The Visit (Part Two)

“She would return to her home at five o’clock in the evening every day. She would pass the gate, the neighbors, the children and walk on to her door as though the sanctuary was beckoning her. Her eyes took in everything that her ears heard. She would always return wearing a red scarf around her neck. Mama Daisy once asked her about her husband and all she could say was “he is not here.” When the lights would go out in each house, Ruth would keep hers on. She would sit on the balcony with a thermos full of black tea. Each night, their cries, Thomas’s smile, his laughter, his conviction before the trip, the police, the border, the land cruisers, the masks, the dust and the blood would envelop her like the dark. Anna would be five and Tim would be three. Thomas, well, he would be in this country, in her house, in her bed, in her thoughts. He would be whole. His hands, legs, head-all of them would be there and her little Anna’s heart would be in her body, radiating the warmth that filled her life.”

“I know what you are trying to do and I have had enough.”

“There is just one sentence left Rose and then I can stop.”

“No, leave it like that. Not all holes have to be filled and once you learn that, then you would be well on your way to being a great Writer.”

“What if I want something else?”

“A person who writes is a Writer.”

“But what if I just want to tell stories?”

“You cannot sit down and speak of such things. You spoke of tragedy, but there is nothing tragic in what you have read out.”

“Don’t you see it? Ruth is traumatized and she lives in the past, is that not tragic?”

“No, tragedy is thinking that she can wake up one day and forget everything. You are heading there if you continue reading it to me because she is like a housewife, all happy and neat and full of love, but when the night comes she is haunted by demons that are embedded in her memory.”

“I was thinking of writing some mystery or crime fiction about what happened to her family, wouldn’t that be awesome? I mean, like a crime story.”

“It would be a disaster.”

“What? I think it would be great, imagine picking it up and reading it to find out who killed her family and why, wouldn’t you want to know what happened?”

“See, that’s your problem and I think all those classes you have been taking have been deluding you into a fiction-high. Do you know why the full stop was invented? To put an end to things and stop people from babbling just like you are doing right now. When you say too much, you lose my attention. When you say too little you lose my devotion, but when you say just enough, you have my respect. Which one would you want?”

“Your money”

“Too bad, this hospital is taking my money. Think about it, where are you going with what you are writing?”

“I don’t know. I came here thinking that I would read you something and it turned out to be crap, and I don’t know where to go from there. This assignment is due tomorrow, what if I fail?”

“Good”

“You are my sister. You are supposed to help me with this! Now you are saying failing is good? And then, if I fail, mom and dad would be on my neck about all the money they are paying for my university, and everyone would hate me and it would be too much.”

“Hey, that is exactly what you need. You need to fail.”

“I can’t believe this, are you okay? My very educated sister, the one with a Masters in English Literature is telling me that I should fail? Are you listening to yourself right now? Should I call the doctor?”

“You should probably call the Priest because that’s the only person I need right now.”

“Rose…”

“No, we have to face the truth, these tubes and needles and the nausea. The whole world is sitting on me and I cannot stand up.”

“Rose, you promised me you’ll fight this, and besides, I have not yet…”

“You have not yet failed. How many letters are there in the English alphabet?”

“Twenty six, but…”

“But nothing! You have twenty six letters and you can arrange them whichever way you want to form words. Do that. If you had told me that when Ruth sat down on her balcony, she saw blood, Thomas’s head, hands and neck, I would have seen it too. The trouble with knowing too many words is trying to use them all. Tragedy knocks people off their feet. People become speechless; they do not utter so many words or think, ‘wow! This is really happening!’ They are there but their mind is busy prompting them to either flee or participate. The best kind of trauma is where one is an unwilling bystander. Fail. Own your mistakes. If Professor Otieno tells you to deal with clauses, do so. I miss crisp narration.”

“You are trying to turn me into you Rose and I don’t know if I can do it.”

“You can be so many people before you are yourself. For the record, you can never be me. You would have to give lectures and grade papers. I don’t think you can mark two hundred scripts in seven days.”

“I don’t want to fail Rose. I have to get this right.”

“Anything that’s right takes time, but while you are at it, you can leave me a copy of the story and I can always get Nancy to text you any comments I have.”

“Thanks, you are the best!”

“I know, now, you said something about the last sentence, and what is it?”

“Do you really want to know?”

“Do I have to beg you to read it out to me? No, in fact just hand me that paper and I will read it.”

“I will read it for you. You don’t have to move Rose.”

“I’m all ears.”

“So, the last sentence is: Ruth would be in the kitchen, Thomas would come in and say “We should go and visit my parents this holiday,” and she would stop washing the plate and sigh, then nod.”

“That is really great. So, now you can get back to campus and attend some lectures. I need some rest before those nurses come bearing needles. And Rose, you will get it right some day, when you do sis, please remember this visit.”

PS: This was my 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize submission. I did not make the cut, and I am grateful the Judges read it and went on to choose the best out of the over 6,000 submissions they received, can’t wait to read the regional winning stories!

2 thoughts on “The Visit (Part Two)

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