by Sheila Kohler
As they drive along the road to Oudtshoorn and draw near the house where the dinner is being held, Jan Marais tells his wife Kate that he is having an affair with Serge, his anesthetist.
Jan draws the car—the black Mercedes convertible his mother-in-law gave them as a wedding present—over onto the shoulder of the road, anticipating Kate’s response. He wants to stop so that, if necessary, he can put his arms around his wife’s shoulders and comfort her, should she weep in the car. The top is down, and Jan can see a small troop of brown-gray baboons by the side of the road. Two or three big males and a smaller female with several young baboons around her are sitting on rocks or rooting in the earth under the wild fig and thorn trees. The sultry heat of the December evening is only tempered by the wind which blows the branches about wildly.
Jan turns off the engine and the lights, but leaves the radio playing. A woman is singing softly: “Take me to your heart again…” Jan looks at his wife and waits for her reply. But she seems to be looking at the baboons.
“Baboons,” she says incongruously, as though this were some sort of reply to what he has told her. Why can the woman not concentrate on the matter at hand? Jan thinks. This is one of the things which annoys him about Kate, the way she flits from subject to subject without any connection, the way she dithers, never able to make up her mind. He feels it is having an effect on him, on his work, where prompt decisions are a matter of life and death.
Kate is sitting beside him with her small hands in her lap, staring at the baboons. He notices how nicely the blue of her flowered dress reflects her star-shaped sapphire earrings.
Kate has a way with color. She knows how to dress with understated elegance. He sees how flat the collar of this dress lies against her smooth white neck. She holds her small, dark head erect, and her lips turn down ever so slightly at the edges. Even in the fading light of day, he can see how her brown eyes glimmer in a hazy, dreamy way. He sees her luminous skin, the soft tinge in the cheeks which rises from her neck like a promise, and he smells her sweet odor of verbena and roses.
He asks her, “Don’t you have anything to say?” but she does not answer.…
From “In The Forest”
by C.K. Williams
In a book about war, tyranny, oppression, political insanity and corruption,
in a prison camp, in a discussion in which some inmates are trying to contend
with a vision of a world devoid of real significance, of existence being no more
than brute violence, of the human propensity to destroy itself and everything else,
someone, an old man, presumably wise, tells of having once gone to live in a forest, far in the North, pristine, populated by no one but poor woodsmen and hermits;
he went there, he says, because he thought in that mute, placid domain of the trees,
he might find beyond the predations of animals and men something like the good.…
From Adam Gaynor: Portfolio