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Fiction non.

Being 21 means different things to different people.  To some people it means the key to the door.  To others like me, it meant something different.

It meant receiving my call-up papers for two years duty having qualified as a South African citizen inadvertently by reason of length of stay, having arrived with my expat British parents at the age of 9.

This rock in my course meant I set sail upon an entirely different path in my life.

I left South Africa five years later having avoided the authorities successfully for that long, and with £600 in my pocket and no credit card nor bank account nor mobile phone (this was 1989) I arrived in London.

The day Nelson Mandela walked out of Victor Verster prison.  I stared at the television screen in disbelief.

 

Copyright B E Saunders 2016

I want to see if you understand what I am talking about.

Hold up your hands if you do and see who else does.  None.

Just you and me kid.

There.  Feel better now that you know we are alone here?

I want you to understand that it takes a lot of the unknown to get all the round robin players to go for it with their tongues in place so as to make the most of the sound they are going to make when I cheer for them and they in turn cheer for me as the next Labour Party conference which I shall attend.  Even if it is in Brighton again.

I want to know what it is that makes the rest of us so cool and yet do not stand for election.  I want to know what makes it so cool not to stand when there are reasons to be there and not just as an electoral hopeful.  Now, I want you to understand this – if ever you give out my number to the wrong person again, Mr Smartguy with a gun, then I shall make sur it does not explode all over me.  It shall be all over You.

This is not a threat – it is a warning to all and sundry that I shall protect myself with the vigour of the rest of the world.  I shall not go to sleep in parliament nor shall I miss a day of work without being in the row of houses called Westminster.  This is not going to be the end of the way through but the start of a way that is going to make the rest of us seem silly with mirth or mouth depending upon who you see when you make the choice of whether to vote for me or no.

Soon all the desperate people of this planet shall be saved and this shall not be the first time it shall happen but the second and that shall make you all believe in the God you all so well know by now.

I want to say this please:  I want all you without hope and without ammo to get behind me a we go through the rest of the world like salts and make the world understand that we are British and not to be troubled by their concerns about the Global apocalypse that is supposed to be arising soon.  It is not and not going to so progress is the only way forward.

Copyright 2016 Bruce E Saunders

Working Title: Ubuntu or Cheap Tricks or Life ain’t a game of cricket or Rabble with a cause or Too much Shakespeare or My Aim is True

Author’s note:  Chapter One in which we get introduced to the protagonist Wayne Herbert and learn about his situation.

Time: 2007

Place: Bath

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Wayne sat in the internet café engaged in not-for-profit cybercrime side-by-side with one-stop tourists and local students.  Cybercrime, or cybervandalism, was easy.  It didn’t physically hurt anyone but everyone was so accessible.  He might touch elbows with the users seated on either side of him but his words could reach out touch a lot of people. The café consisted of a single room with a hodge-podge of benches like escapees from a school classroom along one wall and sat no more than fifteen users at any one time. Just down the road from the railway station, there was a church across the road and fifty metres further along was the police station which struck Wayne as amusing since he had to stroll past the station on the way to the café, the scene of his crme.

His e-mails had a long list of addressees, including the MEP, the vice chancellour, the general secretary of the union, his Phd supervisor and other staff and post-graduates at athe university – all the people who in his view had thoughtlessly or with intent either participated in or condoned through inaction a harassment campaign against him. He always signed them and his hotmail address included his own name, so the origin was never a mystery.  He made sure that they were mostly polite too. If he wanted to say “fuck” then he made sure that he typed it: f*ck.  He didn’t make threats, he was careful of that too.  Instead he produced what he considered to be statements of fact, hypotheses and perspective. These were his weapons of piece of mind.

He glanced up from his screen and smiled out of the window just in time to see a van go by.  “ANC,” it read on the side, “delivering peace of mind.” An odd thing to see in the conservative heartland of Britain.

He equated his cybercrime to streaking across a cricket pitch in the middle of a match and stealing the stumps. Not only was he on view for all to see but he was deliberately unarmed and defenceless. He did the same thing for a year. Everyday. Seven days per week and occasionally twice per day.  Each time he was rewarded with a response. Cricket: the gentleman’s game.

During that time he learnt a little about OCD’s – obsessive compulsive disorders. He also learnt about control and restraint, needles, oestrogen and psychiatrists.

They didn’t stop….he wouldn’t stop….until finally the police were convinced enough to give him a formal warning and not to send him to the hospital again.

And then he stopped sending his missives. Abruptly.  It was clear to Wayne that he had stopped on purpose, with purpose. Not through a process of becoming well, but through a process of conscious decision making.  Wayne didn’t consider himself ill at all. Instead he felt as if he was coming back after a prolonged bombardment, that he had been suffering a form of shell shock.  Protesters’ shellshock. And then he simply got bored and stopped.

