This wasn’t America. This wasn’t anywhere. It was a weird menagerie, as if the locals had arrived here after being sucked through a sci-fi time warp, forced together only because they couldn’t find their way out.

At first glance the town looked like a conservtive Republican’s wet dream. There were the ranchers who reminded him of the typical South African farmer, but louder. They often kept their guns on the rack of their bakkie. Right there, for anybody to see. Then there were all these old people wandering around, plastering American flags onto anything that stood still. A few of them routinely offered him cookies, like he was five. His mother told him to be nice. As if he had a choice.

But then there were the hippie types, who looked like they would do well in Obs. Why they wanted to live in a town whose main local industry was raising meat, was anybody’s guess. But The General Store carried vegetarian tofu, right next to the bacon.

More bizarre was the area where he was staying: a group of about ten houses, all sharing communal grounds. He was yet to see another male in the place, a fact that wasn’t an accident.

And, nor were the far-right wingers unaware of them. Plus one of the four local churches was across the street.

He needed to get out, now. Please, somebody tell that girl where he lived! He was trapped – couldn’t drive.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if they were living in the same town where his mother was teaching, with its own shopping centre and movie theatre. But they had to stay with Althea, provider of their free accommodation. Given it was seventy kilometres away, Malcolm once asked Althea why she didn’t move closer to work. “Big cities give me hives,” she said, and visibly shuddered. It took Malcolm a second to understand the woman wasn’t being funny. Since when did a town with a lousy fifteen thousand people become a ‘big city?

The piano fell silent. Malcolm stroked the keys. Then he smashed his fist down. The clang was unsatisfactory. No tiles or stone to provide a ringing echo. He gave the trees a hard look, as the wooden walls of the building absorbed the remaining vibrations of the piano’s strings. The wind ruffled the branches, causing them to sway and reach out – beckoning. He stepped out, back towards The General Store, kicking a rock as he went. Maybe he should go home to Althea’s instead? Then again, maybe not.

He kicked another rock. It was bad enough his parents wanted ‘a break’, from each other, for what, he didn’t know. But to drag him out here without giving him a say? How was that fair? This wasn’t his life. This was hell. And Malcolm could now confidently state that hell was lined with trees.


Tell us: How would you like, or cope with, being the only person of your colour where you live?