Sunday Times Books LIVE Community Sign up

Login to Sunday Times Books LIVE

Forgotten password?

Forgotten your password?

Enter your username or email address and we'll send you reset instructions

Sunday Times Books LIVE

Tracey Farren

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Nice Smile by Tracey Farren

(This story first appeared in Women Flashing, an anthology of flash fiction from Anne Schuster’s Women’s Writing Workshops>)

‘Here, take money for beers. I need shots of gangsters drinking’

I get beers at Auntie Sina’s. ‘What’s he doing, this whitie?’ she asks.

‘Taking snaps for New York.’

Auntie Sina snorts, ‘He’s making you look like skollies.’

‘Let’s start with you,’ the ou teases, ‘you’ve got such a nice smile.’

But when I hold the beer up against the graffiti, he says, ‘Don’t smile.’

We are lucky to have beers. We tell jokes while he takes snaps of us. ‘Tell them in New York we’re the leaders of the Hard Livings,’ we say. ‘The Cabinet.’

We are not really a gang. We just grew up together in the same street. When Tikkie’s dad kicks him, he comes to stay with one of us. When Reggie stole that cellphone, I sold my scooter to pay the bail.

The ou asks us, ‘Anyone got a knife?’ Reggie runs home and comes back with a big scaling knife. His dad is a fisherman. The ou tells Reggie to crouch on the rusty bed. Reggie holds the knife close to his nose like he’s saying, ‘Watch out, I’ll cut your face.’ The ou goes close, taking snaps with his fancy, flat camera. The ou says, ‘Don’t smile.’

‘Have you ever smoked Mandrax?’ asks the ou.

‘We want to, one day…’

Tikkie whispers, ‘Shut up, man. You sound like a wannabe.’ He says to the ou, ‘Course we have. What d’you think?’

‘ I need shots of gansgters doing drugs. ‘ He pulls out three tablets from his pocket. ‘Maybe you can smoke them in the bush. Don’t gangs have bush meetings?’

‘Once a month,’ I say.

‘And what do they do there?’

‘I’m not sure.’

Tikkie gives me a punch.

‘Grind it, grind it,’ says Reggie.

‘Break a bottle,’ says Tikkie.

‘How?’ I say.

‘Man, hit it on a brick!’

We are happy, so happy. We suck in white smoke, there in the Port Jackson bushes. We try not to wake up the wasps. A goat sticks his head in, then pulls back. We laugh. This is better than when my dad got me my scooter. The first day I rode up and down our street. I felt rich and grown up.

But then Reggie whispers, ‘Let’s take his camera. We can score more beers.’

Reggie tries to take it off the ou’s neck. The ou struggles. Tikkie says, ‘What are you mad, fighting with a gangster?’ The ou gets scared and lets go. He takes off his watch, throws down his wallet. We are all surprised.

‘He’s so quiet,’ I say.

So Reggie takes the ou’s shoes off. And his socks. Puts a sock in the ou’s mouth. We run into the street. Tell Auntie Sina, ‘Swap the camera for beers.’ Tikkie takes a snap of her shouting, ‘Out!’ Out!’

We run to Hennie, the panel beater. Ask him if he’s got beers. ‘Don’t be mad, man!’

When the cops come we laugh and fall over Hennie’s fence. Hennie’s puppy grabs my shoe and tries to pull it off.

‘Where’s the camera?’ The policeman points his gun.

Tikkie rolls onto his back. Takes a snap of the policeman.

I’ve got one year to go. The prison Hard Livings still use me like a wife. ‘Wyfie,’ they joke. I don’t see my friends. Tikkie got sick, quick quick. Reggie’s gone up to the men’s block. My mother doesn’t have money to pay the warden to stop them raping me. But she brings me toothpaste. Tells me ‘Keep smiling my darling. You’re nearly out.’


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Megan</a>
    August 11th, 2008 @12:16 #

    Wow, that's something else. I'm bowled over.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
    Lauren Beukes
    August 11th, 2008 @16:36 #

    Tracey, I love the realness of your writing. You can tell you've been there (hopefully not smoking rocks in the veldt, but hanging out with people, knowing the scene). There's a real authenticity to it, unlike at least one other local writer I know who only goes there in her head - and it shows.


Please register or log in to comment

» View comments as a forum thread and add tags in BOOK Chat