The Alignment of Jupiter and Saturn. A Fairy tale (For Sue)

1
Tea on the rocks

Sue and Jim were on a short vacation to visit family and friends.
With less than an hour to go the car’s temperature gauge started to creep into the red, and Jim was obliged to stop for a break.
“This looks like a nice spot!” he said, half turning to Sue; and without any further ado pulled the car off the rough dirt track and cut the motor.
“I’ve seen nicer spots along the way!” replied Sue peevishly, “If we’d taken a break earlier, this wouldn’t have happened, and I’d have got some decent photos taken at least.”
She didn’t wait for an answer knowing that her words fell on deaf ears.
Jim didn’t much care for photography and pretty scenery, beer and fishing were more his bag!
With precisely this in mind, he got his fishing rod out and the tackle box in which was contained, quite conveniently, a six-pack of Fosters!

Sue followed him down to the rocky beach, clutching in one hand her beloved camera and a basket with a thermos and some sandwiches in the other.
She spread a cloth and began to pour two mugs of hot tea while Jim was busy casting his line and attempting to open a beer at the same time.

As Sue poured the tea a smile crept upon her face; it was a pleasant, involuntary little sensation that tugged at the corners of her mouth and sneaked right up into her cheeks! It happened every time she poured tea, and coincided with a warm glow which she acknowledged as a blush!
Now, there was a perfectly good reason for this and although it may have been Sue’s best kept secret, for the purpose of telling this story it will have to be revealed!

Sue was a writer, an artist. She lived in a world of books and poetry, devoting almost her entire time to these pursuits, while Jim’s work kept him away from home for long periods of time, sometimes days on end.

The heart of the poet is sometimes a lonely one and Sue, in order to cope with her own loneliness had created a friend; someone who understood her and with whom she could communicate and share her feelings and thoughts.
Every night before she went to bed she would write a letter or sometimes a poem for her friend and ‘send it away’ with much tender loving care!
But since Sue’s friend was only an imaginary one, the communications were never reciprocated.
This however, did not deter Sue, for it was all part of the creative process which inspired and drove her
For all intents and purposes her friend may as well have been real inasmuch as she regarded and treated him so and it brought much joy and comfort to her otherwise mundane life.

In her writes it had been agreed that he would call upon her each morning for tea and a chat!
This had gone off extremely well, as the tea and chat had over time, become a little more intimate than had been originally planned (if in fact this had not been a part of the original plan anyway!) but out of respect we will have to leave that with Sue.

Now, as she sat pouring the tea, down on the rocks a long way from her kitchen, she
wondered if her friend had called this morning and how he must have missed his cuppa!
The smile turned into a chuckle, which did not escape Jim’s attention, and without turning around he asked, “What’s tickling you then?”
Sue was very tempted to reply, “What, or who?” but she didn’t!

  2
A fair wind

“I’m going for a wander” said Sue, after drinking her tea, “to look for some inspiration!”
Leaving the track she headed toward a line of Eucalyptus trees not too far off.
The vegetation here away from the beach was more colourful and soon she found herself in the midst of the gum trees, where a verdant green carpet interspersed with daffodils spread out before her.
The camera shutter was very busy!

These were the moments she longed for her friend to be beside her, for his was a love of nature and beautiful things! There would be so much to share!

Here, a patch of wild magnolias swayed; dancing to the soft rhythm of the wind.
There, a wave of fragrant gardenias added their charm to the scene.
A crested pigeon called out from a high branch, its poignant tone an echo in response to
another’s call

Everything spoke to her of love, and of the loneliness which is often its constant companion.
“Are there others like me?” she mused aloud, to the sky.
“For if there are, as I am sure there then there must be there is one alone who is made for me alone.” “But who and where might he be?”
Her sighs trailed off into the all-enveloping sky, perhaps a fair wind in the guise of an angel would carry her message to one who, like her, waited for a message to come.
But there came no answer to her entreaties, they vanished upon the wind in the same way as her letters always did

3.
A strange ‘illusion’

Walking slowly with her eyes downcast and lost deeply in thought, Sue became aware of a sudden changing of the light around her.

Lifting her head she noticed the sunlight streaming through the far line of trees into what appeared to be a clearing in the forest.

She followed the direction of the light, her heart a little less heavy now, sensing new discoveries.
Indeed, what she came upon, or rather,’ what came upon her!’ (For she could not tell which), was something appearing almost out of a dream; so surreal it was! In the centre of the clearing stood the most endearing and without a doubt, tiniest post office she had ever seen!

It took her a full minute at least, to gather her senses and then very gingerly, approach the little wooden building.
She stopped, suddenly deciding to take a photo first, just in case it wasn’t real and disappeared before she got any closer.

At least there would be a record of it on the camera’s spool! (Or so she imagined!)

But the post office was real enough; Sue stretched out her fingers to touch it; she imagined herself as one of Stanley Kubrick’s apes in Space Odyssey, reaching out to touch the monolith…
She peered through the single window but there was no one inside. The door too, was shut, but on trying the handle she found it to be unlocked.
However, not wishing to be intrusive she decided not to venture in.

Upon the door was a poster announcing ‘morning tea’ and listed the hours of service.
Well now, on top of everything else, not the least of which being the discovery of this charming little place, she had once more, to deal with the ‘morning tea’ issue!
Was this a coincidence, another silly quirk of her imagination, or what?

For some unknown reason she felt a sense of anticipation, and that little sensation had found its way back to the corners of her mouth, very quickly spreading up into her cheeks! The warm, rosy glow was not far behind, and quite soon Sue found herself chuckling aloud again.
Ah, what a silly thing am I, she reprimanded herself; this imagination is going to get me into trouble one of these days!

She glanced at her watch; Oh dear, ‘Jim must be wondering where on earth I am!’ I should be getting back’ she decided.

Still, her curiosity had been piqued and she made up her mind to return at the first available opportunity.
Sitting down on the small porch she got her note pad out and after jotting down the ‘tea-time’ hours proceeded to write a letter to her friend, relating the day’s events.
Then, quite absent-mindedly she pinned the letter underneath the poster on the door, and headed back toward the beach.

4.

A restless interlude

Two days passed by, during which Sue and Jim had renewed old acquaintances; spent many joyful hours in the their company and in general, achieved the initial purpose of their journey.
But despite the happiness and relaxation the reunion had brought, Sue was restless. She could not wait to return to the post office; brushing aside any thought to whatever consequences might be in store!

Before too long there accrued a little spare time, in which Sue and Jim would be able to catch up on their private pursuits.
Jim planned a day’s fishing, somewhere close by, and Sue, seizing the opportunity said she would take the car for a drive to the beach.
And so, he with his beer and she, her camera, they parted company to follow their dreams!

 5.
Another dimension

It is quite amazing what anticipation can do. Sue, without consciously having any idea why, had taken great pains in order to present herself in the most charming if not sensual manner she could think of; Not a difficult task for her, being a lithe, pretty girl, with an attractive, impish face.
And, all this time later, she felt youthfulness returning, it was like a shower of rain to a dry and thirsty garden. She smiled, but inwardly this time.
Later, parking the car in precisely the same spot as before, Sue set out, armed with her camera, in her easy charm and an inquisitive smile on her face!
On reaching the post office, and not seeing anyone in sight, her heart suddenly sank. She checked her watch; right time…then she noticed that the solitary window was open.
Her heart lifted!
Giving herself a cursory ‘once over’ and finding it to meet her satisfaction, she approached and politely knocked on the door.
“Come in please!” announced a man’s voice!
Sue stepped inside, nervously glancing around the tiny room. There was a counter, a single desk and the few typical items one would expect to find in such a place.
At the back of the room a man sat, reading intently. There were several neatly arranged stacks of letters before him on the desk.
He looked up presently and acknowledging Sue’s presence, smiled; “Hi, I’m Joey!” he said.
“Oh! And I’m Sue” said Sue, returning the smile. “I keep getting the feeling I’m dreaming!” she added, “am I?”
“Well” said Joey, “maybe y’are!”  “Some folk say all life’s a dream, don’t they?”
Sue felt a little less tense although she had no idea why; it was something about the way he spoke; it had a familiar ring to it and in these totally surreal settings, she thought it entirely possible that all life could be a dream…!
She decided to go along with it anyway, seeing as there weren’t too many options available.
“So how is it that we may help you, Sue?” said the man.
“Um, well perhaps it might help to know firstly, who WE are!” replied Sue, a little puzzled.
“Why! The answer to that is so simple!” “You are Sue, and I am Joey!” “That’s who WE are!” “Who else could we possibly be?”
“No, I didn’t mean it in that way” Sue began, a little confused, “I err…oh never mind, I think you understand what I mean”… She decided not to pursue it any further, aware of a growing sense of humour in the man which did not altogether displease her.

By all accounts, he had a benign aura about him, and the faraway look in his eyes; something she thought she might on occasion possess herself, betrayed a wayward spirit. His troubled mess of hair did nothing to detract from the overall ‘bohemian’ image.

She smiled; it was an automatic response; “Where is everybody?” she asked at length, taking care to avoid loading the question, if that were at all possible!

“Ah, not to worry Sue!” he said amiably, “They are all here!”

Sue was beginning to get the picture, without getting the picture if you know what I mean!
Despite everything that may have otherwise screamed ‘Warning!’ she felt unusually calm and collected, if not a little amused!

“We are all here?” she echoed his words, “and this, is all a dream…ha, ha! Yes, I am beginning to believe it!”
Now they were both laughing!

“Will you take some tea?” he asked politely; “I presume that is what you came for?” and before she had time to answer, he had disappeared through a small curtained door in the corner of the room, emerging a few moments later with a kettle, two cups, and all the other accompaniments including a bag of cookies, on a plastic tray.

After connecting the kettle to a wall socket he drew up another chair for Sue, and then sat down himself. Together they waited for the water to boil.

Carefully selecting a letter from the stack nearest him Joey continued to read, becoming quietly engrossed in its contents.

Sue sat for a few moments without speaking. She felt extremely relaxed. It was as though nothing was out of place; everything was exactly as it should be!

She waited until Joey had finished reading the letter, folded it neatly and replaced it on the desk.
“A most beautiful letter!” he commented suddenly, looking at her intently. “I shall reply to it later”

Sue suddenly remembered the letter she’d pinned to the door and had the urge to get up and see if it was still there. She pushed the impulse aside however and asked Joey, “did you happen to find a letter on the door outside; I left it there the other day, I have no idea why, it just seemed appropriate, this being a post office”…the smile was giving her a hard time and would just not go away…

Joey let his eyes drop to the letter in front of him, “As I said” he replied; “a most beautiful letter!” And when he looked up again Sue noticed the expression on his face had changed. It seemed to come from his eyes, she thought she’d seen it before but couldn’t remember where.

The light was alternating; dim and then bright, dim and bright…her mind went back to the changing light she’d experienced in the forest…she felt as if she was drifting in and out of reality, her head began to swim and she believed she really must be dreaming, or hallucinating, perhaps it was all that acid she’d taken back in the old days…a flashback!

Despite the free and easy feeling that everything was as it should be, the undefined sensation that she was hovering, would not escape her, she was hovering between different dimensions, it was as though something was trying to remind her that all is not as it seems.

She rubbed her hands over her eyes, one part of her wishing to wake up while another part secretly wishing she would not…
Joey in the meantime had not spoken further, and Sue, with her eyes still closed felt that it was all something that had never really happened. She would open her eyes any minute and find herself back with Jim.
And then very soon, they would be on their way back home to their simple and mundane existences where everything was normal.
However, it was not to be that way, for another journey lay in wait; a far different one!

6
Waking up to a dream

The sound of Joey’s voice finally cut through her reverie,
“Sue, your tea is waiting

and we have much to discuss. I’m sure you have a lot on your mind which needs to be addressed, not only for your sake but for mine also.”
But Sue did not move or open her eyes; she was afraid to even think not knowing what might come into her mind next.
Joey softly touched her hand; she recoiled instantly.
She gazed at him in bewilderment; “This is really happening isn’t it, but I cannot accept it, I feel like I’m losing my mind… I should never have come here…

Joey looked at her compassionately, “You are not losing your mind my friend, you came here today for the same reason you came before; you were led, if that makes sense. Don’t be afraid, because fear will solve nothing”. “Whether you believe it or not, I am in the same boat as you. If I acted foolishly when you arrived I apologise. I wasn’t sure how things were going to work out today and I was nervous.”

Things were very slowly beginning to fall into place, yet Sue had no idea how or why; this only happened in fairy-stories; it frightened her. She began to cry.
Joey proffered his hand and waited this time for her to accept it.

“I’m sorry too” she began,“I live in a world of dreams and illusions, sometimes I make them up, it is my vocation; I think of myself as a poet but in reality, I know I am only a dreamer”.

“They are the same” said Joey softly.

“Please Joey, tell me who you are, for I do believe I already know; I knew it from the moment I came here. It is hard for me to explain this but you are an illusion, someone I created in my mind, I just cannot believe it possible for you to exist in any other way, surely you can understand that!”
“Tell me everything, how you came to be here, how long you’ve been here and why, for as much as I rely on my imagination and as much as I want to believe in dreams coming true, there needs to be a rational explanation; one that makes sense…I may be a dreamer but I am also human…”
Joey could not help a wry smile;
“Yes my dear, you are human to be sure, and if I may say so, a very typical Capricorn one!”
“Now how did you know that?” Sue looked startled.
”Oh of course”… “There can’t be too much you don’t know about me can there, it’s all in the letters isn’t it…?”

“Tell me now so I can get at least ONE thing clear…if you have read the letter I put on your door then I have the distinct feeling you have read all my letters; how on earth is that possible?”

Joey listened, and after some time replied; “Sue, this is not easy for me either, and whatever I tell you, you may not believe. But we have to begin somewhere.

All your letters came here but not by conventional means, they were all unsealed and addressed to no one specifically. Obviously they were meant to be read; if they were not then why were they written?”
“You may think there is much I know, but there is so much more I may never know.”
“All I have learned is what you have told me in your letters”, he waved his hand at the stacked up envelopes on his desk and many more in pigeon holes behind him, “They may as well have been written for me for they speak from a heart that like my own has endured much loneliness.” “It is a heart that has searched for another; perhaps its other half!”
Sue sat and listened knowing somehow beyond all rational means of knowing, that what he said made sense, and therefore may be true.
But she was filled with apprehension; unable to accept that this person could provide her with any credible answers.
Whatever it was, she was afraid she would be neither prepared, nor able to deal with it.
Once more, she considered her options, and finding none, waited for him to continue.

Then very slowly and carefully, Joey began.
“You said that you know me Sue”.
“You said you knew me from the moment you arrived here, but in truth it has been far longer than that, no one can say how long.
If we believe in eternity then there has never been a beginning to our knowing and likewise there will never be an end”.
“In other words dear Sue, we have known each other always”.