And when he stopped the band stopped playing too, for the first time in four years, which he found to be a blessed relief.  The throb of the samba in the surrounding ether drained to a shallow whisper and he had the space to breathe again.  He could finally relax and hang up his sticks.

When the police come to your door, Wayne noticed, they had a way of calling through the door that was difficult to ignore. It was in the cadence of their voice.  They called his name as if they knew that he was there, not as if they were asking if he was there.  There wasn’t much point in denying it anyway.

Twice they had led Wayne from his bedsit secured by the strips of nylon that had replaced handcuffs, hands behind his back, into the police car and down to the station.

In the cells he was both jealous and curious. When they brought him in he was stripped of all metal items so it stumped him as to how did so many of his predecessors manage to scratch their “tags” in the cheap eggshell gloss of the cell doors? And where has someone found a pen? Did they secrete something on their person in preparation for such an opportunity?  “Moggs wuz ere”. “The Bath posse”.

If he had had something to write with, the time would have gone much faster.  The cells were plain and bare; the only movable object a five centimetre thick by 1 and ½ metre long and 1 metre wide mattress which lay on the foot high bench. The front of the bench had a wire screen blocking access to the space beneath the bunk and Wayne was sure they had a recording device secreted there.

“I know that you are recording this!” he shouted. Outside in the corridor, someone coughed.

So he kept silent. In fact he did the only activity available to him and he slept.  The first time they picked him up this wasn’t so easy since someone along the corridor was keeping a rhythm with his feet against the door: “Bang” –two-three, “Bang” -two -three, which in turn set off the dogs barking in the distance.

The second time they picked him up he was asleep almost before the cell door was closed.  He had to fold the end of the mattress double to make a cushioned pillow and ask for a blanket which was incredibly meagre and threadbare when it arrived.

There followed a visit from the on-call doctor for assessment. Twice this led to a diagnosis that he was delusional, unfit to be prosecuted. And a police car ride to the hospital.

The tea was weak, the food unpalatable microwave gruel, of the sort served in plastic containers with a thin punctured plastic film covering.  The cutlery was plastic so there was no potential writing material there either.

After his successes on the internet Wayne left those cells with a feeling of regret that he wasn’t able to leave some memento of his stay.  His total length of incarceration in the police cells was no more than 72 hours.

The local hospital has a free-standing place of accommodation for those experiencing mental health problems. It is called Hillview Lodge.  It contains two wards named, in keeping with the Hillview theme, after species of tree: Sycamore and Cherry.

Sycamore is the open ward and Cherry ward (or “Cherries” for short) is the “secure” unit.  To be accommodated on the Sycamore ward requires an implicit agreement to stay since the doors to the ward are unlocked during the day.  The Cherries ward has doors locked at all times and is clearly designed to house the less co-operative of patients.  It has an enclosed garden with the surrounding wooden slat fence standing 3 metres tall.  Unlike Sycamore, the Cherries ward has two of the Japanese cherry trees after which it is named in the garden which are trimmed back where their branches near the roof to prevent patients using the trees to access freedom.  A member of staff from the unit has to be present in the garden at all times when the door is open.

Hillview Lodge is the only place on the entire hospital grounds where it is permissible to smoke cigarettes.  Not surprisingly, Hillview patients are heavy smokers.

When the door to the garden is closed staff have little to do, hence the only advantage to being on the Cherries is the fact that members of staff are always available to make coffee and toast.  On quiet days, which the staff prefer most, they function as little more than housekeepers handing out coffee, toast and pills.

His first night in Sycamore he went over the fence at about 8pm because he didn’t know that the front door was open.  He was gone about four hours, long enough to send an e-mail and to have a couple of pints in a local pub.  Then it was back in over the fence.  If someone had told him the rules it might have been different but as it was, he was moved to the Cherries Ward the next day, a move that became two months of incarceration without any leave whatsoever.

In the meantime he followed the legal process of appealing against his section which led to his appeal being heard before a management meeting where he managed to impress the management team of his sanity, his section was lifted and he was immediately released.

Which was great. Wayne relished his freedom after his misdiagnosis and incarceration.  He made the most of it to visit the internet café everyday although sometimes he alternated with the local library.

It wasn’t long before he was picked up again.  This time Dr Danyte insisted on administering a dose of oestrogen.  Even the hospital staff had by now come to realise that there was something wrong.  He wasn’t violent or aggressive at all but he had enjoyed a period of passive resistance where he refused medication until the staff were forced to call all those staff members qualified to administer control and restraint techniques.  This took them about half an hour.  And when they had gathered and were preparing for their legal assault Wayne simply changed his stance, yielding without a struggle, taking his tablet.

It would seem that pressing too hard on the keyboard keys could be viewed, in Danyte’s world, as aggression.  Then the news of the Korean student at Virginia Tech running amok with three handguns hit the headlines and again Danyte had a field day.

But again, at the appeal at the management hearing, he was declared sane, if misguided, and his section was lifted against Danyte’s advice.  At the board he was faced with three middle-aged to elderly men who were in control of the institution’s finances.  They understood even if Danyte didn’t.

