Treasure Island

John Garth Raubenheimer

(21/12/1947 / Johannesburg)

Back Seat


One of my earliest memories is of my father's powerful forearm, hand on the wheel as we push through the night. His smoke webs around the cab of the car. My mother is a force next to him; their voices wrestle like friendly snakes, as lights lay eggs along the seams of the ceiling. My eyes tunnel into the dark ahead. But mostly I let the dark shovel itself into me, with its debris of lit glass, neon, red, yellow, green. I watch the robots. I try to anticipate their changes. I fix my eyes on incidental objects as they slide past. And so it is that trivia in Malvern, Germiston, Kensington, Cyrildene - a row of statues worn by the hat of a building, a plaque cut in the shape of Australia, brown as a birthmark on the cheek of another, a plaster dog with its mouth open - become shrines of mystery and terror.

I propitiate the witch of the icy dip. I worship the totem of the traffic-light. The dog enters my dreams and I cannot distinguish between it and three dogs in a story my mother reads me, the first with eyes as big as saucers, the second with eyes like cartwheels, the third with eyes huge as windmills. This dog is the first. I know I will meet the second and the third.

(In South Africa traffic-lights are 'robots'.)

Submitted: Monday, May 05, 2008
Edited: Wednesday, March 19, 2014

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Topic(s): childhood

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