Scruffy Old Madala

I sat on a bench in a park. A park I had no idea what its name was. I had walked around like an ant in an empty match stick box, boxed and trying to figure out how things had become dull and dark all of a sudden. Thinking about this metaphor as I looked at my empty palm up jittering hands a boyhood memory of an ant I once trapped in a match box flashed across the dark recess of my dull witted mind. Something burned in my heart, perhaps it was hope. Hope that I will spin myths again. Truth be told I was scared of sitting on my desk and looking at the blank pseudo white page of my computer trying to pen the next work. It has been fruitless months. I could not even bring myself to spin a haiku, blessed the Japanese’s inventiveness of contracting a potent saying in seventeen syllables. But this too has amount to nothing. I wondered whether this blockage of my wits had anything to do with my last stance on the cultural artifact we call art. That art, for it to be understood the society within which it is produced must be prepared to critique it, through pure viewing, through a dual critique – or viewing if you let me have that.

It could not be that! Or perhaps it could be, for I had closed that work with a promise. That I will take my readers through a practical excursion of what I have punctuated in that last work. but even that had come to naught. ‘Are you going to eat that?’ a gruff voice of indistinguishable sotho dialect asked. Jerking me back and anchoring me at the moment. ‘what?’ I asked wondering what the grey man was talking about. He was indeed a grey man. His clothes were shabby and washed out from repeated wear and I could smell his skin. So sudden and piercing his voice was that the whiff vapor of the grass under the soles of our shoes assaulted my nostrils. But these sensations withered as I looked at the paper bag besides me and darted to my palms. Turning my questionable hands perpendicular to the somewhat neglected lawn I remembered the torment of having nothing to say literary and literarily. You lack invention. I silently said to my jittering hands. The twitching of my fingers was at their most unbearable, but then I remembered that a sudden slight work resulting from manual dexterity often brought some relief. I handed over the paperback to the gruffly grey fading man whose twinkly glinting eyes spoke of gratitude as he gently relieved me of what could’ve been my lunch had appetite been my visitor. ‘You look like a man in thought’ he intoned as he sipped on an energy drink I had bought to wash down the burger. His cheek frozen in a bulge as a trickle of blue liquid trailed its way to his chin. Is that obvious, I answered. Sure thing it is. I was seating under that tree there when you arrived more than an hour ago. I did not bother to look at the tree. I was amazed that this old grey fox could mistaken my generosity for a dialogue engagement. I turned to take a good stock of the man whose flesh smelled of a thousand suns. Really, I said, I was not aware of the time. Why? Why would you let trouble get to you? He interjected as he continued to gobble on. His juicy sight did not alarm me as I looked half amazed by the gusto with which he made the meal disappear. I saw the grayish slush skin of the tree trunk behind him and the full bloom that belonged to it and the flowers that dotted the park here and there and the strollers. I want to write again, said I to the grey gruffly fast food munching man blessed with a gut-gust-bust of an appetite. He looked at me unmoved. Well go ahead said he. But I suppose you will need a pen and paper for it, he added as he finger licked his fingers from the pinkie to the thump, smirking, ending with a sizeable belch that grooved from his potbelly. The chirping birds except the insects of the park’s foliage went quite momentarily. He drained the power aid and held his walking stick in front of him gandalfly. Staring into an invisible point ahead of him he said. A pipe would have went with his poise.

‘You can always write about nothing. The trick is to make it appealing, just like our little encounter here. He swept his free hand caressingly in front of himself. Shortly he was tottering on a third wooden leg as he stood gingerly. ‘Eish-ahh, the body eventually gives in, this…’ he pointed at the paper bag he was dunking into the bin next to the bench where our little story had unfolded ‘delish’’. He firmly shook my hovering right hand with one of his knobby thick boned hands and bid me well ‘Ditebogo ngwanaka’ he left, a man unconcerned with the world he knew very well. Yes, spinning the next myth should not be a difficult stint. Like the one you’ve just read now.


late summer

24 March
© Mmutle Arthur Kgokong  2014