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A Quiet Courage: A Play by Abigail George


SETTING: Somewhere in the Northern Areas, Port Elizabeth.





Officer 1

Officer 2




Auntie: I wish I were dead, you hear me, dead.

Dulcie: Hush now auntie.

Auntie: Drown me in the sea for all I care.

Dulcie: Bring some sugar water for the auntie.

Auntie: Listen to these young boys telling me to be quiet (she begins to wail).

Dulcie: Have some respect; you know her husband fought in the war.

Officer 1: Ag, man every man over a certain age in South End fought in the war.

Officer 2: Someone come and see to see this woman, this aunt.

Auntie: I brought some of these boys into the world when I was a midwife.

Dulcie: Auntie, do not talk like that.

Auntie: They can just go ahead now and bury me in a flash. Where are the flowers for my grave? Where I ask you are they? (She begins to scream incessantly).

Dulcie: Call the minister.

Auntie: Thank goodness, my husband is dead. He would not be able to live through this. I cannot take it. I cannot take this, the attitude of these young people. You know what they say.

Dulcie: Just try breathing deeply, auntie.

Auntie: I will not cry. For this, for all of this, I will not shed a tear. This just hurts so much. It hurts too breathe. I cannot even think.

Dulcie: Have you even had anything to eat since this morning?

Auntie: Not a drop of anything has passed my lips. I have not even eaten a slice of bread.

Dulcie: You must eat something auntie or else you will just collapse.

Auntie: I am about to fall down. I already feel weak at the knees.

Dulcie: Well, I am not about to go anywhere without you. Where you go I go.

Auntie: They will have to drag me away for all I care.

Dulcie: South End is no more. It will never be the way we remember it.

Auntie: South End is the only home I know.

Dulcie: But now things will be different.

Auntie: People think that things will be different in a good way but that is not true.

Dulcie: In time, maybe you will think differently.

Auntie: All my friends, my family knew of is how to catch fish.

Dulcie: I loved watching the boats.

Auntie: All my uncles were fishermen you know.

Dulcie: I did not know that.

Auntie: Well, you learn something new every day I suppose. I sold vegetables.

Dulcie: People in South End had tough lives but they survived. They made it through somehow.

Auntie: I sold vegetables from a young age. It was a living. My mother did it, my grandmother did. We all did it to put food on the table.

Dulcie: You are a very brave woman, auntie.

Auntie: Funny, I do not think of myself as brave.

Dulcie: But you are.

Auntie: It is just my heart feels so, so sore.

Dulcie: Like it is wounded somehow.

Auntie: I just wish I could feel like a child again.

Dulcie: Me too, auntie. Me too.

Auntie: Dulcie, talk to me.

Dulcie: The political world intrigues me.

Auntie: I feel much calmer now.

Dulcie: I think that is why my brothers do not want me to hear what they talk about.

Auntie: I wish I could live in that world of imagination again of a child.

Dulcie: Men want to live in a violent, brutal world of taking up arms, and even the women.

Auntie: My father’s hands were so rough. Ask me how I know?

Dulcie: How did you know that auntie?

Auntie: I would feel his hands. I would feel them.

Dulcie: What did it feel like?

Auntie: It would feel like a brushstroke against a canvas.

Dulcie: Like you were painting something.

Auntie: Something like that, Dulcie, my child.

Dulcie: Talk to me auntie.

Auntie: We are living in dangerous times but angels surround us too.

Dulcie: I believe that.

Auntie: You have to these days or else you will find yourself slowly giving way to starving yourself to death, dying, just dying a little with every day that passes.

Dulcie: Politics has become the stuff of life for all the youth still found in South End.

Auntie: It will not end here my dear and we both know that. Sooner rather than later, it will all end.

Dulcie: How but how?

Auntie: I do not want to talk about these things. I am getting old. Soon it will be your turn to fight the fight.

Dulcie: I am a woman. Women do not fight. I do not like guns, talk of murder, killings. Auntie: Who told you that, girl (Laughing). You must become a believer.

Dulcie: I do believe in myself.

Auntie: Now you must listen to me. You must believe in yourself. No one is going to do that for you.

Dulcie: I do not understand the world we are living in today, auntie. Help me to understand.

Auntie: We are drowning, Dulcie, can’t you see that? And who is going to save us from ourselves?

Dulcie: We are drowning.

Auntie: Whom do we blame first?

Dulcie: It is the government’s fault.

Auntie: It is always the government’s fault but think, daughter from another mother, daughter of mine, think just where does it all start. It is a thought that is always the catalyst.

Dulcie: I do not understand what you want me to do.

Auntie: Follow your heart and not what your head is telling you to do. Some people think too much. Do you want to be one of those people who play ‘follow the leader’ or do you want to lead.

Dulcie: I think my brothers and uncles are trying to protect me.

