In keeping with my last post, I have decided to put up some out takes from my novels. When I was writing Never Laugh at Shadows, the protagonist, Winsome, went home to Uganda, having fallen in love with an English man. I included several letters between them as a way of keeping the story moving forward and the reader knowing what both were up to. Having written these letters, I decided that it didn’t work after all, so I took them out. 16,000 words! So here are some of them…
Winsome put her pen down and supported her chin in her hands as she looked out the window over the coffee plants to the rolling hills beyond. She’d been home three months and had not found either her father or her brothers. Her mother was living with the spirits, hardly aware of what was going on around her, and often went out at night to sit in the graveyard and talk to her friends, the dead, whom she swore were better company than anyone else she knew. Winsome was exhausted from the search, from not knowing what to do next, from having to look after her mother and not shout at her to take some responsibility. Never had she felt so alone. Absolom and Martha were still there, living in their hut out the back, but they had aged in the time she’d been away, and spent their evenings quietly under the mango tree listening to their radio, occasionally sharing a thought or their response to some news item, but mainly just sitting. She saw them now, gazing into the distance in their companionable silence, and wished she could share their contentment.
She took up her pen again.
‘Things are not so good here. Ma continues to roam, and no-one can get through to her. I think if she were in your country, she would have been confined to a Psychiatric hospital and given medication, but that is not he way of things in Uganda. Here, were keep our family at home when they are unwell, and we try to look after them as best we can. I think that this is a good idea because when they are ill, people should be with the people who love them.’
She stopped again. Would Dominic take offence at that? He had to put Angela in a hospital when she was ill – if he didn’t, the Police did, so surely it was kinder for him to do it than for her to be manhandled by strangers? But did she really think that he should stay at home and look after her? She wasn’t sure; she’d have to give it more thought, but in the meantime, she carried on.
‘But unfortunately, sometimes those very loving family members can feel quite unloving, angry, even, and then perhaps it would be good for everyone concerned if there was a hospital nearby. Perhaps if she was given medicine she would stop talking to ghosts, stay in at night, keep safe; but she likes talking to the spirits of her dead friends, so would it not be cruel to stop it? There is no answer, and no alternative anyway, as the hospitals have hardly any staff and no medicines these days. Mangeni, who works in our local hospital as a nurse, says that so many people are dying of AIDS – which we here call Slim because that is what it does to you – and there is nothing to give them. It is easy to hate a government that has turned its back on its own people.’
She stopped writing again and read back through what she’d written. If paper wasn’t so scarce she’d tear it up and start again. She didn’t mean to depress Dominic. His letters were always full of funny stories and local news. It was just unfortunate that her local news was of war and despair. And absence.
‘I think I may have a new lead on where Abraham and Solomon might be,’ she wrote. ‘A few days ago, some resistance fighters came through here, an one of them told me he’d heard of twins fighting in one of the coys further north. Of course, there are probably many twins fighting, but each time I hear of some, I hope it is them, and it gives me hope that they are still alive, because no-one would bother saying there are twins fighting if there was only one, would they?’
Once again, Winsome laid down her pen and sighed. It seemed her whole family was playing some sort of hideous disappearing act.
If you have read the book, you may recognise the characters. If not, why not zip over to Amazon and get yourself a copy and see if you prefer the way it is now or whether you would have preferred the letters!