Morris has been gone for many years to pursue his education. Now he
We are brothers, remember.
(A few seconds pass in silence. Morris threads his needle and then starts working on a tear in Zachariah’s coat.) That’s a word, hey! Brothers! There’s a broody sound for you if ever there was, I mean . . . . Take the others. Father. What is there for us in . . .Father? We never knew him. Even mother. Maybe a sadness in that one, though, I think, at times. Like the wind. But not much else. She died and we were young. What else is there? Sister. Sissy, they say, for short. Like something snaky in the grass, hey? But we never had one, so we can’t be sure. You got to use a word a long time to know its real meaning. That’s the trouble with “Mother.” We never said it enough.
(He tries it.) Mother. Mother! Yes. Just a touch of sadness in it, and maybe a gray dress on Sundays, and soapsuds on brown hands. That’s the lot. Father, Mother, and the sisters we haven’t got. The rest is just the people in the world. Strangers, and a few friends. And none of them are blood.
But brothers! Try it. Brotherhood. Brother-in-arms, each other’s arms. Brotherly love. Ah, it breeds, man! It’s warm and feathery, like eggs in a nest. (Pause.) I’ll tell you a secret now, Zach. Of all the things there are in this world, I like most to hear you call me that. Zach? (He looks at Zachariah’s bed.) Zachie? Zachariah!
(He is asleep. Morris takes the lamp, goes to the bed, and looks down at the sleeping man. He returns to the table, picks up the Bible, and after an inward struggle speaks in a solemn, “Sunday” voice.) “And he said: What hast thou done? The voice of they brother’s blood crieth unto me!” (Morris drops his head in an admission of guilt.) Oh Lord! Oh Lord! So he became a hobo and wandered away, a marked man, on a long road, until a year later, in another dream, He spake again: Maybe he needs you, He said. You better go home, man! (Pause.) So he turned around on the road, and came back. About this time, a year ago. Could have been today. I remember turning off the road and coming this way across the veld. The sun was on my back. Yes! I left the road because it went a longer way around . . . and I was in a hurry . . . and it was autumn. I had noticed the signs on the way. Motor-cars were fewer and fast. All of them were crowded and never stopped. Their dust was yellow. Telephone poles had lost all their birds . . . and I was alone . . . and getting worried. I needed comfort. It’s only a season, I said bravely. Only the beginning of the end of another year. It happens all the time! Be patient! . . . which was hard hurrying home after all those years . . . Don’t dream at night! You must get by without the old dreams. Maybe a few new ones will come with time . . . and in time, please! . . . because I’m getting desperate, hey! . . . I remember praying.
Then I was off the road and coming here across the veld, and I thought: It looks the same. It was. Because when I reached the first pondokkies and the thing dogs, the wind turned and brought the stink from the lake and tears, and a clear memory of two little outjies in khaki broeks.
No one recognized me, after all those years. I must have changed. I could see they weren’t sure, and wanting to say “Sir” at the end of a sentence and ask me for work and wanting to carry my bundle for a tickey. At first I was wanting to carry my bundle for a tickey. At first I was glad . . . but then came a certain sadness in being a stranger in my old home township. I asked the time. It’s not late, they said. Not really dark, don’t worry. It always gets this way when the wind blows up the factory smoke. The birds are always fooled and settle down too soon to sleep . . . they assured me.
I also asked the way. Six down, they said, pointing to the water’s edge. So the there was only time left for a few short thoughts between counting the doors. Will he be home? Will I be welcome? Be remembered? Be forgiven . . . or forgotten, after all those years? Be brave, Morris! Because I had arrived at that door here about a year ago. I remember I reached it . . . and held my breath . . . and knocked . . . and waited . . . outside in the cold . . . hearing a move inside here . . . and then there was my heart as well, the smell of the water behind my back, his steps beyond the door, the slow terrible turning of the knob, the squeak of a rusty hinge, my sweat, until at last, at long last after a lonely road he stood before me . . . frowning. (Pause)
You were wearing this coat. It’s been a big help to me, this warm old coat . . . then . . . and in the days that followed. But specially then. It was all I saw at first! I didn’t dare look up, because your eyes were there, and down below on the ground were your sad, square feet, and coming out to me, your hands . . .your empty hands. So I looked at your coat! At the buttons. At the tears, and your pockets hanging out . . .while we talked.
And that night, in the dark, when you slept, I put it on . . . because, I’ve got to get to know him gain, I said, this brother of mine, all over again. (Morris puts on Zachariah’s coat . . . It is several sizes too large.) It was a big help. You get right inside the man when you can wrap up in the smell of him, and imagine the sins of idle hands in empty pockets and see the sadness of snot smears on the sleeve, while having no lining and one button had a lot to say about what it’s like to be him . . . when it rains . . . and cold winds. It helped a lot. It prepared me for your flesh, Zach. Because your flesh, you see, has an effect on me. The sight of it, the feel of it . . . it . . . it feels, you see. Pain, and all those dumb dreams throbbing under the raw skin, I feel, you see . . . . I saw you again after all those years . . . and its hurt.
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