Auntie: All are called, but few are chosen.

Dulcie: I never thought I wanted to be a leader, you know a leader of anything really, a movement, an armed movement.

Auntie: I am an old woman but as you grow older, you become wise.

Auntie: I want to give this wisdom to you so you can carry it with you wherever you go supernaturally.

Dulcie: I do not think my mother will approve of these political ideas you are putting in my head.

Auntie: It does not matter what she thinks; what matters is how you feel.

Dulcie: My father is already talking about the great sacrifices his sons are making by becoming involved in the struggle.

Auntie: Darling girl, I was still telling you about my father’s hands. I would run my fingers, my fingertips across his palm.

Dulcie: I am still listening. Would you like some more sugar water, auntie?

Auntie: No, I am fine now, my child, just sitting here reminiscing with you feels good. Oh, we were talking about my father’s hands. It felt like the bark of a fig tree you know. My father’s hands felt like granadilla.

Dulcie: I remember the days when I used to be in love with my English teacher while he recited poetry to the class. Those days are over.

Auntie: Dulcie now listen to me.

Dulcie: I am listening auntie.

Auntie: I like figs. My mother would preserve them in syrup.

Dulcie: I like figs too; ever since I was a little girl, (Auntie begins to stroke Dulcie’s hair). We do not live in a perfect world.

Auntie: You are not listening. Shush about not living in a perfect world.

Dulcie: So many of the young people are leaving and the ‘pale faces’.

Auntie: Listen. When the fruit is so ripe they are so soft and sweet. They remind me of my childhood. There were fig trees in our backyard. I hope there will be trees where I will live now.

Dulcie: Does it really matter what tree is in your backyard?

Auntie: What were you talking about child, I was not listening.

Dulcie: Oh, no, it was nothing serious. I was just talking about trees. My brothers seem to want to join the struggle.

Auntie: How can you say that it is nothing serious! Of course, it is serious.

Dulcie: Are women allowed? They showed be.

Auntie: But for your own sake, you must stay away. It is not, it will not be safe for you.

Dulcie: Are you saying that because I am a woman I cannot think or fight or train as they do?

Auntie: It is the military Dulcie, meisiekind. Over my dead body, I said once but now it seems as if that was such a long time ago, years ago. You are too young to even know what war is. These white people all think that we are trash, that we are rubbish that they can just throw away.

Dulcie: We are all the same inside and out, you know.

Auntie: I don’t dream anymore.

Dulcie: I don’t think that anyone from South End dreams anymore.

Auntie: Do you dream Dulcie?

Dulcie: No, I don’t want to dream anymore.

Auntie: Why don’t you want to dream anymore child when you have your whole life ahead of you?

Dulcie: It doesn’t make me happy or fill me with excitement like it used to.

Auntie: What did you want to become when you were grown?

Dulcie: A nurse but my mother says I mustn’t have thoughts like that in my head anymore.

Auntie: Having a dream and realising it is such a beautiful concept.

Dulcie: I was so confident, made plans but now everyone is talking about becoming political.

Auntie: Yes, yes, yes, that is what excites me now.

Dulcie: My generation?

Auntie: Yes.

Dulcie: I hear them talking.

Auntie: Yes, yes and what do they say.

Dulcie: Well, they don’t like to talk about it when I’m around.

Auntie: Ah, they become secretive?

Dulcie: Yes, they do. And that upsets me.

Auntie: Why, child?

Dulcie: I want to be included too.

Auntie: Well that is only the most natural feeling in the world.

Dulcie: I want them to talk to me because I feel so alone and so scared and so frightened about the future.

Auntie: Darling girl, you are the future.

Dulcie: There is a part of me that knows that for sure, that believes that but then there’s that doubt and insecurity that is so furiously formidable.

Auntie: Dulcie (sigh), and what about the children from South End, what is going to happen to them I wonder and their children’s children? You know evil inspires evil, Dulcie.

Dulcie: I know.

Auntie: And I witnessed it when the bulldozers came. Did you feel anything, Dulcie?

Dulcie: I cried, auntie. I cried when they came.

Auntie: Tell me child did you feel anything more?

Dulcie: I felt a sense of grief.

Auntie: Anything else?

Dulcie: I no longer felt a sense of belonging. I had become a possession of the state.

Auntie: We all have become possessions of the state.

Dulcie: Auntie, I felt denial at first. Let me explain. I did not understand how this could be happening to our community, sons, our daughters and us.

Auntie: I like the way you put it Dulcie, but South End, as we knew it is no more.

Dulcie: I can remember the way it was and no one can take that power away from me.

Auntie: Vagrants walk the streets now where children used to play.

Dulcie: Innocence will never be completely lost.

Auntie: You are so young, Dulcie.

Dulcie: It does not matter that I am so young and that you are older than I am.

