Submitted into Contest #123 in response to: Start your story looking down from a stage.... view prompt


Desi Inspirational High School


I stood there stunned, not knowing what was expected of me, and I was shaking just from being goaded into something that I did not feel part of nor felt I had attained – I was just a good scholar. Isn’t that what everyone was doing here!

When I looked down on all the people in front of me from that height I wasn’t sure what to do until the Headmaster shoved his hand in mine and presented me with a parcel wrapped festively with my name on it and an envelope.

How that happened was a story worth the tale. I began my life in a small community in Germiston, South Africa, a mining town where one of the first gold mines started the 1878 Gold Rush. Like most teens I had a mother and father – but during that time after the Second World War things were scarce.

You could wear anything you wanted to, but it was blue, white or khaki and the only trousers were grey or navy blue and khaki, but no one wanted to wear military gear after Hitler and Rommel made such a mess in Europe and North Africa.

Commodities were in short supply, even cars had inner tubes and they were scarce so people filled the tyre with sand and hosepipe. It never bothered me because I grew up with it and life went on, situations changed and improved as I got older.

That day I’ll never forget! It was the last week of my schooling and I had done well as a student. The final prize was never something that was promoted because it was THÉ PRIZE and it was a surprise for the best student.

It was only some time later that I got my thoughts together enough to write what really happened to this guy in that hall on that day. So I fell into the habit right there at an early age and let ART express the reality and the richness of the moment. The poem ‘the Prize ‘ followed with pen to paper.

The Prize

Wake up!

Prepare! The horse before the cart - ‘dough before the syrup’

They say! Get the sequence right! It is time for industry

The sun is up and there’s emptiness in the pantry.

Life has to be lived

And you fast realize there’s things you’re not give’d

You have to find an occupation

Something to do and make money! A vocation.

So you’re still tired

But you have to attempt to be inspired

While you agreed to always do your best

You never slept! So now, you have to fake the zest.

You’re a scholar but it feels like prison

Queues for this and that. No prediction or vision!

But you marshal thoughts and deeds along

Give the outward impression you’re strong.

And it’s a day of drama

Next, and the next tireless order and dogma

Demand and damn, people are ruthless

And after lunch you are breathless.

But back into the yoke

You go, swallow your pride and your coke

Because the day is an endless bind

But! Hey! Somehow you manage through the grind.

Finally it is time to end

Day is done just as you make the last bend

Straighten up and sigh

Your body aches! And Man! How you wish you could fly.

You leave the classes

Shuffle down the paving through the masses

Home with a languid limb

A steady eye, but disappointment and prospects dim.

One week goes to the month

And the next, the year meets its zenith

Then wanes into winter solstice

But the graft is remorseless with insistence.

Exams come unwelcome ’d again

It’s late nights to cram and all the disdain

Just seeing you were exam stumped

With the question from paragraph 10 you skipped.

You get your head above water

Trying not to fight with every Tom, Dick and the waiter

But it’s irritating when you’re the buck

And What! You just feel in need of something to chuck!

Well! That’s Christmas there on the horizon,

And some have put their scarves on

Hear Ye! There is the ‘Prize Giving’ to come

And Yes! Also the prom or gala... to some.

The hall is packed and tense

Everyone wants to hear who won and not sat on the fence

Grand English prize and first student! First with distinction……

You’re not sure you heard right with your own conviction!

The guy behind you gives you a digging shove

You look at him and wish you had a boxing glove!

Now it’s the guy on your left!

He almost seems completely at a loss and bereft.

They say! Go! It’s you! You won!

In the nervous sweat that grabs you – you want to run

But there are too many people in the way

And they are all looking at you for something to say.

You stand and shuffle along the aisle

Put up a pose and a smile on you dial

The whole bloody hall erupts in applause

Right at that moment you aren’t sure of the cause.

You make your way to the stage

And the din carries on. It’s a rampage.

They stamp their feet and shout

Sheeze! What is this all about!

There is the stage and the stairs

The prefect waves me on with pomp ’n airs

I nearly miss the first step

But he steadies me with a bold tap! You see, he’s hep.

Now your ears are drumming with the ruckus

And as you approach the dais... you see the omnibus!

Your face reddens and knees feel weak

You wonder if you’re the only freak.

