’t place her accent.
“I’m going that way,” she heard herself say, “ I’ll drop you.”….
Laurel Watt (Short Story Writing Course: Module One Assignment)
There it was again. The scratching, rustling sound in the darkness, just outside the window. And it definitely wasn't a branch this time. Dan had cut that back last week.
It’s probably that darned cat again, thought Maggie.
Just that morning she had seen its muddy paw-prints on her kitchen window sill and across the counter. The few dinner scraps that Maggie had left out had disappeared.
Not that she disliked cats. But this was his cat. Ever since Jim O’Connor had taken up residence in the garden cottage, he had been a thorn in Maggie’s side. She had been against having a tenant from the start. That had been Dan’s idea.
“Mom,” he had called from his office, “my boss is looking for a place for his elderly father. I suggested the cottage. What do you think?”
“Perhaps I should keep it as a guest cottage. For when Pete and Nicky come to visit,” she had suggested. Pete and Nicky had lived in the cottage after their marriage. Maggie had enjoyed having Nicky around. That was before Pete’s promotion, which meant relocating to Australia.
“Mom, Pete and Nicky only moved to Melbourne six months ago. It’s going to be a long time before they can afford to fly back to visit.”
“Besides,” he continued, “It would be good to have someone to keep an eye on things around there.”
“And just what good do you think that geriatric can be?” She had asked once she met the man.
“Don’t be so nasty, Mom. He’s 74 but he’s very fit and alert for his age.”
Alert enough, for sure! Maggie thought later. Doesn’t he have anything better to do with himself other than check on my every move?
Shortly after he moved in he had popped over one evening. To borrow some sugar was his excuse. She was busy in the kitchen when he knocked on the kitchen door.
“You really ought to keep this security door locked,” he had said. “We wouldn’t want a pretty, young lady like you coming to any harm.”
Pretty young lady, indeed! How dare he be so patronizing. He may be old enough to be my father but I am no spring chicken. Maggie was indignant.
“Thank you for your concern, Mister O’Connor, but I’ve managed to survive quite well in the five years since my husband died,” she’d snapped.
The Aquarium - by Riaan Fourie (Short Story Writing Course: Starter to Module Two Assignment)
“BLIND-DATES are dangerous and desperate,” said the voice on the phone to Marissa. “That’s what you lecture me whenever I go on them. You’re turning into a bit of a hypocrite in your old age, aren’t you?”
And that she was, Marissa conceded to Julia. She had met Harry through a dating site she began to use two years after the divorce. Up until now she had thought the idea of meeting any of the men frequenting the site, to be sufficiently silly to prevent her from ever feeling the urge to do so.
“So, you’re meeting him at the Aquarium?” asked Julia.
“I just found parking, yeah. I’m walking to the entrance now.”
“I can lend some experienced lady-wisdom here, can’t I? This is important: if you don’t like him after the first five minutes, it is perfectly acceptable to say: ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ and simply walk away. In which case you call me and we do coffee.”
Ian Fraser Short Story Course: First Assignment
She silently slid out from the duvet and put a wrap around her shoulders. She went slowly to the window and listened intently. It was very still, not even a breeze. But she felt the presence of a person outside. Slowly she twitched the curtain to peer out.
Suddenly it opened. A hand pulled the curtain and a face – a man’s face – was in front of her. She could see that he hadn’t shaved; she could smell that he hadn’t washed. Stale breath and body odour assaulted her nostrils. She couldn’t immediately see what colour he was. Black? White? Something in between. Did it matter?
He had on a cap and she was aware that he was in uniform. Khaki. Couldn’t be police.
He spoke. “Don’t speak or scream. Please. I am not going to hurt you.” An educated voice.
How could a burglar say “Please?”
He had a gun in his hand. “What’s that for, then?” She asked, amazed at her own calmness.
He gave a half-smile. He was clearly relieved that she hadn’t reacted badly. “There’s nothing in it.” he said. “Here you are. You take it.” And he turned the barrel toward himself and handed her the handle. She took it mindlessly, looked at it briefly and looked back at him, a little comforted by the gun in her hand. “Who are you? What do you want here?”
“I’m not here to cause trouble or pain.” he said. “But before I talk to you I must be sure that you won’t raise an alarm. Can I talk you on that basis?”
Extraordinary, she thought. Here I am, accosted outside my bedroom window at one o’clock in the morning by an armed intruder and yet I’m being calmed by his words and presence. I must be dreaming. But she knew that this was real and she must keep her cool.
Deborah Dingemans Short Story Course: Sixth Assignment
She was elegant and quite beautiful in an unusual sort of way, yet she could not look more out of place in the Olde Worlde Bookstore that Ben passed on his way to work every day. He had noticed the stranger there, thinking that she could be a new sales assistant, but word on the street was that the owner, Marcel, was planning to retire and had handed over the reins to his niece who had arrived from France.
This piece of news was from Rob, who owned the coffee stand on the corner. As people picked up their caffeine rush for the morning, news and views were added as a side-order, free to anyone who listened. Anything that happened in the neighourhood, old or new, never went past Rob unnoticed, who peppered it with his own brand of cynicism.
While pretending to look at the interesting book display, Ben studied her, thinking that she looked like one of those exotic books where one wondered whether the cover was sometimes more enticing than the story it held inside, although something about the way she moved, made him doubt that theory.
Maybe she was more like one of the treasures that was brought into his antique store to be appraised by a proud owner, who was filled with wonder when Ben discovered a significant marking on the piece, turning it from beautiful to rare.
Louise Nell Short Story Course: First Assignment
Anthony had insisted that the tree be felled completely: chopped down, uprooted and burnt, and Carol had complied at first. Yet, on the day that the workmen came she’d unexpectedly stood her ground, very apologetically explaining that there had been some mistake about the size of the job. They had left taking only the centre branch with them, their large truck looking somehow sad with the single trunk bouncing oddly as they drove away. Later, she’d tried to explain to Anthony that it wasn’t the fault of the tree. It should not be punished for someone else’s mistake, for Dan’s mistake.
They’d found him together, wedged into the tree, half-hidden in the early morning light. It was summer and they had gone for their morning walk around the reservoir, picking up the day’s newspaper from the tiny greengrocer on the way home. Dan strapped to the tree with his leather belt, his blue misshapen face staring down at them.
