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The light at the end of the tunnel Silke Heiss Kass piodded beneath the wire-pyramid ofthe pston i the new sed squatter camp. The wires had drawn birds into the area, mow perched abote the shacks with their brick-topped, plastic- . sed rools. where before the sume birds had once or twice sat on eee - as < « the concrete fence that was supposed to control the camp. ral concrete sats had been removed for cows and young men to wander % _which ther did, crossing the highway at their peril. “Ye was marvellous and strange to have electric light, and Kuki was umuble to sleep soundly now, due to the fact that darkness had been tonshed. It was therefore difficult in some respects to adapt to the Sesjoution. Her daughters, their babies, and the babies’ fathers sere delighted. No. the babies did not mind. They were of the light. Bur the birds disappeared when evening fell. Kuki walked from beneath one extreme of the spidery pyramid to the other. tll she reached a recendy levelled section of the develop- ing. that is to sav. ever-expanding settlement. There were new houses here: square, rather than crooked, with angled, rather than flat, roofs. The birds sat on those angled roofs too, on the roofs’ very peaks. They were only common pigeons and starlings. But still. Kuki had never seen 2 pigeon or a starling on the plastic mess, nor on the corrugated iron glare, of her own, or her neighbours’, shacks. Her heart hung huge and heavy in her breast. Her mouth tightened and straightened. She did not know what to feel in response to the situation. The new houses had had their eves torn out: windows were smashed, and win- dow frames had been removed. They had had their lips unhinged, such that they could no longer open and close to speak: no doors were left in this section of the township. Inside the houses, all that was moveable had been moved; the inner organs had all been extracted. Human urine and faeces had been deposited in some of them. Kuki was the owner of one of these Reconstruction and Develop- ment Project houses. Number 94 was hers, to move into with her daughter and granddaughter (who had no father). But it was not pos- sble now. Upon the gable of number 92 was a large white bird with black head and sabre-bill. He opened his wings at her approach, lifted up briefly, n One Hey settled again, then kic ked the a aa back Jegs and pe, himself into the solid air that held hisn, his breastbone f asifon an outstretched hand. Kuki's Notverygood ey thy extyy ibis into the sky and beyond, as far as she Could jinayine, ge down maybe eventually at the sewerage farm. Kuki looked ay Nobody else seemed to have noticed cither the bird of ins ¢ ‘This heart, this head, this heart and this head of hen, when connections for light and power are made mero, here in this dump. At such a time she is made OWNET Of ah outany hope, Well, the councillor had said thes would nine the protection of the army and police. Kuki stopped homeward plod and turned, and lifted her head ge vanished ibis. Or perhaps it was only the sun in her ‘Good day, Mama. How are we today?" The shopkeeper's friendly eyes twinkled. Kuk. ‘Good day, young man. Pity me - winter is comi: The shopkeeper looked down at her from his waited. Kuki's face pursed up. “My youngest grandchild ~ you have seen her, yes you have, ¢ not survive. She is so weak, my son.’ ‘Mama,’ said Simon, ‘must not lose hope. This fear understand. She isa strong sister — lite yet, but strong like Mt will not die, she will not. Look at your brother.” She did. He was a man late ; With soft, confident eyes. She sighed again. She wanted h her melancholy, or her fear. She felt he might resist or even She said, “To have hope in this place a person must be 2 foo! Know what you are thinking — that is why the old women ie t= Simon shook his head gendy, but let her goon. ‘Itell you, listen now. My spirit will still fly out of here. When Ig Iwill haunt no one, that I Promise you! You tell everyone. Tell them: She gestured vaguely, broadly, behind, beside and even abo thing. Very considerate of vou.” He smirked conspiratorially and sI her shoulder. They bo: Ors were less presences looked over their ancest Seen. Itwas yj hings? ‘Ares to say these th i light at the end of the tunne| 8 gimon slapped packet of instant noodlesand some pondered milk inted hardboard counter. Kuki stared e unpal cataracted eyes. ' : ves, simon,” she said. simon was SHEN pen he pointed gently at himself, and said: “This nan, me, Ean