Dear Mr Herbert

I understand that you wish to consider the change with your psychiatrist with myself.  I am sorry that you did not attend your first appointment which was an ICPA meeting that was arranged for 13 July 2007 at 12 noon.  Later, Anne did tell me that unfortunately you could not make this appointment, so I am requesting you to contact my secretary on the above number to rearrange this when you return from South Africa.

Yours sincerely

Dr Naveen  MRCPsych

Staff Grade to

DR G Danyte

Consultant Psychiatrist

“Dr Danyte,  how would you like to try an ass full of male hormones and see how you’d like it?  Goddamn right I want a new psychiatrist”, thought Wayne.

It struck him as completely ridiculous that a person of Lithuanian upbringing such as Danyte could be considered qualified to understand language and injuries sustained in an English culture.  Besides she put far much too much faith in drug therapies. It wasn’t just his own treatment that he objected to. Wayne hadn’t realised that electroshock therapies were still in use at British hospitals until his stay at Hillview. He had a nurse shave his head in empathy.

“In preparation for the electrodes,” he said.

Still Wayne had to admit that one injection of oestrogen was enough to make him alter his course of action – he’d never let that happen again.  His two tribunals, visits to the management meetings set up to appeal against his case of incarceration, had been successful and he had been released, on both occasions in direct opposition to Danyte’s advice.  Russian detention without trial failed. A triumph for British medicine where the balance sheet always came first.  Three months of free board and lodging whilst simultaneously claiming state benefits came to an end.

“I’d much rather subject myself to some Indian doctor playing the role of a Ghandian ubermensch,” he thought.

“Howsit?” said Dr Naveen when Wayne saw him next. “Fuck off!” thought Wayne, in a most ungentlemanly fashion.

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Author’s note: Homeless

In which we learn of Wayne’s current state of personal affairs.

Date: 2007. Place: Bath

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So much had happened since he had left the inhumanity of South Africa.  His parents had died and his childhood home had been sold.  His white friends and siblings (baring a special few) had become strangers.  He had become so anglicised that he could no longer bear to talk with them; everything they said seemed to be qualified in the pre-apartheid terminology of us and them, black and white, that he found unacceptable to listen to.  When he went back to SA he wanted to explore the changes for himself and not have to listen to second-hand griping.

And yet he wasn’t English.  He missed the warmth and beauty of Africa, the simple friendliness of so many. There was only one place that he had lived where he had come across a balance between these forces, only one place where he had experienced the joy of being a welcome immigrant. America.

Homeless.

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Author’s note: Is it ‘cos I’s black?

In which we learn of the events of Wayne’s assault on the streets of Bath.

Time: 2002

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That Friday night was much like any other.  He had stayed in until after ten watching television before deciding to go for a pint down at his favourite pub It was crowded and he was forced to find  space at the bar because all the tables were full.  A reggae band was on the sound system, played at a mid-volume behind the swell of conversations.  Closing time was 11 as usual so there wouldn’t be much time to dull the edge of his sobriety.

As usual the pub, on one of the main thoroughfares of Bath, attracted a bohemian crowd. Wayne cast his eye around over the rim of his glass. He saw crusty dreadlocks and grubby hands, stubbled faces and muddy boots, tattoos and cleavages but none of his few drinking companions whom he might normally sit and sup his pint.  Seated next to him at the bar was a face he recognised. Will had spent years busking on the streets of Bath before he had cut his dreads and retired to a council flat from which he quietly dealt a little hashish to a selection of friends, coming out most nights for a pint of ale, some fresh air and to listen to some music.  Will was a tiny man whose feet barely touched the floor from the tall bar stool and with his short greying hair, weathered face and pebble glasses he looked like someone’s image of a postmaster.  When his dreads had been long, Wayne thought, he must have looked like something straight out of the pages of Tolkien.

Will looked up at Wayne, sideways over his glasses.  “Alright?” he simply asked.

Wayne smiled: “Alright Will?”  He’d been one of the select few who had seen the inside of Will’s flat before his taste for smokable’s had moved on to something stronger.  Still, a dealer was still a friend to keep if one could and besides, matching his appearance, Wayne had found Will to be a gentle man who no doubt had long ago learnt how to cope with his size disadvantage by keeping his nose out of trouble.  An easy man to stay friends with.

Wayne noticed a flyer on the bar and indicating to it with his chin he asked: “Are you going to Leftism tonight?”  “Leftism” was a periodic event held at one of the seedier pubs on the London Road.  The pub had a function room at the back that was rented out to the fundraisers for a party that began when the pubs closed at 11, supporting and raising funds for anything from anti-fox hunting protests to the PLO.  In a town like Bath it didn’t matter what the cause, it seemed to Wayne, since almost any view represented a relief from the hardline politics of the local Conservative Council.

Predictably, Will said no.  “I think I might” said Wayne.