“Why Dan, why?”
Much later, after the ambulance and the police had gone she’d sat outside on the veranda with Anthony. Earl Grey tea in tiny fine bone china cups, her pale hands folded carefully on her lap. That afternoon seemed to last forever, rolling into days, weeks and months of quiet contemplation. Her clothes seemed to grow threadbare and baggier, losing their shape. Anthony postponed going to university and decided to take a gap year at home, tending their vegetable patch and olive grove. They talked less, and yet understood each other so much better than before, both relishing the quiet comfort.
Andrea Fedder Basics of Creative Writing Course: Final Scene Excerpt
I’m curled up in the sunlight when Ryan’s girl comes tumbling into the room, collapsing onto the bed. I try in vain to block her out and focus on the heat of the sun on my fur. But the calm is already broken. Acknowledging this, I permit one eye to assess the scene beside me. Samantha appears to be completely empty. Her limbs just lie where the collision with bed left them, arms splayed out, knees bent up and toppled to one side, her head faces the other way. She lies contorted like abandoned prey.
She gives in to the bed beneath her, sinking into the layers of white linen. The sheets must still smell of their intimacy and I look on as she presses her nose into the creases, reliving the past. I sit up, discarding any hope of a nap and wrap my tail around, positioning my front paws for a long comfortable sit. She inhales deeply, the rhythm of her inhale, jagged and fragile. Righting her body, she bears up to the ceiling. Arms still spread like wings; Sam closes her eyes and awaits the hot tears to leak out. Permitting just a few she tolerates the lapse in control and then she sniffs them back harshly. I watch as teardrop runs its course and falls from her cheek to stain the sheets below.
I heard them arguing in the shower earlier, interrupting my fish paste dreams. Moments later the purring of Ryan’s bike alerted me that something more serious was afoot. This bundle of heartache that lies before me now must be the aftermath of all that sorrow.
Anton Nahman Basics of Creative Writing Course: Final Scene Excerpt
“Good luck, Riaan!” “Kick some ass out there tomorrow!” “We love you, Riaan!”
Riaan and I are making our way towards science class for the last lesson of the day. As usual for a Friday afternoon before a big game, we’re greeted by the adoring cheers of fellow students, who call out to us and pat us on the back as we make our way through the corridors, wishing us well for the game. At least, wishing Riaan and the rest of the starting fifteen well for the game.
And, just beyond the throng, Wendy Jackson hurrying to class, oblivious to the commotion, but blushing slightly as she catches sight of Riaan. As I watch her walk past, her blonde hair pulled back in a pony-tail, except for a single loose strand over her face, I can’t help but wish I could trade places with the books she holds close to her chest, that it was me pressed up tight against her body.
“You’ll get your chance,” Riaan whispers as we make our way into the classroom, waking me from my reverie.
Portion of a novel, by Ami van Zyl Write a Novel Course
It wasn’t weird that mom was on the phone, she was always on the phone – the prayer groups called, the Parent’s Organisation at school, my teachers, sometimes dad from work, the strange voices that try to sell you money for when you’re dead, mom is always running to the phone, smelling of soap and coffee.
But she never gets angry on the phone, not even at wrong numbers or people selling things, she says ‘sorry’ or ‘no thank you’ or ‘I’m afraid you’re mistaken’, but never ‘that can’t be right’, ‘are you serious?’, ‘what right do you think you have?’ and ‘please, please, never - do not ever call again.’
That’s why I lifted myself from the carpet and followed her, so quietly she couldn’t even notice. I even tried not to breathe, to hold all the air I would need behind my salty-sea-bottom-bruise ribs. I stepped with the toes of my socks barely brushing the floor. I held my elbows to my sides with my arms dangling like heavy wings, like I was an owl tired from hunting all night, pulling in my feathers to hide me from the light.
‘Theo, really. Don’t do this now.’
The smell of soap and coffee stepped further away, to the bookshelf, and I let the caged air out of my lungs. It tasted weird coming from so deep, and I got a bit lost in that, so I missed mom leave for her room.
She’d taken a few of the fullest books with her, all with green and cream and pink and cheerful yellow covers. The sticky notes in mom’s books always look so sad to me, even though they are the happy colours of a really bright circus. The way they hang at their tips, it’s like they could be the petals of a dry old flower.
I didn’t know what to do with myself, now that mom had gone to her room. I thought about phoning dad, but that wouldn’t be good. I thought so long about what to do that my feet started tingling and getting all hot and cold and my knees became hard to move.
Portion of novel by Ashley Symes Write a Novel Course
Edgar’s relation to the corner landing remains his own affair. And he understands quite well that this ritual glance towards the corner and its window connects to some shuttered aspect of himself, to something unacknowledged, something he hasn’t as yet put his finger on. But will one day, when he has time to trawl his consciousness, his memories, his associations, all the unsorted clutter that by default accumulate as a person deals with the top layer of daily life and processes matters in a rational and productive fashion. One day he will certainly sit in the chair and mull over this particular question.
But: “Don’t just sit there and ruminate!” Josie would bellow at him in the thick of an argument. “For god’s sake give me a reaction, before another year passes.” On another occasion, she shrieked: “I am not a subject for analysis. I am a human being. I want your response, just as one person to another.” And threw her hairbrush, leaving an irremediable dent in the plasterwork, and burst into furious tears, and hurtled into the bathroom and slammed the door. Of course, Edgar cannot sort through this jumble now. Right now he has climbed the stairs on a Monday morning and is about to enter upon the official business of his day.
Final Scene - by Ariella Caira (Basics of Creative Writing)
The wet road glistened under the streetlight as Tyler, Chris and Katie sped home from the club. Although the streets were quiet, Tyler’s Alfa Spider was not. The roar of its engine combined with the heavy house music Tyler was pumping through the subwoofers would warn anyone of their approach from kilometers off.
Chris, squashed in the back seat, dropped his head between his knees and told himself to ‘breathe’. The speed, noise and heady smell of old leather, Katie’s perfume and the smoke from the club were starting to push his car sickness to a whole new level. Throwing up in Ty’s car and most of all, in Katie’s presence, would be the ultimate in ‘uncool.’
