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It is time.

It is time.

A journey.

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Literary fiction


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Megan Landman (Australia)


It’s four in the morning and my scattered sleep is interrupted by the shrill of my alarm, it is time. It’s time to face this day. I lie in my bed and take a few moments, how am I going to do this? It is a 2 hour journey to work and I must sit with my thoughts, thoughts that take me back to you, my father. I must control my emotions in a sea of people. People who are oblivious to the inner turmoil that plagues me, my loss and my inability to see a future without your guidance, your unconditional love and your warmth. My mind wonders to you...

“Get up child; it’s time to get dressed. I have made you tea and toast!”
“Dad, come on, the sun isn’t even up!”


I can hear him walking down the corridor. It’s a strange feeling to know that you can identify the footsteps of your kin. Smiling, he places my tea and toast next to
my bed, ruffles my hair, opens the curtains and walks out. I know that in his silence, he is right. It is time.



I roll out of bed to make some tea and toast.

As I leave my house, an icy winter wind hits my face. The walk to the bus is about 20 minutes and I must brace myself for the cold weather. I greet my neighbour, he is piling his three children into the car, it’s the first day of school. I love the routine in their chaos, school bags being dragged behind, hair still messy or blazers being flung about… A tear rolls down my face…

“Take my hand Roxy, I don’t know what you are so worried about. If I love to be your friend then everyone will want to be your friend.”
He wipes my eyes, fixes the plait in my hair and hugs me.
“I don’t want to Dad, can you stay?”
“My favourite daughter, this is your journey to enjoy. I won’t be far away and if you need me just phone and I will come and get you. Come on, it is time.”


One foot in front of the other I make my way to the bus stop, dodging puddles and trying to distract myself by looking to see which cloud Table Mountain has hidden itself behind. The bus stop doesn’t look too busy today; there may even be a seat for me. A young lady is sitting alone. Perfect, I will sit next to her. Hopefully her silence will comfort me.

Silence was not meant to be a gift from the Gods for me today, she turns to me and tells me that this is her first day using the bus system, she is nervous and unsure, and she is looking for me to reassure her. Can I find that sort of strength within myself?

“Dad, it is just a bus. I need my independence, can you not see that?”
“It is dangerous; can I not just drive you around? Could you not find someone at work to share lifts with?
“What is wrong with you? Other people’s children never look for independence and yet you are trying to limit me? Just support me for once. It is just a bus. Come
on Dad, it is time.”
He sighs with a worried look on his face. A look I refused to see in that moment, a look I will never forget. He turns around and under his breath he mumbles:

“Independence, it is time.”


I reassured her that the bus system is safe and friendly to use, I encouraged her to make a friend on the bus for daily trips and I learnt in that moment that independence is not as important as company. The bus is a lonely place.

The bus ride was calming, I plugged my head phones in and watched the space where Table Mountain is meant to be, I admired the lagoon, the ocean. The silence in my journey was refreshing and as the tears rolled down my face, I watched the Cape Town rain hit the window.

There is to be no distracting a broken heart, it is halfway through my journey and your memory still haunts me. It’s becoming harder as the day goes on to control my emotions. I haven’t smoked in five years but today, I need to smoke. I make my way to the nearest street vendor and ask him if he sells loose cigarettes. As he gets me one, I am once again transported to a distant place...

I can feel the warm summer air around me as I walk home from school. My friends and I are at it again, we bought loose cigarettes and we are sitting in
my garden smoking. The back door suddenly opens and my dad walks out, when he realises what we were doing his face changes, from excitement to
see me, to anger, to disappointment. My heart sank.


After my friends fell over one another to leave my house, my father finally spoke:
“Roxy, let’s talk. It’s time that you realise that you are old enough to make your own decisions, but I need to teach you how to think things through, so that
you can make informed choices, sit let’s think about what you are doing.”


I snapped back into reality and paid the vendor. He noticed the look on my face and asked me what was troubling me. I told him that I had lost someone close to me the night before. He reached for his box of cigarettes and handed me another for free, he took my hand and said to me:
“Akuhlanga okungehliyo thuthuzelekani”. This sincere gesture touched me so deeply, he repeated it in English: “What happens, happens to us all. Take comfort.”

This act of kindness made me feel slightly lighter as I bought my train ticket and joined the endless queue. Train delayed again. Time, more time alone with my thoughts.

December, a time of wonder in the Cape.
“Spend the holidays with me Roxy, I haven’t seen much of you lately.”

“I know Dad, I wish I could, but my friends have arranged for us to travel up the West Coast.”