“But meeting in this way, I believe is something that happens only once in a life cycle.”
“Howbeit, the strange or perhaps not so strange conditions that are needed for this to occur are beyond comprehension. Great minds have sought the answers through endless meditation and study, and in the end all we know is what we perceive to know, and with that, we have to be satisfied!”
“As you yourself perceive this to be a dream; then let it be a dream, does it matter?”
“If one could take the mystery out of life what would there be to believe?”
“And what would we dream about?”

“However, if there is one thing of which we can be certain, it is that no one was created to be alone; there is an equally matching opposite for every single one of us.”
“And until we find that one, our lives are not complete and the heart remains a restless wanderer.”
“I am convinced you are my other half dear Sue, just as I am yours!”

He fell silent for a while and then as if awakening from a dream himself, stood up and paced the room.
Then returning to his chair, took Sue’s hand again, for it had been left there waiting for him to do so…and resumed speaking; this time in a lighter manner.
“Where was I?” He smiled, “I hope I haven’t been too overbearing Sue, I’m really just a simple guy.
Sometimes though I get a bit carried away, but it’s because I’m getting closer to myself, finding out who I really am… and when that happens, I know which way I’m going and what I’m looking for.

Do you know I’ve searched this world upside down for you; can you know how important this day is; do you have any idea what I am feeling inside right now?”
“Does anything I’ve said make any sense…if it doesn’t; I’ll go on believing it anyway, because to me there is nothing left in this world to search for…now that I’ve found you!”
Sue smiled, as she always smiled, “I do know, Joey” she answered; “How could I not know, if I feel the same way!”
“You are very sweet and I understand all you have said, thank you for the kind and thoughtful introduction Joey but perhaps it is now time for the main course…I think I just may be able to handle it!”
“Quite so!” said Joey, “but first, a fresh cup of tea yes?”

7.
Jupiter & Saturn:
Phase one

Tea was duly served; Sue this time doing the honour
The little smile was very happy indeed!
Joey leaned back in his chair feeling very relaxed.
Meanwhile, somewhere millions of miles away a lonely planet altered its course, ever so slightly!

“My life before I came here belongs to another story Sue; another world perhaps. Much of that story has already been written. It will serve no purpose here by disturbing it; let it rest where it is.
But for now, another story beckons. It’s starting point is right here and I believe that even as we speak, it is being written!”
“Let us share the pen my dear for it is not my story alone, it belongs to us both!”

Sue leaned forward, extending her hands to Joey.

“Four years ago I came upon this place. I fell in love with it; the solitude, the wildness, it resonated with something inside me.”
“As a drifter by nature it suited my disposition well, I could write without distraction, and it’s quite amazing what solitude can do for the muse!”

“I built this cabin, not as a post office, but as a place to lay my head,”

“Post office is an allusion; an allegory if you like, I am a writer and thought the name would be fitting, and so I named it post office; I had no idea at the time that fate would take it literally.”
“But there is a time and a purpose for everything under heaven, is there not?”

“Now, about a year ago I started receiving these letters and poems, but let me explain this very carefully because it is so extraordinary as to be almost beyond belief!”
Joey fixed his eyes on Sue’s and with all the conviction he could gather said;
“Before I tell you how I received these letters you will have to answer one question; it is a simple question which has a simple answer. We will need nothing further but you must understand that the explanation I give you is the only one I have; if you cannot accept it there is nothing either of us can do about it.
It is part of the great mystery my friend!”

Sue smiled, feeling an increase in the pressure of his fingers on hers.

While millions of miles away the most beautiful planet in the solar system imperceptibly adjusted its course!

“Ask me!” said Sue!
“Sue, I want you to tell me, as simply as you can, by what means you dispatched these letters?” For the answer my dear, you must search your heart, as I have searched mine.  What my heart has revealed to me I believe to be the truth.”

Sue stared back at him unsure how to answer.
His gaze was unrelenting yet patient and compassionate, as he waited for her response.
She wanted to say something; her heart urged her to do so but she didn’t know quite what to say.

After a long pause she answered him; “Joey, I can’t tell you how it was, I just don’t know, all of those letters are still at home, in my files…this is so very confusing, I just don’t know what to tell you, honestly!”
Tears began to fill her eyes. “All I know is that I sent them from my heart, hoping in a childish way they would find a fair wind that would carry them to another heart…but I knew it was just a dream; for I have told you I am just a dreamer.”

Joey fought against his own rising emotions as tears searched for release.
At length he answered, “Thank you Sue, your heart has informed you well.”

“And now in my simple way, I will tell you what I believe.”
“This I know, the heart is its own messenger. How exactly it does what it does must for the sake of mystery, remain a mystery.”

“First and foremost, I must tell you that the only letter that entered this room is the one you posted on the door, for you delivered it yourself!”

With this, he handed her the letter he’d been reading earlier. “This is the one, is it not?”

Sue looked carefully at if unsure of what she was expected to find, “It is the same one, yes!” she answered.

He selected another and handed it to her. “And this one?”

Sue opened the letter.
She immediately noticed the handwriting was not hers. “Who wrote this?” she asked, perplexed…
“Do you mean,” Who’s heart, or who’s hand?” he asked back.
“You know exactly what I mean!” she said; “These are my words, but I did not write them!”
He smiled and she felt a little foolish!

“Of course they are your words!” he replied grinning; “but you did not write them; I did!”
Sue gave a gasp, but made no comment!
“Let me explain”, continued Joey.
“Like you, I ‘created’ a soul friend some time ago, quite possibly at the same time you did.”

“Each night in a dream, she would bring me a message, and each morning I would write it down, word for word.”
“I would then write a reply and leave it with the letter; hoping for fair winds no doubt!”

“After a while I received an invitation to have tea together every morning; and of course, a chat!”
Despite Sue’s utter amazement she could not avoid the smile…
“My ‘friend’ became so real to me that I began to believe she was the dream my heart had been searching for.”
“I also believed that someday, somehow, something would bring us together.”
Joey stopped suddenly and looked at Sue; “I told you the answer would be a simple one didn’t I?” he said.  “Well, there you have it; I cannot tell it any other way. I don’t know if there is another way, and if I start looking for one I will surely confuse everything; including myself!”
“So!” returned Sue at last, letting out a long sigh, “In the end it is all a dream…just as I imagined…a very beautiful one but when will I wake up…IF I ever wake up?”
“Sue, what exactly is a dream?” “Where do we go when we dream, do we in fact ‘enter’ a dream world?”
“If this is in fact a dream, it is a very special one, I absolutely agree!”
“Listen, why don’t we have a little chat about it; put the philosophy to one side and accept things as they are…we’ve considered the reason(s) behind it yes, but what do we do with it, this dream?”
“I’ll tell you what, let’s freshen up those cups and go out on the porch, just look at all that sunshine going to waste!”
“That sounds like a bright idea!” said Sue, and smiling, “ I’ll put the kettle on “

Phase 2

The sky seemed to have come alive!
There was a magnetic quality which affected everything; the trees at the edge of the forest were dusted with refracted light. This effect was replicated everywhere, right down to the grassy field, where each blade could be seen in one light as a singular life
form while in another, a vast endless woven carpet.
The profusion of wildflowers was mesmerising!

It raised the hackles on one’s arms and neck…one imagined God having just created the earth, standing back and saying, “It is good!”
And millions of miles away, the deep throb of Jupiter’s cosmic voice answered the call of Saturn’s winsome, reverberating song!
Our earth-bound couple sat on the wooden porch totally in awe as the spectacle of life played
out before them
They held hands like children sometimes do, occasionally glancing at one another and smiling.

Sue put her head on his shoulder and he put his arm around her.
It was Sue, who spoke first.
“What was it we were going to discuss?”
“I can’t remember!” Joey answered!
They both laughed!

“It almost seems like sacrilege to disturb the silence, doesn’t it?” Joey said.
“Yes it does but there are voices everywhere in this silence, everything is communicating!”
replied Sue; “can you hear it Joey?”
“I can hear my heart beat!” said Joey, gazing into her eyes; “can you?”
She met his gaze; her mouth trembling very slightly.
Joey leaned closer and kissed her.

He thought he could hear the voice of the universe echoing in his head, but it was only the sound of Jupiter and Saturn nearing their aphelion and perihelion phases respectively.

Third & Final phase.

“Sue”, Joey whispered, “we are in another world my sweet”. “It belongs to us alone for it is our love for one another that has created it.”
“Whatever happens to us here we will remember forever.”

He held her close and kissed her again; her body melted against his shedding all resistance, and then lifting her gently, he carried her to the carpet of wildflowers that danced to the summer breeze,

and laying her amongst these, placed his own body next to hers, supporting his head with one hand to look down upon her.
Her eyes met his then closed momentarily, the softness of the wind caressing her face; now aglow as though a sunset had paused there to reflect.
And when she opened her eyes and looked up into his, the weight of the world was gone from her.
“Another world…” “Yes, it is so…” she sighed.
Her eyes were half closed and she could see the road of her life, fading into violet behind her, carrying with it all of the memories of days gone by; all the hurt and the pain of loss, betrayal and loneliness.

“Another world, my sweet!” his voice came as if from afar as she reached for his hand.

The warmth and succulence of her inner being offered no resistance, yielding completely to his gentle touch and fire of passion.
And his own world, the seemingly endless trails scattered with fragments of words, and thoughts; stories half-written, songs half-sung…he knew, that in this moment where time had no relevance, was the only story he ever needed to write, and the only song he would ever need to sing!
Somewhere on a rocky coastline huge waves crashed in a roar of thunder, sending spumes of foam flying skyward.
Somewhere in a field of wildflowers the essence of two lovers burst in a quiet, orchestrated explosion, sending cosmic messages to every part of the inner universe.

And seven hundred and ninety-six million miles away in deep space, two mighty worlds engaged one another in a game of attraction; the most powerful emotional force known to exist.
And the night fell.

Epilogue:

The gentle subdued light of dawn spread across the land, awakening leaf and flower alike.
Joey arose and knowing that Sue had gone, made his way slowly back to his hut
During the night he’d received a message from her, so he sat at his desk to write.

“My dearest Joey,
We arrived home this morning at around six, a long and exhausting journey…
It seems quite strange to be here in this place which I refer to it as home for it feels like an alien world and I, a stranger to it
Of course I know now that there will never be another world quite like the one you and I have shared, will there?
I am going to keep this brief as I need to catch up on so many things around here, housework and so on you know…they seem so mundane and uninspiring to me now!
I want you to know how much I enjoyed your company, and for everything that happened…my world will never be the same again
You have given me something back I thought I had lost…my eternal youth, and the knowledge that somebody really cares about me.
In my heart I hope someday we will meet again, but if that is not in the scheme of things, I will always have you here with me; in my heart.
Please take care and know I love you always…just as I have always done!
I shall keep up my correspondence and hope you will too!

Ps: don’t forget to drop in for morning tea; we have so much more to chat about now, don’t we !

 

Yours Forever
Sue ”

 

Joey replied straight away and when he had done so, packed his belongings into a shoulder bag,
and walked out of the hut, taking the ‘tea’ sign off the door as he went.
“Thank you old post office” he said turning back for one last look, “my time here is over I guess, perhaps another lonely heart will stumble by some day, looking for a respite from the weary world out there, and no doubt waiting for a fair wind to blow his way!”

The End,
       or perhaps,
                  beginning.

 

Images provided by courtesy of Anne Owen

© John Scott June 2011

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Last call for drinks at whistle-stop cafe. Joey & Me (Three) – Marie

Marie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easter 1968

 

It was up there on that god-forsaken stretch of road that runs between Uniondale and Knysna.

A girl was killed in a motoring accident. She was asleep in the back seat when her fiancé rolled the volksie they were travelling in.

Her name was Marie.

 

They say she still roams that old road; hitching a ride. She’s trying to reach her mother with the exciting news of her engagement.

Sadly, she had another engagement waiting.

 

Marie’s accident is factual; it happened.

Whether or not the ghost stories surrounding it are true, is a matter of what you want to believe.

 

Since no one can prove that ghosts exist, no one can prove they don’t either.

Many things cannot be proved by rational means yet we believe them.

The element of mystery in life is something which will always be with us; it’s part of what makes us human.

 

I believe we all at one stage or another make contact with that part of us we cannot see or understand.

It’s the other side of being human.

It really doesn’t matter what you call it.

I call mine Joey.

 

This wasn’t meant to be a ghost story.

But since Joey, in essence is no more that, then it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find another ghost has weaved itself into the tale.

The fact that it’s a female ghost is all the more intriguing!

 

In spite of the fact Joey and I travel parallel paths; there is a subtle variance in the way that mutual events are perceived and therefore interpreted.

Apart from this there is no difference between us.

 

Do ghosts communicate?

Is there a kind of bond between them as there is with humans?

 

The places and events here are all linked by peculiar circumstances. Is there a reason for this? Or is it just a case of what we conveniently call coincidence?

 

They say a ghost is a manifestation of a restless spirit; one that has failed to complete an important mission in life.

(Does that sound familiar?)

 

Marie was carrying an important message in her heart!

She was interrupted and could not deliver it. Did it break her heart?

Was the break powerful enough to prevent her natural transition to the perfection of eternity?

If so, it would indicate a sympathetic line of communication between form and non-form.

Perhaps this is the true meaning of love!

 

When Jesus said; “I am with you always;”

Did we really understand what he meant?

 

In the relating of these events I realize I may just be getting a little closer to understanding Joey; perhaps it is the real reason for writing;

Who knows?

If Joey (as I suspect) has a sense of humour, it is evidenced here; Ironic though it may be.

 

So whose story is this then; mine or Joey’s?

 

Hey! How the heck should I know?

Let’s just call it collaboration!

 

I have chosen to begin this tale at the end; trusting that as I go along I’ll find my way back to the beginning.

That’s how life is isn’t it?

Well that’s what Joey taught me!

 

These are my thoughts.

 

I’m going to suggest that Joey knew Marie.

I’m going to suggest that Marie had a message for him

I’m going to suggest their lives were linked in a way that is known only to them.

 

If this sounds crazy fine!

But many disturbingly uncomfortable thoughts pass through my mind when I look back on things.

And Joey always seems to have had a hand in the pie somewhere!

 

If at the conclusion this story still sounds crazy, then I will just have to accept responsibility for allowing my imagination to have taken advantage of what may be  no more than pure conjecture; (and of course coincidence!)

 

If that doesn’t wash I’ll just blame it all on Joey!

 

Another reason for this tack is that Marie’s story is the difficult part for me.

Joey on the other hand is far better equipped to tell it.

Handing over the reins however is not as easy as it sounds.

It’s where the difference of perception and interpretation comes in.

 

I cannot read Joey’s mind, no matter how hard I try.

Whatever my perception of events may be, there will always be that imperceptible little ‘thing’ separating us.

 

We are linked; inextricably; yet there is something I cannot access.

Perhaps it will only be realized when my own form has returned once more to the dust it came from.

But let’s not go there now.

 

My basic problem is explaining what Joey was doing up there on that road that night,

Time is a funny thing; being able to move backward and forward simultaneously it creates the illusion that it has not moved at all.