Tyler, still hyped from the night of partying, sat forward in his seat and thumped the steering wheel in time to the music. “Hey babes,” he shouted to Katie sitting in the passenger’s seat. She folded her arms tightly over her chest and turned away from him. Tyler pushed harder on the accelerator.
“C’mon lady,” he said squeezing her thigh. She pulled her leg away.
Again Tyler had embarrassed them by getting into a bar fight which in turn had seen them all getting kicked out of the club.
“C’mon babe, don’t ignore me. That dick deserved it, besides he punched me first!” Tyler tried again, rubbing the ruddy bruise on his cheek, slurring a little as he spoke. “He was staring at your ass the whole night. Can you blame me for wanting to protect your assets?”
Katie rolled her eyes and looked out of the window. Tyler grinned then, “Excuse the pun.”
Chris raised his head in time to see Katie clenching her jaw, her fingers grippng her arms tighter. She had every right to be upset. Ty had embarrassed her too many times to count and she and Chris always had to clean up after him.
Final Scene – by Krpasha Govindasamy (Basics of Creative Writing)
Ella slid off the bed, leaving behind an amorphous lump of duvet. Her body cast a slender shadow against the curtains as she curled her toes into the hairy bed spread crumpled at the foot of the bed. She stared at the letter on the dresser-table hardly believing that it was real. He was gone, taken, lost to her. She was on her own again.
She put on her robe, the purple silk cool and soft against her skin, sat down and read the letter for the third time that day. The smell of jasmine oil mingled with the humidity of the room made her head throb.
‘Dear Ella. Thank you for your letter. I am sorry for not writing sooner. I am well. This place is so beautiful - there are Black-eyed Susans everywhere. I am happy and content here with my friend. Ella, I think I have fallen in love with her. I don’t know how else to say this but I want to be with her wholeheartedly, really. I don’t know what else to say… Please, take care of yourself. Much love, Bruno.’
She turned the page over. The clock blinked 3:10AM as the flickering candlelight played off the gold-rimmed pages of Milton’s Paradise Lost lying open on her bookshelf. ‘Yeah, indeed.’ Her whisper seemed loud in the silence of the morning. She shut her eyes for a moment gripping her pen, savouring the moment before the words scratched themselves into the paper to reveal all she could not say to herself. As she began to scribble hunched over the page, the frowns on her face slowly faded. She hesitated, her back stiffening. It was happening more and more. She was seeing the characters within her own setting. They seemed to have jumped out of her head and into her world.
Final Scene – by Aimee Fouche (Basics of Creative Writing)
“Jamie, don’t fall asleep, Honey. What else can you tell me?” Mum asked. He was stretched out on the cool slate tiles, moving his bare legs only when the tiles beneath them weren’t cool anymore.
He didn’t answer. His mum knew the answer, he already told her a gazillion times. Mr. Bunny was the only friend he played with today. If Mr. Bunny hadn’t carried him to the table, he wouldn’t even have blown out the candles on his Spiderman cake! And as Mr Bunny didn’t eat any cake, neither did Jamie.
His eyes felt heavy, and itchy, but he kept them on Mum while she packed colourful plates into the dishwasher. She looked very disappointed when she saw the state of the house. Jamie also sighed looking at Niknaks crushed on the floor, brown handprints on the white cupboards and sweets wrappers all over. Luckily he was grown up by now. He wished Mum would stop inviting younger kids to his parties.
They were cry-babies, and messy and not very smart.
Mum grabbed a wet cloth and started wiping and picking up, stepping over his body.
“Jamie! I’m going to clean outside, coming along?” asked Mum as she opened the glass doors to the garden.
“No, Mum. I’m still angry with Basil for stealing the Easter eggs from my hide. He’s a bad dog!” Jamie kept staring at Mum while she was collecting dishes from outside. She took big steps over balls, lego blocks and stuffed toys. She passed the hideout where he and Mr. Bunny found their ‘Bunny-brother-gang’ and planned an attack after Sam intruded with a water gun. Their flag was still hanging there; a Spiderman napkin dangling from a twig.
A sudden noise came from the scullery. Jamie has always hated the scullery. It was dark and eerie. His heart was pounding in his chest. He opened his mouth to call Mum, but stopped short when remembering the talk he had with Mr. Bunny earlier. He was now a big boy. He felt strong when Mr. Bunny told him that he was ‘cleverer and braverer than all the other kids’. He could do this himself! So, he tiptoed towards the scullery, stopped at the door and peered through the opening at the wall. From the messy hair and hanging shoulders, he was relieved to recognise Dad. Dad was mumbling, stuffing things into the cupboard and being clumsy. Mum always said that Dad was as clumsy as a Chinese elephant.
Jamie didn’t want Dad to think he was scared, so he quietly returned to his spot on the tiles and pretended to sleep.
Scriptwriting Assignment focusing on dialogue – by Stanley Denga
Lizzy. Baby I need to talk to you.
Abel. (He yawns) What time is it?
Abel. Can’t this wait?
Lizzy. No, it can’t.
(Abel wakes up)
Lizzy. Baby I am so sorry about earlier, I didn’t meant to hurt you, I’m truly sorry, please forgive me.
(She starts crying)
Abel. But baby you always apologize and repeat the same thing time and time again. This thing has to stop.
Lizzy. I know my love, from now on things will change, and I promise you. I don’t want to lose you.
Abel. So what happens if you don’t change? Then what? I won’t take it any longer, if you keep on working and spending too much time at your office, I will leave this house. You are putting me in an impossible situation; you can’t carry on like this Lizzy.
(She continues crying)
Lizzy. I promise baby.
Abel. It’s ok baby, stop crying please.
(They hug each other.)
Lizzy. There is something else I want to tell you.
Abel. What is it baby?
Lizzy takes a deep breath.
Abel. You are what, baby? The suspense is killing me.
Lizzy. Ok, please hold my hand
(Abel holds Lizzy’s hand)
Lizzy. I wasn’t feeling well today at work, so I went to see my doctor; he took a couple of tests and then told me that I’m pregnant.
Abel. You are what?
Lizzy. We are pregnant
Abel. Are you sure, baby?
Lizzy. I am sure, baby, I tested positive.
Abel. I don’t get it baby; I thought you were on the pill, that’s what we agreed on.