As usual Wayne left the pub on his own.  For a Friday night he was remarkably sober, having started drinking relatively late, so he decided the late licence offered by the Leftism gig was worth the £2 entrance.  But it was a disappointment.  He didn’t know anyone there, the music stank and before long he left his pint standing and headed for the door. The function room opened onto a corridor with a battered hatstand and a couch to one side.  As he passed the couch on the way to the door a voice said in his ear: “Are you a legend?”

He looked and the speaker was 18 or so, about 5’ 8” with a pimply chin, dressed in jeans and a polo shirt.

“Not locally,” he said, which he thought a reasonably snappy answer under the circumstances, and stepped out into the night.

Left up the London Road, over the traffic lights and down Walcot Street.  Just past the old horse trough on the right hand side he walked up the hidden passage of stairs that led up to Alfred St.  This was the route that he would have taken had he gone directly home from the pub. At this time of night the town was quiet and the streets deserted.

The top of the stairs opened onto Landsdowne Road. Over the road onto Alfred Street and he was two minutes from home.  Now his route led along the short stretch of Alfred Street in front of the Museum of Fashion where he would cut through to the entrance of Catherine Mews.

Catharine Mews was a dog-legged stretch of road barely wide enough for two cars the emptied onto the square where he lived.

But first he had to negotiate Alfred Street where two white youths were jumping up and down on the roof of a black Volkswagen golf.

He didn’t recognise the forthcoming violence even when they had dismounted from the car and approached to face him in the middle of Alfred Street.  They simply walked up and pushed him whilst at the same time he realised that they were not alone.  He was surrounded.

He went over backwards without a sound and was surrounded by kicking feet. In his back, his head, his coccyx (he discovered later)….the rain of kicks continued and he realised that they weren’t going to stop and that he had either better get up now or perhaps never.

Wayne knew that there was another drinking club not fifty feet away that had a bouncer on the door so he pushed himself to his feet and stumbled toward it, collapsing near the feet of the bouncer.  When he stood up again blood was pouring from his head, spattering his denim jacket, and he was completely disorientated.  He spied a watch on the ground near by which for some reason he scooped up and slipped into his pocket.

Wayne and the bouncer were looking at six men aged between 18 and 24. One of them was sitting on the floor nursing his eye.

It was a Mexican stand-off.  Wayne was not in great shape to make stunning observations nor to think clearly. Anyone else would have called the police immediately but Wayne simply decided to continue his journey home to inspect his injuries.

“Where are you going? “ one of his assailants asked.

“Home” he replied simply.  And without another word he pushed through the five standing men and began to walk.  His flat was only five minutes away along the front of the Museum of Fashion, through the mews into the square to his front door.

It was when he got to the mews that he realised that they were following him.  Five of them held back about twenty feet, keeping to the shadows but a sixth came right up close, cockily trying to egg him into a response.  He had a baseball cap covering his blond hair.

Wayne was limping badly and he was dazed from the blows to his head.  He took a half-hearted swing at the little wanker and was aware of a threatening response from the other five as the squirt side-stepped out of reach.  Wayne doubted if he could have managed a serious blow even if he had reached the irritating squirt.

“It takes a brave man to take on six students” said the squirt.

He was grateful when he reached the square.  His frontdoor was on the other side of the weakly lit square, about halfway up.  This is where his followers and he parted company as they kept to the other side of the square, exiting at River Street and disappearing in the direction of the council estate on the other side of Julian Road.

“American!” was their parting gibe.

Wayne shut out the night and his attackers with his front door.  Once in his room with the light on he had an opportunity to inspect his injuries in the mirror.  They were worse than he thought.  His nose felt broken and he was bleeding from several cuts in his scalp.  His back ached as he leant over the sink trying to wash away some of the blood.  That is when he decided to call out an ambulance.

When the ambulance finally arrived twenty minutes later he didn’t get quite the treatment he expected.

A cursory once over from the paramedic and they decided to take him off to the hospital.  But it seemed that before he received any treatment he warranted a lecture from the paramedic in the back of the ambulance as to the penalties that could be incurred for wasting an ambulance’s time.  Each time he tried to interrupt and explain the circumstances, that he had been assaulted on his way home from the pub and that he was neither drunk nor a trouble maker, he was greeted with an upraised palm.

“Let me finish!” ordered the paramedic.  Five minutes later Wayne knew that the paramedic was a branch secretary of his union and that an average of 10% of ambulance calls were hoaxes.  He didn’t know the ages of the paramedic’s children nor the make of the car that he drove, but Wayne felt that if the journey had been longer…

Finally the paramedic had finished his lecture and Wayne had an opportunity to explain hat although he had made the call from his home telephone, a crime had actually been committed which he had interrupted and that his injuries were not self-inflicted by which time they had reached the hospital.

Now, once the paramedic heard that the assault had involved six men and car vandalism he changed his approach.  A call was put through to the local police station and the paramedic began to inspect his wounds.