Maybe it’s not an illusion.

 

Joey knew about these things. I have yet to learn.

One day when the time is right I will.

 

 

Mid-October 1972

 

After finishing work on Friday night, and leaving Plettenberg bay with his pay burning a hole in his back pocket, Joey had gone looking for some action; somewhere in the direction of Knysna.

Here’s the twist;

Plett, to Knysna is about thirty odd ks.

Uniondale is just over a hundred, and doesn’t even run along the same route. It cuts inland from the coast and is a hell of a long way of getting from Plett to Knysna!

Ok, Joey was pissed! Pleasantly pissed! Hey, it was Friday night, everything had shut down in Plett and the boy was hungry, if you know what I mean.

 

I need to go back a bit to get things into the right perspective.

 

Sept 1972

 

Joey had worked as a stevedore in the docks back in Cape Town. He’d run into some trouble with an alimony case and was down on his luck. At this point he’d met a girl who was also down on her luck, and for precisely the same reasons. The only difference being that it wasn’t her that was in trouble, it was her husband. Get the picture?

A bitter irony for sure!

Stick around.

Now Joey knew the husband; a work colleague, and at the time this guy was arrested, Joey was sharing a caravan park site with the couple and their two kids; (Although they were legally separated). Joey was living in his V-dub kombi; the family, in a tent.

 

Joey used to drink Port wine back then. Funny that should come to mind. It was a 1955 vintage, and I can still see the black label with the white printing on it. It’s as clear to me now as if I were holding it right here in my hand; I can taste it even!

Memory’s a funny thing isn’t it!

 

Anyway, never mind the port, I’m not sure if it has any significance on the story; probably not.

 

Here though are two things which were very significant, and occurred in rapid succession;

One: The money was running out.

Two: The money ran out.

 

Joey was now the only one with an income, half of which had to go towards his alimony. He wasn’t exactly in a position to support another family.

There was understandably much anxiety on behalf of the lady in question; (who we’ll call Maggie.) It was clear they’d all soon have nowhere to live.

 

She said she had family somewhere in the Eastern Cape; her parents.

She made a call and they told her to come over.

They would take care of her and the kids.

That was half of the problem sorted.

The other half was getting there.

Joey knew what had to be done; He would take them in the kombi.

Simple!

But, the parents lived in Port Elizabeth.

Port Elizabeth is six hundred kilometres away!

Not so simple!

The kombi might have trouble making the distance. It had its own share of woes not the least of which was a dodgy gearbox.

As far as the fuel cost was concerned, well, the alimony would have to take another back seat wouldn’t it? And pray his ex-wife never found out where it went!

She did of course.

But that comes later.

For now, Joey had a head start, and that’s all that mattered.

 

While we’re on the subject of heads, let me tell you something about Joey’s.

It never agreed with anything his heart wanted to do.

Constant battles raged between them, and the head always lost.

In ways, the heart was considered to be a good heart; (as of course hearts are meant to be!).

On the flip side, they also have the ability (albeit unintentional) of getting their owners into trouble.

Joey was no exception to the rule, and this particular little episode got him into a lot of trouble.

 

They say there’s a silver lining to every dark cloud.

Sometimes you have to look pretty hard for that silver lining, but I believe it’s there just the same.

Events beget events don’t they?

Without this one, a lot of other things might never have happened; logical!

Apart from anything else there’d be no story to tell!

 

And so it was, one moonless night, the little party snuck out the camp and hit the road, leaving God knows how much unpaid rent and dirty laundry behind them.

 

They drove through the night without incident.

Maggie eventually joined the kids in the back and went to sleep.

Joey stayed behind the wheel; a bottle of port keeping him company.

 

Morning found them negotiating a long steep incline somewhere in the vicinity of Keurbooms River.

This is a much sought after venue nowadays among the tourist fraternity. Back then however it was just another wild spot along the Garden Route, about midway between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.

 

The coastal resort of Plettenberg Bay is just a few ks from here; One km exactly from where the kombi broke down, on that hill.

I did mention the dodgy gear box didn’t I?

Yup, well that’s what did it.

 

It was October. That’s when all the shit happens. That’s what Joey believed anyway. He had this thing about October, but never mind that now.

 

Maggie flagged down a passing car and got a lift into Plett to make a phone call.

Then she came back, and they all sat and waited.

 

Around noon, the parents arrived.

It was hot and humid; the kids were getting on everyone’s nerves and Maggie was very irritable.

When she’d got her belongings; and kids, transferred to her father’s car she thanked Joey and that was that.

Nobody offered Joey any assistance whatever. They all made the usual crappy commiserations about how sorry they were for the unfortunate circumstances and so on, which didn’t help anyone, and after that, they just drove off.

Joey never saw any of them again; never even heard a word.

 

This is the kind of thing that can either make you crazy, or if you’re philosophical about it you might just accept the fact that it could have been worse.

It wasn’t the first rough patch Joey had been in and it probably wouldn’t be the last.

It seemed that his life was just cut out that way. Questioning things only made them more complicated.

What he needed to do was figure a way of keeping calm and not let the situation get on top of him.

The scenario needless to say couldn’t possibly have been riper for a confrontation between heart and head!

And that, was the last thing Joey needed.

He paced up and down a bit taking stock. You might say he was counting his blessings.

Joey knew something about blessings; he knew that they never run out!

Something else that had the uncanny ability of never running out was booze.

He fetched a bottle from the van and made himself comfortable on the grassy verge.

 

The sky was a perfect azure blue, nary a cloud to be seen.

Joey stripped off his shirt and allowed the gentle rays of the sun to replenish his vitamin D supplies.

 

In the initial stages of his reverie, he thought he heard his head mutter something like; “what the fuck am I gonna do with the rest of my life now?”

But this and all other attempts at negative dialogue were quickly dismissed with a slug or two from the bottle.

 

Joey eventually fell asleep.

Motorists passing by would not have known a thing of Joey’s woes, undoubtedly taking him for a traveller.

It was not uncommon in those days, to see a hippie sleeping in the sun, next to his van.

A long ways from home!

 

Just before you get into Plett, there’s a garage. Or there used to be. We’re going back forty years now and a lot of things have surely changed.

 

It was here that Joey, after a brisk walk arrived and discussed his situation with the garage owner.

They went out with a tow truck and pulled the kombi back to the workshop.

After a thorough examination, the man made a couple of phone calls.

At length, he told Joey the gearbox was kaput and would have to be replaced.

The nearest source was P.E.

It would take a day to get one there and another couple to have the bus back up and running.

 

Joey didn’t tell the guy he had no money, he just said; “ok, go ahead, I’ll give you a ring in the morning and let you know where I’m at.”

 

That was fine with the man. He had no reason to suspect anything. In any case, he had the kombi didn’t he?

 

Plettenberg Bay:

Early October

 

Joey packed a couple of essentials in a rucksack, thanked the man and left.

He headed down into Plett, looking for a place to cool off with a beer.

Having a good nose for such things, it didn’t take him long.

 

At the bar in the Lookout Restaurant he ordered a beer and bought another bottle of port to drink outside later, on the deck.

 

Plett’s a really beautiful place, more so in my opinion the way it was back then than it is now. I guess I’m a bit old fashioned, but that’s the way the memory goes isn’t it?

 

The old Lookout is just what its name implies, perched on a promontory overlooking the Keurbooms river mouth it offers views that are beyond description.

One couldn’t wish for a better place to get lost in.

 

The sun was going down across the bay.

Joey’s muse was running hot. It could’ve been the wine, it could’ve been the scenery and it could’ve been the bargirl. It was no doubt a combination of all these things and more probably.

He’d pushed the kombi right out of his mind. For the moment, it simply didn’t exist.

And for all he knew, it might never again.

Joey’s saving grace was his ability to live in the moment; enjoying the singular pleasures that he found there.

“Fuck it all!” he was wont to exclaim; “It happened, so it happened, what the fuck d’you want me to do about it?”

 

I’m pretty glad I had him around; I can’t imagine where I might’ve been right now if he hadn’t been.

I relied on the strength of his imagination. I ate, drank, slept and dreamed it.

 

It crosses my mind sometimes that as I recount these memories I do it for Joey; I do it to let him know just how much I appreciate the influence he’s had on my life.

 

I’m not intellectually minded; I walk around with my heart on my sleeve and don’t particularly give a damn who notices.

That’s something else I inherited from Joey.

 

*

 Pete:

 

Joey asked the bargirl for a pen and paper. He then went out onto the deck and began to write her a poem.

It was the first of many.

 

Meanwhile, back in the bar a group of roughnecks had just come in.

One’s name was Pete; I don’t remember the others.

 

Pete came out to the deck, pulled up a chair and said to Joey; “Hey man, you a poet?”

“You kinda look like one!”

 

That was the beginning of a solid friendship, and as it turned out, a very useful one.

 

They say angels come in all shapes and sizes; what do you think?

I reckon they do!

 

It was quite a night, to say the least.

These guys were artisans (electricians). They were working on the new Beacon Island hotel, situated close by.

It didn’t take long for Joey to become a part of the gang.

 

The boys were restless, and so decided to go down to Knysna for the night.

They all jumped into the company’s van and hit the road.

Joey included.

 

What happened in Knysna that night is a bit sketchy, understandably.

It was a piss-up. These guys were on contract, far away from home;

Rolling stones without a care in the world.

Joey was in like company.

 

The next morning, around five Joey was roused by Pete poking him in the ribs. He opened his eyes and saw the bars in front of him.

“Oh fuck!” he groaned!

But he wasn’t in Jail as he’d thought.

 

Pete was laughing uncontrollably. Next minute all the guys were there laughing.

 

“How the fuck did you get in there?” asked Pete between tears.

It was a baby’s cot!

“Better get out quick before someone complains!” said Pete.

But the complaints had already reached management’s ears; security was hot on their trail!

They exited the hotel got in the bakkie and headed back to Plett. It was almost time to start work.

 

Now the previous night Joey’s story had spilled out. Everyone knew about it. And you know how it is with guys! They stick together.

Furthermore, a plan had been hatched to get Joey in work and accommodated.

 

“What do you know about electrical work?” Pete had asked.

“I can change a light bulb!” Joey told him.

So, it was all agreed then!

The company were short of an electrician and the completion of the contract was due the first week in December. The hotel already had reservations for Christmas.

“It’s a synch!” said Pete; “The boss won’t even ask, just say you’re qualified.” “If he wants papers say they got lost when the van broke down, whatever. They’re so desperate right now they won’t even bother”.

 

“You’ll need some tools” said Pete; “I’ll organise it.”

 

The ‘interview’ went off without raising a single eyebrow. Joey was now officially employed.

Pete taught him as much as the limited passage of time allowed.

 

It’s ironic perhaps that Pete was as much inspired by Joey’s feelings for poetry and music, as was Joey’s fascination with Pete’s views on electrical behaviour; its influence on the human brain and the Universe in general.

 

When we speak about bonds, one must bear in mind that these were the days of Aquarius as the period was so-called.

The time and the season!

UFO sightings and other phenomena were commonplace;

What about ghosts?

Were they more perceivable then?

 

Whatever the case, it was indisputably a time of cosmic alignment.

It is a time we have lost to the past.

But one must remember that everything is cyclical.

It will come again; there is no doubt; just as everything comes again; ghosts notwithstanding.

 

That night after work, Joey moved into digs with the other guys.

A silver lining was beginning to show around the rim of Joey’s dark cloud.

 

Joey called the garage and told the man; “I’m working at the Beacon Island hotel, here’s a number you can leave a message at.”

 

*

 

The first Friday rolled around and with it, Joey’s first pay packet. The kombi had been repaired but the bill was out of his reach for the moment.

He made a payment and told the man the whole story. “I was afraid to tell you at first in case you thought I was a chancer and wouldn’t take on the job” said Joey.

“Sorry I didn’t exactly tell you the truth.”

“Well you didn’t exactly tell me a lie either!” said the garage man.

“There’s no harm done.”

“That’s a re-conditioned box in there” he told Joey; “comes with a full factory warrantee, good as new!”

“Yeah, I’m pleased it happened this way, I’d never have had it done otherwise!” said Joey thoughtfully.

 

The kombi remained at the garage for another week.  When Joey came to make his next payment the man told him he could take it out, so long as he kept up the payments; He was half way there.

 

The contract at Beacon Island had two and a half months to run. The pay was far more than Joey had earned as a stevedore.

Joey gave a thought about October. It hadn’t been such a bad one after all, he mused.

 

However, October wasn’t quite done with Joey yet. There were still two weeks left.

A lotta shit can happen in two minutes, never mind two weeks!

 

On the subsequent Friday after work Joey had gone to the Lookout with the boys, planning to pay the garage in the morning.

Bad decision!

 

He’d now moved out of the lodgings and re-located to his old kombi which was conveniently parked on-site.

 

They’d had a nice little piss-up and then a last minute decision to go down to Knysna had been called off on account of what had happened there the previous time.

“Let the dust settle” was the consensus.

 

Joey and the bargirl meantime had fallen in love big time.

Due to some little indiscretion on his part however, the relationship had taken a knock and the wheels were already coming off.

He knew he wasn’t going to be able to sustain it much longer.

It would be all over before it hardly got started.

 

He was feeling a tad uncomfortable and needed to get out by himself for a bit.

 

That’s when the heart said; “Let’s go to Knysna!”

And that’s when the head said; “No fucking way hose!”

He went back to the kombi and fished out a bottle of port.

 

It was gone midnight when he finally gunned that motor to life and hit the gas pedal.

He should’ve known better than to underestimate the wiles of October!

But the wine sang like a melody in his veins; throbbed like a drum in his heart.

 

As I’ve said, Joey’s life was a series of little calamities one after the other. No sooner had he crawled out of one frying pan than he‘d landed in the next.

It was as though he thrived on challenges. When things were going smooth he got bored. It was an anti-climax. He needed the adrenalin; he needed to be in the shit, just so he had a reason to get out of it.

He needed to be a junkie just so he could kick the habit. He needed the hangover just so he could feel better when it wore off.

It’s like banging your head against the wall just because it feels good when you stop!

 

I know that doesn’t make sense but I can’t think of a better way to describe Joey’s predisposition.

 

I recall an old biker pal once saying; “You can’t say you’ve ridden a bike until you’ve fallen off one”

Maybe that’s the same as saying; “You can’t say you’ve lived until you’ve died…”

But maybe that’s stretching it a bit!

It’s the kind of thing Joey would have come up with though!

*

 Knysna:

The wrong way around

 

The wrong way or the long way! It doesn’t make much difference, both descriptions are adequate!

 

This is the part of the story I get lost. The irony of this statement is that it’s where Joey got lost too!

I’ve tried to calculate times and distances here but to no avail.

The only thing that might hold a shred of light is why what happened that night, took so long to culminate.

Joey left Plett around midnight. He should’ve been in Knysna in fifteen minutes max.