Lizzy So what are you telling me, are you telling me you don’t want the baby? Huh? Tell me?
Abel. What I’m saying to you is why didn’t you take the pill?
Lizzy. I forgot.
Abel. How can you forget something like that? Baby, I told you, what are we going to do?
(Lizzy starts crying)
Lizzy. I thought you wanted to marry me and have kids with me.
Abel. I do baby, baby it’s just that…
Lizzy. It’s just that what?
Abel. You know how my father was; he abused my mother, he used to kick her in the face, I was exposed to all of that torturing, and he left. Baby, I’m just scared.
(Lizzy moves closer to Abel and touches his face)
Lizzy. Don’t be scared baby; you are going to be a good father.
Abel. How do you know?
Lizzy. I just know my love.
(They hold and kiss)
Abel. I hope it’s a girl who will be as beautiful as her mother.
Lizzy. I love you.
Abel. I love you too my queen.
Short Story Writing Assignment – by Patti Smith
The blood was pounding in her ears, but she crept behind the leather wingback chair and risked a peek around the edge of the shabby brocaded curtain. She stifled a scream. There was something down there! She could see it on the lawn, beside a pile of loose earth it had dug out from the flower bed under her window! In the moonlight the shape was distorted, the shifting shadows blurring its outline, making it difficult for her to gauge its size under the baggy clothing. She ducked back into the room again when it lifted its head to look up at the window, but she got enough of a look at the face to make her stifle a scream once more.
The long tangled hair under the cap had come loose and was hanging down, partly concealing one eye, the other eye socket gleaming faintly in the starlight. The heavily bearded face hid his mouth, but not the dark outline of the jagged scar across his nose, stopping just above his lip.
Short Story Writing Assignment – by Cornelia Booysens
I walk onto the bus and take a seat right at the back. The worn leather seat makes a squeaking noise as I shift to get comfortable. I'm not too keen on long bus rides, but I know that once I get off I'll be climbing onto a train for an even longer journey. A journey that could end in disaster. I'm actually praying that the bus breaks down.
The seat in front of me is riddled with cracks. I catch myself, realizing that I've been staring at it for god knows how long. I glance outside the window on my right, watching the autumn leaves fall, and I imagine being one of those dead leaves on the ground.
Now the nerves are acting up again. My stomach is doing back flips and I quietly curse myself for letting the situation get to me. I remind myself that I am a soldier now. Unwillingly drafted to aid in the war effort, but a soldier nonetheless. I sigh, my breath fogging up the window.
Short Story Assignment – by Tessa Ainsbury
Daniel had not wanted the high wall, or the electric fence, when they moved in.
“There is a greater probability of criminals harming you behind closed walls – how would the neighbours know you were in trouble, Becks?”
But Becky was cautious about everything.
Thus far her caution had paid off. At school, she had worked diligently at all her subjects. Extramural activities like drama afforded genuine enjoyment, sport less so. All aspects were carefully managed to ensure a sparkling testimonial and University bursary. Yes, there were gaps. No social life, for a start. Becky was a social misfit. Dances were a nightmare. Camps even worse. It did not matter, though. Becky always looked to the future.
University was a cinch. Unlike her peers, she started, and finished, her sensible commerce degree. She allowed herself to have a steady relationship with a nice, reliable man, who was three years older and a varsity senior. A couple of stable friendships formed. Becky always carried an air of disapproval about her, however, earning her the nickname “Mary Poppins”. She had no pregnancy scares, no drunken parties, and no heartbreak.
Barbara Gengan: Short Story Writing Course
“So, are you a regular?” Kamini asked in between bites as she licked the mustard from the sides of her sandwich. This was delicious and exactly what she needed. With a flick of her wrist she tossed the crumpled foil wrap into the waste bin across from them.
“Am I a regular what?” Byron questioned, a little surprised.
“Are you a regular park bench day dreamer?” she asked, smiling.
“No, mostly I’m a quiet reader. And sometimes I just like to observe people.” He added quickly and continued reading. He wasn’t in the mood for chatting and was anxious to finish the chapter.
Kamini checked her wrist watch and changed her position on the bench. She was almost facing the stranger but not too openly. To her left a Frangipani tree was in bloom and the white flowers had fallen on the grass in what seemed like a circular pattern. The smell was intoxicating and she drank in its fragrance. From the corner of her eye she could see that he kept looking at her and each time she’d look his way he’d quickly bury himself in his book. She couldn’t tell whether he was shy or nervous or both. He seemed tall, even though he was seated and looked in good shape too. He was dressed casually in a white tee shirt and dark blue jeans and trainers. He didn’t look suspicious though and not bad looking either.
“So, you’re an Architect?” She continued. “Now, that must be a very interesting. What inspires you and who’s your favourite?” Kamini couldn’t help herself. She was used to initiating conversations and didn’t think she was being forward. Byron’s head swung around and he was about to say something but stopped. How could she possibly know? Have they met before?
“I am at heart.” He said quietly. He lost his place on the page and closed the book.
Tshegofatso Leeu: Short Story Writing Course
“Today has confirmed that working for that office is no fun. You are judged according to your job title. People only give you respect when you have so many degrees.” Maria started complaining to her husband the moment she dropped the vegetables on the kitchen floor. She had just arrived at home a little after 20h00 because of the Soweto taxi strike.
“What is it now, my dear. Was John at it again?” Oupa asked as he knew that John gave his common law wife serious hell on a daily basis
“No, it is his side-kick, Sally. Gina nearly broke her leg when she tripped over Sally’s bag she had left lying haphazardly on the floor I was busy mopping. I had just asked her nicely to remove it while the floor dried, which she did not. Unfortunately her tea spilled on John’s magazine that she had taken without his permission. Now she insists that Gina has to replace it. Oupa tell me, where on earth does Sally expect Gina to dig up the money when she knows they pay their staff so little?”
Oupa just sighed. He did not know what to say.
Helena McLeod: Write a Novel Course
I opened my eyes, realised I was still alive, and closed them again quickly. The bedroom looked the same as when Bob had inhabited it with me. Yellowing walls from the nicotine and smoke, sagging velveteen curtains, some attractive watercolours of flowers, and of course my desk. My whole being ached for Bob: the coward hadn’t even come to see me yet.
