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Selected course participants' writing | Cathy's blog

 

Showcase stories are drawn from course participants' assignments and work. These pieces are featured with the authors' permission but may not be used elsewhere.​

 
 

A most mysterious thing

Strange things sometimes happen at the writers’ groups. Here’s one of them ...


A basket has magically appeared in my living room.


Please, no snorting or eye-rolling. I am as perplexed as anyone. It’s not that I don’t believe

in the possibility of miracles – I do – but I have certain expectations around how they should look and to whom they should be delivered. A woven straw basket, empty but for a crumple of cling-film, popping up under the window, doesn’t fit my miracle parameters.


It has to belong to someone, doesn’t it? It’s not mine and it wasn’t there on Thursday

morning when I swept the floor in preparation for a monthly writers’ group, which was to double as a birthday celebration. Obviously, one of the writers left it behind. That’s what I said to A and B, who were the last to leave.


‘Oh dear!’ I said when I spotted it. ‘Look! Someone’s left her basket.’ There were seven at

our meeting, and as three of us were staring at it without a twinge of recognition, there were four possible owners. I hadn’t noticed anyone arrive with the basket, but that’s hardly surprising. The members of this long-standing group are now friends, so there was the usual exclaiming, hugging and milling while I fussed with popping the Prosecco, boiling the kettle (power was on – another miracle) and whipping cream for the chocolate tart.


C had contributed some home made pastries. We decided that the basket must be hers, so

after waving A and B goodbye, I sent her a message. My phone pinged in reply: ‘No, not mine.’


I tried D next: ‘Nope, not me.’


‘E,’ I typed, ‘someone left a basket here. It can only be yours or F’s.’


‘Must be F’s,’ said E.


F’s message was chilling: ‘No, but I think I saw someone carrying it. Either the chocolate

tart or cake in it?’


I confess I felt a little faint. The chocolate tart was made in my kitchen and the cake-bringer

(A) had already denied ownership. Clutching my head, I ticked off the participants, in case I’d

missed someone. A, B, C, D, E and F. G couldn’t make it and H has moved to the Karoo.


There was no-one else. So I thought about our topics of conversation, wondering if we had somehow conjured the wretched thing: Pentecostal prayer meetings, fundamentalism, Trump, The Seven Dwarves, abuse, disassociation, marijuana, millennial culture, the impact of ancestors, how H is adjusting, and the difficulty of writing hurtful truth in a memoir. (We cover a lot of ground in these meetings.)


I went back to B. ‘Maybe it’s a Pentecostal intervention,’ she suggested.


‘It must belong to someone in one of your other groups,’ said practical A.


‘That’s hilarious!’ said F. ‘What was in the bubbly?’


What indeed? There has to be a logical explanation, but so far it hasn’t presented itself.

There is a basket in my living room that should belong to one of six women, but doesn’t.

It’s funny where your mind goes when this kind of thing happens. I was out most of

Wednesday; perhaps my neighbours, who have a key, came in and had a picnic on the carpet?


Absurd! Did a very small person abseil into my inaccessible, pergola-covered courtyard and put the basket through the window, or did I pinch it on Wednesday evening at book club? I don’t think I’m a kleptomaniac but maybe there is an anxiety-related, adult-onset variety. But then why haven’t I found other mysterious objects lying about?


Did the 79-year-old man who came for a writing consultation on Tuesday bring it? No. He

had a leather satchel. Could it have been there since Monday? Impossible! How could I not notice an unfamiliar basket standing below a window that I open each morning?

Maybe one of the Thursday writers was in a trance and has no memory of bringing it. This

theory is supported by the ball of cling film, which could have covered dope cookies (the topic was aired, remember), all of which were consumed en route to my house. Possible, but nobody seemed particularly stoned. The fact that we all had the munchies is attributable to our good tea.


Perhaps, during the reading of H’s email message to the group, the basket was teleported

from Aberdeen, where she may be scratching her head at this minute, wondering where the darn thing has got to. No, that’s a ridiculous idea.


Is it a gift from God? Can’t be. First of all, I have other needs that are much more pressing.

Secondly, the Almighty is surely aware that cling film is an unacceptable single use plastic and would not have included it. Thirdly, not to be ungrateful or anything, it is not a spectacular enough miracle to ignite religious enthusiasm. If an image of the Virgin Mary had been projected on the wall, I could have alerted the Vatican and amassed a fortune in spectators’ fees. This is a nice basket, but not an exceptional one. It has a deep round belly; it’s the sort of basket you’d pick if you were going to leave a baby on someone’s doorstep.


Oh heavens, there’s a horrible thought! What if the next thing to materialise is a wailing

infant? How would I explain that to Child Welfare? No, I have to stop this nonsensical thinking at once. Going down these roads will lead to madness.


In case that is my affliction (yes, I know; “basket case” does come to mind), the next

morning I asked the participants of the Friday group, ‘Do you all see that basket over there?’ It was probably not a wise question – judging by the raised eyebrows I may have lost a few clients – but when you live alone you occasionally need a reality check.


One of the Thursdays is bound to wake up soon and say, ‘Oh, silly me! It’s mine, of course.’

Meanwhile, I keep staring at it. It’s just an innocent, misplaced basket, I tell myself. I’m not

expecting to find anything in it. What concerns me more (and this is why I keep checking) is that next time I look, it may no longer be there.

 

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