He can’t say exactly where he got to but I do know the time he got there must have been about 2 am. That would explain he’d taken a wrong turn somewhere and ended up pretty damn close to Uniondale.

 

He knew the route, it’s so straightforward. He wasn’t that drunk he could’ve made such an error in judgement.

So why, did he detour?

Which brings me back to the question; Do Ghosts communicate?

Stick around!

 

The night was dark, in more senses than one; morose would be an accurate assessment, It matched perfectly, Joey’s frame of mind.

There was no moon visible; a veil of cloud held it in check.

A mist had come up quite suddenly obscuring the road. This had nothing to do with why Joey got lost. He’d already taken the turn off to Uniondale. I know this because I know the road.

It climbs away from the main artery which is the N2 and which links the major towns along the Garden Route; specifically Knysna.

The deviation to Uniondale is the R40 which later becomes the R339 as it enters Uniondale. These are minor roads; running through farmlands and not as well demarcated as the N2.

They are often obscured with mist due to the sudden escalation from the coast.

 

Something or someone had influenced Joey into making that switcheroo.

 

*

The Hitch-hiker:

 

Joey recalls seeing a flock of sheep in the road, close to an intersection.

As he slowed for the sheep a figure appeared. It was a girl hitch-hiking.

He stopped, pulled over and opened the passenger-side door.

As he did so, he heard another door close and looking around found she was already in the back seat!

 

They drove on.

No words were exchanged until after a relatively short distance the girl said she wanted to get off. They were still in the middle of nowhere.

Joey turned around to see her out.

 

She spoke. These were the only words she uttered; “Thank you; perhaps we’ll meet again!” and then she screamed!

The flock of sheep were all over the road directly in front of them!

 

Joey remembers hitting the brakes and twisting the steering wheel in a frantic attempt to avoid the flock.

 

The kombi went over four times. Bang, bang, bang, bang!

When the dust settled it was right back on its wheels; it had done a complete somersault.

Joey found himself lying in the back of the vehicle unable to move.

There was no sign of the girl, or the sheep.

 

A couple of youths came by and robbed him blind.

 

*

Joey woke up the following morning in hospital. The kombi had been towed into the police station, whereupon the garage owner had been notified, and came to collect it.

(Joey had supplied the information to the police).

 

Joey’s sojourn in Plett was for all intents and purposes, over.

So was the kombi.

It is hoped the gearbox was salvageable at least! Joey never found out; he never asked!

 

Many years later on a trip to P.E as a truck driver, Joey had seen the rusted shell of an old kombi in a field near Keurbooms River. It stood next to a gnarled oak tree. Its wheels were missing and all the other parts that had once made it a functioning vehicle.

A strange feeling went through him as he wondered where all the ‘living’ parts had gone.

 

*

This is essentially the end of the narrative as I had intended it to be.

However, there is still another twist to the tale.

It’s important for me to tell it.

 

Joey was in the hospital three days, and while not yet fully mobile when he was discharged, he nevertheless had to get back to Cape Town.

There’s only one way to travel when you’re broke!

 

Before he hit the road however, he decided to pay a last visit to Plett; and say cheers to Pete and the boys.

He got a lift back and hung around the Lookout until the day-shift had ended.

 

“So what’s new?” he asked the bargirl.

“You’re an asshole!” is all she said!

 

The boys came by.

There wasn’t much laughter this time.

Joey had turned into a different person; and so had everyone else.

The evening was spent discussing life and all the shit that sometimes went with it.

Pete gave him a few bucks to help him on his way.

And that was that.

 

“Not advisable to come back to the lodgings!” he warned Joey. “Your best bet is to hit the road soon as possible”.

“Hope it all works out…”

 

But Joey, by the end of the evening was just too fucked to go anywhere.

 

Fortunately he knew the Beacon Island hotel inside and out.

The contract was almost up. The rooms were ready for occupation. The gala opening was just around the corner.

 

Joey snuck in via a back way where he wouldn’t be spotted by security; took the stairs to the top floor and in a five-star honey-moon suite spent his final night in Plett!

His honey-moon was over!

He’d had the dubious privilege of being the first guest.

 

Cape Town or bust!

January 1973

 

That should read Cape Town and bust.

Never mind.

 

Joey approached the stevedoring company. They gave him his old job back thankfully.

He slept around the harbour until payday, and then rented a room up in the Oranjezicht.

 

*

Meanwhile his ex who had been looking for him, suddenly showed up.

She’d been in touch with his work.

She’d hitch-hiked all the way from Josie’s with the two children; a distance of roughly 1300 ks.

 

This all belongs to another story. It nevertheless intertwines with this one briefly.

I’ll not spend more time than is necessary with it.

 

*

The relationship was patched up; as it had been so many times before.

Some things were never designed to last; I don’t know why.

That’s life as they say.

Someday, I might find the courage to go there, but not now,

 

When the ex finally walked out, Joey was left with a flat he couldn’t afford a job he was in danger of losing and a habit he couldn’t shake.

 

Alone and destitute one night, he sat on the floor of the apartment. The furniture had all been repossessed; save the mattress.

Empty wine bottles were strewn everywhere. Crumpled up pieces of paper containing crumpled, broken-hearted poems lay scattered on the floor.

All the bargirls and ex-wives were there.

Joey had reached the end of another chapter.

It was an important one.

But then aren’t they all important?

 

I never saw Joey as broke up as that.

It is no secret that thoughts of suicide entered his mind.

I was there.

 

*

They say there’s a silver lining to every dark cloud.

Sometimes you have to look very hard for that silver lining, but it’s there all right trust me.

 

There was a knock on the door.

“C’mon in” mumbled Joey, anticipating the cops or the landlady, or both and not giving a damn either way.

 

*

Frankie & Stel:

 

The young couple who stood at the door were known only to Joey as folks that stayed in the apartment block. He’d seen them around, perhaps exchanged a greeting or two but that was all.

 

Their appearance therefore even in Joey’s deranged condition triggered a faint ring of surprise.

They didn’t look like Bible-punchers. You can usually tell the type.

They had an aura about them. I can’t describe it.

Joey sat there kinda stupefied;

It’s that feeling you get when the wine is all gone; you know there won’t be any more and you don’t exactly know where you are.

Suddenly you think you see an apparition; A ghost of yourself maybe.

It’s only a brief flash; but it feels like you’ve just experienced eternity.

Because it’s something you never forget.

 

*

Are you following me? Is anyone following me?

I’m not altogether sure if I’m following me; although I’m trying very hard.

But don’t go away; not yet.

I have to reach the end of this and I want someone to be there with me.

Can you dig that?

 

*

Please?

 

*

Frankie came right over and introduced himself.

He introduced his girl Stel.

“Come with us” he said.

There was something in the way he said it that aroused something in Joey.

But Joey didn’t respond.

 

Frankie proffered his hand;

 

“So what’s up?” asked Joey.

 

“We’ve been where you are!” replied the affable ghost.

 

“How do you know where I am?” returned Joey.

 

But a smile was the only answer he got; as he stood up and followed these strange people into an equally strange new world.

 

His head enquired of him; “Is this wise?”

His heart asked; “Is there any booze?”

 

*

Joey was introduced to a chair while Stel went and brewed some coffee.

“Would you like something to chow?” she called from the kitchen.

“Er, no thanks, I’m not hungry, could do with a dop!”

 

Stel returned with some sandwiches anyway.

Frankie miraculously produced a pint of Castle Lager.

Joey returned the smile Frankie gave him as he put the beer on the table.

 

God knows why, Joey had the feeling his life was about to take another significant detour.

If that word was never more appropriate it was then.

He closed his eyes and tried to drift away somewhere; it didn’t matter where exactly.

And found himself suddenly back in the mist on the Uniondale road.

 

Frankie pulled up a chair next to him and after a moment’s rumination, tweaked Joey’s ear with his finger.

 

“Pete?” Joey’s voice was almost a whisper; trailing away in the distance.

 

Frankie smiled and tweaked his ear again.

 

The past was rolling back and forth in Joey’s mind. It was all there. Everything he’d done thought seen.

He saw the sheep; heard the kombi going over, saw the girl’s face.

 

Slowly he opened his eyes, as Frankie’s voice penetrated the mist.

 

“Someone I’d like you to meet!” he said.

 

Joey looked around the room.

She must have been there all the time; in the corner opposite; looking shyly down at her hands.

 

How come he hadn’t noticed her before?

It was as though she’d just dropped in out of thin air!

Maybe she had.

 

For some reason Joey felt very self-conscious. He sensed another soul in turmoil.

Something stirred inside him.

 

In another fast moving flash of the camera Frankie and Stel had disappeared into another room re-emerging with their hats and coats on.

 

“We’re off to the club for a bit” announced Frankie. “Please make yourself at home, there’s the TV; help yourself in the kitchen!”

“Sorry there’s no beer left!”

And with that, they disappeared.

 

The girl in the corner stood up and said she had to go home.

She was a slight person; a wisp of a girl still in her teens, dark complexion and kinda sad- looking.

Joey had a very weird feeling he’d seen her before.

 

He was feeling very awkward; I mean this was a very strange situation to be in.

Everything was surreal.

 

“Um…do you stay around here?” he asked the girl.

“Green Point” she answered.

“Oh, so you gonna walk to Green Point?” it’s quite a distance from here isn’t it?”

 

“Taking a bus” she replied.

 

“Would you mind if I walked you to the bus stop?” asked Joey; not really knowing why.

“Ok” she said.

 

She was holding this little red purse. It appeared to be the only thing she possessed, judging by the way she guarded it.

 

All the way to the bus stop Joey couldn’t shake the feeling he’d seen her somewhere.

The closer they got to the bus stop, the more anxious Joey became.

It was like he’d found something he’d lost, and was on the verge of losing it again.

In a last minute bid he said nervously; “Listen, I’m not trying to be pushy or anything but I have this weird feeling I know you from somewhere…?”

 

She stopped momentarily and looked at him.

 

“You need help” she said simply.

 

I never saw Joey really cry, but he cried that night, right there in the street; in front of everyone at the bus stop.

 

*

The head often considers what happened there that night. Things which Joey’s not too proud of; decisions he made and things he did. But looking back now, the heart knows that the events which followed and the changes they made in Joey’s life, were influenced by those decisions and actions, and could never have taken place any other way.

 

*

The Last Bus

 

It was revealed that ‘home’ was a rented room on the other side of town; lonely and friendless.

She was a runaway.

I’ll not discuss her circumstances here but if Joey ever writes another story, it will be hers.

I owe it to her.

Stories only get written once they have ended don’t they?

Well, hers hasn’t.

 

Suffice to say, she never caught that bus!

 

I did mention a little red purse didn’t I?

Yup! Well that’s what did it!

 

The bus fare was all it contained.

Coincidentally, it happened to be exactly the same amount as the price of a bottle of Lieberstein!

 

That’s not meant to be funny of course, but every time I think about it I feel a smile coming on!

They say there’s a silver lining for every dark cloud!

Would a silver coin serve as a metaphor?

 

Well, it got Joey through what was possibly one of the most important night of his life.

It marked the beginning of another story; one that would see many twists and turns down the strange road of life; one that was designed to last a very long time!

 

*

Oh, there’s one little thing I forgot to tell you.

Actually I didn’t forget I was saving it for last!

It seems fitting.

 

Her name was Marie.

(And she’s still around by the way!)

 

 

© John Scott 2011

 

Ps: Hands up all those who believe in ghosts.

 

 

Notes:

Bakkie: S. African term for any open-backed van.

Plett: Plettenberg Bay.

Dop: Drink (booze).

Lieberstein: S.A. Wine dating back to Jan Van Riebeck.

Josie’s: Affectionate name for Johannesburg.

Shebeen: Illegal liquor store. (S, Africa).

 

 

 

I wrote this back in 2011 (Seven years ago).
That was before the first signs of Alzheimer were detected.
In fact, I didn’t even know what Alzheimer was back then.
I think I do now but my memory refuses to have anything to do with it!
Perhaps some things are just impossible to forget!

 

Marie
37, Fairview Ave Woodstock,
Cape Town

 

 

Beacon Island Hotel, PlettenbergBay

 

 

RIP
‘somewhere in Keurbooms River…’

?

 

The Ghosts of Kays

3356_1123122048619_1373081_n
Photo: Overlooking Louren’s River from the front porch; (Own).

Intro.

This story is about a man I used to know.

Lawrence is not his real name; I’ve used it because it fits the location where these events took place; namely, the Lourens River, which runs through a small coastal town in the region of the Western Cape in South Africa.

Lawrence would be the equivalent of the Afrikaans name for Lourens I guess.

Perhaps as the tale unfolds it may be seen that both the person and the location are linked by more than just name!

I’ve been trying to get my head around this story for a long time, for there is a deep need in me to put into words things that may well haunt me forever if I do not.

If whatever comes out should make no sense to anyone else except me then I will accept it as a small step towards meeting that need.

 

Whatever inferences might be drawn regarding split-personality issues, dual consciousness and the like is pure conjecture and in no way intentional. I have written this according to my own personal perceptions and that is all. The whole story for all I know might just be a flight of fancy!

Nevertheless, for me, it is an important one.

 

***

Circa 1972.

One of the most striking panoramas I can call to mind is the one which greets you from the top of Sir Lowry’s pass in the Western Cape.

From here, the entire Cape Peninsular rolls out before the eye like a magic carpet, taking in Strand’s golden beaches immediately below, before reaching across the  twinned Atlantic and Indian ocean waters to Table Mountain in the distance.

For Lawrence it held a special significance, being the final leg in his long journey home, after having hiked from Durban, Kwazulu; a distance of around eighteen hundred kilometres.

From this elevation one gains the first sighting of the sea. A welcome home sight indeed!

This was not Lawrence’s first visit here, but it was however, destined to be his last.

The city of Cape Town, to whence he was headed was still another eighty kilometres due south, but as was customary at this stage, he would take a short break down in Strand; a cold beer would be what was needed now to spare a moment to reminisce on the journey behind and regroup his thoughts for that which lay ahead.

Strand was always a breaking point; a place of passing-through. Lawrence had for long nurtured a desire to settle there but he knew that work would not be easy to come by, Strand being essentially a fishing town and tourist resort; He was neither a fisherman nor a tourist.

Circumstances however sometimes deal out strange hands and a string of misfortunes and ironic events would place him here many years later on, providing him the opportunity to fulfil that long cherished dream!

This in part, is the story of that dream.

 

My name is Lourens.

I am a shadow. A mere trick of the sunlight caught between the eye and the edge of one’s spectacles when the head is turned abruptly and there appears momentarily to be someone there.

I am the involuntary shudder that passes down the spine and is then dismissed as quickly without assessment or question as to its nature.

I am the face that is seen sometimes by the mind’s eye, in the grain of woodwork, or stone, or in the line of trees on a distant horizon.

I am the inherent memory contained in the faces of the medieval people portrayed in the freeze on the wall of the Queens Hotel, or those decorating the tapestries of the Pickwick Tavern.

I am the one you unwittingly find yourself staring at in a crowd; someone you think you know but have no idea why.

