For the months of May and June, renowned South African author Jo-Anne Richards ran a series of writing workshops at our gallery in the Montebello Design Centre. As part of the course, she issued a challenge in which budding authors were asked to create a 500-word piece inspired by an etching by Diane Victor, Bluebeard’s Wife.
Congratulations to Claudia Ferreira who won a R250 book voucher for her illustrative story Helplessness Blues.
His beard is a big and bushy Lumbersexual dream. It’s bright electric blue, like her favourite nail polish.
He shows her around the flat, pointing out his most treasured items. The kiln where he bakes the pottery heads he sells at the rooftop market each Sunday. The mid-century modern desk where he works an old typewriter with glass keys. The cow skull he says he found at a desert music festival while tripped out on Khat.
There’s one room he doesn’t show her. He warns her not to enter under any circumstances. That must be where he keeps the weird sex stuff, she thinks, before turning her attention to a Mondo poster of Steve Zissou on the wall.
At first, they’re great together. She’s finally found someone who understands her, who gets her taste.
They stay up nights listening to Sub-Pop records on his vintage-styled Crosley turntable. They snuggle out on the balcony, making up stories about the people passing below. They host movie nights for his friends, where they make fun of cheesy ‘80s movies.
But then, she begins to find little things about him that irritate her. The smell that lingers on the breakfast table after he’s smoked his disgusting pipe. The ironic covers of Katy Perry songs he clumsily plays on the banjo. His obsession with Mumblecore. God, she can’t stand Greta fucking Gerwig.
One day, she asks him if he has any hip hop records they can jam to. He hands her some Kendrick Lamar. She asks if he has anything older. He hands her early Kanye.
Later, after he falls asleep streaming NPR, she goes to the Dalmatian-shaped jar he keeps his keys in and takes out the one to the forbidden room.
A bizarre sight awaits her when she finally finds the light-switch – piles of CDs and DVDs adorn every inch of shelf space and most of the floor.
Who even buys CDs anymore, she thinks as she picks up a DVD case from the shelf. A wormy feeling of dread starts making its way up her spine. There’s something not quite right about this picture.
At first, she can’t quite comprehend what she’s looking at. Adam Sandler stares back at her in a wig and hoop earrings. Then she realises it’s the movie Jack & Jill. The wormy feeling starts metamorphosing into a Kafkaesque horror.
She grabs a handful of CDs. Each one is worse than the last. The Essential Michael Bolton. Celine Dion: Taking Chances. My Name is Skrillex.
She drops the next one as if it were white-hot. It’s a Kurt Darren CD.
“I see you found my secret,” a voice says from the doorway. “You realise I’m going to have to kill you, right?”
She turns to look at him, his bearded face half-hidden in the shadows. He holds a novelty lamp in his hand. She tries to speak but she can’t think of anything to say.
He walks towards her and raises the lamp.
Click here to read other notable stories that came out of the challenge.
There is a second fine writing challenge for you inspired by another Diane Victor etching from the series Pandora’s Sisters. This one’s called After Eden. Your challenge this time is to write up to 500 words of Eve’s interior monologue as she ponders her triumphs and failures, her regrets and her forebodings.
The deadline’s noon on Friday, July 31 2015. The prize for the winning entry – judged blind by Jo-Anne Richards – is the befuddlingly extravagant voucher worth R250 to an independent bookstore of your choice.
See more here.