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The Smiling Mask -an African Short Story ch 1
Meeting on the beach front
The Smiling Mask: Chapter 1
As Jennifer carefully hung the mask on her office wall she felt as if it smiled at her. It was a wry smile she had to admit, but a smile never the less. She thought back to the moment on the East London beach front in South Africa, where she had first seen the mask.
She and her two friends from Atlanta had completed their ten day trip to the Eastern Cape. What a magic trip it had been. Remembering the great times brought such pleasant thoughts to her mind. Images flashed through her mind: Addo Elephant Park, Shamwari Game Reserve, the Wild Coast hike and the days just lazing on the beach at Chintsa.
On their last day in East London they were due to fly from the airport there to Johannesburg and then Atlanta they had travelled down to the beach front on the Quigney to shop for curios. All along their travels they had been tempted to buy curios from the many they had seen offered for sale, but their guide John had warned, “Wait till you get to East London! You will see the same things, but at a much better price.”
Well they decided not to wait “because you never know what might happen in East London,” and apart from anything else the temptation was just too big! The three friends had shopped as they travelled, much to John's amusement. They had bought so many beautiful things along the way. The grass hats that they had worn on the plane and that their families had laughed about when they arrived at Atlanta Airport; the bangles and beads and the traditional skirts that looked so beautiful on the local women and that they had promised they would wear at the photo show they were planning for their families. The books about the flora and fauna and recipes that they had posted home, because they knew they would not make the weight limit on the plane.
Before they knew it the flight out of East London to Oliver Tambo Airport in Johannesburg and on to Atlanta was just hours away, so down to the beach front they travelled. When Jennifer saw the assortment of carved animals, the brightly colored paintings, the beadwork, the wooded fruit bowls and the pottery, her heart melted. If only she could take it all back. Imagine the presents she could give her family and friends!
Then she saw the mask and something happened to her! She knew immediately that she had to have it. James, the owner of the selection of curios, seemed to know what she was looking at and stretched over to pick it up and hand it to her. Although he had never attended any sales training courses, he knew that if she held it in her hand the sale was already fifty per cent certain.
As she looked at the mask and the face looked at her she felt something extraordinary happening to her. It was like a surge of power through her body, like love at first sight, but even more than that. Her heart, her mind, her soul seemed to send messengers rushing through her body. She had never felt such a powerful feeling before. Something was taking place here that went beyond any experience she had experienced before.
“How much?” she asked, her voice surprising even herself because of its intensity. James smiled at her, looking at all the signs that called out loudly, “rich American tourist” and answered, “R180”. Their guide, John interjected from a distance, “Offer him R80, that is a fair price”. James looked offended, but not overly so, and immediately knew that he had been caught out. “What about R120?” he almost pleaded. That was about $15 and so Jennifer reached into her bag to find R120 while clutching the mask under her arm, almost as if she was afraid someone else might grab it away. John shook his head, James’ smile lit up the African Sky, and Jennifer knew that she had come to the right place and could now return home.
It was a strange experience that she had never had before. Something in that mask was speaking to her, not in words, but in a communication that was much deeper than words. Little did she know that the smiling mask would change her life forever! ( continued)