That is how Wayne’s Phd began.

Wayne subsequently discovered that Bath University had been used as a venue for the National Conference of Conservative Students that summer.  Over the ensuing years Wayne learnt a lot about current politics and the dangerously smug and middle-class attitudes of the average Englishman irrespective of their breeding and their education.

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Time: 2002

Place: Bath

William Megill, green saviour of Bath University, apologising to him. The politics of Bath campus and young greens.

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Wayne was puzzled.  He hadn’t had the opportunity to utter more than a few words and yet he had been identified as an “American!”  Then there was the issue of the car.  The black Volkswagen polo.

This wasn’t his first encounter with such a car.  He’d owned one for a brief period in his third year as an undergraduate, purchased from a fellow student, which had got him to his vacation work in Bristol and back before it had thrown a piston.

And he’d encountered one only two weeks before when a driver of a volkwagen polo had followed him up the hill to campus and then stolen the last available parking space from right in front of him with some aggressive manoevering.  The driver had disappeared from view with extreme haste leaving Wayne with a last feeble resort of a note on the windscreen about selfish drivers and the correlation with scratched cars.

The next day Wayne suffered a severe reaction to the assault.  Being single and the only member of his own family within 3000 miles, he phoned the only person he knew, an ex-girlfriend who came around immediately.

Much as he tried to shrug off the effects he was beset with uncontrollable tremors as shock set in. She stayed with him that day and the next while he slowly recovered some balance.

Sunday morning, two days after the assault, he and the girl went round to the local supermarket for some provisions.  They were standing in the queue when she nudged his arm.

“Wayne,” she said “look at him!”

A young man of medium height and build had come into the shop.  His hair was cut to a business-like length and he sported a black-eye.

Their eyes met and before Wayne had thought to utter a word the man had turned on his heel and disappeared out of the door.  He was left standing, too aching to move, knowing that his attackers weren’t far away.

A year later he saw him again only this time he was seated in a pub with one of his classmates.

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Author’s note: In which we learn of some of the changes to Wayne’s relationship with his brother Rick.  It’s a homecoming.

Time: 1997

Place: Cape Town

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Wayne drove the rented car up onto the grass verge in front of number 24 and switched off the engine.  With his window open to the sounds of the ticking over-heated engine, the cool breeze off the water of the vlei trickled through the interior.  The house was the second from the end of a quiet cul-de-sac lined with plane trees of leafy boughs arching over the road, their trunks peeling bark like sunburn to reveal delicate pale bark beneath.

Cars were parked here and there up the residential street that extruded back into the shimmering direction of the main road from which he’d come but for the moment nothing moved in the still afternoon heat.  His hair and shirt were matted to his body as he opened the door and got out, deciding to leave his bags for later.

Number 24 had a small garden in front with a perimeter mesh fence and a gated driveway in which was parked a battered cream toyota bakkie.  The squealing of the gate brought an eruption of barking from within the house, echoing barks speaking of high ceilings and cool cavities.

The house had a red corrugated tin roof, white-washed walls and seemed rooted to the earth by the miasma of plants and vines that hid the lower walls and knitted the darkened verandah with a scented jasmine veil.  Stalky agapanthus filled the beds and at one corner a massive stralytsia sprawled, aggressively sprouting its purple and orange flowers.

Clearly from its architecture this was one of the older houses in the area.  From the look of its ornate art deco patterned and frosted glass panels in the front door, it had been built some time in the thirties. As he drew close the barking from within became more frantic and Wayne could see white teeth in dark muzzles flashing about knee height.

His finger pressed upon the stained button to the right of the door, producing a stunted and muffled buzz from within.

A pixellated figure approached through the elderly glass and a feminine voice spoke sharply:

“Louis! Jack!  Stop that now!”  Orders that were obeyed, reducing the barks to excited whimpers and whirrs.

The door opened a crack and Wayne caught a glimpse of curly blond hair and baggy eyes peering at him through the gap.

“Hi! Is Ricky here?  I’m his brother Wayne…” and he broke off as the two pointed noses of two mongrel terriers wormed through the gap by pushing the door open further, swarming out to snuffle at him while muttering to themselves, not entirely welcoming.  Their noses were cold against his bare ankles.

Her smile was the opposite.  “Oh hi-i-i!  We wondered when you’d finally arrive!  I’m Lettie.  Ricky’s just out the back.  Come! Where are your bags?” A kiss on the cheek and Wayne saw more of the girl that Ricky was in love with.  Tall and slim, wearing a patterned purple sarong and a pale yellow t-shirt against the heat.  “UDF congress 1990” it read.

“Hi!  They’re in the car but don’t worry, I’ll fetch them later.”

“Ja, okay.  Come through…Ricky’s in the back.”

