Mammals, I Think We Are Called: Drowning

Drowning - Karoo desert with windmill and wave of water in sky.


Number 5 of the eighteen stories in my debut short story collection, Mammals, I Think We Are Called.

A man living in the desert loses his grip on everyday life when his marriage sets off an obsession with the enormity of time.

Read an excerpt:

He stands at the corner of the sheep pasture at dusk, the same time of day he has always stood there, watching the sun slither away from him over the hardy desert shrubs, lighting them pink, votive candles to an old way of life.

If there had been less loss, he thinks, he may have noticed the changes more, but, as it is, it has all flowed over his head and he stands as before, much the same, except for being drowned. He snorts, thinking of himself in this semi-desert, but somehow also at the bottom of the inland sea it used to be a long time ago, like the fossil of the sea scorpion stuck in hard dolomite in the koppie that overlooks the back yard.

He does not discount the idea altogether, although his family has only been here for two hundred years.

He imagines he can hear glacial meltwater rushing through the mountain gullies in the distance, drowning the prehistoric animals in mud. But the mountains came after the water. She had told him that. She had told him lots of things.

He goes inside and sits at the table, head in his hands, trying not to remember her. He hears the wind sighing in the trees, like a hard broom sweeping the floor, but there are no trees here.

The trees are from that time, an age ago it feels like now, when he visited her in Durban.

The dry swishing of the broom wakes him up later that night. She is sweeping the floor again. For a moment, he can’t remember whether she is dead or not.

“Why do you keep sweeping the bloody floor?” he grumbles at her, half-asleep. “I tell you, it is clean. Skoon.”

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