Sunday, May 17, 2009

the bata flip flop ghost man of Zanzibar...


sunday night and way too late
to sit and think and contemplate
on wayward words
a drunken look
i'm much too tired to think of love.

sunday nights are my worst. they always have been. since little. 

i'm just saying.

everything's so quiet.
(apart from crickets twinkling like fallen stars outside.)
and the dogs are barking at something lurking in the dark.
sometimes i get scared. of the stoned panga wielding bogey men.
of ghosts and eye glowing tokoloshes.

i daren't confess this to the children. i can scare them so easily. like in zanzibar. when the children and i stayed in a little robinson crusoe "banda" (hut) on a white crescent beach. 
zanzibar is full of ghosts, you know. literally saturated in them.

behind our hut, in the tangled green, was an old cemetry. i never told the children, of course. but you know, after three days, one can get bored with just children for company, no matter how completely angelic, unique and extraordinary they are. i yearn for Adult Conversation. difficult when the place is jammed packed with hushed honeymooners. there i was drinking champagne by myself and staring open mouthed at these horrifyingly smug honeymooners, all flush with love and bold ideas of marriage. yes. so there i was. vaguely bored and stupified from the onslaught of  the unadulterated beauty of the beach. still. yes bored. UNTIL, oh best beloveds,  the kids came running to me with a pair of plastic blue bata flip flops. old ones. 

look what we found ma! (like they had found an ancient stash of gold).

usually i would mutter something like, yeah. wow. ya know, whatever. and go back to my book.

i peaked my nose out from behind my book and god knows what overcame me....but i said, 

wow! where did you find those? (dripping with obviously suspicious interest)
behind the hut! (they naively chorused.)
WHERE? i asked, with a stunning theatrical change of tone. 
THERE! they happily pointed...

...to the tangled green where the cemetry was. 
so i said (the devil made me do it):

do you mean From The Graveyard? do you know that's a GRAVEYARD? widening my eyes and arching my eyebrows.

no, ma....( in small voices)

the devil reincarnate continued gleefully.

well it is. an ancient ancestral burial ground. (fact. true) Those Could Be The Flip Flops Of A Dead Man. He Will Come And Look For You and Follow You To Find His Shoes.
and in a spooky quaking voice i quivered The Flip Flop Ghost Man.

well oh well. Big Mistake. hysteria ensued. i laughingly said to them,
 
i'm only joking, man! honestly! 

it didn't work. i had three half grown people literally clammed onto me. you know, personal space completely colonized. no. not my idea of having a good time at all.

Oh For Godsakes Will You Just Bloody Well Calm Down. I WAS ONLY JOKING. RIGHT, THAT's ENOUGH... blah blah blah  etceteRAH. There really is no Flip Flop Ghost Man....well. you never know. but i really doubt it. look.  i'm not scared...(and by this time their sheer terror was starting to get to me...i had succeeded in scaring myself. i am excellent at this.) so i continued:

look. tell you what. let's throw those flip flops back into the jungle and then, bingo. problem sorted. yes?

and we ceremoniously and furiously threw them back where they belonged. half buried in the sand. forgotten in the tangled green of the ancient burial ground.

 we started walking up the beach for dinner...in one of those silver blue zanzibar twilights, palm trees brooming the sky, a perfect slice of moon, fat beach stars, distant mosque chanting and ghosts on the wind.... danu p, in a small and brave voice, asked:

there isn't REALLY a graveyard there, Hey Ma?

i just couldn't lie.

hysteria ensued again. by the time we reached the dining banda, they were threatening to call the hotel manager and demand an escourt askari. they even went so far as to urgently plea with a pair of passing french honeymooners, all glowing from hot love.