Time spent, time wasted.

Limited seats on the train, luckily there is a seat next to an elderly lady. It is the usual hustle and bustle today. A blind man guided by his friend is walking down the aisle, singing a song about God, hoping it will urge his fellow passengers to dig deep and help him.

“God is a part of your history Roxy, he is a part of your make-up. But don’t just believe for the sake of believing. Use him to become the best person you can be.
Use him to help humanity, this is the essence of God.”


I reached into my bag and I gave him money, I gave him my lunch and I thanked him. When I sat back down, the lady next to me asked why I had thanked him. I explained that it was because he had given me back a memory, one I thought I had lost and one I needed to remember.

I spoke to her for the last 20 minutes of my journey. I told her everything. I shared my memories, my fears, regrets and my loss. She shared her tissues and listened closely, as if we had known each other for years.

Her stop came before mine and as she stood to leave, she said to me: “Rejoice in your memories, never let go of your love for your father. Sterkte kind.”

The last few minutes of my ride, I cried. Tears of joy and tears of remembrance.

“It’s my daughter’s wedding today and although she has always been beautiful to me, today she radiates. It’s time for me to acknowledge that she is a woman,
strong, independent and loved. This is my child, who carries a piece of my soul with her, always.”


As I walked to work, I breathed in deep. I know he is always with me. I need to grieve but I need to continue to remember his love. It is time.




Competition: The Pen Factor 2016, Round 1

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Read Reviews

Review 1:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
Characterization
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
Main character
  • Connect us to your main protagonist with a deeper characterization. Could your protagonist have a few more distinguishing character traits?
Character conflict
  • Your characters drew me into their world from the very beginning. Their goals and conflicts were clearly conveyed.
Plot and pace
  • Maintaining the right pace and sustaining the reader’s interest is a challenging balancing act. The story had a clear and coherent progression with a structured plot.
Suspense and conflict
  • The joy of reading often lies in the element of suspense prompted by internal or external conflicts. Think about the conflict and tension in your story. How effectively has it been introduced?
Technique and tight writing
  • The writing was tight and economical and each word had purpose. This enabled the plot to unravel clearly. Your writing exhibits technical proficiency.
Point of view
  • Point of view helps the reader identify whose perspective we are engaging with, i.e. who is narrating the story. It can sometimes be helpful to double check that the point of view in the story is successfully handled. Ensure you consistently use the same point of view and tense throughout.
Style and originality
  • Creating a unique writing style while maintaining quality of prose is tricky. As writers, we face the daunting task of making sure we are not being predictable. Can you find a way to give the content and characters more of a unique edge? Perhaps say something boldly, something fresh or show an unorthodox approach to a topic?
Atmosphere and description
  • A writer’s ability to create mood and atmosphere through evocative description is vital to the reader’s experience. It’s a real skill to craft out how the characters react to the setting and atmosphere and perhaps your story could go further in its description. The reader wants to experience the same sensory and poignant journey as the characters.
Authentic and vivid setting
  • The setting was realistic and vivid. The characters’ mood and emotions were conveyed successfully through the believable setting.
Opening line, paragraph and hook
  • Your strong opening was a promise of wonderful things to come!
General comments from your fellow writer 1:
Well written, the few bits from the fathers point of view was a bit jarring due to the lack of transition. The story was well throughout, I could feel the emotion from your words.

Review 2:


Compelling hook?

Fresh?

Strong characters?

Entertaining?

Attention to mechanics
  • You demonstrate a professional quality of writing throughout the story.
Narration and dialogue: Balance
  • Your story struck a good balance between narration and authentic dialogue.
Narration and dialogue: Authentic voice
  • Your characters’ voices were convincing and authentic.
Characterization
  • Your characters were multidimensional. I found them believable and engaging and they genuinely responded to the events of the story.
Main character
  • Your protagonist exhibited a unique voice and had original characteristics. Their actions and dialogue were convincing.
Character conflict
  • Your characters drew me into their world from the very beginning. Their goals and conflicts were clearly conveyed.
Technique and tight writing
  • When writing is tight, economical and each word has purpose, it enables the plot to unravel clearly. Try and make each individual word count.
Point of view
  • The story successfully solicited the reader’s empathy through the clever use of the narrator's point of view. You show great deftness in handling point of view.
General comments from your fellow writer 2:
I liked the memories written in italics and the way the story went backwards and forwards between present and past. Really liked the continued reference to time - it is time. That was clever. Needed more description so that the reader could picture the surroundings and the emotions.