998 Slices
Medium 9781771870641

Still Life with Birds

Hobsbawn-Smith, dee Thistledown Press ePub


TODAY, LIKE EVERY WORKDAY, BEGINS IN the restaurant kitchen. Without turning on the radio to break the lake’s silence, Ariana makes a cheese and chive omelette for the two of them to share. Plates and espressos in hand, she climbs the back stairs and enters Violetta’s bedroom without knocking.

“Vi. It’s time.”

“It’s time to begin, isn’t it,” Vi warbles from her bed, deliberately off-key. Ariana has learned to interpret every blink of her sister’s one functioning eye, and when Vi winks, she looks past the stare of the blind right iris, glazed wide open. Vi giggles, picks up her meter and tests her sugar levels. Ariana, perched on the foot of the bed, has to look away when Vi slides the needle into her upper arm.

They eat in silence. Ariana rolls the ties of Vi’s yellow sunhat between her fingers and sips her coffee. Vi still surprises her, flashes of humour embedded like unexpected glass. She can see the lake through the window, smooth except for the ruffle of wild waterfowl along the shore. “Bonne anniversaire, ma belle,” she says to Violetta.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253015464

Chapter 3

Gabriella Ghermandi Indiana University Press ePub

WE RETURNED TO ADDIS ABABA, TO OUR HOME IN ARADA Sefer. That very evening I took my stuff out of the room that I had shared with my cousins, Aunt Fanus, and Aunt Abeba right before and after the liberation, and I moved into the last room on the left of the veranda, the one that had been old Yacob’s room.

On the way out I cast a quick glance at the bed where I had spent the previous night. There was a time when three of us shared it. And on the first night of my return, three people shared that bed again: Mulu, Alemitu, and me. “Just like old times,” Alemitu had said. That first night the nearness of their bodies kept me warm. In Italy I had missed that physical contact, that natural way we had of sleeping together.

Looking at the bed I felt a little sad about leaving the room, but the following morning I woke up well-rested, and happy at not having had to spend the night fighting with overlapping arms and legs. It was around eight-thirty in the morning, but the cold night air still permeated the house. I braved the cold and jumped out of bed shivering. Wrapped up in a gabi, holding my towel and clothes, I ran through the courtyard to reach the bathroom. After washing and getting dressed, I went to the kitchen, had breakfast, and, without saying a word to anyone, went out. Anyway, everyone knew where I was going.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253019028

The Dragon Can’t Dance

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

Mother Lisa Revlon (Fem Queen with mother). From the Fireflies, Baltimore series. ©2011/2012 Frédéric Nauczyciel.

THE FIRST TIME I danced, I hated it. Six years old, skinny as a string bean, shy, observant, the last thing I wanted was to be pulled into my nana’s long, strong arms and swept onto the makeshift dance floor at her birthday party. My hair was tightly braided, laced with the new gold and white beads Mama bought just for the occasion. My freshly oiled temples smelled like heaven, hurt like hell. Coconut and mango braids throbbed with the thunk, thunka-thunka that thumped from wood veneer speakers sprawled across two wobbly card tables in a corner of the garden. Nana threw back her head and pranced, that’s right, pranced past my two uncles, my sisters, Papa and Mama, past all her old neighbors and church friends, and rolled her ample hips like a much younger woman. I was scandalized! Everyone clapped and howled at the vision, bellies full of roti and spicy jerk chicken. Nana wore red. And she looked amazing, a juicy hibiscus blossom in her hair.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253006837

26: Alice

Abdourahman A. Waberi Indiana University Press ePub



THE PENCIL OF LIGHT from the Balbala lighthouse will show you the road as soon as you cross the Ambouli wadi. Even if the night is pitch black, all you have to do is follow the intermittent beams from the beacon and, in the intervals, avoid the ruts in the road—no easy business. You'll rush into your concession and there will surely be a lot of people sleeping already, some of them snoring, others wriggling around on narrow mats, trying to find the sleep that eludes them after one hell of a khat party. Others rolled up on themselves like Labradors. Still others squeezed together shoulder to shoulder in rows, praying in a makeshift mosque. Once you're in your shack, you'll stretch out on your bed—“stretch out” is too big a word for a reduced- size bed more like a hammock than a tatami due to its worn- out springs on a base thin as a piece of cigarette paper—and finally you'll collapse. Sleep won't come right away, nor in the first hour, and you'll watch the film of your day in half-hour batches. You'll break down every action, every event. Nothing interesting to get from it, your life being what it is. You'll count sheep; you'll have plenty of time to try and catch the fleeing night. You'll raise your eyes toward the migrating stars. You'll imagine yourself traveling on the rump of a dromedary, arriving in mysterious Timbuktu, unless it's Palmyra and the surrounding desert. It's no good. Soon it will be day outside. The beam of the beacon will end its round. You'll get up, but not quite yet, waiting until your eyes can get rid of the surrounding darkness. Your willpower will sputter out like a candle, your muscles in disarray, your spine turning to jelly. All your efforts will be reduced to neon dust by an invisible force, a force you'll feel hiding there inside yourself, cutting away your efforts, undermining your spurts of energy. You'll feel your legs with your fingers, like someone trying to feel the pain in a phantom limb. Your legs are there, hooked up to your trunk, but they won't obey you. It will feel as if you're trying to size up the height, depth, and volume of your imprisonment. Desire is there, but not motion. You recognize your physical state as one of those déjà-vu feelings typical of sleepless nights. Is that what's called the douboab, the genie that's been let out of the bottle on a day without khat? Who knows. A new day is awaiting you, exactly the same as the day before. And that's not something to be happy about.

See All Chapters
Medium 9780253006837

37: Abdo-Julien

Abdourahman A. Waberi Indiana University Press ePub



THE PRESIDENT, the second of that name, His Excellency El Hadji Abdoulwahid Egueh, was elected rather democratically, if we are to believe the foreign observers sent by the OAU, the Conseil de la Francophonie, and the UN. Eight experienced emissaries followed the election, in which His Excellency received over 60 percent of the vote. The main leader of the opposition got close to 26 percent. Two other parties of the disunited opposition—puppet parties, in the eyes of public opinion—shared the crumbs. The whole business was buckled up in two or three sighs, His Excellency immediately congratulated by France, the monarchies of the Persian Gulf, and finally by the rest of the international community. All the representatives of said community congratulated themselves on the return of peace and the success of the demobilization process, which returned some sixteen thousand people to civil life with the help of the UNDP and various NGOS. Not forgetting the patent failure of the coup d'état that ended, fortunately, without too much bloodshed. There were a few protests here and there, but nothing to alarm the emissaries' conscience, which a few displayed without excessive exertion. More than the election of the president—quite predictable, after all—what still affects people is the “patriotic contribution”: up to a fourth of one's salary deducted at the source, even well after hostilities ended.

See All Chapters

See All Slices