A week had passed since the accident – everyone pussyfooted around the word suicide attempt. I’d been brought from the hospital last night. If I was stronger would I try and do the terrible deed again – perhaps fall onto a blade? Knowing my luck I’d push myself off the bed and end ass side up. I’d like to go out without the comedy. I like to make people laugh, but I want my death to have drama.
‘Alright mum?’ Eric placed a cup of steaming tea on the bedside table. He was growing into a spotty geek, awkward like Bob, with his stumbling height and the same rugged good looks once he lost the puppy fat.
‘Thanks, Eric my love.’
He took my hand and squeezed it.
‘I missed you, Mum. You’re not going anywhere again are you?’
His face was stone serious. It took me quite by surprise, I didn’t realise he cared.
I smiled. ‘At least failure on the death front allows me to see you kids again.’ He stared at me in alarm: I had mentioned the taboo word, death. And I realised that I had borne several delicate souls.
I lifted my chin, drew myself upright, concealing the pain it cost me and put on my haughtiest impression of Queen Elizabeth. ‘One has realised a mistake was conducted which left the populace disheartened. One has considered the errors of One’s ways and will seek to rectify them in the future.’
Eric usually loved Queenie. He burst into laughter and sobs at the same time, wrapped his long arms around me and stuffed his soggy nose against my neck.
‘I love you, Mum.’
Veronica Williams: Short Story Writing Course
It was still too early and for once she had nothing much to do. Her research on the DNA of Geissorhiza aspera was going smoothly. She wasn't going out tonight. There was silence in the flat and she realized that the clinking of crockery from the kitchen had stopped. Giles was probably in his room too, reading up on Mister Muscle and the Evolution of Physical Conditioning, she thought tartly.
Tonight was a good night to read "Pride and Prejudice" for the fifteenth time. She'd read it the first time when Grandmother Delysia gave her a copy on her fifteenth birthday. Now she could forget Giles Tennant and immerse herself in the pride and prejudice of Mister Darcy and his Elizabeth.
"I had not known you a month before I felt that you were the last man in the world whom I could ever marry."
"Good for you, Miss Bennet. Show him who's boss," Marge muttered as she turned a page. "Giles is not your Mr Darcy's agterent anyway. He does have a sour face. Funny how I've never heard him laugh out loud. Even his smile looked like something stung him in the rear. She struggled to keep her drooping eyes open. Damn, she was more tired than she thought. She saw Mister Darcy in his great coat and severe looking face. It changed into Giles' face, same coat and stern face. Lady Catherine de Burgh: "Tell me, once and for all, are you engaged to him?" Who, Giles? Who'd want to marry old pickle-faced Giles Tennant? Then Mister Darcy spoke to Elizabeth: "What did you say of me that I did not deserve? My behaviour to you at the time merited the severest reproof."
"In short," Marge murmured through the fog of sleep, "you were truly disgusting to me…"
Marge woke up with a groan, a thick head and a sharp pain that shot through her collarbone. Pride and Prejudice lay on the floor and she lay on top of the bedding. She gazed myopically at her wristwatch.
She had sudden images of the March Hare running past Alice with no time to say hello and goodbye.
"Identity Stolen" by Theresa de Beer (Writing Coach Course, Module 7)
My identity was never actively stolen - at least not in the conventional sense. No one took my identity number and masqueraded as me. No one pinched my credit card and embezzled my money. No one went about pretending to have my hair, my eye colour, my particular collection of personality traits. It was more subtle and less overtly criminal than that.
The thieves were legion and they were pervasive: in my home, in the media, in school, in society, in my head.... The larceny followed a measured progression: A small corner of independence and eccentricity appropriated and replaced with obedience and conventionality to please a domineering mother. A splinter of vivacity and individuality quashed in the face of an indifferent father. A budding intellectualism and creativity poached in the face of a brilliant and adored younger brother. A strong will and assertiveness plundered by a vindictive grandmother. Confidence and charisma became casualties of a confusing and judgmental world. Self-belief and free thought fell victim to a conventional and systematic world.
Yet, despite the wicked actions of these insidious perpetrators, there was one archfiend, one truly abominable felon, the worst offender, the one who chipped away incessantly and sold off bits of my soul to the highest bidder: me. I cheated myself of all these things, traded them off to survive, to be accepted, to be loved. I shed my individuality, one piece at a time, so that I wouldn't be unique, wouldn't draw attention, wouldn't be ridiculed, wouldn't be different. Consequently, my identity was leeched away and I existed as a tiny trembling creature in a seemingly dull grey world.
Gradually, as I grew older and more into a sense of my own power as an adult, I became wholly cognisant of what I had lost. I would see parts of myself in others: my eclectic dress sense worn by a bohemian girl on the Paris subway; my brushstrokes in a breathtaking oil on canvas by a gifted artist; my words, my thoughts echoing from the pages of a novel; my journeys lived by others less fearful; my passion alive in the eyes of lovers.
I envied these vibrant, alive people who could so wholly immerse themselves in the world yet remain apart as sparkling facets of colour scattered in the dross of human existence. I craved that. I yearned to live without fear; to live with grace and happiness and freedom. I ached to exist without boundaries and shame. I wanted to take everything the world had to offer and return it a hundredfold. I wished to dance and paint and love and travel.... I longed to live.
Tentatively, I began to step away from the life I had rejected. I recognised what I had lost and I grieved for all that would never be. I took with me what I felt I could salvage: my values, the extraordinary beliefs that had filtered into my awareness, the emerging potential I felt bubbling inside me and enough optimism to float the world. Steadily I began to forge a new identity, accruing new attributes and moulding them to what I had already gained. I investigated new ways of being and accumulated those I liked and discarded those I did not. Slowly, steadily I began to emerge.
Writing Dialogue Exercise by Lisl McLachlan Write a Novel Course, Module 7
Man: "Bafana Banafa! Let's party! Are you going out, man? Let's get off this train and go out."
Girlfriend: "I said you can stay here. I'm going home. I'm tired and the vuvuzelas give me a headache. Do what you want. I really don't - "
Man: "But then you'll be pissed tomorrow."
Girlfriend: "You're irritating me."
Man: "What's new?"
Girlfriend: "Why isn't the train moving? You'd think someone would come and tell us what's going on."