say “God be with you, Mama’ Can FT cannot, In this here, now. the ovo Of us and everything around ~ what words can ge SL: if eos = whi ae nereon find? Lam looking. This lfeis too hard. is too hard. Even me aswell, 1 must become soft like water not to fight.” . ae gazed at the small, top-heavy woman. Then suddenly grinned sjfama will always haunt me." ‘No, you are impertinent! Have you no respect? Iam not dead, but gon Iwill be, and your conscience will be flooded by regret! : She shivered with joyful fury. Looked again over her shoulder noticed the bright light witness outside. ’ simon turned swiftly round and took some infant formula from a shelf in the murky interior of the spaza shop. 7 ‘A gift,’ he said, ‘for the little one.’ Kuki scrabbled in her bag. She took the items. Then she looked up at Simon and lifted a finger. ‘Tam close enough to the end, boy, to say this: God will bless you,” she declared, frowning and wagging the finger, ‘whether or not He exists!’ “Go well, Mama,’ said Simon, adding ‘and exactly follow the instruc- tions on the tin. It tells you step by step how to administer.” Outside again the nexus of lines, centred, calling out: ‘We are here. Time has arrived.” If Kuki could have spoken to God, she might have said, ‘Iam your child, [ have no brain. Fetch me. Please.’ But the woman did not speak to God. The woman worried about rain, She thought about mud on the floor, She imagined cold blan- kets of cloud. She wondered how much longer. She felt the weight of the formula like love and her heart hung huge and heavy in her huge and heavy breast. It was shame. Kuki was shamed. She was a thoughts tainted her environmentand those in it. Only the birds, and now these wires, were above it. If her granddaughter was ill, then it was Kuki’s fault. Kuki had thought: ‘She will get sick,’ and Maudie fell ill. Kuki had thought for years, over and over, ‘am not well.” And thus it was now. And yet, on the other hand, ‘The world is a dark Place,’ she had thought, with equal frequency as those other thous often wondering why so much fuss was made in the brief interval sinner whose dark ad told herelf (unknowingly then receding, . here was an ibis right next door toh or shell without a future. Ku ght of the ibis. She felt woo. ew, emper by felt happy when she thou felt active and positive. It has never helped any. body to give in to dubjousness But as she su, Knitting together the : pink cap. she did wonder, again, w hy the soul bothers to If so mortally, Life might be truly exciting if it were touch 1 had a choice in this, Butno. One had to go. Th sections o! clothe and go -ifa person made it so predi and take poor Maudie with her. Electric horvor struck Kuki at (exe! for such unbidden evil? It coursed through her, seeming to come from outside of her more often than not. She knew, even, from where this one derived. Or, atleast, she suspected. Her daughter, Emelina, had after all made a secret of the fact that Maudie had been an unwel altogether unsmpe of others’ desire. yand bear,’ she able, where was the fun in that That she + this notion. Where, why must she be a not come burden in her mother’s body. Nor was Kuki thetic towards the daughter's situation. ‘We are vessel They deposit themselves in us and move on. We must st had iid. and would sw again. ‘We cuty all the wor Ad while they fly. And her heart hung not so much heavy as it cooked, and the steam rose to her head and scalded. On her last day in Claremont, wher char for thirty-two years, Kuki had shed nota single ( employer did, along with the details of her pension. If there w in Kuki, it was that hot steam in her brain, distilled and empry of mit~ eral wealth. And as everybody knows, electricity and water are Re! friends. And her brain was sparking: there was light up there. fora moment. Then utter pitch-black darkness, through which, however her hands groped tightly to hold the pink cap, which must not ev ever go on Maudie’s head, for fear of contamination, because must still grow up and make her own decision. Because —' said Kuki to Emelina, who was dutifully tending the en “because, Emmy, it is a choice. You ask God for eerste ae one. Except, Emmy, this mother has no ae Sark eaber eele A woman is not in heaven. Awoma es Beate Gdn he ru hat, that s where she stays, we stay. And 1st sere pi ar me? You must listen, girl. I do not forgive MS™ he had been employed asa r, although het sWwaler er. he the Hight at the end of the tunnel - a — 9 su Ma,’ said ea also did not cry. But she ; 1 ane baby on her bard, lac back and Paceedee ee ket And did @ hobbling sort of dance to quieten the Has : tha blan- that living rucksack on the journey through life i Fa ed child, ne had nO choice what with her head bobbing as ey , quictened, subsided into hiccups. Then did the mothers smile ydiied ero atthe iny chirping noise within the flufly blanket? Butihey wailed - ck ak ok o ee Kuki and her family lived in Ward 36 of Crossroads. But he en house stood in Ward 39, Ithad come to pass, a fe weeks afte ea houses were completed, that homeless people, or rather a fa houses crowded! conditions in Ward 39, had atacke (shed) one ort of the new homeowners, who came, happily carrying their keys ; on Ward 36. The Ward 39 residents were ntraged by the possibility hat yt, 36 residents should move into luxury in Peete trai lil home-ward, 2 it were. A person is not a person. A person is cither from thi ward or that, that is obvious. All the pros ‘ive homeowners from Ward 36 became afraid of occupying their houses, which thus remained vacant, and were soon vandalised to their current state, The city mayor said it was impossible, and the respons ible councillors from. various political parties blamed one another for inadequate commu nication and insufficient information, though one or two blamed the residents for being violent, greedy and ungrateful people, du meetings with them. They were shouted down, which when Kuki's joradic headaches first began. The vr dents (Kuki was — the unsupervised children with st always invisible. s were repaired using farther gow ple from Ward 39, which intense s among them) blamed the gangste guns, who were unfortunately almo: Several months later, the hous ernment funds. They were occup d by peo| n 7 was in order, Itwas at that ‘ound the time of the pink cap and the occupation of h se — that Kuki became bedridden in her never-quite-dark-cnough s were late that year, the warm, windless autumn carried 0” “and on, but Kuki was hep ' cold, So Emmy bought a blanket with roses on ity » soft withou! any thorns. ‘They say,’ said Emmy, giving setaside land in Nimmersat, Kuki smiled at Maudie. She s miled a her grandmother. She could sit NOW, bee a ating . become much fatter. Simon kept donating ‘an old wornan- Kuki had developed a hope- For Emmy: Hope soft, Maudie to Kuki to hold, Se they for us where the will build. ice ' i Maudie smiled at ' had ha was Silke Heig eg 2 Hei Kuki’s weakness forced Emelina to take Maudie. The gandhi Kuki's we sank back onto ‘Tam happy, $2 voice had turned into ing water, oF the daily er cushion. ne ai, although Emmy could hardly hear her, Hep arasp. Whether itwas the chlorine in the drink. doses oa the a o Coalfires, o, thw e weight of the woman's thoughts, the soj indeed, Lu Cho could say, and what did it matter? T] mt ee seemed to have solidified, and pod not flow easily in and outanymore. There was fermentation n her a hot, paint, compost. At any rate, her body was being radically altered for the eee bad to rasp and struggle under Emmy's supervision, while the other children worked, or looked for work, and overhead buzzed incessantly the power of the new dispensation. Kuki did not lose awareness of that. . . ‘Then Juwena, her third-born, got a job as a shift-worker for aclean- ing company that did shopping malls. The compost felt slightly aer- ated then, and Kuki succeeded in grating a sigh. Then, on the Wednesday, she whispered, ‘I want to see the plot.’ Aswith a child, the adults - Emmy and Juwena — ignored Kuki in the first instance. Kuki repeated: ‘I want to see my plot.’ Maudie crawled over and pulled herself up by the rose-blanket. Maudie would live. And she, Kuki, would live in Maudie. With the months passing, and the cancer spreading, Kuki had given up on rebelliousness, and on berating herself for her every thought. She had become quite plain, in fact. Scrubbed clean asa pot with the steel-~vool touch of pain, Perhaps that is how God would want it, if He existed. But above all, itis how oneself wants it, as an old char, Kuki realised, and felt readier than ever. To meet the others in the realm over the oe me the web of power that had enmeshed her final ff wait sar le coon ere with this sudden bulb of desire. , wihourmee ¢ panted hoarsely, ‘where you are going to live - on Mad alent oat mother Somehow, together in the shack Though they could not figure: Saree nee ae her fast wi haw Prat, int it. an roamed pasion with the Maudie-rucksack directed the fathers Ror a husband (althouet, ‘0 was