Wayne followed her into the dark hallway and down the passage, through the cool kitchen to the backdoor.  He had the fleeting glimpse of scattered rugs upon a wood-tiled floor, posters and photographs that had to be Ricky’s work on the walls, spilt coffee and a piled-high sink, a washing machine covered in unwashed clothing and then, from the doorway, there was Ricky, slumped in a white plastic garden chair clad only in shorts and sunglasses, newspaper folded on the ground beside him, greeting him with the fart of an opening beercan.

“Wey-hey, you bastard!” shouted Ricky, beer spurting from his can. “Juss, you finally made it!”

“Howsit China!” Wayne called back. “Whose beer is that, you bastard?”

They hugged, equal dimensions, shared pasts.  Wayne felt a borderless love for his brother who used to be the boy he shared his bedroom with, who’d been the same places, who’d shared the same memories.

“Hey…it’s good to see you man!” he said in Ricky’s ear and pulled back to look at him better only to see himself reflected in his brother’s shades.

“Ja, man, and you too! How was the drive? Are you ready for a cold South African brewski?  Letitia, sweetheart, could you get Wayne a bevy out of the fridge?”

Ricky removed his glasses and with the widest of smiles Wayne knew it was okay, it was still the same Ricky and he’d been looking forward to this as much as Wayne.  Wayne wanted to preserve this feeling, of two organisms of common heredity, the joy of being alive together for as long as possible, to bottle it and take it away with him.  He’d been away for a long time.

And they’d grown apart.  Differences, once slight and subtle, had become wider and deeper.  The news from afar had not always been good. Six years had elapsed since Wayne had left his younger brother and family for life in the U.K.  Ricky had lived another quarter of his life, Wayne a fifth.  Wayne had never met Lettie before and she had been part of Ricky’s life the last three years, enough to give her equal status with Wayne who would after all be gone again in two weeks time.

But in the meantime there were beers to be drunk and and there was cannabis to be smoked. They sat in the garden enjoying the heat of the December afternoon, reacquainting themselves with each other and Wayne was pleased to slip into the slang of old, listening to Ricky talk about his work, old friends and changes he saw in South Africa.  As an aspirant press reporter Ricky had become Wayne’s political authority. Later, once Wayne had brought in his bags from the car, they loaded up a sixpack and set off for sunset at Chapman’s Peak Drive.

In a city renowned for its scenic beauty, Chapman’s Peak drive was a famous viewing point.  The road had been chiselled into the cliffside of the famous mountain, winding from Llandudno on the Atlantic side of Cape Town, out to Cape Point.  This was the sort of landscape that found itself into car ads the world over.  For most of its some 18 mile length retaining walls held the mountain back on the left while barriers on the right protected against perilous plunges to the waves hundreds of feet below.  This was the beginning of the southern ocean, cold and bare of land until one reached the ice floes of Antartica many miles to the south.  Penguins, otters and seals could sometimes be spotted down below, floating amongst the brown and purple carpets of kelp.

It was also popular amongst rock-climbers and it was easy to see why.  Wayne was driving and he eventually found a viewing point that was reasonably unpopulated and pulled in to park.  Ricky carried the beers and Lettie the frisbee as they climbed over huge boulders and scrub grass, down and away from the road to find a position of relative isolation, perching high above the azure and sparkling sea, the sun disappearing in the direction of Brazil, lashing them in its final degrees of descent.

Surf murmered against the rocks below them, the kelp heaving in the swells.  Of the occupants of the other cars there was no sign.  Wayne took a pull from a can, watching a line of four trawlers motoring for Llandudno harbour with their catch to sell on the quai, fresh for the city’s shops and restaurants.  Lettie busied herself with some cigarette papers, hunched against the on-shore breeze to build a joint.  In what seemed like seconds the sweet smoke was being snatched away.

Wayne had begun to realise that Ricky was no longer the kid brother, always lapping up the words of his elder brother.  The puppy fat cheer had gone too. He took the spliff that Lettie passed him, took a hit and passed it on to Wayne.  Lettie began again.  Cannabis, like talk, was cheap.

Ricky continued the conversation from the car where he had been bringing Wayne up-to-date on the politics post 1994.

“The Truth Commission was a watershed for press photography in South Africa.  The enemy became a ghost and they don’t take great photographs.  When the trouble in the townships was happening they used to call themselves the Nikon cavalry.  There’d be an incident on the police waveband and they’d roar off to Khayelitsha or Langa looking for smoke and it was only a question of who arrived first because fifteen minutes later everyone was there, BBC, Reuters, CNN, you name it.  It was a mad house.  Ouks were coming to SA just to make a name for themselves….”

“He looks less like me than he used to”, Wayne thought.  The deep tan and the body spare of excess fat, the hair long and tangled, the sunglasses back in place hiding shadows too old for a twenty-four year old.

“Now you don’t know where to point the camera anymore and so the news has become all crime and more crime.  The bureaus have gone back to regular staffing not because everything’s normal, but the bad stuff’s back underground where you can’t see it.”