Man: "Why don't you fix it then?"
Girlfriend: "Stop being such a dick, please."
Man: "I'm just having fun... Hey, boytjie! Were you at the stadium?"
Friend: "Boytjie, boytjie! It was amazing! Hi, Sandra."
Man: "Sandy, he's talking to you."
Girlfriend: "Hi, Mike. Did you enjoy the game?"
Friend: "It feels like I've been on this fucking train for more than an hour. What time is it?"
Friend: "That's not what I asked... Good answer, anyway."
Cover Blurb by Penny Lorimer Write a Novel Course, Module 10
Introducing Nix Mniki: maverick tracking agent, whose formidable Xhosa mother demands that she use her detection talents to find her childhood nemesis, Boniswa - otherwise known as "Picture Perfect Girl" - Nix obediently travels to the Eastern Cape to pick up the trail, secretly hoping to uncover clues about her own, unknown family.
Boniswa has vanished from the rural school where she is principal, but most staff members deny she's missing. An unattended mobile and car tell a different story and Nix, under the guise of writing a feature piece on the once-famous school for a Sunday newspaper, attempts to uncover the truth.
The poverty of the school community is eye-opening for a dedicated urbanite and Nix finds herself increasingly emotionally involved in an unfolding tragedy. She begins to uncover the truth about Boniswa's disappearance, and, during her parallel investigation, learns more about her own family than she ever suspected...
Text instalment by Penny Lorimer Write a Novel Course, Module 12
I moved back to the school gate and crouched down under the tree, feeling along the root until I found the journal. I heard a crunching and froze on my haunches, my eyes on the school. A dark figure holding a dim torch shuffled around a corner of the admin building. God, I'd just made it. The figure sat itself down on the front steps and I saw the flare of a match. Shit!
My thighs and calves were killing me and I was dying to pee by the time he'd finished his unbelievably leisurely cigarette; I hate smoking. I was also growing increasingly nervous about the coming light. The first rooster had been answered by his fellows and any moment now the wild birds would join the dawn chorus. I was grateful it wasn't mid-summer and I had a slightly longer period of darkness to hide me. I had just felt something crawling up my leg under my jeans and was withholding a whimper when the damn man cleared his throat, got to his feet again and moved back around to the back of the building.
I straightened up too quickly and did a short, silent, frantic little dance, slapping and shaking my leg. When I could not longer feel the tickle I grabbed the journal and hot-footed it - in a strange kind of racing tip-toe - down the road to my car. As I ran, I heard the dogs start barking again - this time with more intention. When I eventually reached my car, I wrenched the key out of my pocket, clicked the open button and fell inside. I closed the door quickly and, without taking off my bag or putting on my seatbelt, started the car and pulled away back towards town, switching on the headlamps as I left. The seatbelt reminder scolded me. I took one look back up the road in my rearview mirror, but it and the surrounding villages were black and silent still.
Around the first bend, I stopped again, opened the door, swung my legs onto the ground, tugged off my boot, unzipped my jeans and peeled them off the insect-invaded leg. In the spill from the interior light I saw an innocuous brown beetle falling onto the dirt road onto its back. I had imagined at least a small and deadly centipede. It lay still as I put my leg back into my jeans and replaced my boot. Then its limbs began waving. I used the toe of my boot to help it flip itself upright, closed the car door again, unslung my bag, put my seatbelt on and began the slow, careful trip back to Spencerville, clenching my bladder and gritting my teeth at every bump.
Excerpt from Conspiracy by Hazel Carlstein Write a Novel Course, Module 12
Martha sits on the narrow bench that stands near the front door of the Butshingis' home. It is a pine bench with carved ends. It is not a very long bench and as Martha sits with her arms outstretched sideways, she can hold both ends of the bench. She looks towards the sand road hoping to see scuffs of dust and the solitary figure of an old man. She sways from side to side, the wooden bench moving in unison, the joints of its legs worn and loose. No matter how long and hard she looks, no figure enters the landscape. When the afternoon has cooled, Martha walks along the road Joseph should have followed home, peering as far as she can to either side of the dusty road, checking that no crumpled body lies in the grass. She knocks on a few doors and shouts across to a few people passing her, asking if anyone has seen Joseph Butshingi, if anyone has seen anything.
When the last of the grey light has been stained black, she turns around and returns home, stepping alone into the cool darkness of her four-roomed house.
She is a tall, thin woman with high cheekbones and a light brown complexion that, once again in her life, has turned to a grey pallor. For 38 years of married life, she has always known (or thought she has known) where her husband has been. But now Joseph has vanished. Somewhere between the home of the Church leader and their small brick house, Joseph has disappeared as if an ancestral spirit has swooped down and swept him away. Sudden stabbing pain courses through Martha's big toes; she has walked too far today.
With her hands cradling her head, Martha sits staring at Joseph's chair, the one that he has always sat in every night of their married life, the one with the permanent creases and the faded cushion. When the candle has burnt to nothingness and Joseph is still away, she takes herself to the silent bed and she tries to sleep. No jagged edges of sound slice through her head, no inhaling grunts or exhaling sighs or coughs rattle around the room. Martha turns onto one side, then the other and then back again. Then she lies on her back, fixing her eyes on the beam above her head. She hears the soft creaking sounds of night. Sleep finally comes to Martha together with muddled images: benches set out in rows behind a back door, two laughing children, a Happy 60th Mama banner, pots of mutton and mieliepap, school children in classrooms, Joseph reading out details of gifts, thick blankets and crockery, Thabo at university, dancing and singing and clapping, and Joseph with pots of beer and friends shaking hands and ...
The frenetic barking of a dog, probably far away, drifts into Martha's consciousness. She wakes to see the morning unfurling like the pointed petals of the pink Day Waterlily. Her sense of calm is shattered by the loud beating on her front door. Her feet skim over the cold floor and she fumbles with the locks. Then she opens the front door and looks out. Her neighbour stands on the red step.
Excerpt by Hannah Green Short Story Course, Assignment 6
"I really think you should slow down." Jenny tried to give him one of her patent reprimanding stares but Mike shrugged it off. The first feelers of anger were creeping in to replace his irritation. He added a little more pressure to the accelerator, revelling in the feel of power in his control.
