Thursday, February 21, 2008

Best Friend

Pachayamma is my mother’s best friend. From her childhood days. Best buddies they are. They gossip a lot and they claim that they are the best in bitching in town. They can bitch about you when you are sitting very much next to them, still you wouldn’t know a thing. They might even get you to nod or laugh for some of their remarks. Yeah. That bad they are. They can name nick names and form code words then and there. They understand each other perfectly well. Don’t know how. Chithi on the other hand, tags along them all the time, but understands nothing. Chithi doesn’t have any best friend of her own until she found her kind, the working kind. Now they have many things in common no one else can understand, but just them, you know, CL, PF and such things. Still chithi gets attracted to the gossiping experts when they start giggling with their famous start line, “ela, what are you doing”?

I guess murugeswari akka is my best friend as we have some common things to discuss about. Maths teacher, history teacher and stuff like that. We don’t gossip. We don’t know to gossip or we don’t know anything to gossip about. That is the truth, actually. No one tells me their secrets that I can tell my best friend and ask her to keep it a secret. No one gave me an opportunity to keep a secret a secret either. I guess lack of practise made me the worst secret keeper. No secret to gossip about means, no best friend. I have study friends, play friends, but no best friend.

Magic in Ordinary Places - by Michelle

“Do you want to come with for the drive?” asks my dad… and I’m running for the door. I love going with my dad. Since we moved to South Africa he has been working self-employed and that means I can go with him to jobs. Sometimes it’s a bit boring, but almost every time I can find something interesting to look at or discover or do.

Today he is going to meet a builder and discuss work. The builder lives on a farm. A farm! Yaay! This is exciting.

We follow a dry bumpy dirt road through low thorn trees and bush until finally I can see clear fields and an old white-painted farm house. There is a car waiting for us; it’s the builder man. I know him. He’s nice. I get out and climb the fence while they talk. Across the fields I see another man coming towards us.

“That’s Ed.” The builder says, “He’s slow.”

He seems to be walking at a normal speed to me, but my dad explains that “slow” means Ed’s brain, not his feet. Ed’s parents rent the farm from the builder. Only his dad is dead now so it’s just Ed and his mom. The builder says how sad it is. Ed has no brains and can’t do anything. He’ll never be able to take over the farm now his dad’s gone. Ed’s no good for anything, but he stops talking there because Ed is close now.

He’s old! I’m surprised. Ed looks older than my dad and my dad is 35. Pretty ancient.

Ed is tall, skinny and brown. Everything about him is brown, his clothes, his old dusty hat, his leathery skin and even his bright deep eyes. He’s sort of drawn thin and dry, like something left out in the sun too long. Ed has stubble on his chin and his clothes look raggedy, but he has a nice smile. He says “Do you like puppies? We have puppies.”

I look at my dad. Puppies! Dad nods, it’s okay. I can go to see the puppies.

Ed and I walk back across the fields to the farmhouse in happy silence. We don’t need to talk. It’s spring and there is so much noise. Birds, cows, wind in trees… I can walk in happy silence and listen to spring… and think about puppies.

At the house Ed opens the front door into cool deep shadows. Inside the walls are peeling paint and the ceiling has holes. It feels like a ruin, but it smells like a home. The scrubbed wooden floors echo under my feet. An old lady comes out the kitchen. She’s dried out and brown too, but her hair is white. She’s wiping her hands on a big white apron. She says “Ed, you haven’t put the horse out yet.” Ed nods… and opens the door to our right. I can’t believe my eyes! There’s a HORSE in there! I can see a big farm dresser and a table against the wall… and straw all over the floor. A horse in the dining room! It’s a beautiful pure white horse. It looks like the horses you see in fairytale books. It comes to the door and “huffs” gently. I can feel sweet hay breath on my face. Ed tells his mom he’ll take the horse out later. He smiles, “I’m going to show her the puppies.” He tells his mother. His mother frowns, but says nothing. She goes back into the kitchen. The horse peeks at us from around the door, then goes back to eating hay in the dining room.

Ed takes me to his bedroom. It’s a huge room full of giant old wooden furniture and in the middle of the floor is a rug and on that a blanket. There’s a dog lying in the blanket... and the puppies.

Ed tells me to stay by the door. He explains that Jessy is a new mommy and very protective. We must be quiet and calm and not scare her. Jessy will bite if she thinks we are dangerous. He explains how Jessy needs to feel safe. I am quiet and I do as he says. I walk in slowly. I go only as fast and as far as Jessy is happy with. Every time she growls… I stop.

Jessy is some kind of farm work dog. She’s brown, like Ed, and she has long floppy ears. I don’t remember much else. I’m too busy looking at the puppies. They’re all the same brown and their eyes are still shut. They’re little wriggly brown squeaky blogs. Ed lets Jessy get to know me and once she’s relaxed he picks up a puppy for me to hold. It’s tricky. It wriggles so much and its fur is so silky. I’m scared I’ll drop it, so I give it back to Ed.

Ed tells me the rug always belongs to Jessy, but the cats have their kittens in the hatboxes. Hatboxes? He shows me. There’s a big old wooden wardrobe standing half open against the far wall. There’s a long shelf at the top. It’s filled with old hatboxes, probably Victorian. Big round ones decorated with faded stripes and roses, square ones in dark rich colours. He knocks on one… and a cat looks over the edge. Another cat peers out from another box further along. He sighs, “Can’t keep them out,” he says “The cats just love those hatboxes.”

His mom comes to call us. My dad is leaving, time to go. I say thank you. Ed waves goodbye as we drive away. I will never forget today, it has been a magical adventure.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Kitten Smells Good - by Michelle


I am very small. I think about four? Three? I can’t remember. All I know is my aunt has a kitten, but I can’t touch it or play with it. I am so sad. I don’t understand. My mo tries to explain to me that it will make me sick. I am allergic to cats, but I am only little and I don’t understand.

Kittens makes you sick.
Why? Kitten hair makes me sick? Kitten smell makes me sick? I don’t understand. I just want to be able to play with the kitten. In my aunt’s bedroom I can see the kitten playing, but I can’t touch him. I can’t go near him.

I am sad.

There must be a way to fix this. I think hard. There must be a way to make the kitten smell good.

I have an idea. Now I’m happy again. I go call my mom and aunt. They must come quickly! I am so happy. I have fixed the problem. I have made the kitten smell good!

They come to look.

I have tied kitten to the underneath of my aunt’s bed with wool I got from somewhere. Then I have proceeded to pour ALL my aunt’s perfumes onto the kitten. There is a very angry, very wet, very aromatic kitten hanging from the bed springs in a maze of wool.

The kitten survived, but I would always be allergic to them. I also learnt that perfume doesn’t work… but it does make kittens really smell good. ;-)