“So now I take school photographs and stuff, y’know, anything that helps with a little spondoola.  It didn’t help when I lost all that gear in a break-in a few months ago,” he said gloomily.

Wayne had been trying to form an impression of Lettie who, in spite of her friendly welcome, was rather guarded in her manner.

It was no surprise that Ricky, as a photographer, found her attractive.  Blond and long-legged with a careful pale tan that she kept prudently wrapped in the glare from the ocean, she was certainly no Plain Jane.  She had changed into jeans and a sweatshirt but she made them look sexy and stylish.  When she walked, Wayne couldn’t help noticing, her jeans walked with a sway that talked a different language to the cultured, rather clipped voice with which she spoke, that marked her as having been privately schooled.

Ricky had told him that she worked for a publishing house, producing new textbooks for the new education that would replace the texts with which they had all grown up such as the history books that asserted that South African history began with the landing of Dutchman Jan van Riebeeck in the seventeenth century.

Lettie said:  “It’s no surprise really, but still, no less true just because one gets used to the idea, that every South African edition from English to physics contained something that could no longer be held as valid.  We commission writers to produce updated texts for the schools and there’s a real shortage.  Particularly of stories set in a local context no matter what the language, be it Zulu, Xhosa or English.  Everything is still so much Shakespeare and Thomas Hardy, which is completely inaccessible to township children trying to learn the language and not the culture.”  Wayne was impressed.

They sat on that rock talking, smoking and drinking beer until the sun disappeared beneath the horizon which happened about 9.30 by which time stomachs were rumbling.  Before they set off in search of supper Wayne, who had never shared his brother’s interest in photographic imagery, produced his disposable camera.  They all took turns using the magnificent bay as a backdrop.  The effect was startling.

Later, much later, Wayne was staring down into flushing water, abandoned to the huge waves of nausea that needed him in a hot grip.  He felt as if his body temperature had risen ten degrees.  He concentrated on breathing, focussiing upon his numb nostrils and mouth, throat and aching lungs, waiting for something to change.  Either the organism was going to steady itself and recover or it was on its way out, and the conscious part of Wayne that was separate from his body was not in control.

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Lettie comes to see him in 2002. In the UK.  Wayne doesn’t know her son is Rick’s.

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September 11th

Date: 2001

Place: AmbaMedical

Wayne sat at his desk staring at his screen in horror.  The second plane flew into the twin towers and moments later they both collapsed to the ground.

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September 2002

Place: Bath University campus

Wayne stopped in the corridor and turned around and stared at the back of the man like he’d just seen a ghost.  Space and time: 6000 miles and 18 years had passed but there was no mistaking the form of the man who had just passed him.  It was his old physics lecturer, Physics IIA and Physics IIB, Wits University, 1984.  18 years had passed, but standing at about 5’2” tall and about twenty pounds heavier there was no mistaking the low temperature physics man, Peter Ford, famous amongst students for his demonstrations with grapes and liquid nitrogen.

Wayne watched him disappear up a staircase and vowed to introduce himself when their paths next crossed.  It really was a small world.

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October 2002

Bath University Campus

Wayne had been on the Bath campus for four years and in this quiet academic backwater politics seemed to have forgotten him.  Which was good….his previous experiences of campus politics had contributed to a previous failure and he wasn’t going to get caught up in it again.  He had fatter fish to fry and his own personal interests to look after.

Then it happened.  One day he arrived on campus to find posters everywhere. Black consciousness day.  He walked around campus looking at all of the posters: Garvey, Mandela, Malcom X, Martin Luther King.  He found it incredibly disorienting, for a moment he was transported back to Wits campus in the ‘80’s when political posters, t-shirts, marches and demonstrations were the norm.

In his four years on campus he had never seen Black Consciousness Day being observed on campus.  Now suddenly here it was.  He did some investigation and found that the posters were sponsored by Accenture, a management consultancy.

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May 2003

Wits University Campus

He was planning his first visit back to South Africa to see his father in six years.  Two weeks before his return he received an e-mail out of the blue from a shag from the past named Rosie Fiore.  Rosie was a girl he slept with during a fight with his girlfriend of the time, Sarah.  Sarah and he had had a tumultuous relationship with many ups and downs but only once had this resulted in Wayne straying and that was Rosie. It had lasted less than two weeks and then he got back together with Sarah (concealing the truth from her at the time of course).

And now he received this e-mail from Rosie, an innocent seeming “Hello is that you how are you?” and the next thing he knew he had accepted her inviting herself down for a visit to see him in Bath.

The visit lasted no longer than an hour….Wayne remembered her looking down at her Ford Ka from his window to make sure it wasn’t receiving any parking fines.

