Re: Blue Walls and a Tin Roof

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Steph_Downey
Participant

My life, think of this is though it were my right arm. Please enjoy.

Home truly is where the heart is, and mine is far, far away from my chest.

It is where I was given a chance, a place which without I would never have become as I am nor would I be penning this, my life.
I’m not so sure how old I was, but I remember we had a huge yard, so huge in fact, I should not call it a yard. It was not particularly grassy, rather dry really
and I would scrape my knees endlessly chasing after our chickens and ducks. I wouldn’t dare chase the turkeys, they had a way of puffing up, majestically
furling their tail feathers and eyeing me disdainfully. Besides which, they scared me. Imagine my relief one Thanks Giving when father suggested we go the
‘old’ rout, catch one and eat it! Huh! I thought, but my sister, the eldest, rather spoiled it with mention of the bird gurgling about injustices inside my stomach.
It put me off turkey for a long time after that. She, on the other hand, had quite the time at dinner come Thanks Giving.
We had a four roomed house, in a rural part of Kwa-Zulu-Natal. It had blue walls on the inside and not a lick of paint on the outside, corrugated
iron as a roof and two verandas, one at the front and one at the back. Our windows were huge, as though to make up for the number of rooms we had.
The garage, my father’s most ambitious project, was much bigger than the house and was never quite finished, not to this day. The only inhabitants being our
chickens, the neighbours chickens on a visit, live stock and three large gas cylinders, as opposed to actual cars. The gas was for our white stove, my mother’s pride.
It shone, always, light bouncing off of the white chrome as it stood, on a cerebral pedestal near the door, I wonder if it was to showcase sometimes. We, as our help would proudly say, were the only ones who had it! Her face would glow, it was as good as her owning it herself, who used it after all? She of course.
I was, on the other hand, not allowed to use it. My mother, a nurse, had vivid nightmares of a daughter boiled by water having to be rushed to the clinic. It’s a wonder I learned how to cook at all.

My sister, again, the eldest, uMbali- loosely translated it means flower, tormented me to no end, happy she was old enough to use it, that mother would let her pull out the trays of mouth-watering scones and muffins. I did not mind. I would sit at the table and watch the two of them. My mother and sister, my heart would swell and I would have a big fool smile on my face. I did not know it then, but I was in love. My beautiful mother and her warm shape, her gorgeous smile and her striking brown eyes. Those eyes would smile at me as she handed me a still warm scone. My sister, for that warmth filled moment, smiled benevolently too, as if to say, see? You just sit, we’ll make magic, I agreed.

My family was not rich, middling if anything, but we never went without, I often had more than I needed. For a little while, it was father, mother, uMbali- my sister and I.
Then a new member came. My. This member came courtesy of grandmother, that old biddy decided I had far too much energy running about after poultry, I should rather run after a beast of the four legged kind, with a horn or two for protection from the little horror I was. Granma felt it was her duty to enlighten my mother of the dangers of having a little hellion daughter, the prospect of marriage she would tease, was nil to none. Mother would laugh and say “Ma, hawu, she is too young.” And so, I had a bill goat to run after. He was patches of white and brown, with the largest and kindest brown eyes. I never thought to name him. He was just my goat or rather my puppy, he would follow me about all day, no running needed and he would chew on my father’s shoes.

One evening, after I had come back from my grandmothers, which was a skip or so away, we sat in the lounge, my plate of food on my lap and my father wrestling with the television antenna . I was still breathing a sigh of relief, I had made it past the neighbours coral alive yet again. Their pigs, who squealed and grunted awfully whenever I went by had not broke free and done away with me as my sister was wont to say. I was digging into my food with the my normal gusto when my sister, my ever unrelenting provoker asked after my goat innocently , I said I had seen it last before I had gone to see granny. Was I sure she said, well yes I had answered. She gave my plate a funny look and said the food was good, it was alright. Another funny look and I became suspicious. She grinned and asked how I liked goat, I let out a wail and dashed my plate away, never mind it was chicken, I had believed it. For that, mother sent her to bed without watching the telly that night.

I was, of course, fed the staple witches and craft stories as I grew up. I could not even breath when one of our neighbours was anywhere near in vicinity. I would literary freeze and start wheezing. She once asked if I was okay. I passed out. Truly. My sisters tall tales didn’t help my obvious fear. This neighbour was, well, one of the ‘dreaded’, God, the joy my sisters eyes bled out as she went into detail about other little girls I had never met because they had; she’d snap two fingers here, because they had ‘poof’!, disappeared! I really did let her get to me. I suppose the stories wouldn’t have carried as much weight were it not for the fact that the adults warned me off too. That made the monster thought even bigger inside my head. My poor brain couldn’t stand it, I was terrified yet I had a macabre and perverse need to find out the truth about her.

On Sunday after we had come from church, I remember it was before Sunday brunch, I used to measure time plate to plate. We sat outside on the tank stand. The stand was a perfect round, always cool to the touch, a nice one as far as those went except it had no tank on it. It was our perching ground. Our home was situated on land just the slightest bit higher than the rest, made for easy views into our neighbours yards and business. The sun had been rather lazy that day and the noon had had that washed out quality, even the water hadn’t tasted as sweet as it usually did. My sister and I were bored and that wasn’t a good thing. She took my boredom and hers as carte blanche to scare the living day lights out of me. Now as we sat there, lightly burning up in the sun, the dreaded neighbour stepped out of her house and into her yard. With her she had a pail, and in it she had her concoction which she then started liberally dosing her yard with, using a switch. This brew apparently would protect her from those out to get her. She, as legend had it, could command lightning. I still have no proof of that, she died, so I’ll never know. Not that I would have ever asked her. I just didn’t understand why she would need the potion, she? The commander of natures bolt of power. Strange business it seemed to me.
Now while I sat there lost in a daze of confused questions, my sister, unknown to me, was plotting. She can never be as good at anything as she was at distressing me.

She suggested we walk by our neighbours house.

In her yard, the neighbours, there was an old corrugated iron tank. In it, there was supposedly a baboon. This baboon was her ‘ride’. On nights she went about her witching business, it carried her on its back. My sister was all for finding out if it was true. So off she dragged me. We walk, my little heart pounding in fear and dread. We got some rocks, to throw at the tank, hopefully antagonize the baboon into some telling sound. My sisters little round face beamed, she was in her element, bothering someone. What fun! Once there, we tossed our rocks and got an answer! A pretty ferocious sound. I don’t know if it was what we’d set out to find but it sounded mad enough, maybe not as angry as our neighbour as she yelled at us, we ran home as fast as our little legs would carry us. I had never been as scared nor had I had as much fun. I decided my sister wasn’t as bad as all of that.
Well, that lasted until it was time for brunch when I fell for the old “look up there” and she snagged my drumstick.