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The International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes Life Stories

Mushroom Soup for the Soul
• Abigail George
It was not that she did not want to sleep with him or them.
The Johannesburg people.


What she felt was merely accidental. She was not yet the person she was meant to be. Twenty-two. Ingénue. The sun breathes. Leaves fall to the ground. Doors open. Windows close. The sun breathes like a furnace. Pumping in and out. Too pretty. Too thin. Forests are educated. Yes, significant. She writes a fine poem. Calls it Bough Down. Ruined Geraniums. For Mum. Sea Creatures. She wraps the memory of Keats in romanticism and haiku. She could not talk of love only the measure of loss. Her secrets wounds, half-truths and white lies, Alice in wonderland’s white rabbit are like a season that is blurred vision, stellar television, a sweet drink, hemlock, a sherbet mess.

What was the body made for if not the physical act of lovemaking in your twenties? She was a castaway in her early thirties studying the Buddha’s commentary on the ills of society and what the Dalai Lama in Seven Years In Tibet fashioned as life, as the human family, as the world drama. All she wanted to do was look at the man, the researcher who moulded empire after empire forever.

In her mid-thirties she returned to childhood. She was living in her childhood home caring for her invalid father. All she had was inventions, swords at her disposable and language. All she had to comfort her were not hands, or arms to hold her drifting body up, up, up to the blinding gaze of the rays of the sun god. All she wanted, wished for was to be where he was. All she wanted was bills, and a mortgage. Not this. Not this autumn birthday. All she had was mashed sweet potato, postcards from the edge, the house with a heart of gold, river dust, dogs, thirst, moth smoke, tears, sobs wracking her body in the middle of night. All she had in her dreams was a pilgrimage of primitive wonders, wisdom and intelligence.

A woman carries a purse, and white quiet inside her head because she is not a lover yet. A man who moulded empire and empire and spent a lifetime dedicated to research carries a blank slate where his head has been. A beautiful life is an impossibility for so many. When illness strikes in this century it quickly multiplies and becomes an epidemic - but people have yet to call it depression. They either pop a pill from their candy store of favourite pharmaceuticals or pour themselves a drink from their favourite bottle of single malt whisky hidden in the bottom drawer.

Breakfast. Sardines on toast again or a kind of fish paste. All around the around the world people are making love but she all she sees is climate change, the flat sea, thin sea people, lovers of Jane Eyre, the Moses and the burning bush, Elijah, Ezekiel, the blaming flames of the newsfeed on the social media network. The matrix of that flux is not lost on her. Stillness taught her that every African is a philosopher. Sensitive to the emerging, developing world around them. One day perhaps a female scientist will discover that female writers who are manic depressives have certain types of brains of their ‘older sisters’. Perhaps an African female scientist will discover an African phenomenon and call it illusion written on the body. Stillness. How she had longed for stillness when she had been a child? Jean Rhys had a fur coat. Anne Sexton had a fur coat. What was left of her desire of having a man around the house? All it left her was a blue, ill feeling. She only saw the world in one colour now. Spiritual.

‘You are drowning in the silent sea. You have a voice. Fireworks.’
‘I do not need to have a voice. I need to have a husband, children. If I lived in America a station wagon, a house by the lake. I need to go to the Bahamas. I need to go to Jamaica.’
‘Right, instead of songs of infertility think like a magician or a mathematician would. You, you must think elegantly. You are tough. Tougher than you know it. You must acknowledge your own strengths. You must be determined.’
‘Why am I so unhappy? I am bright. I am clever with my hands. I can throw together a meal if needs be. I do not need
‘Look towards the light. Who are those people standing there in the corner of the bedroom? Tell them to go away. One is pointing a gun at me. He means to kills me.’
‘What dad?’ she asked pensively.
‘Look towards the light. I am telling you to look towards the light, my love, my angel.’
‘Yes, dad.’ She said patiently. ‘Turn. I have to wipe your bum now and then I have to change the sheets. Then we will take a shower. You will sit on the chair in the shower while I bathe you. Tell me about the fireworks, dad. Tell me that I have a voice.’

She did not go to any dance with any boy. The discotheque or club was out of the question, but one night in Johannesburg she did go out. Oh, well there were a few occasions. She smoked a joint but felt bluer, more ill. In the ghost nation of Johannesburg she felt lost and more at a loss for words. Get a life coach. That is what the gurus and the all the self-help books were shouting. No, she needed warmth. She needed to find herself and authenticity amongst the neon heat of the city lights that she felt illuminated her as a sex object amongst young men, but older men especially.

Another day, another rejection letter. There was no contact between Merle and her mother. They were two women. Two roommates in a prison cell made of glass ceilings. Oh, the sea embraced her. The sea called her name. The sea was her Buddha, her temple, her husband, her wife, her children, a palace, world away from home, her school, and a room with many mansions. She watched Keanu Reeves. Sad eyes. Hemingway. Alcoholic (but then again so was Jean Rhys). Sad eyes. They were both men of substance. Men desired by other women. Bradley Cooper in the Silver Linings Playbook. That kid all grown up from the Hogan Family on television in Arrested Development and The Longest Week that she had fallen in love with. She did not fall in love. She was no prize. The years had turned against her.