Auntie: What do you mean, child?

Dulcie: We have both been torn apart by something mysterious, a terror that walks and talks and that has come into the minds of the people.

Auntie: It has ideas about what freedom and liberation means.

Dulcie: You know what? It really behaves like an awakened human being that has substance.

Auntie: The Group Areas Act is a machine. It has all these cogs, flying wheels, buttons that when pressed is put into terrifying motion.

Dulcie: I think it is more than that.

Auntie: You think it has concrete foundations.

Dulcie: All evils in this world have concrete foundations.

Auntie: And I cannot bear the strain of that anymore.

Dulcie: (looking far away into the distance). Even my people cannot be the strain. I see my father holding back. I see the tears in my mother’s eyes. I see the tension in my brothers as they flex their muscles.

Auntie: Dulcie, promise me one thing.

Dulcie: What?

Auntie: That you will never forget where you come from; you will never forget your people and that you will never forget who you are. You know how some people now in these times want to forget the substance that they are made of, the colour of their skin?

Dulcie: Auntie, I won’t forget.

Auntie: Now don’t just go ahead and make promises that you can’t keep.

Dulcie: It’s a promise that I’ve made and I’ve anchored it in my head and my heart.

Auntie: I’ve walked the surface of these streets of South End as a girl and now my grandchildren and great-grandchildren won’t.

Dulcie: In the end, it doesn’t matter.

Auntie: Yes, you’re right because in the end evil gives us hope.

Dulcie: The goodness in a person’s heart, a kind act, and human dignity will prevail.

Auntie: You have the mind of someone whose mind is not cluttered with the emotional and physical baggage of the past.

Dulcie: I can only hope that there will be no more crime, no more burglaries, and no more of these gangs walking around bravely, devil-may-care with tattoos on their arms before we leave this place.

Auntie: You know every one of those ouens has a mother, a father, sisters, brothers, and cousins.

Dulcie: My father says we pray to a living God.

Auntie: All what I can say for sure is where are our children going to go to school? (Auntie begins to cry again). I don’t think I believe anymore. I don’t want to. It makes me feel more lost, more terrified. What more can I lose? I can’t afford to lose anything anymore. It just makes me feel a little bit more frightened every day.

Dulcie: I’m sure they feel just as lost and displaced as we do auntie.

Auntie: Now I can’t sleep at night. I usually fall asleep in the early hours of the morning.

Dulcie: I just have this feeling of contempt.

Auntie: I toss and I turn.

Dulcie: I don’t know what to do with what I feel and what I think.

Auntie: I have to take these pills now.

Dulcie: (Nodding) Everybody has to take something, talk to someone, and listen. We have to listen to each other. We’re all helpless if we don’t listen to each other.

Auntie: The doctor says it’s for epilepsy.

Dulcie: You know what, I am so sick of is this. The fact is that every doctor has their own story; every minister has their own story, every church, and every elder, even in the political meetings.

Auntie: The doctors are making a helluva lot of money these days.

Dulcie: Everyone is in it for the money. It seems to have a magical quality that mingles with vanity and charm. Nostalgia.

Auntie: Money is worthless if it’s not used as a spiritual property. If only more people would know, what slaves and natives have sacrificed in the past?

Dulcie: I do not think that people talk about slaves and natives anymore in the material sense of the world.

Auntie: I forget this is not modern-day Rome and this is not America. Sorry, my child, I am setting a bad example.

Dulcie: It feels so cold auntie.

Auntie: It is just the atmosphere.

Dulcie: I do not feel as if there is any beauty in this world around me anymore.



Abigail George
Abigail George
South African Abigail George is a blogger, essayist, short story writer, screenwriter, novelist, and poet. She briefly studied film in Johannesburg. She has two film projects in development and is the recipient of two grants from the National Arts Council, one from the Centre for the Book and another from ECPACC. Her publishers are Tendai Rinos Mwanaka (Zimbabwe, Mwanaka Media and Publishing or Mmap), Xavier Hennekinne (Australia/New Zealand, Gazebo Books), and Thanos Kalamidas (Finland, Ovi). Her literary representative is Morten Rand. She is a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net nominated, and European Union Poetry Prize longlisted poet. Her poem “The Accident” was Identity Theory's Editor's Choice for Spring. Ink Sweat and Tears chose her poem “When light poured into me at the swimming pool” as a September Pick of the Month, and she recently made the shortlist of the Writing Ukraine Prize 2023. She is a poet/writer who believes in the transformative, restorative and healing powers of words. Her latest book is Letter To Petya Dubarova (Australia/New Zealand, Gazebo Books). Young Galaxies (a poetry book) was released in 2023 from Mmap and a memoir When Bad Mothers Happen is forthcoming. “Clarissa, Hector and Septimus Redefined” was recently published by Novelty Fiction in Kindle format.

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