The Principal stands there smiling from ear to ear

You see this is your moment and you also see fear

But he sticks out a huge paw and wrings

Your hand and arm until it stings.

He turns and the maiden puts a large object in his hand

The room falls deathly quite... There’ s music! It’s the school band.

The Principal offers the package and an envelope

The band plays the school anthem and you feel there’s hope.

The crowded hall goes wild

You got the Big One and you’re no longer a child

You’re on your way to making it

Vocation... the caboodle and the whole kit.

You shakily reach and take the prize

And smile! “Well Done!” He says. Then you realize!

This is for me! It’s mine

And in that moment you’ve come of age and will be fine.

One hundred dollars and a Compendium of Knowledge

You’re a graduate with distinction from the college

Not only that! It’s the last year of learning enforcement.

You can now choose anything to study for true enhancement.

Which is the bigger prize…. Freedom!

And right there everything clears including study boredom

And your purpose to create is a powerful surge

And a flood of relief sanctifies your very soul to just splurge.

How do you tell another.. no one can teach a poet and writer

He has an education he does not need another lecturer

He wants to write, think and research and WRITE

Not something trite and no further delays. Right!

My name is Robert and you now know how I started off on this path and my early impressions.

Many friends Romans and countrymen start at an early age to learn the language of the community where they grow up and the things that people do We learn their ethnics and mores that they observe and these become what we know and follow.

Many days after I had written the poem I still had more that was left unsaid but it took another crucial turning point in my life before I realized what it was.

It followed from where I was and what I lived through in that post war period.

There were two really bizarre relationships that fashioned a high regard for others in me. I had a friend while I was doing my post graduate study, his name, Fred. Fred was divorced and occasionally he would visit his ex-wife who stayed in the same block of flats where I lived. He was a brilliant man but ethically he was a tyrant and a callous egomaniac.

One day his ex-wife came to me despondent and really bad off. She told me that she had been abused by him when he came to ‘visit’ and after I gave her coffee and a sane moment, she felt she could tell me the story, she then asked me if I would speak to him. I agreed.

On Fred’s next visit I asked him to call at my flat on his way out. We had previously had many chats, but this time I spoke about his treatment of his ex-wife in such a way, that he told me what he thought and did – so there were no incriminating assumptions.

I told him in these words at the termination of his visit to reinforce what we had discussed: “Fred you have to stop these callous egomaniac and destructive ways or you will bump your head so hard you will not recover.” That was the last time I saw him.

He was going out with another girl, from who I had heard the same stories that mirrored what his ex-wife told me. One day a week from our conversation Fred and his fiance were going away for a weekend. He wanted to take a nap and he lay with his head towards the back of the station wagon, while she drove. During the trip she hit a bad bump in the road and the hatch at the back opened and Fred fell out onto the road, head first. He died instantly.

The next situation occurred like this. I went to visit a girl whom I really liked. She was in the custody of her grandparents as she was the product of a broken home. The grand parents however, had decided that day, that they were going to visit friends in Pretoria and we had to go as well. It was strict protocol that the girl would not be allowed alone with a guy until he had proven his ‘worth’ so to speak.

She and I did the social observances, then after the lunch with the friends ,June and I decided to go for a walk. That was permissible. I love books and libraries and on the way I saw a bookshop across an intersection.

We had to cross the road and in doing so we passed a very interesting building with hermetic and mystic symbols on it. There was one that struck me and as I looked at it a whole vista of images formed in my mind of what I had done and how this related to my own life. They had a bookstore crammed with literature it had the aura of ancient knowledge and precision and truth and life.

I asked June “Have you seen that symbol before?” She looked at me aghast and wriggled free from my hand. It was the end of my perusal of the bookstore and I never saw her again after that incident. She refused to see me or made excuses that she was engaged or busy and I finally let her be. But I was branded some how.

It took some getting used to. I felt that I was losing friends somehow there was something to be learned from this. I was naturally curious and inventive but this struck me hard, so I sat down and wrote.

I spotted a few things, one was that, when I decided to make, create or attain an objective I did it and achieved it. It became almost a joke between my associates and I, who dubbed this ability: ‘Roberts Rights’.

My life changed after those pages that I wrote.