neither a father (as far as he knew), the men lifted the 4reee Kuki had a hope). The women watched 28 ; houg a _ end of which he Thad bolton Simon's wheelbarrow, at the broader te on an old ca seat, She had not, Simon ne strength to wince with the pain he say \. They wheeled her very slowly, very sun, with grave-faced Emelina hol , her mother’s scarved, bald head. On u he five-lane highway. Then taking the aoa bod the winte contained in the half carefully, at midday in ding a black umbrella Ne road to Nimmersat, off-ramp onto the R41 along ¥ . : tie sks pr "ped where were cows, and Arum lilies, and Kukis procesten passed them all, noticing. They hoped she would sunive the journey. if not scessarily the trip back. miners was not far from Crossroads, , =r them three and a half hours, Feeding of the young ones, and reagjustments of the mother's position, swaddlled in her blanket ia the travelling cradle, needed to take place several times, Nimmersat was brown and flat and deserted, P Uw 4 ‘erhaps the builder had been a again. There were Econo-loos, a digger, and a icky corrugated iron sha thout a door and windows, Masts stuck outat intervals on the expanse. Kuki took off her scarf, by hersell. She sort of rubbed it off weakly and it fell into the dust. The men took off their Emelina was still holding the umbrella, She seemed to wear a nar upon her face, Kuki saw Simon see. He could sense it was the snarl in front of a bag of tears or something. Yes, he must see that. Could he see? Kuki leaned against the cav seat, which creaked. and jolted gently, She rasped something to Emelina, and lifted her hand. The daughter interpreted the mother and ove! except ifa person walked. So w men. Another wheeled directed the father and husband took his turn at the wheelbarrow, He into the hot shade of the corrugated iron sh: many of them as could sat down on the wooden bench. Overalls hung round their fices as they stared at the brown masts, and the grid of wires holding down as it seemed, though there was no need, the brown, deserted ground. Kuki felt, rather than saw, her family with Simon in her land of promise. She felt her own husband stir in his casket of memory. She felt that everything was as it should be. She was aware of how quiet they all were, how tired, And how tired she was, Almost without pain a if, on this unbearable uip, the pain had somersaulted right out of itself, anaesthetising her by its audacious vault, or was that volt- age? Because was she alr ady brimming there? Then she became conscious of one of the husbands and fathers Speaking in Afrikaans (he came from the wine farm), pointing at something for a grandchild, ‘the fifth, I think, my Isabel,’ thought Kuki, . and as 94 *Kyk di skoorsteenveérs,” he said, “kyk die skoorsteenvegs + adult showing a child. Look at the chj the excitement of an sweeps. | oo They all looked at the chimney sweeps, the ibises in the sky, }; the best thing they could do. Kuki watched them look, through own blinking, thic kinned eves. The drama was all her own on threshold. Then Simon appeared close by. He manoeuvred her neck. I sore, but that was unavoidable. He laid her head, her face, bach. shielding her bad eyes from the glare in the sky, his dry hand pale wigs dust, She saw the dusty dust on the hands. Then also sort of - the black and white arrows. Knew more than saw, knew their shaped bills and the planes of their clean wings. But then there was Juwena, or the fifth grandchild. Or was it Maudie now? They all melted into one, Kuki could no longer tell the differ. ence. Those lungs of hers were fighting, or was it something hot in h head seeping down? There was a war, mos certainly, somewhere it was taking place, but where here in Nimmersat. with that echoless, sacred Me squadron gone? The pain, it seemed, was suddenly concentrated all into one, unfulfillable wish — yes, Kuki still had wishes, sinner, lover of life thar she was— But the wish was inarticulable on every level. The pain relented somewhat. ‘Let go, Ma,’ she heard Emmy saying. Kuki managed very cautiously to turn her own neck, by herself, and to look at her last-born. ‘Take me home,’ she croaked serenely. Then she watched, milkily, Emmy's burst bag of tears, and found that she was capable of marvelling at all that rain in her own blood. _ And everyone stood up to go from empty Nimmersat — the prom ised land — back to their shacks, or houses, in Crossroads. To prep¥® for the next day, which was the Thursday, which was the day that Mama Kuki didpasson. Piew