 Please Help Us! Our Mum Is Scaring Us....very loudly. in the dining room. one of the kids was even sort of wailing. by now the commotion was becoming a focus...a slightly alarming one and a most terribly uncomfortable one. for me and the hushed honeymooners, that is.

i sat there with a white marble smile dissecting my face, which was now purple. a flitter of alarm darted across the eyes of the loved up frenchies. fortunately only for a blink of a second before they were distracted by thoughts of , well, thoroughly more amusing matters. by god i had to excercise intense erudite mothering skills to restore order and calm amongst the troops. riot squads were airlifted in. an edgey sanity returned and everyone was allowed two bowls of ice cream. i was duly lambasted with serious threats from my children that if i even mentioned the flip flop ghost man again or anything remotely scary they really would call security. and whined on a little about asking the askari to escort us back to our hut.

i promised on my father's life that i wouldn't and i meant it.
 
after the wonderfully dramatic dinner, we strolled back along the beach to our banda. i felt gooseys flowering along my spine. from behind. strong ones.  i noticed we were all holding hands really tightly. vice grippingly so.  we all spoke light heartedly about the stars, the moonlight, the little lights of the fishing boats bobbing bravely beyond the reef,  ghost crabs skittering in our wake. in all of our hearts, we jointly knew He Hadn't Really Gone Away. but we never said it. we daren't. we almost raced each other up the rope steps, hearts beating faster and secretly tempted to bash the door down  because we honestly didn't have time to open the padlock with the rusty key. wild horses raced in my stomache. danu p held the torch while i frantically fumbled with the lock and key... when....All Of A Sudden...... danu p dropped the torch.  it fell down below into the sand, into the tangled green. Into. The. Cemetry. . . 

i lightly said, off you go then koeks. run down and get it.

NO WAYS. (he was adamant.)

the other brother piping in, i never dropped it. you did. you have to go and get it. no ways i am going Down There...! pointing into the darkness.

i, for one,  really didn't want to go and retrieve it either.

i singingly encouraged, come on koeks. it's fiiiiiiiiiiiiine.

NO WAYS MA! I'M NOT!

gabby's  small girl  chin started to wobble and dimple. a sure sign of imminent wailing. 

okokokok. i'll go. it's fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine. nothing to be frightened of. you guys stay there. i'm right here ok? OK???

ok ma, in very Very small voices.

i clambered down the rope, my heart in my throat, fucking terrified. i slowly walked into the tangled green, slowly picked up the torch, kindly apologised to the bata flip flop ghost man for ever bringing him to life again. (and for stealing his shoes, of course) and kindly asked him to please leave us alone. now. immediately. thank you ever so much. salaams and all that. i confirmed that we were not ever going to think of him again. 

it worked. 

the children were jubilant. we had our light back, locks to open and dreams to dream.

to this day i have never mentioned the bata flip flop ghost man from Zanzibar again. even when i am really bored. i only have to say, well, Flip Flops. it's enough.

i wish the dogs would stop barking now.

toodedly toot, then, You. bisous X.X.X.X. nostalgic slow sunday night ones... j

oh and ps: be careful what you think...i'm just saying.





24 comments:

PurestGreen said...

"Saturated with Ghosts." There's a book title for you. It's amazing, the way it...He...The Flipflop Man...came to life. I love the gooseys down the spine.
But I know I'm going to have scary dreams. Thanks *sob*

Dumdad said...

Spooky! Beware The Flip Flop Ghost man. And I look down as I type and realise I'm wearing flip flops. Aaaaaargh!

mighty jo said...

that's why i don't tell ghost stories. i'd only succeed in scaring myself. so far finian seems fearless, so i pretend i am too!

family affairs said...

I can't tell ghost stories to my childen - I freak myself out big time - I felt your children's fear. Beautifully described and I could just picture the scene with you trying to pretend all was well in the restaurant. Ha ha. Lxxx

ps word verif is nicatign - which is a sign from the flip flop man that we are both allowed to still smoke!! Lx

Lover of Life said...

Yep, one never knows what the mind might scare up, so to speak. Just saying.

alex said...

hehehe..just fucking fantastic J! Loved this post.

hey do you remember our goosey time on the Natal coast? me you and Danu. that started off beautiful then we shat ourselves.

my eye and betty martin said...

