Martin Foreman
First and Fiftieth

The Stories
   Kitchen Table
   Night Traffic
   Foucault's Nightmare
   Homophobia, Darling
   Cold Silence
   Los Feliz
   Ten Million Years
   The Last Saturday in May
   First and Fiftieth
   Ben and Joe's


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   Arbery Books
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   God would be an atheist

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The Last Saturday in May

A man in his forties in rural Africa
opening paragraphs

I am a simple man. I have lived all my life in this village. When I was a child, there was no electricity and we seldom saw a car. I became a man in the year our country became free. I have a small piece of land and some goats. And I have a daughter.

I never knew my father. My mother had eight children. Five of us lived. Her brothers took care of us. But a man should take care of his

own children. My sons are both adults. One drives a truck. He sends money when he can. I do not know where my other son is. One day he said he was leaving. He did not tell us where he was going or why. He never came back. There was another girl. She died before she had a name. Now at home there is only my wife and daughter. She is twelve. She was a pretty child and she used to laugh a lot. She has always been close to her mother. That is how it should be. But as her father I must do everything I can to protect my daughter.

My son tells me about life in the city. Too many people and cars. Too much noise. He asked me to visit him. I did not. It is enough for him to be there. He has a good job. He can read and write. He speaks English. One day, he says, he will go to Europe or America. If he does, I do not think I will ever see him again. Then I will only have my daughter.

My wife is becoming an old woman. At night she snores. In the morning she gets up slowly. She has many pains. She complains about many things. I love her, but we are not intimate. Sometimes I want to be, but she tells me I am too slow, too heavy. Other men would beat their wives if they refused, but a woman is not a cow to strike when she fails to follow the path. A woman is a strange creature - weak where men are strong and strong where men are weak. We men need women All women should be honoured because they give men life. All women, especially young women. Especially my daughter.

My daughter is intelligent, they say. She used to love school. It was difficult sometimes, finding the money. My friends said do not bother. An educated woman is a luxury. She causes problems for her family and husband because she thinks she is better than them. I tell my friends I have nothing else to give her. Even when she becomes her husband’s wife she is my flesh and it is my duty to give her something that no-one, not even her husband, can take from her. Her husband might beat her or divorce her, or he might die and she might be alone with her children. Then perhaps her education can help her. If I were the president, I would make sure that all women were educated, that all men cared for their daughters.

Next story: Angel

All Rights Reserved / World Copyright © Martin Foreman 2015

"Sometimes you sit, watch the trains, the sunset, the rain. Sometimes you talk. Tell your story if you've a mind to. Trouble is, memory changes things. Things you want to forget. Things you want to remember that never happened. Happens to everybody. Gets so, nobody's story's true. Not yours, not mine. But it's all we've got."

First and Fiftieth

Background & Comment

I was at a conference in Zambia and heard this story from a Cameroonian academic. I've set it further south in the continent, in an unspecified country.

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