I am a part of every little thing in this and every other universe, just as we are all parts of the same.

Ultimately, I am a part of you just as you are of me.

These are the things I know of myself. They require nothing more than that which pure instinct has made provision for.

Everything else is fabrication. I am all of the things you perceive in me, and none of them. I exist and I do not.

However you wish to describe me will be in your own choice of words, for you are the observer, not I.

 

It is a glorious summer evening, sundown to be precise. I wander along the banks of the river which bears my name. A great shimmering ball of fire gradually makes its way down through the tangle of trees on the other side of the river. It is a perfectly lovely and serene hour, the time of day that I enjoy the most and favour particularly for taking my evening walk.

I have crossed the river which is very narrow at this point, and being summer, the water is at its lowest level having in some places been reduced to a mere trickle.

Taking a seat beneath the sad willow trees, I reflect on the circumstances in which I find myself, and from which to consider the direction and means available to me for the telling of this story.

For I have no scholarly education as such; whatever literary skills I may possess are products of an overworked imagination coupled with an obsessive hunger to write.

It may well be a primal need in me to explain those things which I do not understand myself.

I have acquired as a result of years of introspection and self-examination a certain abstractive attitude towards my existence.

From whence these feelings come I do not know; nonetheless I have them, they have always been with me.

 

It is Saturday and the neighbours have made a fire; a spiral of smoke drifts hazily aloft, intersecting the crimson light creating an almost surreal effect to the shimmering sky.

My glance strays slightly upward towards an old wooden house resting a little way back upon the opposite bank.

This is my home where I have lived it seems for an endless time. I am quite alone here, unobserved and unobtrusive. No one bothers me and neither do I them, for although I am able to see them they cannot see me. At least, not in the conventional sense that is.

Once in a while someone will for no apparent reason approach the fence and moodily gaze around; the old and now overgrown garden and dilapidated house having slipped between the lines of time and detail, attracting no more than a melancholy inquiry. And in such moments, a face will stare quite unwittingly into my own, resting there for an interval!

I have wondered in these moments if there be a contact made and if so how such a contact could be described?

Is there something in the psyche that ‘sees’ without the perceiver being aware of it?

Does the memory contain material that was captured subconsciously, and is only retrievable by that means? Does the memory have a memory of its own?

These are all questions I cannot answer.

Whatever the case, it is a fascinating one which evokes strong emotional ties and feelings some of which I hope to set free in the words that follow.

 

 

  1. Lawrence.

 

Lawrence had once lived in this ramshackle hut down by the River.

Perhaps ‘ramshackle’ is an unfair description, for Lawrence had spent the best part of five years building this house, imparting into it, much love and devotion.

For him it had been the realization of a dream.

He had fallen instantly in love with this spot the first time he had set eyes upon it.

He’d had a vision in which he saw the home that all of his life, he had dreamed of building.

And as he was wont to say; “this will be the end of the line”, notwithstanding that he had used this expression more than once in the past; it was significant now because something quite profound had taken hold of his heart; he had heard an inner voice that had told him in no uncertain way that he would never leave this place, no matter what might befall.

It was like a seed planted, that grows into a mighty tree whose roots penetrate deep and wide and unseen.

 

Lawrence was no master in the profession of building. Whatever skills he possessed had been acquired through trial and error.

The plans however were quite firmly rooted in his mind for he was an artist; a man of imagination, a dreamer. Perhaps it was these qualities that compensated for any lack of practical training he may have otherwise had.

Perspective is the prerogative of the artist. Everything in this Universe relies on harmony.

But harmony itself is in the mind of the creator.

And so it was with Lawrence, for whatever it took, nothing would divert his focus or sway him from the path of his vision.

 

It has occurred to me many times that there may be deep, spiritual connections between men, and the houses they build. It must be surely so, that a man imparts something of himself in the construction of a home.

The same may be true of that connection which exists between men and cathedrals.

 

Such was the confidence that Lawrence had in what he was about, that if you had ever questioned him on any aspect regarding it, as if in pointing out some irregularity; a not-quite level roof beam or whatever, he would have just said; “Oh, it’s not finished yet!”

And this, to my mind was the great understatement of Lawrence’s life for I believe if he had lived there another hundred years it would still not have been finished!

For Lawrence, life itself was an unfinished business; a work in progress. This is the way he lived and thought, and dreamed.

It may be so with all men, but we will leave that speculation there for the moment.

 

If Lawrence never got to see his dream come true it wasn’t simply because of this suspended state of incompletion. He accepted unquestioningly, that destinations are never reached; they are merely pauses in the eternal journey of life. Resting places along the road perhaps.

It was the intervention of a far more serious occurrence that would cause him to radically alter direction.

Abandoning all he had set his heart upon to achieve.

 

 

It happened in this way.

Three years after he began his project, his wife left him and went overseas.

It took Lawrence another two years of deliberation and soul-searching before he eventually followed her.

If this presented a dilemma for Lawrence then, it presents an equally difficult one for me now, for I am faced with the task of providing a credible explanation for the rift that came between him and me.

It may be difficult to find words to explain something that lies beyond the scope of words.

In the same way it is not a simple matter to explain how something that is inseparable can become divided.

But bear with me, for I will persevere nonetheless.

 

Now little is known of what transpired in the period that Lawrence was overseas. Much speculation arose of course but that’s quite natural where events and the circumstances surrounding them are not clearly defined and folks are given to their own imaginings and so forth!

It did get through the grapevine somehow that he’d taken ill. Some said the weather was to blame, but of course what they meant was that he’d been unable to acclimatize.

I guess it makes sense that when one has been exposed to sub-tropical climes for the better part of one’s life, that an abrupt move to the northern hemisphere is likely to produce some negative consequences, not only on the body but the mind also.

There is much significance in this fact, for whatever happened to Lawrence during this period contains an important key to this story, one which I had initially considered necessary in providing some account for, but due to the prevailing uncertainty of the time, and Lawrence’s state of mind, I realize I cannot go in there without becoming lost myself.

The responsibility for that journey and whatever secrets it may divulge therefore will have to rest on one’s ability to read between the lines; including my own.

This story then is concerned with the final passage of Lawrence’s life in South Africa. It covers a period of five years.

 

Now it is said that there are two sides to every story!

If indeed there be another side to this one, it lies only in the difficulty that I face in understanding, and thereby explaining exactly who Lawrence is, and exactly who I am.

As I have mentioned, we had once been inseparable, but now as I write I find myself as an observer; one who watches sadly, as a part of his life drifts slowly away from him.

 

I will tell you all that I know, in the way of my recollections of Lawrence and the things which happened during those final days of his great dream.

And in the telling perhaps the darkness that has drifted between us will find some illumination.

I can only describe it as a shroud; a place where once, determination and strength of purpose had dwelled, lighting the path ahead with clarity and vision. But now it has become as a prison, a vestige for those demons of doubt and confusion to ply their trade. If Lawrence has an ear it is my hope that these words, primitive as they are, will penetrate the darkness that has blinded his way, and by degree, together, we may forge a new path back to where the darkness is no more.

I have but a singular motive for doing this, and that is to find Lawrence again and be fully reconciled with him.

No stone can be left unturned in my search for I know that this opportunity will not come again.

Not in this life’s journey anyway.

 

 

Now, the old house that Lawrence built had lain vacant and in a poor state of repair ever since the last occupants moved out.

This occurred shortly after the flooding of the river which caused a great deal of damage.

Lawrence was not there when it happened but details of the incident reached him overseas and he was much troubled by it.

Tales of floods have been around ever since the area was developed for residential purposes some thirty odd years ago.

According to some older residents there had been few serious floods, and during the five years that Lawrence had lived there, there had been none.

One year after he left, the river came up with a vengeance and wreaked havoc on the dwellings and everything else that lay in its path and along its banks.

There had occurred during an unseasonable winter of rain, the coincidence of an excessive spring tide which had surged up from the sea, the convergence of which was not more than two or three kilometres away.

His younger son was living in the old house at this time, and suffered severe losses to personal effects and so on. Despite brave attempts to clean up it was decided that another loss would be too much to bear, and so the son moved on as well.

 

  1. Oom Dawie.

 

On the adjoining property, had once lived an old man everyone knew as Oom Dawie.

This rather eccentric gentleman lived a reclusive life.

People regarded him with an air of mystery and suspicion although they had no idea why, and so for the better part they kept their distance.

My friend Lawrence had shared a brief relationship with Oom Dawie, when on the odd occasion both men had been outside in the garden in the fine summer weather.

Oom Dawie knew a lot about plants; their botanical names and their medicinal values etc.

Once in a while he would produce drawings and articles he had gathered, some of which had been his own work. He would discuss these passionately and in great detail with Lawrence over the rickety garden fence.

He had also a large collection of Popular Science magazines and other reading material relevant to metaphysical matters and the like.

On such occasions albeit rare, Oom Dawie would become extremely animated and excited. He seemed to have had little time for the mundane things in life. They didn’t exist in his world.

Then as quickly as he appeared, he would disappear once again into his old wooden cabin carrying his little library and would not be seen again sometimes for days on end!

 

Oom Dawie sometimes told stories. But they were always the same stories, and one in particular would always take pride of place in his itinerary; the one concerning the ghost that was said to inhabit the two adjoining properties; separated only by the rickety wooden fence!

According to Oom Dawie, a certain gentleman once residing on Lawrence’s side had one night out of deep despair hanged himself.

It had happened right there in the garden, where the old circular washing line stood on a thirty-degree angle, (due to having been planted in wet cement and left overnight without any support!)

The details surrounding this mans’ disposition were sketchy. All that is known is that he suffered a nervous breakdown after losing his wife and family. It is said that she walked out on him for another man.

One foul wintry night after a bout of heavy drinking he burnt the house down and committed himself to eternity with the aid of a length of course, hemp rope which he slung over the original washing line; a sturdy gum pole structure.

This pole was removed incidentally by Lawrence after he first heard the tale. He hacked it down with an axe and burnt it on the braai one Friday night. Then he marinated some chicken and boerewors and cooked it over the residual coals!

Oom Dawie would always save this tale for last, taking much pleasure in the telling of it. His large beady eyes would roll around in his head as he described the incident.

Now it is strange that the neighbours when pressed to comment on the affair were reluctant to do so, and while admitting that something unpleasant had indeed happened, insisted that much of it was a fabrication on Oom Dawie’s part. Many of these people had not even been around at the time so much rested on hearsay!

 

Lawrence himself was not a superstitious man, despite the fact that he chopped down the ‘gallows’ pole. He confided in me that it made him feel uneasy. It stood directly in line with the front door of the house and was indeed an ominous looking piece of work; a black tar pole shaped in fact like a gothic cross!

 

Anyway, it made an excellent fire and therefore killed two birds with one stone it

might be said!

 

Oom Dawie had a small terrier-like dog which made a lot of unnecessary noise; a common trait amongst small creatures I am told (human included!)

It was not true that his bark was worse than his bite, for he was totally fearless and would attack the first pair of ankles that had the misfortune to cross his path!

Fortunately Oom Dawie kept him on the other side of the fence, but on the occasions when they went ‘walkies’ he was a terror of a terrier indeed and one to be avoided at all costs!

Dogs are very sensitive to the needs of their owners and are loyal to a fault. In Oom Dawie’s case this could not have been more apparent!

The dog would bark every morning for whatever purpose and therefore no body took much notice of it. As long as it was on the correct side of the fence that is!

One morning however it was making an excessive noise, and after a while one or two of the neighbours, being no doubt irritated, looked out to see what the fuss was about.

Lawrence was there too and decided to check on Oom Dawie. Putting on his riggers boots and picking up a stick for protection, he knocked loudly on Oom Dawie’s door.

When no reply came he peered through the windows but could see nothing.

He went back to the door and opened it.

Inside he found Oom Dawie still in bed. He could not be roused.

He was dead.

 

  1. Eddy.

 

A month or so went by before someone else took possession of Oom Dawie’s old house.

What transactions took place regarding the acquisition of the property and with whom, I have no idea.

But the place had found a new owner; another gentleman who appeared to be in his late forties or so, had come to abide in the shadows of Oom Dawie’s loneliness and haunted memories!

I remember him only as Eddy, but he did not live there for very long.

He kept to himself much, and the association with Lawrence, being himself a rather solitary man, produced little, if any interaction noteworthy of recollection.

However, I’ll come back to Eddy later.

 

It was a few months after this that Lawrence’s wife (as mentioned), packed her bags and got on an airplane and went to England.

This had been a planned move; well that is to say, on her part!

Lawrence himself had not embraced the idea wholeheartedly, and although he never directly voiced his reservations, it was with very mixed feelings indeed that he drove her to the airport one sad evening in July, and watched her plane take off.

The intention was that Lawrence would follow as soon as possible. But much time would pass before that ‘intention’ could be wrested from his heart and see the light of day.

I believe it was at this point that the inextricable bond between him and the land he loved so dearly and the home he had built with his own hands and design became something more than just a memory in the making.

His heart was sharply divided between two loves, and one would have to be forsaken.

 

My mind asks me here to ponder that imperturbable commodity within a man that senses the inevitable, yet fights against it!

Some say it is the human spirit, the ‘will’ to hold on and never give up no matter what.

Some say there is a divine element at work, as no doubt Lawrence might have felt believing his dream to be a gift from a source beyond the reach of his comprehension.

Is it possible that the phenomenon we ascribe to miracles may be a product of this unbending will?

Stories abound of people making inexplicable recoveries from terminal illness or injury, where there was no hope of survival!

Is it divine, or is it merely a natural inbuilt survival mechanism?

It is my belief that both postulations are in essence one and the same thing; if there be any ‘division’ at all, it is an illusion, existing only by perception, and of course a choice of names.

 

Such was the persuasion of the spirit that drove Lawrence single-mindedly in the direction of his dream, that he brushed aside labels of ‘living in denial’ and ‘flogging a dead horse’, (as were bandied around the neighbourhood at the time!)

For Lawrence, it was much more than that which a casual remark based on superficial observations could explain. It was something that derived from an innate sense of knowing that he could not fail. No matter what the outcome, his dream would not betray him; and likewise, he would not betray it. It was like a spiritual insurance cover!

In this typical manner he ploughed on with his project. And while his wife, preoccupied with her own plans for going abroad busied herself with the details thereof, Lawrence began work on an extension to the house; a six metre by four metre area which he divided equally into two parts. One section was a gym, the other a bar. A fine juxtaposition indeed!

The bar became known as the ‘One man bar’; quite appropriately, since he began to spend almost all of his free time there. It was a refuge in a sense where he could explore his thoughts and emotions, pouring them out and committing them to paper in a proliferation of poems and introspective articles until way into the early hours of the morning. Often he would fall asleep on the bar.

 

He worked during the day as a warehouseman. But the changes that were growing inside him were beginning to show between the glints in his armour. The once ever-ready ability to produce a smile had diminished, and sadness like a shadow, had taken its place.