I know just how easy it is to scare yourself ....and the kids - haha - they will look back in years to come (with some strange nervous tics they developed from these days!!!) and have a giggle with you about it all over again.

Janelle said...

sorry green....would hate to scare You! x j
DD. burn the flip flops. take them back to the shop. Now. xx j
thanks for reading Mighty Jo! X j
hey L - thank christ for that, eh? oh and thankyou flip flop man. x j
indeed lover of life, my point precisely. x j
alexi! GOD YES! i remember. shit that was scary!!! xxx j
well i hope they giggle about it amanda...yes. they will. xxx j

Val said...

spine tingling stuff - shew - thank goodness its morning when i read this! your kids will never forget this memory :-)
awesome again - thanks xxxx

Angela said...

Oh Jesus, I love your story! When will your book appear? Can you draw too? The flip flop ghost - he is pretty tall, yes?
That makes me think of the train ghost story of the lonely level crossing attendant (I looked that word up) who was waiting for the last train at night, and then, shortly before midnight, the telephone rang and a voice said,"Black train, black waggons, black men, black coffin..." and hung up. Etc.

karen said...

oooh! i am so glad I'm reading this in broad daylight! I would have been terrified out of my wits, I'm sure, at the point of losing that torch! Thinking of Bata Flip Flops made me smile... :)

Tessa said...

I met a man in Zanzibar once and he disappeared - whoosh - in a puff of smoke. I kid you not. You're right, Janelli, it is a spookie place. Exotic and spicey - but definitely shiver-making.

tam said...

oh this post made me weep with laughter. You are wicked. Did i ever tell you about the time i terrified rozanne when she was baby sitting us?
I agree tho. Znz is thick with ghosts.

tam said...

but i love that you went to get the torch. Heh heh. Reminds me of that Dr Seuss. The pair of trousers with no one inside them.

Reya Mellicker said...

Ahh! I LOVE a good ghost story! Excellent.

You know it's OK to be scared sometimes. Sometimes it's appropriate to be scared.

I would have left the torch. You are obviously far braver than I am!

Bravo!

Janelle said...

thanks y'all for swingin' by! geli the black train and blah sounds spoooooooooooky. and tessa, YES! once happened to me too in stone town...he came and asked for a light for his cigarette. i gave him one. we carried on. literally a few seconds later i turned around to see him and he was gone...weird. someone told me that ghosts do this. ask for lights...hmmmm....?
and tam i can PICTURE you scaring rozanne...utterly! xxx
oh reya i had to get the torch. it was a maglight. torches are a complete neccessity in africa. you never leave your torch. ever! thanks for reading! xxx j

Elizabeth said...

What a tale!
What a mix of the real, the scary and the really scary
I think being spooked out is infectious
and who's to know what's there and what isn't?
Loved the descriptions of the French honeymooners.
My husband loves your stories
and the really doesn't read many blogs...

Mud in the City said...

Janelli - where is your book!! You ahve to write one, by public demand!

Such a way with words. I was transported.

Dick said...

Like reading a vivid dream. A wonderful piece of writing, Janelle.

Reluctant Memsahib said...

you are simply brilliant. even i was scared. here. in an outpost. in broad day light. a million metaphorical miles from zanzibar's coasts. though not blue flipflops, of course: those are africa's ubiquitous curse. quite wonderful, wonderful story telling girl x

Chimera said...

Simply marvellous - just ..well..bloody marvellous!
(Made my heart flip flop.) The crowds roar for more!
T xx

Nao said...

You tell the best tales. This one might just be my favorite yet.

Great writing, great story telling.

Wow.

Kat Farrell said...

Hey Janelle. I haven't dropped by the blog for a while, glad you're still here and kicking. And tormenting your children. Love it.

ExAfrica said...

I was told, in Zanzibar, that women, only some, mind, turn into Leopards and sneak into your hut in the night and eat you up.

You're lucky you mad it out alive.