So, she says, scratching the translucent skin beneath Pi’s beak. She looks at me sideways. Maybe I’m doing the same bloody horrible thing you do. She smirks at the hairpin logic.
I return to my puzzle. In America a hooter is a horn. Or a tit.
It’s Kate’s last day of the school year. She’s dyed her hair again. The towels and tiles and shower curtain are smudged with dark inky stains. I thought she’d go orange when her roots started showing, or red, but no. Black.
We talked about losing the Satanist look, giving up the pentagram she wears on a chain round her neck, ditching the book of teenage witch spells. I raised my eyebrows and nodded when she emerged from the shower, her hair a wet mess of clinging black snakes.
Tonight I’ll take her to her father for the Christmas holidays. She’ll sling her kit in the boot. I’ll kiss her and her bird. She’s taking it along. Her father has erected a hook in the courtyard where she can hang the cage, safe from the cats.
I am writing up the article on the excavator operator I interviewed in Limpopo last week. There’s just time before we leave to phone the plant hire business owner who drove me to the farm up on the neck. He is a white Zimbabwean who lost his farm in the land invasions. I ask him the details I forgot to write down at the time: the make of the vehicle, the tonnage, the names of the butterflies he’d pointed out.
Kate starts up the hair-dryer in my bedroom. I put my hand over the receiver, saying, Can’t you go do that someplace else? She switches the hair-dryer off but doesn’t leave.
The plant hire guy had showed me a green-banded swallowtail, a glossy black butterfly with a strip of emerald green, and a giant white guy, clouded mother-of-pearl. We also saw a shy impala ram that bounded away before I could take a photograph. He told me it was a conservancy, where endangered species are protected.
Kate preens in the mirror, stretching her neck, swinging her head, spraying the glass.
I ask how the repair to the dam is going? How is Andries?
Not well, he says. Looks like he’s got shingles. I think he’ll join the sleepers soon.
Hey, I say, I’m so sorry.
Kate stares up close at her new black eyebrows, making wide eyes.
Hey, he says. You take care.
Per Contra Summer 2007