In his heart he could feel everything slipping away from him, and while he tried desperately to hold on to it, he knew the struggle that would inevitably ensue would bring with it its own results; ones which he regarded now with mounting anxiety and apprehension.

 

As the days wore on toward their inevitable conclusion, Lawrence with uncharacteristic resignation finally began the tedious business of acquiring the documentation necessary for his flight. The renewal of his passport, air fare enquiries and so on.

But in spite of all this he could not bring himself to setting a date.

The nights went by, the empty bottles piled up, and the journals became darker and more morose in content. Lawrence was plagued with nightmares as he grew more and more withdrawn and speculative about his impending journey.

Then, something quite unexpected happened.

It was to provide, along with one other singular event, the impetus that would finally get Lawrence to the airport.

It happened one Saturday night while he and his two boys were preparing for the weekend braai.

 

The fire was crackling away; the music speakers were out there on the deck!

All the old favourite songs were mingling with the friendly, ever receptive airwaves.

It was one of those indescribably, glorious evenings with which this small corner of the planet has been blessed!

I am convinced there is no simple way to describe an African sunset! It is a feeling.

The river sang along with its own sweet little melody while the willows caressed its waters with their long, drooping fronds. All variety of birds and insects added to the chorus as they made their way home for the night!

There is something quite magical that takes place at this time!

Everything appears to move in slow motion. There is no hurry. Conditions have been so balanced as to allow the illusory transition of time to be something of a naturally unspoken consequence, and all creatures are lost in its mesmeric influence.

Everything floats.

 

Africa is said to be the cradle of life.

Indeed, the Garden of Eden would not have been out of place here!

1916988_1091802262202_873780_n

Lawrence, as was his custom on a Saturday night, without telling anyone, slipped away to play the lotto at the corner café down the road.

It was only a ten minute ride there and back.

He used his son’s car because it was parked directly behind his, in the narrow driveway behind the house.

After he’d completed his business he climbed back into the car to drive home.

The first indication that something wasn’t quite right was when he couldn’t locate the ignition switch.

Feeling a little disoriented he finally managed to get the key into its slot and started the motor.

Perhaps it was just a little unfamiliarity since he wasn’t driving his own vehicle; He shrugged it off as such.

Half way down Lourens Road he realized the headlights weren’t on. After some effort locating the light switch he continued his journey.

But by now the car was veering to the right. And so was his body!

Try as he may he couldn’t remedy the imbalance. His body was wedged hard up against the driver’s door; and the car seemed insistent on going its own way.

Coming to a halt somewhat askance in the middle of the road he shut his eyes and tried to stay in control.

His mind was rolling like a camera.

 

He had a lucid recollection of himself sitting behind the wheel of an old left-hand drive Volvo which he used to own.

He was stuck in the middle of Twist Street, Johannesburg pointing in the direction of Hillbrow. He had just been involved in a head on collision with another vehicle.

He was drunk, and so was the driver of the other car.

They’d started off by shouting all sorts of abuse at one another, but then having seen the irony of the situation had had a good laugh and gone off arm in arm to the nearest pub!

Now this was a very strange hallucination or whatever it was, because Lawrence had never found out exactly what had become of that old Volvo!

After the accident, he’d left the car right there in the middle of the road and hopped a train to Cape Town the same night, in an attempt to avoid the police.

 

As quickly as this flashback had come, it vanished again, leaving him in a state of total confusion.

With a great deal of perseverance and persuasion Lawrence finally managed to coax the car home, driving it zigzag all the way, almost hitting the security hut at the entrance.

It is very fortuitous that the café is such a short distance and in a straight line between the two points!

 

The next thing he remembered was lying on the floor in his bedroom, sandwiched between the bed and the wall with only his legs visible.

He was discovered in this position by his son who’d gone to look for him.

By this time Lawrence’s speech had been reduced to an unintelligible slur.

An ambulance was summoned.

Both sons got him upright, and against much protestation on his part against putting him on the bed, they reluctantly escorted him to the deck outside, whereupon he grasped a quart bottle of Black Label beer and took a long draught from it!

 

“Cancel that ambulance!” he suddenly shouted as clear as a bell; to everyone’s utter amazement!

And with that, he went off to the kitchen to fetch another bottle.

This incident needless to say raised some immediate and not unwarranted suspicion on behalf of the boys, who tantamount accused him of playing a very distasteful joke.

Anyway, the ambulance was duly cancelled, and the evening went off without further ado.

John went out to check his car.

Lawrence needless to say became the object of some very dubious glances throughout the rest of the evening!

 

Sunday came. Lawrence showed no signs of anything untoward, but clearly, something was on his mind.

He spent the night in the bar and the following morning went to work.

He also went to see his doctor, where a simple test revealed his blood pressure to be sky high.

He related Saturday night’s incident to the doctor who said he’d had a stroke, and although it was obviously a minor one, he was very lucky that that’s all it was, in consideration of the abnormal blood pressure level.

Lawrence added some more pills to his medical diet!

He also added another ghost to his nocturnal contemplations.

 

  1. Fred.

 

His father had now become the focus of his attention as he recalled how a series of strokes had finally taken his life away.

The more he thought about it the more it became clear that their paths through life bore many distinct and uncanny similarities.

Looking back as far as his mind would permit, he called up memories of his father, retracing the path of his own childhood to that time. He mused over names like Bermondsey, Hinckley, Welling, Leicester and Hungerford, trying to imagine the type of life his father had lived in those places, although he himself had never seen them. But these quests always fell short of the mark, as the observing entity within would manifest scenes of the only memories he had acquired; the old semi-detached houses of New Road, South Darenth Kent, where he had lived as a young boy, in the early war-ravaged years; the bone-yard at the top and the fire station at the bottom of the street.

The endless rows of red brick houses and chimney tops reared into focus; the house with its bomb shelter in the back yard, where incendiary bombs were falling and in the panic of the moment his sister had gone missing, and he, a child of four, had gone out to look for her.

The terrible cry of the air raid sirens announcing the approach of alien bombers, the ever-dismal grey skies, and the rain, my god, how the rain always evoked such melancholy feelings of sadness within his young heart, and even now, as he considered that it was to these forlorn memories he would soon be returning, he sank further and further into despair.

He simply could not find a good reason for returning to that which he had left behind, so long ago; it filled him with a sense of failure and even betrayal towards his father; the man he had never understood, until now!

In his mind he continued to watch his father’s progress, feeling the answers to his own dilemma might be somehow revealed.

 

And in a new light there appeared amidst the sullen greyness of his reflections a vision of a man returning from the dark oceans of war, to announce his plans to quit England.

A young man of thirty, with a great dream in his heart and a new and bright star in his eye!

For the first time in his life Lawrence had heard the magical name of Rhodesia spoken!

He watched and listened with the fascination that belongs to the young and impressionable, as the discussions swirled like fairy tales around immigration procedures and the like. It was a time of heightened expectations and excitement for the whole family as a new and prosperous future spread out like a fantasy before them; a land of milk and honey beckoned; the opportunities were beyond bounds!

And now tears began to fall as the realization dawned on Lawrence that this was the dream that all men secretly carried, sometimes for all their lives, in their heart of hearts.

It was his father’s dream.

And inevitably it was his own dream, his own life, being played out as an echo, as a mirror-image of all the lives that had gone before him and all of those that were yet to come.

In his ruminations, Lawrence felt the strength of the bond that existed between him and his father. The same excitement and spirit of adventure welled within his heart as he followed step by step, his father’s journeying.

And all the while, the shadows, like spectres kept their distance, down the paths of time and circumstance, in that same dark and lonely place to which every man must eventually concede, when the body is wearied under its labours and the will has no further use for it.

 

And now, from the deck of the Llandovery Castle, a young adventurer, smiling and happy, waved triumphantly to a mother and her two children on the dock below. And the darkness, for the time being, had been pushed aside to allow the light of a new day, and a new dream to begin.

And after the passage of one year, his father now settled in Rhodesia and having paid for their tickets, waited with great expectation the arrival of his family, as Lawrence with his mother and sister boarded the Bloemfontein Castle, and bade their own farewells to England.

 

From the results of the years of hard work and saving that followed, he recalled the house his father had planned and built in the fair countryside of Borrowdale on the outskirts of Salisbury. It was the culmination of a lifelong dream.

 

And as his mind wandered further he saw the troubled years arrive when political turmoil had begun to rack that once beautiful country, and his father had eventually been forced to relinquish his house and the four and a half acres of land it stood upon.

In the wave of violence, killing and plunder that followed, everything was lost, and without a penny of compensation he too took to the road, heading southward to the coast.

 

By this time Lawrence was married and already living in Durban.

He received news of his father’s demise and met up with him on his arrival there.

Although the spirit of adventure had not entirely waned, things were never the same after that. It showed in his father’s countenance and bearing; age had seemed to travel at a faster pace than that which under normal circumstances it would have done.

Now in his fifties, the loss and disappointments had taken a great toll on his resilience and expectations.

Lawrence moved on to the Cape, and shortly thereafter received word that his parents had returned to England!

This came as a great shock to Lawrence, for he saw it as a defeat, and a great sadness fell upon his heart as he considered the fate of his parents in the land they had so determinedly put behind them.

But the shock turned to a quiet anxiety when before a year had passed he learned that they were back in South Africa, more disillusioned than ever.

There seemed now to be an almost desperate urgency about his father’s movements.

The will to press on would not be assuaged and soon, as if in answer to an unbidden call, an invitation was accepted from family in Australia.

But here too, the promises and plans did not meet expectations, and within six months they had returned once more to the shores of Africa.

 

And now, as the camera rolled, Lawrence, in the seclusion of his self-constructed asylum imagined he could hear the ghosts of his father’s dreams taking council with his own, as the mist gathered in his mind; whispering of dark secrets left behind; foretelling of darker ones yet to come.

 

And in a moment of comprehension, he saw everything as a pilgrimage; a journey back and forth in time to seek that which called to him; to uncover the things which lay buried; this was his sole purpose for living, to repeat the journey over and over again until he himself had become one with the very ghosts that he could not break free from.

 

And he wondered if this is the path that all men must follow.

 

 

  1. Eddy.

 

For those who believe that coincidences are nothing more than coincidences this will come as no surprise.

Those however who take them a little more seriously, may agree that certain links are sometimes noticed which cannot be dismissed as pure chance.

In Lawrence’s case it might be reasonable to accept that he had good reason to suspect anything that might lean toward potentially paranormal issues.

Whatever the case, there is no doubt that the coincidences were stacking up for Lawrence!

Let’s return to Eddy.

It had become apparent that he too had his fair share of medical problems, although they weren’t as yet clear.

News doesn’t take long getting around a small community as we all know; folks simply don’t have enough to talk about supposedly, so what little there is going on makes local headlines very quickly!

How Eddy’s predicament got out though was preceded by another piece of information.

He evidently had a sister living somewhere overseas. She was said to be very concerned about her brother’s health, and also, the circumstances regarding his welfare.

To cut a long story short, she had made arrangements to have him flown overseas to stay with her.

Now Lawrence, needles to say on discovering this piece of information was obviously intrigued, not to mention, more than just a little disconcerted!

He didn’t see it as a coincidence however; for him it was an omen!

 

He thought about the inner voice that had told him he’d never leave this place. Now he was convinced that someone was telling him if he didn’t leave soon, some irreversible tragedy would overtake him!

He decided to find out what was wrong with his neighbour, and was immediately sorry when he had done so, for it turned out that Eddy had hypertension and heart problems!

Lawrence knew that his time was limited; however, the assurance given to him that his dream would not desert him took on now, a final and very dramatic twist, one that I do not think he was consciously aware of , but a plan was being formulated; a plan that I alone knew of.

 

One fine morning in early spring, Lawrence received final confirmation of his premonitions.

With less than a week to go before his scheduled departure, Eddy was found dead on the floor of his cabin.

Next to his body stood two suitcases; duly packed and labelled for England.

 

The very next morning, Lawrence drove to the nearest flight centre and purchased a one-way airline ticket to Heathrow, London.

 

Barely a week later two young men stood watching sadly as a big jet made its ascent into the night sky; and banking towards the coastline it gradually slipped out of view over the curve of the distant horizon.

Lawrence watching through the window of the plane saw that great ball of crimson fire melting softly into the Atlantic Ocean.

It was his last African sunset.

 

In conclusion.

 

I have now reached the end of my narrative. It is time, if you will forgive the expression, to give up the ghost.

Weather or not I have achieved what I set out to achieve remains to be seen. This has not been an easy write for me.

I don’t think it is possible to describe yourself in realistic terms. A great deal of soul searching is necessary and even then, what comes out, as I have said, may be no more, or no less, than a flight of fancy.

In order to write anything, one must have knowledge of the subject.

To know oneself, is perhaps the hardest of all.

I believe that through this exercise, I may have come a step closer to achieving this.  And in this respect, the primary objective has become more accessible.

It is like killing two birds with one stone perhaps!

Where the journey from here will lead will be the result of taking it one step at a time.

Perhaps life is more than the sum of its parts; perhaps it is less than a part of the sum, for in one sense it is everything, and in another, it is nothing. It may be that simple. The reason we do not understand it is because we expect it to be complicated and so we complicate it until we have forgotten what it is supposed to be, and so lose it altogether.

I wanted to keep this story simple, and I know I have complicated it.

This may have been unavoidable since by nature, the subject is a complicated one.

If it is true that two heads are better than one then where more appropriate might this adage apply?

Lawrence, once a simple man has become the product of his own imagination, and it is time to begin peeling the layers away, one by one; separating the chaff from the corn as it were; until the story makes sense.

It may take many lifetimes, but this may be the whole reason d’être.

 

There are two sides to everything. If it were not so there would be no balance

I hope that this explains why I can not be with him in England, for he has much there to sort out, and I will only be in his way. I in the meantime, must remain here, where his world is more stable and intelligible, and to where he can return whenever there is a need to.

At all costs, the balance must be maintained. His health must be restored. And for whatever good reason there might be, his story must be told.

I hope I have succeeded in accomplishing this, at least in part.

There is nothing I can add or take away that would bring me any nearer to explaining my relationship with Lawrence. This will have to be it, or nothing.

 

When Lawrence crossed that tarmac and climbed aboard that plane he left something behind.

It wasn’t just the kids or the house down by the river, or anything else material.

I have said that a plan was formulated; it was the ‘insurance cover’ embedded in Lawrence’s mind, and although he had no conscious access to it, it was in essence, a part of that resolve; that unbending will that he possessed.

As for me, well, I have told you who I am.

You might say I am no more than a memory. You might say I am Lawrence’s conscience.

In the end it doesn’t really matter which label you attach to me.

I am the part of Lawrence that had to stay behind.

It may be fitting to describe me as just one more ghost of Kay’s.
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Copyright John Scott 2011 Photo: courtesy of my son John Palo Scott.

All in my Head (The Inside Story) Sept/Oct 2010

Introduction

This was never intended to be a story
what follows is merely a rambling documentary which by definition is a collection of Journal Entries, and incoherent writes as they came to me oftimes in the middle of the night when I couldn’t sleep.