As the three lanes narrowed into two, Mike spied a pair of taillights up ahead. He paid no heed.
"Well, you're not the one driving, Jenny. Get your licence and then you can comment." Mike knew it was a childish remark, but he wouldn't let her have the last word.
He was surprised when Jenny didn't reply with some or other snide remark. He glanced at her again. She sat tight-lipped in the passenger seat. He felt a tiny twinge of guilt: the weekend wasn't going as planned and they weren't even there yet.
"I just want to overtake him before it gets to one lane. Otherwise who knows how long we'll be stuck behind them."
Mike pushed the accelerator much harder this time and the car shot forward. The car ahead of them was close enough now for Mike's headlights to illuminate it.
"Humpf." Mike was struck with a sudden sense of déjà vu. It was an old red station wagon. Even the number plate looked familiar.
"What?" Jenny looked as if she were trying hard not shout at him for the speed he was driving at.
"That car... It looks familiar."
Three lanes had become two as concrete barriers stood sentinel over the construction. Mike kept the car cruising well over the speed limit. He could see Jenny shifting uncomfortably in her seat; he knew that she was itching to say something. But Mike was too concerned with the puzzle of the car in front of him to pay much attention to Jenny's sulking.
"Ja... I'm sure we've seen it somewhere before."
They were close behind the car now. Mike had about two hundred metres before the road narrowed into one lane. He ignored the déjà vu and floored the accelerator. The engine whined and roared. Come on! Come on! Mike desperately wanted to get in front of the other car. He willed his car to gain more speed. Almost there... Mike was nearly in line with the other car. Can't this guy see what I'm trying to do? Mike tried to see into the other car, but he was only in line with back half of the car and couldn't see the driver. Oh shit, I'm not going to make it.
Excerpt by Helen Yuretich (Short Story Course, Assignment 1)
Blumin' possum. What time is it? The old woman stretched a wrinkled hand out to find the clock, and the glass containing her husband's teeth tumbled to the floor. Damnation. She found the clock. 5.37am; it would soon be light. She sat up stiffly and carefully lowered her legs to the floor.
"Hey, old man." She turned and poked a stiff finger into her husband's back. "Time to put the jug on and there's a marauder outside." He grunted and turned over. "Well," she continued, "I'll just go and sort him out then. If I'm mugged and murdered don't blame yourself for lying in bed and letting an old woman do your work. Just say, ‘She was a good woman,' and get on with your life."
Her husband pulled the blankets over his head. "Cover your legs. If he's a young fella I don't want you putting him off his breakfast."
"Old man, put your teeth in," she said. "I can't understand a word you're saying. And by the way, they're under the bed."
The old woman shuffled across the bedroom and down the hall. In the kitchen she filled the jug - might as well make him a cuppa for once - then she opened the back door and smiled. After all these years she still thanked God every morning for the rolling hills and unspoilt beauty of the countryside, right here on their doorstep. "Million-dollar view", Stan said, silly old fool, as if you could put a price on it. The sky was tinged with pink and the air was night fresh and cool. Another fine day in paradise.
She stepped out onto the back porch, then moved slowly round the side of the house. "Okay, who's a-rustlin' out here then?"
A pile of leaves had blown up against some old timber. "Oh, not a rat, please don't be a rat." Cautiously she toed the leaves, pushing them round with her bare foot until, there it was, a nest. She leant forward as far as she dared, using the side of the house for support. Four baby hedgehogs.
"Well, hello! It's your mama I've been hearing, is it? Aren't you just the cutest, ugliest little things? I hope your mama is out right now finding you some big fat slugs for breakfast; those ones who come and eat my lettuces would be the ones to choose." And with a chuckle she covered them up again as best she could and went to make a pot of tea.
The old couple sat in their rocking chairs with the morning sun blessing their faces. A cup of tea at dawn had been a ritual as long as they could remember and on these pale summer mornings, they wouldn't have changed their porch for breakfast on the QE2.
"There's a hedgehog nest under the bedroom window," she told him. "Four babies."
"Not vermin, old man, slug busters. I think I'll get them some cat food. I'd like them to stay around."
"Full of fleas," he grumbled.
"Apparently," she said, "and you're a bit of an old fleabag yourself, so you should know."
Excerpt by Varsha Patel (Short Story Course, Assignment 8)
My name? My name doesn't matter. And before you ask about my age, I'll tell you. My bones creak like a cabinet door with a rusty hinge when I climb the steps of this wreck of a bus. I'll tell you that I'm old enough to smell the burnt morning air and regret the loss of my green hills. All the same, I know that even the sun-fires cannot kill the mighty Fynbos. The Erica, Protea and Reed are faithful soldier-consorts to the mountains. They battle the wind. They battle the dry soil.
Their life is one long battle to breathe. They live and die by the ash.
My death was a long time ago, you see. I pull a cigarette from a near-empty box of Dunhill's in my shirt pocket. I roll it in between my thick crooked fingers.
These days, you hear a lot of talk about dreams. They say that dreams are powerful. They say that the universe is alive. And all of its atoms rearrange themselves to help you realise your purpose. The world's modern Bible pushers and enlightened Oprahs, they all say that your dreams can come true.
They say a lot of things.
I light up and I inhale. Strong menthol soothes the dry desert of my bronchi. The contraction of even those muscles hurts.
But I'll tell you the truth about dreams. The one thing that they can do is fuck up your life and fuck it up good. I'm talking like a Saturday-night drunken brawl with blood, broken bones and necks, shattered beer bottles, splintered furniture, and your ass in jail with a permanent criminal record stamped on it. Are you getting what I mean?
Dreams get like a drug.
A drug that is so intense and potent and toxic that you cannot imagine any other life for yourself without it coming true. So you keep on planning and plodding and hoping. You believe against everything logical and rational that your time, it's coming, until... Until you get it in your thick skull that this is it. The only real dreams are the nightmares you live.
The truth that your hopes are lies permeates your soul, first like a finger-curl of hot air, then like a thrusting fist of smoke. You realise that everything that you hold as true and valuable is nothing but burnt rubble. That's when you know that you are forever fucked.
So what do you do?
You focus on anything or anyone around you - just so you don't have to zoom in on yourself. And you notice your kid.