I woke up one evening in bed and I could hear the neighbourhood. I heard the sounds from down the road, the traffic from the main road, a garden gate squeak and people walking on the hard paving a block away. I could hear for miles.

I had intuitive forecasts of things, just due to the viewpoint I had adopted. This became chilling and a study in ostracism. I began inhibiting myself from associating with my fellows because I did not want to see anything that would happen to them.

I wrote three stories and all of them turned out to happen they were predictions. These encompassed one local incident and two international events.

I vowed very emotionally and emphatically, that I would not have this pain. I did not want to see the problems of people nor how they would end, because of their attitudes, blindness's or ignorance's.

There seemed at this stage nothing that I could not achieve but emotionally I could not stand that amount of truth. The pure resilience required to keep a straight face and an analytic viewpoint of what was happening around me was more than I could tolerate at that stage of life.

I spent all my money on books and visited every book stand and library as I lived these next years in a number of cities in my own country and overseas when I traveled.

The knowledge was staggering but there was also an equivalent amount of detritus that one had to know how to sift out. At one stage I felt a bit like Jaques. Jaques said in a bold statement of fact when he was exploring the SEVEN AGES of Man in “As You Like It” by William Shakespeare.

All the world's a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages.

I continued to write, mostly trying to keep my own writing to myself and write other palatable stuff for the acceptance in society. I was a Religious man but none of the conventional Religions explained life nor had knowledge about Man.

And then I dreamed that one could get any question answered if you asked the right question of the right person.

The next day I was walking in the street on my way to do some shopping on a Saturday morning and I was stopped by a very handsome man with the most piercing blue eyes. I had no acquaintance with the man at all or so I thought. He grabbed my hand in recognition of me and shook it saying “Pietro I am so glad to see you! Are you staying here now? “

I said yes and got into a few other pleasantries about myself and my well being. He said he is in a hurry and would’ve loved to spend more time and reluctantly left. He turned twice to see what I was doing, then waved finally.

Truth is stranger than fiction. It has to be! Fiction has to be possible and truth doesn’t!” Mark Twain

It happens the French have a perfect word for this occurrence in life they simply call it ’Deja vu’.

Was he disturbed or was I suffering from amnesia! Hell! It seems somewhere I had forgotten my role, the play and lost the script.

I determined at this point that life was unique this time in this place with the even chance one could create anything one wanted to and create a different world if one found it was not to ones liking.

There was only one stipulation, one had to remember there were other people in the same play and the harmony of life is coordinated and is a coup de théâtre.

So I wrote the poem.

Coup de théâtre

The one who is gone

Has left an empty place,

Behind that is prone,

To be explained by others; yet leaves no trace.

Other than which memory stirs

Or someone employs to explain his exit from the stage,

Or maybe their triumphs and disasters

Which; eventually took the player and left his message.

We still all lament the one,

Who; because of his devotion,

Stayed on purpose in his zone,

Even if he was unyielding in his dedication,

And now surrendered, apparently having lost the battle and the game of living

Which is merciless,

Even for the great spirits in their striving

And also seemed to have succumbed to its ruthlessness.

Which snuffed out the light

From their eyes

Even while victory seemed within their might

To vanquish that very devil of their demise.

Brave men taller than average,

Stood now where there is emptiness.

And so we have lost another personage

And today we shield our emptiness within from encroaching unhappiness.

He played his part

Among the vicissitudes of life

He played a role, took what he learned but too soon had to depart

From the good life – and the strife.

A mystery now abounds

With us only because we have forgotten

What brought us to these grounds

To begin our lives and run earths race as men

The spirit however

Works in an eternity

To create new opportunities forever

With which men build a new fraternity:

Where other lives and other opportunity

Attracts their future participation

To be again amongst their fellows and strive for unity

Of spirit and physical liberation.

Earth is that meeting ground

From which both the body

And the Spirit will depart to turn around

And once again occupy yet another parody

Of Earth existence as seen by an observer.

Which you too know

Is but the theatre of life and a play with a wider

Significance, than what mundane happenstance does show.

Until one day upon the track you meet

The one you knew before – and come face to face

And once again you know that death was not his defeat

Nor even your loss; but a resounding ‘coup de théâtre’ for the whole human race.


December 07, 2021 12:56

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