Many are in fact dreams perhaps they all are.

But as with everything in life, there are connections however subtle that have their roots firmly set in the same soil from which all things grow.
Interpretation however is in the mind of the beholder.
Forty plus years later and much blood, sweat and tears now under the bridge cannot alter the course of the river that carried these words to the inevitable sea.

I have fought with all the demons that I ever allowed into my mind to reach a conclusion, and yet, to this very day, there is none.

That’s where I’m at.

As far as dreams go there quite possibly is no starting point.
However, if this is now a story, it’ll have to start back in the 1980’s.

 

  1. Durban, South Africa
    1982

 

It was during that wonderful time of life that we affectionately look back on as ‘the prime years,’ when something went awry in my head!

It may of course have begun much earlier, but this is when the first symptoms started to occur.

It had to do with balance; I seemed to be losing it.

A routine check with the doctor failed to indicate that anything malicious was going on; “You’re a bit stressed out!” I was informed.

‘Aren’t we all?’ I thought to myself.

After a brief chat I left, stopping by the pharmacy for some vitamin pills.

A week later I went back.

“It’s affecting my hearing” I reported. “Can stress do that?”

My first introduction to a specialist took place the following day. He did some tests and told me there was nothing to worry about.

The vertigo attacks worsened considerably during the early part of ’82 and the following two and a half years would see me being shunted from one specialist to another; always the same tests; always the same results.

Frustration finally giving vent to anger I saw my last specialist. It was a Friday afternoon; I’d taken time off work to keep the appointment.

I was positively rude, threatening to scream my head off and demolish the surgery should the cause of my ailment not be found.

This may sound extreme but that’s where I was at; mentally.

Two vital pieces of information however emerged from this consultation; they were as follows:

  1. a) There was nothing wrong with my ears.
  2. b) I would need to see a neurologist. An urgent appointment was set up for the same evening.

Not entirely appeased, yet somewhat intrigued, I challenged him; “so, you’re telling me it’s my nerves are you?”

“It’s not my ball park” he answered; “All I am permitted to say is that we are quite possibly looking in the wrong direction.”

Well I could have told him that…

It was the end of October ’84.

Within three weeks I would be wheeled out of theatre with a hole the size of a Spanish doubloon in my head.

It’s still there by the way. No not the doubloon, they laser’d that out; it was a tumour growing on the acoustic nerve.

The surgeon said it was the biggest one he’d ever seen.

There were a lot of things I couldn’t do after that op. Things I used to take for granted, like walking, speaking, hearing and seeing; sensory things. Even today the imbalances are not hard to notice if you know me.

Now the point of this little narrative; with its emphasis on the wonderful world of the medical profession; its wisdom, its dedication, and last but by no means least, its compassion, may be very nicely summed up by the contents of a certain document that was in my possession at the time.

For me it represents the ‘cherry on the icing’. I only wish I had kept it. I might have been a rich man today!

It was written by one of the country’s ‘eminent’ specialists.

I will not mention his name here, but I will never forget it.

The letter itself with the rest of my medical portfolio was handed over to the new doctor in Cape Town when I relocated there a year later.

It was still sealed when my GP gave me the file. God knows why but amongst all the letters this one stood out. It was marked; ‘To whom it may concern, private and confidential.’

On a ‘whim’ I opened it; after all, it was all about me, wasn’t it!

What I found inside came as no surprise; just another affirmation that there was nothing wrong with me.

It was the humdinger remark at the end; the footnote. It read;

“This young man’s imagination is overshadowed only by his constant ability to complain…!”

The inference here of course is that the problem was all in my head!

He never knew how close he came!

 

  1. George Street, Strand,

W.Cape, South Africa

1984

 

The light was beginning to fade; it was that murky, tired looking time of day when the sky is getting ready to draw the curtains.

Nic walked into the office, a question mark engraved on his long angular face.

“Back again Jono…?” he asked casually.

The look conveyed just the hint of a smile and although I had some idea why it nevertheless bothered me.

“Am I?” I asked without looking up, “I don’t remember leaving!”

He pulled up a chair and sat down, scanning the mess of paperwork on my desk.

“Jono, you’re always leaving but you keep on coming back, why can’t you forget about all this stuff, it’s not your responsibility any more, you know that!”

My head felt kinda fuzzy; I felt like I was stuck in some kind of time warp.

“There’s work here I left undone Nic” I said rather unconvincingly. “Every night I reach this point; I know I’ve gotta do it but I can’t get my head around it. It won’t let me go.”

There was no smile now, his face was grave; “Yes” he said; “that’s the whole problem, you can’t let it go, you’re hanging onto something that doesn’t exist any more”.

“How are you ever going to move forward if you can’t get the past out of your head?”

I was feeling very uncomfortable; memories of another time and place were starting to infiltrate my thoughts, flashing on and off in my head; like reflections in a passing train window.

My attention was being distracted and it annoyed me.

Anxiety I knew, would be hard on the heels of this little scenario if Nic didn’t leave me alone. It followed a set pattern; one which was growing more and more intense as the nights went by.

There was more to this than met the eye but I couldn’t put my finger on it; it was weird. Nic was right yet for some inexplicable reason I couldn’t handle his intrusions.

A brief introduction here; I’d worked for Nic the past five years, we got on extremely well. He was a compassionate man which I dare say is not the kind of trait you find every day in bosses!

I could go to him with any kind of problem, be it work-related or otherwise. He was a good listener which makes a nice change when you consider most of us are yapping our heads off all the time about our problems and opinions.

So it followed that this kind of attention was not out of place, for Nic; yet I couldn’t handle it, it confused me.

Sensing my irritation he got up and left me to it, pausing at the door.

“I’m in my office” was all he said.

He had that peculiar knack for expressing much without actually saying it.

Besides, I knew what he meant; I just didn’t want to hear it again.

I went to see if there was any beer in the kitchen; no luck, so I came back and put my head down on the desk for a few minutes.

Everything turned smoky and the familiar buzzing began.
(Note: Unbeknown to me then this was my introduction to Tinnitus).

 

  1. SACD Montague Gardens
    Cape Town, South Africa

1978

 

Outside on the quay the unimogs were shuttling containers up against the loading dock. A clerk walked in and tossed another shitload of manifests onto my desk.

Captain Palmer would be doing his rounds any minute.

It was going to be one of those nights I suspected.

I fumbled through the pile of documents, glancing at the wall clock. Ten to six; dinner break in ten minutes, fifteen containers to pack and the stack closed at eight. Shit!

After several futile attempts to get anyone to work through the break, I jumped on a forklift truck and started packing.

I’d no sooner begun when a sharp voice stopped me in my tracks; Captain Palmer’s.

He was with a rather distinguished looking gent, taking a stroll around the shed.

“This is Captain Farrell, here for a visit” he said to me after I backed the machine up in their direction.

I extended my hand; “Pleased to meet you sir” I said, feeling agitated and wondering how long this was going to take.

“This is John Smith”, he said to Captain Farrell; “My highest paid forklift driver!”

Some things stick in your mind, don’t they, and they’re not always the kind of things you want there.

An hour later I had five boxes packed, enough to reduce the deficit to a reasonable target and avoid the usual last minute panic.

Sweating, I climbed off the truck and went to the canteen for a coke.

Then I went to the office and called Captain Palmer on the phone; “Are you free at the moment Ray?” I asked him.

“Sure!” he answered; “What’s up?”

I think he knew very well what was up but I just said; “Ok I’ll see you in a bit”

I walked out the shed and up to the admin section where his office was located.

“Have a seat!” he said, as I came in the door.

I sat down and looked at him and straight out asked; “That comment you made in the shed just now Ray, was it meant as a compliment or what?”

He looked squarely at me, no hint of emotion whatever, and said; “On the contrary Jono, it was a highly derogatory statement!”

“I have a job to do Ray, a deadline to reach; I regard myself as a highly responsible person. I do what I have to do to make that deadline and you know it.”

“Don’t take it the wrong way” he replied; “It just happens to be a fact; it’s not your job any longer driving forklifts, it’s not what you’re paid to do”

“You’re my senior supervisor down there; how do you think it comes across to the work force when you’re always doing their work for them?”

The old panic was starting to gnaw at my gut. He was right of course but I was also stubborn in my attitude toward certain things. I always said ‘if you want a job done properly do it yourself.’

Captain Palmer had his own little favourite sayings too; I waited knowing exactly what was coming.

“Your problem ‘Mr. Smith’ is your inability to delegate responsibility!”

“It’s not the first time we’ve had this conversation is it?

“How do you expect to move ahead with a career when you can’t let go of your old habits?”

In the back of my mind I could see those Indian drivers sitting down there in the mess room eating their bunny chows and not giving a fuck about ships or anything else remotely connected to them!

Well, they had five containers less to pack tonight didn’t they…?

“I have to get back” I said to him shortly.

“You have to get some shit out of your head!” he answered without looking up.

 

  1. George Street,

Strand, W.Cape, South Africa

2006

The lights were still on upstairs so I decided to pop in and see what Nic was up to.

“Oh! Jono, I thought you’d left!” he said smiling.

“I must have done Nic” I said, returning the smile; “I had this crazy dream I was back in the harbour, can you believe it?”

Letting out a sigh; he put his hands behind his head and leaned back in his chair.

“So tell me Jono, how’re things over in England; when are you going back?”

I suddenly realised my awful dilemma; I was in a time warp there was no doubt, but my mind had created it, and the dreams were the consequence. The trouble was they were so real that I couldn’t tell anymore which ones were dreams and which ones weren’t.

It was going to be a long haul explaining to Nic something I couldn’t explain to myself.

A little voice in my head suggested; “If life itself is just a dream, then what do you have to lose?”

I thought I heard another little voice answer; ‘I don’t know, perhaps I’ve already lost it.’

I looked across at Nic sitting there; very still and very silent; almost as if he were not there at all.

“These dreams…” I heard myself saying; “They’re not like dreams, they’re too real.” “I don’t live in England Nic, I live here, I left England a long time ago, when I was just a kid and I never went back.”

I waited a long time for a response.

But none came.

Something very strange was happening.

I had the feeling that I was invisible and he could see right through me.

I felt as if I was dissolving; it started in my head and gradually spread through the rest of my body.

I tried to focus on Nic but he, along with everything else, had dissolved too. I found myself floating in a vast galaxy of stars.

It was a wonderful experience; I had come undone, completely disconnected from the world of form with all its frustrations and commitments.

And I knew, as I must have always known, that the one endless universe above us is merely a reflection of the vast endless space that is inside us.

‘This is the Real me’ a small voice declared triumphantly.

‘No, this is all in your head’ replied another voice!

 

  1. Orange Street
    Gardens, Cape Town: Introducing Maria

1996

 

I walked the short distance from A-berth to South arm and caught the last bus into town. It was 23:55 exactly.

At the fishy on the station I bought a packet of ‘slap chips’ and the early edition of the Cape Times before starting the long walk home.

I was somewhere near the top of Adderley Street when things started to take on a peculiar twist.

Table Mountain loomed dark and sombre ahead of me.

I had the sudden urge to fly!

The scene changed abruptly and I found myself in a large shopping mall in Somerset West, thirty kilometres away!

The old familiar struggle to remain airborne began.

Eventually I exited the mall and headed back in the direction of the harbour.

A storm was brewing out at sea. I flew directly into it and lost my way.

 

  1. Corby, England

2009

 

In the morning I couldn’t find the front door; someone had moved it again!

The sound of the TV reoriented my confused mind. I squinted in the half light, there was a glow coming from what smelled like the kitchen.  Butterflies were doing the tango in my intestines and my throat felt like the Kalahari Desert.

Finding some bottled water in the fridge; I snapped a tranquilizer in half and downed it.

I put the bottle on the table and sat down. The label caught my eye; ‘bottled in the Pennine Valley’ it said!

Shit, I said out loud, that’s a long way from here, how did we come across imported water?

She must have been sitting there all the time; I just hadn’t noticed.

“We got it in Asda” she suddenly said; “on Sunday.”

“Asda…?” I turned the name over and over in my head; I’d heard it before somewhere but couldn’t make the connection.

“What’s the problem?” she asked.

“I don’t know” I answered. “I had a rough night.” “I just lost my bearings for a moment.”

She gazed at me without saying anything.

“I had one of those flying dreams again last night” I told her.

“Yes I know you did I was there” she answered quite matter of factly.

I was non-plussed; “You were there?” I asked incredulously. “How on earth is that possible, it was a dream, how could you have been there?”

She looked at me as though I was crazy; “I was there!” she insisted; “don’t tell me I wasn’t!”

“We were at the mall, you took off from the escalator and disappeared, it was an extraordinary sight!” “How come you don’t remember that?”

“I do remember it” I almost yelled; “I just don’t remember you being there!”

“What on earth is wrong with me being there?” she wanted to know.

“It’s just that my flying dreams are kinda personal that’s all; no one’s ever seen me fly before. It’s too weird to think that not only were you there but now you’re here…and telling me about it!”

“So what’s so personal about that?” she asked.

“I don’t know how to explain it” I mumbled “I find the dreams embarrassing” I don’t know why.”

She had a smirk on her face; “Aw maybe it’s the way you flap your arms around like that, it looks like you’re really having a struggle!”

I stood up and sat down again rubbing my eyes and looking around. I was convinced now that I was still dreaming. It was the only thing that made sense.

“This is a dream right?” I said. It was more a statement than a question.

She didn’t answer, but got up and poured some black stuff in a mug.

“Here, maybe this will help” she said, pushing it in front of me.

I sipped it; something wasn’t right; “I don’t drink coffee” I said; “I drink tea; this stuff is bad for my blood pressure”.

“Since when do you have a blood pressure problem?” she wanted to know.

I gave the question serious consideration.

Maybe I was having a health crisis, a bit of delirium; it was impacting on my mind. The word ‘blood pressure’ was the key I decided.

After a few moments I got up again and slowly walked around the kitchen.

Nothing about it was familiar. I had no idea where I was.

I sat down again and looked at her.

“Tell me about the dream” I said slowly.

During the discourse that followed, she related everything that had happened, right down to the last detail.

I was totally spellbound.

I made no attempt to either challenge or answer her. The situation in some weird manner was beginning to make sense.

A dour, grey weariness pervaded the entire room; it came from outside, it came from inside, it came from everywhere; it came from my head.

After a moments silence, I asked very simply; “Please tell me where I am, I seem to have forgotten.”

All she said was; “You are home!”

I thought about it for a moment; and then the awful but simple truth dawned on me.

“Yes, of course I am” I replied; “I’m beginning to understand what this is all about at last”.

I searched for a word, or phrase that would convey the emotion I felt. It may have been resignation; but maybe that was too harsh, too final.

Perhaps there is no word to describe the way that one feels on returning to the land of his birth after a lifetime of being away from it!

And then to discover, that it is no longer home!

I wandered back into the bedroom.