And through the eye-stinging blur of your life, you feel it. Small as he is, he's got that same desire in his gut. Even so, the reproach in the protective hunch of his shoulders says that he's going to be different; he's not going to be like you.
And that intimate defiance frightens you.
But you preach to yourself. You say, you've got to light that match, you've got to ignite the dormant wood in him. Then his spark can rekindle, resuscitate your dead hope. And that fragile hope circles your strong fear. Like two boxers, each is waiting to throw the first punch.
You settle into your job. You pay the bills. You give the kid a chance. You tell yourself that you're doing the right thing, the fatherly thing. With some relief and gratitude, you turn away from your dreams, to his.
And then on that random Thursday morning at three o'clock when the world has abandoned you for sleep, you find yourself looking at a place that feels so unfamiliar that it's almost alien. This internal landscape is black with charred pieces of you; the Godly green has vanished. How can something good come from this? Your boy, you fear, is doomed. Nothing feels right. And you curse all dreams.
Then your alarm buzzes. It's time to get up, to fold the laundry, rush to work, upturn a tin of beans in a plate for supper, working days on a loop.
Tomorrow is my fiftieth birthday. I've survived fifty loops, you could say. And I've lived five years more than my miserable sod of a father did. And as it turns out, thirty years more than my kid did.
Excerpt from "Swan Song in the Jungle" by Trish Nicholson (Short Story Course)
Rescue arrived in the shape of a thin young man in a threadbare tee-shirt, drooping shorts, and rubber mission sandals. He introduced himself as Steven, a fellow Brit. but in agriculture, and led me to a very beaten up, red Suzuki. We loaded my luggage, just two suitcases - I had learned to travel light over the years. A trunk would follow, with any luck. Steven apologised for the fact that the car battery had died long ago - no spare parts - but there were plenty of eager hands to push us.
My accommodation was enchanting. A simple wooden house raised up on posts, the veranda over-looked the town and the palm-fringed bay. The hills that backed this exotic scene, dressed in rich jungle green, donned a cloak of moody purple by the evening. The house was the same as others in Vanimo but it was new and fully furnished in simple, comfortable furniture that invited use rather than protection.
My office was a different matter. A single sweeping glance was enough. One corner of an old wooden desk was propped up on a couple of beer crates, two yawning sockets longed for drawers, and a backless chair cowered against a deeply dented filing cabinet that looked as if had been run over by a heavy vehicle - perhaps it had. There was no telephone, and apart from a peeling bamboo table in the corner, that was it. I have to admit to a moment of panic. Not regret, no, certainly not that. It was a sudden, and unwelcome, resurgence of entrenched perspectives on work output, targets, performance.
Excerpt by Nabila Abdulla (Short Story Course, Assignment 8)
When I walked towards him, he stood up to greet me with a kiss on the cheek. I had the satisfaction of seeing his face register shock and then pleasure as he looked at me with open admiration.
He pulled out my chair for me and said, "I don't think there's a word in the dictionary to describe how good you look."
Despite being charmed by his praise, I sat down and looked at him with amusement. "I see you're starting early with the lines tonight."
"It's not a line, just the truth," he replied smoothly, handing me a menu and opening his own. "It's not a sin to compliment a beautiful woman."
As he looked over the menu I couldn't help but notice how good he looked too. In dark jeans, a deep blue shirt and suit jacket, Nick looked elegant and relaxed. I noticed that his voice had changed too, as he spoke with a slight British twang in his voice. It made him even more devastatingly attractive.
We placed our order for the main meals when the salad came. I watched Nick take out his olives and exchange them with my green peppers, a vegetable that he remembered I didn't like. I couldn't help but laugh. It seemed like old habits did die hard.
Nick looked at me questioningly. "Something's funny?"
"You still don't like olives?"
He gave me a bland look. "After what happened to me? Of course not."
I laughed even harder. Nick had once choked on an olive when we were together. I'd had to do the Heimlich Manoeuvre on him and Nick was very appreciative. So much so that we re-enacted the scene later that night... only it ended in a more pleasurable way. I blushed at the memory and looked at Nick. Seeing the heat in his eyes, I knew he was remembering it too.
Excerpt by Nicki Hill (Short Story Course, Assignment 8)
The familiar scenery flashes by as the Monday morning bus thunders its way through the traffic. It strikes me that the layered birthday cake balancing in its large white box on my knees is a representation of my life. Today I am 35, hiding disappointments and failures under layers of humour and between folds of sugar-coated promises. The cake is beautifully decorated with thick luminous-coloured icing covering all the imperfections. That's me, perfectly imperfect.
Another pint for Richard over here! 35 on Monday and still very single. Come on boys, whose up to a little birthday bet, a boys' challenge with squeaky clean Richard on his birthday?
I am a forensics investigator at Jones and Jones Attorneys and Investigations; I am also a partner in the firm. Single, living in a fully paid-up state-of-the-art penthouse in what seems like the perfect bachelor existence. The firm is sprinkled with few female support staff, but the firm is testosterone territory. No female emotional reactions, no tears when cases are lost or clients have been caught out bending the truth to suit their pockets or their story.
After hours, however, it's a different story. When the professionalism of the role is filed away deep within the hallowed halls of justice, these men, my colleagues, become dramatic and dangerous "boys". Alcohol and boys' club mentality give licence to toilet humour and behaviour that I have found audience humour in but until now have dared not be part of.
Excerpt by Brenda Jubber (Short Story Course, Assignment 4)
Mom did ask me if I wanted to come. She said my granddad is dying and there would be machines and pipes and things. I wanted to see him for real so I said it's okay. But it's scary. The machine pumping his chest up and down like that, with a pipe down his throat. I want to run out of here but I must be brave like Mom told me.
I once asked Mom why I didn't have a granddad. She said it was because he lost his heart to money. When I asked how, she told me to stop asking questions. I asked Mom on the way to the hospital why money can't fix his heart now. She said it was too late for that. I hope not. I want to touch him and talk to him. I ask Mom if I can. She nods. I take his hand that isn't all bandaged with pipes.
"Hello Granddad. I'm Michael. Please don't die. Get better so you can teach me to make money. Mom says you're good at that. I'd like to be good at it too 'cause I don't get too much pocket money."
Hey, I think he just winked at me.