She spoke of her life in London and that . She said she was writing a book about Jameson’s, a club on Commissioner Street in downtown Johannesburg that was a hangout for all the cool people in a South Africa that was no longer just black and white, but which featured areas of grey.  Jamesons was a grey area, frequented by all race groups and a venue for many of the anti-apartheid bohemians of the time, particularly those who supported local music since many of the best South African bands of the time played there.  Situated as it was in downtown Johannesburg, it was a sleazy dive not likely to draw the well-to-do of the northern suburbs and it was relished as such.

Wayne didn’t remember Rosie visiting there very often, nor another of her South African friends Melanie Walker, cover girl, model and friend of his brother’s ex-girlfriend Ursula.  As you can see, South African circles are very small.

Rosie spoke of her support for an organisation called “the Starfish foundation”, an Aids awareness organisation and invited him up to London for a braai fundraiser.  This he refused, firstly because he was unsure that he wanted to rejuvenate this relationship and secondly because he had whole-heartedly developed an anti-South African stance ever since he left.  Wayne avoided white South Africans whereever he went.  Baring a few he maintained this stance faithfully.  In London this had been easy but in Bath this had proved not so easy since it was a much smaller town.

Thirdly he refused because he was in the midst of an ambitious project of his own, namely studying first a four year undergraduate degree and then a Phd of unknown duration with absolutely no financial support other than that available through the government.  He simply could not afford to spread his resources so thin.

That visit occurred the day before his flight back and Rosie asked him to let her know what he thought of South Africa via e-mail.

That was the last time Wayne saw Rosie in person, but not the last time he saw her image.

Because four years later, whilst cleaning out the house after his father’s death, he came across her photo set up as an ikon on his father’s desktop.  It was an image of Rosie with her arms around the neck of her son.

How had it got there?  Rosie had never made it to an introduction to his parents and he was sure he had never mentioned her. And certainly his father had never mentioned a visit from any of his friends.

One last thing puzzled Wayne.  Rosie had said to him on his visit: “You’re English really.”

He was actually a naturalised South African who had never refused his citizenship.  He’d left South Africa to avoid conscription to the SADF.  But then Rosie was naturally proud of her husband who had met Gary Rathbone in the army.  Gary was a man he’d met at Wits University who was the lead guitarist of a band named The Spectres at the time and wrote for the Weekly Mail.  Small circles.

But how had Rosie known to speak as if his nationality had ever come into question?  This was 8 months after the assault.

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Gradually it became clear to Wayne that something much more sinister than a simple assault had occurred.  It became clear to him that someone had had their eye on him for a long time.  But he didn’t know who and he didn’t know why.

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His mind went back over the previous four years as an undergraduate and even further back, back to his years as an undergraduate at Wits in the ‘80’s.  Because that must have formed a part of everything that had happened subsequently.

Wayne and his family had moved to South Africa in 1972.  At that time there was no such thing as the internet or modern media and the decision had been straight forward. His father had been recruited for his technical know-how. He had been a metallurgist in Philadelphia when the funding cut-backs had hit the University sector including Penn State.  His father had been offered posts at the Scripts Institute in California, in Adelaide, Australia, but the choice had been Johannesburg, South Africa because Scripts didn’t offer to cover relocation costs across the continent but NIM would pay to bring the whole family of six halfway around the world.

He remembered his childhood as being an oddity. A curiosity. There weren’t many American boys in South Africa in those days and as his younger brother soon lost his American accent Wayne was soon the only American boy he ever met in South Africa in seventeen years.

“A bit old fashioned” his father had said and Wayne had pictured streets lined with Packards and similar old cars, to say nothing of tribes of Tarzans.  It all sounded very exciting to an eight year old.

He had not pictured park benches with “nie-blankes” stencilled on them with white paint, nor separate buses or post-office queues.  His oldest memory of that time was of the local workers collecting under the trees not far from the local Catholic Church (white) to have their heads shaved by the local (black) barber.

There were no Chinese or Japanese at his school, no Indians, no Moslems.  There were the children of South African immigrants: Greeks, Portuguese, German, English, Irish, Italian and about half of the school classes were jewish so that jewish holidays brought classes virtually to a standstill.

Wayne became a reader because he didn’t like soccer and he couldn’t play baseball. Instead it was a boring game called cricket. He lived a walking distance from his local library and he discovered that all the books were English. Not South African or even American. It was the Secret Seven and the Famous Five, Asterix and Tintin.

It wasn’t a big library and by the time he was eleven he was catching the bus into the city library near the bus terminus at Kirk and Loveday Streets, searching for new books to read.  He was the only boy he knew who did this and he was never sure how many other children were ever aware of his independent excursions.  Red buses for whites from the deserted busstop on one side of the traffic lights and blue Putco buses from the crowded busstops on the far side of the traffic lights where the queues on Friday afternoons stretched to hundreds of people.

There weren’t any Indians or Moslems in the Northern suburbs because they were located by law in their own areas of residence.  And now that he thought about there was never any mention of Jewish, Indian or Moslem homelands in the Apartheid masterplan.

Primary School was a lonely time for a precocious traveller.

Copyright B E Saunders 2016