‘You are a beautiful girl.’
‘Am I dad?’
‘I have got chubby over the years though.’
‘You should walk with me in the afternoons. Weights will make you look like a man.’
‘Yes, I was humiliated once. I was humiliated by a man that I cared about very deeply. He had touched my soul and now that I am now longer new to him, a new toy to play with my spirit is withering away. I can feel the weight of water on my back. The weights keep my arms toned, do you not think so?’
‘Why do you think you are ugly?’
‘Because I have not got a man. Because I do not have a soul in the world who loves me like you do, dad. Can you understand that?’
‘Yes, to a certain degree I can understand that.’
‘Going for a swim later on.’
‘No. The teenagers will be at the swimming pool. Flirting at the pool. Did I deserve this?’
‘What are you saying? I do not understand Merle.’
‘No, nothing dad. I did not say anything, mean anything by it. I love you.’
‘Your hair smells like champagne. Have you been smoking?’
‘No. I do not smoke. I do not drink. I am not divorced. I am a free half-living thing.’
‘Something is burning.’
‘The bush is on fire again.’
‘Can I have some wine, Merle, with my supper?’
Merle smiled at this and looked at her father’s kind, bright eyes.
‘Yes, let us have some wine with our supper.’

She poured half a glass of cabernet for her father and poured the rest of it down the sink on instinct. She did not drink. Undesirables drink. Vagrants drink. Prostitutes drink. Writers drink. Manic depressives drink (to self-medicate if the chemistry in their brains was both fantasy and delusion. Holding it all together.).
‘Delicious. This wine is really tasty. I must remember to thank your sister for this wine. When last did you talk to her?’
‘When? Never. She never phones to speak to me. She speaks to mum about her life, her companion, her friends, her goals, her dreams and her desires. I do not care a breeze in the wind about her all I care about is you dad.’
‘Now that is what I call hallucinating. You are hallucinating right now.’
‘Oh, shut up you stupid old man. I am so tired of this and mum does not help with her moods and Erica does not help with hers. The spendthrift moneyed honey of a sister.’ Merle said nothing. The corners of her mouth went all tight.
‘What is wrong Merle? Why are you crying like a small child?’
‘Oh, dad, it is nothing. I am just unhappy, that is all. This is normal, the therapist says. It is a side effect of the medication.’
‘Like father, like daughter, eh?’
‘Yes, dad, yes. Like father, like daughter.’
‘Bring me flowers tomorrow.’
‘You are not in the hospital anymore dad. You are at home. I am taking care of you.’
‘Is that so?’
‘Yes.’ Said Merle feeling a bit over-anxious and exasperated.
‘Merle, bring me some chocolate.’
‘Dad, you are diabetic. I cannot do that.’ You will be the death of me one day that is for certain she thought to herself.
‘Oh, come on. Let me have a small bite.’
‘You are behaving like a small child now. Enough.’
‘Yes, dad?’ she asked quietly, a little worried at how sudden the intonation of his voice had changed.
‘Thank you for changing the sheets again this morning. I am sorry if I wet the bed again. I promise I will not do it again. I will not do it again for Africa.’
‘It is okay dad. When I was a kid and I got sick you did it plenty of times for me so now it is payback time. I will bring you flowers tomorrow. I will make a special effort to buy them for you.’

Merle wanted and desired men in Johannesburg. Merle lived the life of a Jezebel, a harlot, a whore, a dirty slut, and a muse. Now she was more mouse. Now she lived in poverty. Quiet, serious, bookish. She wrote down words to amuse herself while her father rested. Speak. Teeth. Wisdom. Life through a lens. Silent liquid. Liquid is silent. Flowers. Patricia. Do not talk back (name). The poet. The writer. Haiku. Haiku. Haiku. Angels. Mummy. Daddy. Robert Williams. Erica. Mum’s love song for Erica. The connections are universal. Waterfall. Artist. Hot rituals. Sleeping. Mythical beast. Silent seal. Son. The invitation. Turquoise. Green eyes. Time for the next book. Maybe write that novel. Future. The rainbow children of mother earth, mother Africa. Breathing lessons. No regrets. Lost property. Harmful. Toxic to other people. To men. To women too. Translations. Theory. Mummy I will not hate you no matter how much you cannot disguise your dislike of me. Unique. Johannesburg was a fantasy. Sorry. Temporary. Challenge. Uncertain. Strong. Introducing intensity. I am mythical. I am powerful. Your skin. Artist. Art form not. Love is golden. It was not golden for merle. Oh, no she had decided that long ago. It was as ancient to her as pie apples baking in the oven on a Sunday afternoon after church. Did Jonah have a whale of a time coming to his senses?

‘Stoker.’ She said to herself. ‘I like Bram Stoker. You dad. Who do you like?’
‘Where is the missing slate on the roof? I hate that woman on the television.’
‘We do not have a television anymore, dad. Don’t you remember? We got rid of it last year. So cumbersome. Taking up so much space. We can talk for hours now. We can share our ghost stories. Here, have half of my apple. Lawrence. Dickens. Although my great expectations went amiss. You dad. Who do you like?’
‘Magnum. Quincy. Bogart. Bruce Lee. Who do you like?’ Merle repeated herself.
‘You are my angel.’
‘Yes, dad. I am your angel.’ Merle repeated after her father.
‘Us manic depressives must stick together, eh?’
‘Yes, dad. We manic depressives must stick together.’ Merle said as she cut her father’s toe nails.
‘Tomorrow we will be superstars when we wake up. Peaches and cream dad?’
‘Why are you such a good daughter to me?’
‘Erica has absconded both of us. She has done badly by me. I want nothing to do with her.’ Merle said defiantly.
‘Now where does all that hellfire and brimstone come from all of a sudden, Merle? Love them. They need to be loved.’
‘Yes, dad, yes.’

© Abigail George March 2015
Email address: abigailgeorge79 at
The Scrapbook
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