The Smiling Mask an African short story ch 3
The mask begins its journey
The rather unique mask, with the smiling face and the small fish carved above its eyes, made the usual journey in David’s car via the coastal road to Maputo and then on via Komatipoort to Johannesburg. Here, at the marketplace where sellers from all over the country came to buy their supplies, it found its way into the bag of curios bought by Jimmy. He had travelled by taxi from East London to buy supplies for the coming December summer season.
The price that David got for the mask was R25 and it was only because his Toyota was laden to the full, including a roof carrier, that he was able to make a profit. With the increase in petrol prices and the need for new tires, he wondered if he could make this 3000km plus round trip again. For the moment however, his family in Vilikazi Street in Soweto, would have enough to go on with for another month or so. Schools in the township were still relatively cheap, even if the education was not as good as in the nearby semi- private schools in Mondeor and Randburg. The family did, however, have food and electricity and even some money to pay for their cell phones and airtime. He might even be able to go and watch his beloved Kaiser-Chiefs soccer team play in the Telkom Knockout Cup on Saturday as a special treat.
Jimmy and the mask and other curios left early the next morning from the taxi rank in Soweto. The 1000 km from Johannesburg to East London went without any mishap in spite of some close calls as the rather tired Taxi driver sometimes took chances, overtaking other vehicles on the busy N6. In East London the mask was carefully displayed among the other pieces of “African Art” by Jimmy and his friend who were looking forward to the coming holiday season and hoping for a good return on their investment.
This was where the mask met up with Jennifer on the beachfront and travelled back to Johannesburg and on to Atlanta by plane. If anyone had been taking notice, the mask had, from its humble beginnings in the small tribal village in Mozambique, now travelled about 18 000 km. to find its place on the wall of Jennifer’s office. Starting in a small village in Northern Mozambique it had travelled through the country and on to Johannesburg in South Africa in a rather tired Toyota. Then from Johannesburg to East London by taxi. From East London by aeroplane to Johnnesburg, and then on to Atlanta in the USA. This was a longer journey that most people do in their life time. No wonder it was smiling at Jennifer as she stood back to admire it in the late evening light.
It was then for the first time that she noticed the small pattern carved above the eyes of her mask. Something strange was communicating with her again as it had on the East London beach front a couple of days before. She moved closer to look at the pattern and noticed that it was a delicately carved small fish. This was now without a doubt more than just another mask, because something was stirring in her soul as she looked at it. She knew that it was speaking to her in a way that she had never experienced before. What the message it was communicating to her was, she could not say at that stage. At the same time she knew with certainty that she had only two choices, throw it away or listen, and that was really no choice at all.
Jennifer did not say anything to anyone that evening, and even when her husband Roy remarked that she was very quiet she chose to just brush it off as tiredness after the 18hr flight earlier in the week. She slept poorly that night as she dreamed of people dancing around a fire wearing similar masks to her smiling one, but their masks were not smiling. At one time Roy shook her awake to ask her if she was having a nightmare and she could only answer in the affirmative.
So began a journey that was going to take her to places she had never been before and the smiling mask was the key to that journey.(to be continued)