Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Little Bee - Chris Cleeve

"Most days I wish I was a British pound rather than an African girl. Everyone would be pleased to see me coming. Maybe I would visit you for the weekend and then suddenly, because I am fickle like that, I would visit with the man from the corner shop instead - but you would not be sad because you would be eating a cinnamon bun, or drinking a cold Coca-Cola from the can, and you would never think of me again. We would be happy, like lover's who met on holiday and forgot each other's names."

"How I would love to be a British pound. A pound is free to travel to safety, and we are free to watch it go. This is the human triumph. This is called, globalization. A girl likes me gets stopped at immigration, but a pound can leap the turnstiles, and dodge the tackles of those big men with their uniform caps, and jump straight into a waiting airport taxi. 'Where to, sir?' 'Western Civilization, my good man, and make it snappy.' See how nicely a British pound coin talks? It speaks with the voice of Queens Elizabeth the Second of England. Her face is stamped upon it, and sometimes when I look very closely I can see her lips moving. I hold it up to my ear. What is she saying? 'Put me down this minute, young lady, or I shall call my guards.'

"I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived."

"On our honeymoon we talked and talked. We stayed in a beachfront villa, and we drank rum and lemonade and talked so much that I never even noticed what color the sea was. Whenever I need to stop and remind myself how much I once loved Andrew, I only need to think about this. That the ocean covers seven tenths of the earth's surface, and yet my husband could make me not notice it."

"The flatscreen at our end of the floor was showing BBC News 24 with the sound down. They were running a segment on the war. Smoke was rising above one of the countries involved. Don't ask me which - I'd lost track by that stage. That war was four years old. It had started in the same month my son was born, and they'd grown up together. At first both of them were a huge shock and demanded constant attention but as each year went by, they became more autonomous and one could start to take one's eye off them for extended periods. Sometimes a particular event would cause me momentarily to look at one or the other of them - my son, or the war - with my full attention, and at times like these I would always think, 'Gosh, haven't you grown?'"

"I think I shall teach you the names of all the English flowers," said Sarah. "This is fuschia, and this is a rose, and this is honeysuckle. What? What are you smiling about?"
"There are no goats. That is why you have all these beautiful flowers."
"There were goats, in your village."
"Yes, and they ate all the flowers."
"I'm sorry."
"Do not be sorry. We ate all the goats."

"Perhaps at 21, one is naturally curious about life, but at 30, simply suspicious of anyone who still has one."

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