Our May writing challenge was to write a dialogue between two or more of the characters depicted in Deborah Bell’s Reveal.Use it as a point of departure, but don’t feel obliged to write a period piece or to imagine your characters in costume. The dialogue should involve a revelation of some kind, which will change the life of your main character, and possibly those of all of them.



And our winner is Catherine Black for her sophisticated and subtle interpretation of the brief in The Drill Bit and the moving way we discover her revelation through her use of detail and dialogue. As usual, the winner will receive a book token from the independent book store of their choice and Catherine has chosen Love Books in Melville, Johannesburg.


“It’s the wrong bit.”

“You said use the wood one.”

“I know but we need the metal one. It’s fine. Let’s just do it tomorrow.”

“But we need to get this done now.”

“We have eight weeks.”

Her back is to me as she reaches into the toolbox for the metal 8mm. “No we don’t. You know how impatient he is.”

Is? Tread carefully, Michael. “Yes, noons, he was. But all babies are different.”

“Yip. Like I said, he likes to be early.”

But it’s a girl. We’d agreed I could know. My “pathway to inner healing”, I think they called it. I remember the doctor’s low voice telling me once she was out of earshot of the scan room.

I can’t resist now. “What makes you think it’s a him?”

She whips around sharply. “What?”

“Nothing.” Indeed. This little girl has nothing to do with the lifeless little boy we met last January. Nothing at all.

Her face breaks into a smile. Ah, sweet relief at seeing my old Sarah. A joke. Tinged with sadness, but still a joke. “Good,” she says. “You know I couldn’t go on if I knew he wasn’t coming back to me.”

She turns away again, re-aiming the drill at the wall. With her arms outstretched, I notice for the first time how dainty – fragile – they look. They shake slightly as the bit pushes loudly into the wall, cutting up the night air’s silence.


The runners-up, in no particular order are:

Alma van As for Reveal, a very kinetic story with clear images

“It’s time.”

A voice I recognize speaks, the sound fresh in my ears.

I look up at the familiar face. I have to go. Nonetheless, I’d rather stay.

“Please, I beg you….I can’t …”

I turn around and move closer. I want to reach out and touch her. My arms bridge the gap as I lean forwards, fingers stretched taut, just short of a few millimetres before our skins should connect. My hand whips back, uncontrolled.

“You must.”

“No, no…I need more time,” my voice cries out.

“We must hurry.”

I look up, then look at her, her body so flimsy, caged in a steel frame, wheels fixed against the bed.

“How will she ..? She’s too young, alone.”

“She’ll have to.”

Her head bowed, I could see the ribbons in her hair tied better than I ever could. Both hands wrapped around the bald patches of her teddy.

“How dare you say that? I won’t go with you.”

“You’ll be a burden… You couldn’t watch over her. You don’t want that.”

“Will I …?”

“Only if you follow me now. If you delay you’ll never see her again. Here, take my hand.”

I hesitate. I would rather cling to my daughter’s hand than my husband’s. Yet I put my hand in his. It dissolves around mine.

The image recurs. The screeching of the tyres, the crunching of metal pierces my ears and the fuel ignites. Skin singes. Serenity comes when there is silence.

Jenny Alence for her wickedly recognisable dialogue in Afternoon Delicacies

The lady stood in her kitchen, at the island. Its cupboards were high gloss teal, its top a smooth slab of butcher’s block. Above it hung three pendant

lights housed in frosted glass. They were off, because it was afternoon. The kitchen opened onto a patio, where the lady’s friend was sitting.

“Gosh, your garden is looking lovely.”

“Thank you. Elias does a fabulous job with the upkeep. Now what will you have? Earl Grey, Darjeeling or Five Roses?

“Hmmm, is it too early for wine?”

“That is a wickedly marvellous idea. Let’s see what we have.”

The lady went to the fridge and surveyed the contents. Her friend took off her scarf and placed it on the back of her chair.

“Can I help you?”

“No, you stay right there. Oh! There’s also some chocolate cake. Would you like some?


The lady came out and placed a tray on the patio table.

Her friend examined the cake. “This looks delicious. Did Thembi bake it?

“No. It’s bought.”

The lady cut two slices, handing one to her friend.

“Actually, we’ve had to let Thembi go”.

“Oh? After all these years…”

“I know. But with her situation our needs just became too different. The girls are still so young and Greg and I hardly get any quiet time. It would’ve just been too much.”

“Gosh”, the friend stopped chewing.

“Not to mention the responsibility. Are you going to have Sav Blanc or Chardonnay?”

Gabriella Razzano for The Reveal, with its powerful opening image

She was a sure-footed child, running between the park apparatus

confidently as her ponytail frenziedly chased behind.

“She’s getting so big!,” Christine said to me at awkward volume,

unperturbed by the gap purposefully left between us.

“All legs,” I smiled back. I burrowed my chin and lips beneath my

scarf in an exaggerated gesture of cold. As Adanne continued playing I

let my mind wonder to the other things I would do when not here: a

meeting; a fiery telecon with the Board, as a faint soundtrack in the

background twittered, “They grow up so fast, Maria…feels like

yesterday…it’ll be High School tomorrow”.

My surrender was shuttered by the cry of my little girl’s desperate,

bleating: “Mom”.

I ran over to Adanne, crumpled in the dust, clutching her bleeding

knee like a ceramic doll’s leg. But, as I bent down, she brushed aside

my hand in such a familiar gesture everything ceased. She flittered

her hand exactly as I had a million times before. She was her mother’s

child. And in that moment I knew I would never love her the same

again. A part of my heart would close, to retract from her as I

retracted from myself. And she would be a lonely woman.

“Shame, don’t get worked up Maria – she’ll be ok. It’s just a scratch.”

I smiled up at the vacant Christine gratefully, as she placed her hand

on my resistant shoulder, consoled by the revelation of how little

people can see.

And Colleen Saunders for her delightfully humorous take on the assignment in I Can Fly

Sophie:  Hey Joseph, pssst, come see, she’s doing it again!

Joseph: What? Ag yirre, no man!

Sophie:  And she’s wearing that dress again. Why does she think she must look like a doyley when she sings?

Joseph: And if the ou toppie hears, there’ll be hell to pay.

Sophie: Ja, shame man. Why does she keep doing this to herself? And it’s always “I believe I can fly”.  I mean that song’s as old as mould on week-old bread already.

Joseph: Ooh eina, that high note. Some people have voices and some people have choices – the choice to kill or be killed.

Sophie: And it’s definitely “be killed” if the baas wakes up. He’ll send her flying that she’ll touch the sky head-first.

Joseph: I mean, it’s the third time she’s trying for Idols and the last time even the judges lagged her uit.

Sophie: Siestog, man. Shouldn’t someone tell her?

Joseph: Ooh fok

Sophie: What??!

Joseph: There. Behind her. The Baas.

Sophie: Gits, she’s dead. And we better get out of here too, otherwise we’ll be the ones to fly.

Joseph: I saw nothing, you saw nothing.

Sophie (singing): I believe I can fly!







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