Fantasmas Em Toda Parte

I learn this from Bonifatius Mbwale.

He is known to lie, but to tell a proper story both truth and lies are often employed.

Bonifatius is a man of such power that it is better to believe him than not, for to contradict him can lead to many evils.

Bonifatius tell me, “You walk around Benguela and see a white beach, a casino, a stretch of lawn green as seaweed. But I see a fleet of slave ships, a row of log cages in the sand, a mother weeping as her child is tied to a tree and whipped.”

Bonifatius tell me the ghosts cannot abide the blindness of those who walk through them. He say they compel him to make the witch magic as he does, to sicken these people and remind them of the suffering they ignore.

Bonifatius tell me that all ghosts must have their blood tribute.

What Pegman Saw: Angola


She lived at the end of the row of squat stone houses. There were seven of them all told, hulking and sullen, tough as old wood. Dorothy was somewhere in the middle, but the largest of any of them, with a soft woman’s body that belied her tremendous physical strength.

She was fond of teasing him, picking him out of a knot of boys and physically overpowering him.

Once, when he’d called her bitch in her hearing,  she pulled down his pants and spanked his bare bottom in front of everyone.

The thought of her rock-hard hands stayed with him.

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The Vanished World

Young Nor is not listening. He stares into his phone,  rubbing it with an index finger, the old man notes, the way one might stroke a parrot’s head.

Old Nor tips his wicker chair to take advantage of the shade cast by the broad-leaf elephant ear plant that has been next to the doorway for a hundred years.

“When the Royal Navy was in port,” says the old man, “this alley was as lively as any place in the entire city.  It was called Barber Street. One would always see cobblers at their benches, fortune-tellers sitting on their Arabian carpets, ice-ball vendors and kachang puteh sellers, opera singers, and of course the monkeys.”

The boy looks up. “Monkeys, Grandfather?”

“Certainly. Monkeys made the finest thieves. A thiefmaster would set them to the crowd, where they would dart among the people and snatch whatever valuables they could before fleeing to the rooftops.”

“No!” says the boy.

“Oh yes.”

The boy smiles.

What Pegman Saw: Singapore

inlinkz frog

The Grandchildren Are Strangers Anyway

Kitty sometimes wished she’d at least kept a photograph of the grandchildren.

They were strangers anyway, so it wasn’t like she’d have a framed picture of Michael or Kathy hanging on the wall.

Just a picture in a drawer of some children.

She closed her eyes and thought back to when she’d burned everything.

It hadn’t been planned.

One day she placed all the family mementos into a box and dragged it out to the back patio.

She’d doused it in lighter fluid and set it aflame before she quite knew what she was doing, stood and watched it burn.

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New Record

A small blue Ford stood with all its doors open. A little man in a white shirt and sunglasses stood by with crossed arms, smiling as we approached.  We got in.

He stomped on the gas, caroming into the flow of traffic with utter disregard. Joe covered his face with his hands and groaned. The driver ignored this, jerking the wheel this way and that, narrowly avoiding collisions as he sped through the streets.

I focused on the scenery. A column of shaved-head monks in orange robes walked along the road, some carrying black umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun. Three-wheeled bicycle taxis hurdled alongside the traffic, oblivious of the danger.

We skidded to a stop in front of a two-story building with a pagoda roof of red tiles. The driver flipped his wrist and checked his watch, grinning like a lunatic. “Twelve minute!” he said to Joe. “New record!”

What Pegman Saw: Laos

inlinkz frog

Vigil Part Nine

Germaine opened the door and shook his head.

“Really?” I said. “Do you know how long my flight was?”

“Sorry, Stephen. Even the doctors thought this was the real thing.”

“This makes nine false alarms, Gerry. Nine.”

“You didn’t have to come.”

“Bullshit. I have to be here. We all do. Who does this? What kind of person stipulates deathbed attendance as condition for inclusion in  her will?”

Germaine looked at the floor. “Well, you know how she was. Is, I mean.”

“Who else is here?”

“Everybody. Sal drove all night.”

“Well, it’s easy for you. You live here.”

“Easy. Right.”


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Meet the New Boss

Marshal Gororov  sat behind the vast desk. He stirred his tea with vigor.  The cup was a Russian one, clear glass in an elegant silver holder.

Gororov  held up the glass, pointing at the swirling sugar cube with his teaspoon. “You see how it it does not dissolve?” he said.

Bergmanis was unused to the indoors after so many months in the forest. He perched uneasily on the gilt chair in his smoke-sodden clothes, nervously twisting his forager’s cap. He did not like this Soviet and his evasions.

To Bergmanis, the matter was simple enough. The Nazis were gone, smashed to rubble. His men were tired of fighting, tired of war. They missed their homes, their families.

Gororov held up the spoon, smiled as he plunged it in. He crushed the sugar cube against the side of the cup. “But you see,” he said, “it is all a matter of  approach.”

What Pegman Saw: Latvia


World War II losses in Latvia were among the highest in Europe, with 30% of population killed. The Soviet Union reoccupied Latvia as part of the Baltic Offensive in 1944, a twofold military-political operation to rout German forces and the “liberation of the Soviet Baltic peoples.”  In 1949 the Soviet Council of Ministers issued a decree “on the expulsion and deportation” from Latvia of “all kulaks and their families, the families of bandits and nationalists”, and others. More than 200,000 people were deported from the Baltic in 1940–1953. In addition, at least 75,000 were sent to Gulag.  All in all, 10 percent of the entire adult Baltic population was deported or sent to labor camps. Many soldiers evaded capture and joined the Latvian national partisans’ resistance that waged unsuccessful guerilla warfare for several years.

Carry On

Luz stood in the foyer with her eyes closed, breathing the old smells, corn and beans and singed chiles, beer and smoke and sweat.

She smiled, remembering how Oscar had kept it a secret while he lined up the loans, how he’d led her in blindfolded.

It had been an empty room then, not much more than four walls with a stove in the corner, a few tables, some wire chairs.

Thirty-five years they’d been open, not counting the food stall at the market. They’d raised six children with  two grandchildren so far.

Luz busied herself getting ready for lunch.

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The Swimmer

Jammy Doggs stepped into sea and waded out, the pull of the waves sweet against his legs.

He bent to feel the water between his fingers, test the temperature against the eighty years of sea wisdom he held in his heart.

The gentle fog rolled across the waves, cool and lovely.

The white sand shone below the clear water, a school of minnows darting this way and that, moving as one.

He walked on, his feet raising clouds of sand smoke trailing behind him.

The cool water lapped against his waist and started the three shocks: first to the groin, second to the chest, and finally to the head.

Then he was swimming, free as any fish or dolphin, though not as skilled.

He drifted down to the bottom, turned to look up through the water at the moment the sun burned through the fog.

This beauty caused his soul to sing as it always had.

What Pegman Saw: Florida

inlinkz frog

God’s Will Be

And just as suddenly as it appeared, it was gone.

Dwight raised his head and looked around.

Everything was broken and splintered as far as the eye could see.

Tufts of insulation hung in the still air like so much snow.

The church had vanished, the bare foundation and its few reaching fingers of twisted rebar the only reminder of what had been.

But no, that wasn’t all.

The altar stood, the Cross of Gold and Miraculous Praying Hands undisturbed.

Even Deacon Rodd’s Holy Bible sat atop it, turned to the very page Deacon had been reading when it hit.

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