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On a Hot Summer’s Night, Catherine Shepherd

On a Hot Summer’s Night

The heat is as familiar to him as the smell of Hudson Street.

“Hey my sweet,” he pats the neck of his hound, then scratches his own neck absently where fleas have left red welts: a slow version of swatting flies that have long gone.  The two of them sit on the cement bench looking out across the bay, their familiar spot.  Jack, a small version of a pointer, nudges his back into Samuel.

The light is fading fast, and the shadows of the couple holding hands on the beach elongate: feet large at the waters edge, tiny bobbing heads further up the white sand. The sun is almost behind the mountain that guards the beach and its secrets, but the tar steams when drops of ice cream spill from the cone of a girl heading toward Jack. She seems eager to pet the dog but veers off suddenly as she gets close. Samuel notices pink drool on her chin. He shifts, a little uncomfortable, and tries to hide his grubby bandaged foot behind his good one. It’s been days since he had a wash.

The beach parking lot fills up: Children, dogs and lovers run to the water’s edge, sea sparkling in the dying sun on this hot February evening. A man uses driftwood to carve a heart into the wet sand and the woman with him decorates it with shells. Side cafés dotted along the promenade send tangled wafts of Malaysian curries, vetkoek, waffles with blue gum honey, fish fingers and fresh dark roasted coffee into the air.

A car drives past playing an old hit. The words are perfect for the moment: on a hot summer’s night would you offer yourself to the wolf? He looks around and she enters his vision with those pouting lips and dark eyes, whirling around, taunting him just a little and then laughing. His lady. She is so beautiful. She was so beautiful.

“Come Jack,” he says to his dog, “let’s get some of that coffee from our Francis.”

The sky is ablaze with shades of deep blue, yellow and orange. It is as if the sun wants the world to know it will return soon, a finale of fireworks.  Francis sees Samuel hobbling towards her stall for his usual cup of roasted beans. Her little shop is the brightest in the line of makeshift stalls. Colourful cloths hang down on either side of the serving counter, the cool breeze flowing through the transparent cotton.

“How you doing love?” he enquires, his lips curling ever so slightly to hide his missing teeth. She has the same dark eyes as his lady, but her mouth, yes, her mouth is Samuel’s.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Samuel. I bought you a special mug to mark the occasion. The twinkle in her eye is home if he ever had one.

Samuel takes the gift and blushes. He wants to tell her, but the words don’t come. They never do.

“Happy Valentines day, Sweetheart,” is all he manages. She laughs and turns toward the hiss of the pot.

This is one of the stories that came out of the  Writivism 2014, a  project of the Centre for African Cultural Excellence, with the assistance of several partner organisations, which identifies, trains and engages readers and writers in public discourse through literature. As part of this years activities, they will have The Writivism Festival from 18 – 22nd June 2014. Like the Facebook page for more updates


Written by Catherine Shepherd (0)

Catherine was born in South Africa and graduated from Rhodes University in 1992. The end of Apartheid was the highlight of her young adult years. Inspired by well known author Rachel Zadok she discovered the magical craft of writing. Catherine has a short story published by Black Letter Media called 'Joy Ride'

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