Simamile Ndaba is the winner of the March writing exercise. Richard and Jo-Anne really liked the fact that Simamile resisted the temptation to explain too much, or throw in exposition. She managed to hold our attention to the last and through just a few shown details sketched a character who resonated strongly. It constitutes a satisfying short story in its own right.

She has won a R200 gift voucher from Boekehuis bookshop. This was the exercise and you will find her response below.

Write a scene which involves all of these different elements:

Character: A 30-year-old midget named Maria who has never had a boyfriend.
Place: Hillbrow
Time: 11pm
Event: Circus has come to town.
Odd Object: A snow dome containing the twin towers and Statue of Liberty.
Conflict: Maria becomes involved in a street fight.

Mama’s Dream by Simamile Ndaba

Maria remembered it. She turned the snow dome in her hand. She remembered it being on the pedestal next to Ma’s bed and her candy-floss pink bedding. New York in winter was the first thing mama saw in the morning and the last thing before sleep claimed her at night.

It was mama’s dream – one she never fulfilled because she had spent all her savings on trying to fix what God had messed up.

Maria stood on her tip-toes to look out at the street below and its bright street lights. This was as close as it would get for Maria to give mama her dream back. The two weren’t so different.

Maria returned the balls of her feet to the ground and closed her eyes, trying to shut out the noise from below.

She had always hated the circus. And mamma had forced her to go when she was twenty-two. That huge blue and white tent. The pop-corn and the coca-cola and candy floss. The animals, the scary clowns and – the midget act. The parade with the man on stilts walking next the female midget.

‘You should go out more, Maria,’ mamma would say, ‘see the world, fall in love!’

Normal men didn’t date women who were different like her. And women like her resented the fact that they were expected to date men like her. It was the way of the world.

She stood on her toes again and look out of her tenth floor window of Iyanda Heights, Hillbrow.

Mamma had signed her letter, Get me to New York!

This was as close as she would get to New York. Pimps, whores, noise, drug dealers.

It wasn’t all bad, was it, mama?

The fight they’d had, mama and her in the street in broad daylight. Mamma trying to force her to try another growth miracle remedy. Why couldn’t she let it be?

Maria looked at the snow dome and shook it. ‘It’s snowing in New York, mama. It always snows in New York.’

She knew she would never have money to get there. This was as far as she could go.

She dragged the plastic garden-chair in her room to the window, grabbed the black box. She climbed onto the chair, opened the dirty window and smelled the city air.

Mamma would most probably hate it here, but who knew if the reality of New York was any better than this?

Mamma should have traveled more and accepted Maria’s shortcomings. Maria looked out at the city through a veil of tears. Maybe one day, mama, a man would look at her and fall in love. But today was not that day.

She opened the black box.

‘I love you, mamma.’

She sprinkled the ashes onto the street below and its pedestrians.

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