On the bed lay the newspaper I’d bought at the station last night.

Picking it up I glanced at the front page. It wasn’t the Cape Times; it was the Evening Telegraph, Corby edition. It must have just come with the postman…

The headlines read:

‘Search called off for missing balloonist couple over Adriatic Sea’

I swallowed the other half of the pill and crawled back into bed.

‘Who the hell would believe it?’ I asked no one in particular.

“No one”! A small voice answered. “It’s all in your head!”

 

 

  1. Shipley

Durban, South Africa

1991

 

They knocked down that old three story block of flats in Point Road the same year that I went back to the Cape.

Good timing maybe, but in whose favour I wonder?

I remember when we moved in there. The Putco buses roared continuously up and down Point Road; the depot being at the bottom of it, near the harbour.

I never thought I’d get used to that noise, but I guess you can get used to anything eventually; things that get stuck in your head are much like habits I suppose.

Last time I was back there was in March 91for my son Duane’s’ funeral. Feeling depressed afterwards I took a trip down memory lane, to see what they’d built on the ashes of poor old Shipley.

Much had changed. I got lost in this frigging monstrosity they’d labelled ‘The Wheel’.

I kept thinking; ‘my old flat’s buried underneath this lot somewhere…’

There was a train in my head going from station to station;

Fleeting images flashed on and off in its widows.

I saw myself walking down Gillespie Street on a Saturday morning to St Giles paraplegic facility. There was a gym there where I used to work out.

On the wall as you came in was a large sign board announcing; ‘Movement is Life.

A bit ironic now I thought since I had given myself to the ways of meditation in pursuit of the eternal stillness!

I bought a bottle of Johnny Walker and went down and sat on the veranda of the Four Seasons hotel.

I sat there a long time gazing out on the dark Indian Ocean, thinking about all sorts of things.

I thought about the eternal stillness.

I thought about my son, the way he looked that morning in the Caledon mortuary. He had found the eternal stillness.

I recalled words I had read somewhere; ‘when you are still, you are who you were before you temporarily assumed this physical and mental form called a person. You are also who you will be when the form dissolves: formless, eternal.’

How very perceptive; I thought!

I recalled the words to that old Eagle’s song: ‘someday you will…learn to be still…!’

Yes, I thought; very still indeed!

I thought about life; and wondered if it wasn’t just one big con.

Everyone seemed to be ripping off everyone else one way or the other didn’t they?

I thought about all the people I must have ripped off in my own life, and the ways I’d done it.

I thought about all the whisky I’d ever drunk; and wondered how many brain cells had been ripped off in the process.

I closed my eyes and looked at the eternal stillness inside my head.

I thought about all the thoughts I’d ever thought, and I wondered how on earth I’d ever managed to get them all in my head.

 

  1. Dealy Plaza

Dallas, Texas 1963

Nov 2010

 

Prelude:

How did I know it was Dealy Plaza?

Well, the answer to that one’s easy; I saw it on the TV!

But that of course was the following day; Nov 22, (the day it actually happened).

This is very strange because for me it had already happened on Nov 21!

How do I know this you may ask?

Well, a very quick answer would be; ‘I was there!’

A question no one has asked me yet is: how can the same event occur twice, and at different times…?

Oh, but it was a dream, not the real experience, you might say.

Fair enough, but where did the dream come from?

Ah, well surely it was a premonition was it not?

Tell me then; what is a premonition?

Err…it is like an advance warning of something which is about to happen…?

Why?

Err…someone wanted you to know…?

If someone wanted me to know then the only reason I can think of is that they knew I would have been able to do something about it.

Now with the information given to me at the time, there was nothing in the world I could have done about it.

So, are there any more questions…?

One might speculate all night and no doubt the theories put forward would be fascinating, but I am not sure if we would get anywhere near the truth.

Unfortunately I don’t have the answer; it’s now forty years on and I’m still none the wiser.

All I know is that I saw something happen which had not yet happened. Or had it…?

That is the billion dollar question, and although it’s likely I may never really know the answer; I nevertheless still from time to time turn the question around in my head.

Perhaps our brains have certain receptors that can intercept signals that come from external sources which are unknown to us.
If modern technology can do it via machines then why not our brains which are much smarter?

If it’s true we use only ten percent (under normal circumstances) of our brains’ capacity, then what is the other ninety percent for?

We talk about ‘heightened’ states of awareness. Spiritual disciplines have been practising this since time began, it’s nothing new. Perhaps these experiences occur during times of heightened awareness.

Some argue that time is illusory; if this is true then there would be no past or future, everything would be condensed into a single moment.

And in a single moment, every event, ‘past’ and ‘future’ would be known, and seen.

Is it not too wide a stretch of the imagination to consider that the mind can be thus transformed given the right conditions and aligned with the correct frequency?

I would like to believe this with all my heart, for if the only answers I can ever find are merely abstract postulations, then all I am left with in the end, is the disconsolate feeling that everything I have ever thought and dreamt, and wondered, are just figments of my imagination.

In other words,

They are all in my head.

 

*****

Footnote:

It would be difficult not to believe that the trauma of John F. Kennedy’s assassination impacted heavily on a collective human consciousness, sending shock waves around the entire world.

The cosmic Morse code must have been having a very busy time indeed!

 

*****

Comment:

You know how dreams are, they seem to go on all night, whereas in fact, it is said they usually last for only a few seconds…

Having dealt with the speculations etc the dream itself is quite straightforward.

Everyone knows what happened.

Here it is in brief.

Long, black limousines crawled slowly down the main street, a police motorcycle escort in tow.

Crowds of people thronged the side walks and wherever there was space to view the spectacular scene.

I had no idea where I was or what was happening. I had the vague notion it might have been a funeral.

I heard shots ring out and people screaming; I felt my head jerk around in excruciating pain. I blanked out momentarily.

When I regained consciousness I was staring in the direction of a white stone path which led up a grassy slope to a large, white edifice.

The notion crossed my mind that it was some kind of altar, or tomb.

Standing quite alone and still on the steps, was the solitary figure of a man.

It was my father.

In his hand he was carrying a book.

I fought my way through the crowd towards him, anxiety and terror filling my mind.

He held me very close, trying to shield me from the mad scene acting out below.

I recall in the next moment, being in the foyer of the large building with him, and that is all.

The rest sadly, as we know it, is history.

If I have learned anything from this experience I have no idea what it is.

Whatever happens happens.

There is nothing anyone can do to alter the course of events, or reverse them.

Yet in spite of this, the dream still haunts me.

Over the years I have discussed it with very few people. This kind of thing naturally invites scepticism, which has led me to wonder why, if the dream was of no value to anyone, (including myself) it in fact happened at all.

I asked someone about this once.

This was the reply;

‘It is not important what anyone else may think or believe; all that matters is that you yourself know it to be true and believe it.’

Well then, for whatever it may be worth I have decided finally to take pen to paper and let the matter rest.

Oh yes, regarding the book my father was holding; there is some confusion in my mind concerning the title.

Sometimes when I think about it I see the name Kahlil Gibran; ‘The Prophet.’

At other times I see ‘The Catcher in the rye.’

 

9.

Kay’s caravan park

Strand, Western Cape, S.Africa
2006

Maria.
Yes, she had been with me in the dream, just as she is with me now, seated in this same room.

She has accepted her situation and therefore will continue in spirit, for she still sees beyond these present circumstances; beyond the greyness of the impending winter.

She displays much courage and hope.

I admire her deeply for these things.

While I myself know that I have lost the will to move ahead. Time is no longer on my side and I have taken too many chances to turn back now.

This is the point of no return.

The only escape is the dream; I am lost inside it, it is my cocoon; something in me will not let it go.

I lifted my head from the table.

I felt ashamed and awkward, knowing how much stronger she was than I.

I thought back on all the years we had been together; the kids we had brought up; gone now also, their own separate ways.

I watched the images passing by; now slower than before. The trailer parks and shanty towns we’d lived in; called home.

How different we were!

What is it; I wondered that puts people so diametrically opposed together, and for what possible reason?

Was there another life, a better one that she would have been happier with, that I had failed to provide?

Had I accomplished anything at all in this life that might have been put to better use in creating the circumstances for this to happen?

Is this the solemn duty I took upon my own heart when I repeated all those vows?

Why am I the way I am?

Why is she the way she is?

Is it my duty to try to change who I am to make her life happier?

Would it?

I believe I know the answers to these questions, so tell me then; why do I feel guilty?

Sometimes I believe that she knows what is inside my head.

Sometimes I believe I know what is inside her head.

Sometimes I believe that neither of us has the slightest idea at all.

 

Note: Part 3 covers a period of time spent in various locations in S Africa and England.

Perhaps they should have been separated as were the other parts, but since I was not afforded this opportunity due to the nature and timing of their arrival they will have to remain where they are.

 

  1. Kettering General Hospital

England, April 2017

 

Ten years have passed since I returned to England in the summer of 2007.
There were reasons of course but for the sake of confidentiality I will not go into them here. Suffice to say the choice was mine and for right or wrong they cannot now or ever be reversed.
I stand alone with my own private ghosts knowing that there is yet one that remains with whom I have to confront and for what it’s worth, make reconciliation with.
He has no name
unless it is my own.

Kettering, by road is approximately 12 miles from where I’m currently living; Corby, a small town in lower East Northamptonshire.
Why it required an emergency ambulance to rush me to the hospital that day back in April still remains a mystery.
There was no prior communication.
I had made a call to the local pharmacy for a repeat prescription that same afternoon; a routine thing.
All I can surmise is that a ‘penny had dropped’ somewhere!
After all this time whatever illusions remained were either a new avenue of expectancy or just the same old road that has held me captive for the past thirty odd years!

 

11. Lamport Ward KGH April 2017

 

a year has passed since I arrived in this forlorn and lonely place.
And although I am no longer here it would be untrue to say that a part of me does not still remain.
Less than two months, that was all, in a world where shadows and ghosts are the only company you can expect.
And in the end you have to accept that no one is any different from you.

We are all shadows on the wall
just a part of the crew.

One night the ward turned into an airport
where flew two ghostly airplanes
Twin Boeing 747’s
side by side
and upon each wing, all the demons I thought I’d left behind

From the cockpit I was summoned to appear
out onto the wing where sticks and straw had been laid;
My hands were tied as the chief demon uttered words I could not understand
and it soon became evident that I was to be burned alive. But it did not happen,
not that way, or that night!
The ‘dream’ repeated itself the following night with the same results.

Then on the third night the two planes became one.
A red sky heralded its flight into a new morning
and something in me knew
that everything inside my head had been finally set free.

Copyright John Scott 2018

 

Image Courtesy of Oxford Progressive English Book 6 (Rachel Redford)

Salisbury City

Salisbury City            Oct 1980

A Song

 

shutterstock_125866370ejpg

 

1

Oh I remember Salisbury City

When I was just a lad

That’s the place where I was raised

With my sister, mom and dad

Funny how looking back

Always makes one feel so sad

Knowing you can’t bring it back again

2

November nineteen sixty-three

I packed my bags and said goodbye

Then southward to the sea

I did fly

That was my first taste of the road

Neath that wide Rhodesian sky

Never to be going home again

Ch.

To Salisbury City

I’ll remember you

Salisbury City

Stanley Avenue

You look so pretty dressed in

Jacaranda blue

And I’ll remember you

3

Well things have changed a lot since then

People come and people go

As for the spaces in between

They always seem to be the road

And many things I can’t remember

Perhaps they’re better left alone

It only hurts remembering anyway

4

Now from my backyard in the sun

Fifteen years don’t seem so long

I think I’ve only just begun

To tell my tale and sing my song

And you know you’ve made all the difference

Ever since you came along

I only wish I’d known you way back then

Ch.

In Salisbury City

I’ll remember you

Salisbury City

Stanley Avenue

You look so pretty dressed in

Jacaranda blue

And I’ll remember,

Salisbury City

Mm hum hum

Salisbury City

La da da da du

You look so pretty dressed in

Jacaranda blue

And I’ll remember,

I’ll remember you

 

©John Scott Oct 1980

 

 

 

1

Oh I remember Salisbury City

When I was just a lad

That’s the place where I was raised

With my sister, mom and dad

Funny how looking back

Always makes one feel so sad

Knowing you can’t bring it back again

2

November nineteen sixty-three

I packed my bags and said goodbye

Then southward to the sea

I did fly

That was my first taste of the road

Neath that wide Rhodesian sky

Never to be going home again

Ch.

To Salisbury City

I’ll remember you

Salisbury City

Stanley Avenue

You look so pretty dressed in

Jacaranda blue

And I’ll remember you

3

Well things have changed a lot since then

People come and people go

As for the spaces in between

They always seem to be the road

And many things I can’t remember

Perhaps they’re better left alone

It only hurts remembering anyway

4

Now from my backyard in the sun

Fifteen years don’t seem so long

I think I’ve only just begun

To tell my tale and sing my song

And you know you’ve made all the difference

Ever since you came along

I only wish I’d known you way back then

Ch.

In Salisbury City

I’ll remember you

Salisbury City

Stanley Avenue

You look so pretty dressed in

Jacaranda blue

And I’ll remember,

Salisbury City

Mm hum hum

Salisbury City

La da da da du

You look so pretty dressed in

Jacaranda blue

And I’ll remember,

I’ll remember you

 

©John Scott Oct 1980

 

 

Jeff

Jeff                                                          Circa 1979

 

alexander_mann_-_the_lonely_road

Credit alexander-mann google images

He was old and bent and frail
But he had a heart of gold
He came in from the cold
One long lost winter

I guess he had a sorry tale
That never quite got told
But the night was cold, and so
We gave him shelter

There were times, he made us laugh
And times he made us cry
Especially when he’d lie there,
Drunk and sleeping

If we could see the other half
Of Jeff, then we’d know why,
So late, he gave his life
Into Gods’ keeping…

However hard we tried, and prayed
To help him find the way
Somehow the pieces
Would not stay together

And back upon that same old tide
That washed him in; one day
We watched him slide away
From us forever
***

Copyright John Scott 2008

Release

 

 

Night Flying Mission vs Mexican Free-Tailed BatsRelease                                            Oct.2006

 

 

 

Image: credit torch.aetc.at.mil (google images)

 

Pocket full of leaves chosen

Like bats in the eaves frozen

Into sunsets’ broken, fragmented frame

And suddenly I realise

That I am back

From whence I came

 

These images, they are not mine

But borrowed from some distant time

Words I dreamed of

When once a child

Now torn and twisted

Running wild

 

Once wound-up tight

Now uncontrolled

I have to let them be

Let go, it’s almost as though

They are not of me

But imprisoned spirits

Trying to break free

 

Give me nothing

That I don’t deserve

Let me take communion with my mind

Let me sway and swerve

Until I find

The truth

Amongst all of the things

That I cannot believe in

 

Let me choose, not be chosen

To let loose what is frozen

Like bats in the eaves

Like soft rain on the leaves

Like the faraway sound

Of the ocean

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright John Scott 2006