The beneficiaries, by Sarah Penny
The following text is an excerpt from Sarah Penny's novel The Beneficiaries.
'I wont do it,' says the recipient quite loudly, although there is no one to hear and, beyond that, no one to say that one ought. Having snatched the post in passing from the mail tray in the house lobby she is out on the street already, and some careless person has burned through the only street bin with hot ash. Fortunately, further along the street there is a big private bin in somebody's front yard. She backhands the letter surreptitiously into its open mouth, although the black bags have already been gathered for the day by the borough service, so that it remains there until the next collection - a forlorn cream envelope slightly sullied with potato peelings.
Why did she phone? Truth is, she doesn't know. A scrap of paper, casually given, lay for some months in a leather handbag. Tim,' she says. She hears hesitation. Then: 'Lally?' Budding into astonishment. 'Laeticia,' she says. 'Hello, Pirn.' 'I go by Edgar,' he says. A bus across London. Magnolia trees flaunting their indelicate petals at the asphalt. The sky is a neutral canvas of the chillier shades of blue, across which aeroplanes leave vapour wakes of purpose. The house is in one of the twisting urban lanes off Fulham Road. She recognises the area as being fashionable for people who doht use the word 'fashionable'. She counts off the numbers as she makes her way along the road. Pirn's has a half-moon of stained glass over the front door - opaque, azure and burgundy. Cacti in the front yard are reluctantly adapting to their waterlogged conditions. She has her finger on the button. Footsteps echo down a supposed flight of stairs and along a presumed passageway. The door opens awkwardly over a resistant tongue of carpet. Edgar-who-was-Pim is fatter than one might have remembered, but also sleeker. He ushers Laeticia-who-was-Lally inside. 'I was sorry to hear,' he says formally. She would be masterful, but is betrayed by her eyebrows. 'About your father,' Pirn explains. Ah. Of course, there are social forms. 'Congratulations,' she offers. Her slight hands, gesturing at the slick of photographs on the walls, cover all felicities. They look at each other. It has been a long time,' he says, like an Englishman.
Spuds and fineage
'Ruth can transform a potato,' Ruth's mother likes to say. Ruth, who is fond of her mother, thinks it a silly remark, nevertheless. But now: 'Ruth can transform a potato,' says Pirn. In marriage, words are currency - each one carrying a weight beyond the sum of its parts. In the Ruth/Pirn union there are some utterances that belong to Ruth and some to Pirn. Ruth doesn't know why Pirn said, 'Ruth can transform a potato,' a sentence borrowed from his mother-in-law - but she doesn't like it. 'I can't cook a thing,' says Lally. Actually, I don't like eating much. Once I didn't eat at all for weeks and weeks, and eventually I fell 3over and they put me on a drip.' 'I remember that,' says Pirn. 'You were very silly.' 'Yes,' agrees Lally. 'Yes - I expect I was.' 'What was in the drip?' asks Ruth's elder son. 'Sugar,' says Lally vaguely 'Something like that.' 'I had an injection,' announces the elder son importantly. 'Didn't I, Daddy? In my bottom, when we went to Africa.' Ruth gets up and clears the serving dishes away, stacking them next to the sink. [...]
This is an excerpt from the novel 'The beneficiaries', by Sarah Penny
Title: The beneficiaries
Author: Sarah Penny
Publisher: The Penguin Group (SA)
Cape Town, South Africa 2011
ISBN 9780143527466 / ISBN 978-0-14-352746-6
Softcover, 13 x 20 cm, 221 pages
Penny, Sarah im Namibiana-Buchangebot
'The beneficiaries' is ultimately about the possibility of healing, in a nation and a human soul.