Chapter One




A bad sign, my grandmother would have muttered, looking heavenward. She would not have had to say another thing and Beauty, nodding, would have taken off her apron and her starched doek covering her peppercorn curls and headed out the back door into the African night with its sick moon. The Cape veldt was different at night, alive with the wild smell of fynbos; a thing with its own heartbeat, its own snorts and threats. Children were called in from its heat at dusk, long before the earth cooled and its worn paths began to vibrate with the invisible steps of the ancestors and the menacing Tokoloshe, long before the moon would rise over the kopjes in the east. But under a bad moon, no one went in the veldt—not even the ancestral spirits. Only a sangoma, a witch doctor, whose magic her old white madam had come to rely on. Beauty Masinama, grounded in the tradition of the Ndebele nation, knew all about lunar tidings. My grandmother, a woman whose superstitions grew up in the crack between her Christian faith and the lore of her Scottish ancestry, knew about them too.

Today’s conversation takes place between author Isla Morley (whose debut novel, COME SUNDAY, was a finalist for the Commonwealth Prize) and the naggy old lady who sits in Isla’s head doing crosswords and fussing with her pantyhose (and who doesn’t care what fancy-schmanzy award the book was nominated for). Naggy Old Lady (NOL) gets to say out loud and in public the stuff that’s usually confined to the dark spaces of her host’s mind.