Varsha 2020 Issue, Stories - Kharys Laue


On the Bright Side

By Kharys Laue


I know a guy who blew it.


He was rich once-upon-a-time, had it all—nice job, nice car, really nice missus. Then one night he went off to a party, drank a few beers, had a good time, and on his way home ran into a couple of cyclists. Knocked them over like bowling pins. Way he told it, he had a tiff with the missus and got distracted and the next thing he knew there were bodies all over the road. Don’t ask me why those guys were out cycling at that time of night. All I know is, they’re dead now. What a thing, hey.


It was culpable homicide and all that, but he got off somehow. Never spent a day in prison. But I’ll tell you what, though. They didn’t have to lock him up. Reason why, the prison was right here, in his head. He’s never getting out of that one.


He lost everything—job, house, car, missus. All gone. Wasn’t right headwise after that, you can imagine. These days he just sort of wanders around town. Whenever I see him, I get this funny feeling inside. Sort of crappy, you know? I’m not sure if he’s homeless or what, but he’s everywhere. Like the other day I swung by Pick n Pay and there he was, squatting on the pavement chewing on a bit of bread.


He was checking out this pothole, just staring at all the soggy cigarette stompies and shit. I was like, Hey man, how you doing, and he was like, Ja-no, fine. But you could see he wasn’t fine. One minute he was telling me about this job he’d found as a carguard, and the next minute he was crying. What to say? The guy didn’t even recognise me.


I got that funny feeling again. I sort of felt—I felt like I wanted to hug him or something. I didn’t, though. What I did was, I touched his shoulder and told him to look on the bright side. Gave him my number too, just in case he needed anything. Said maybe we could take a walk up to the toposcope one of these days. There’s a really nice view up there. World-class. Something to live for.


Kharys Ateh Laue is a South African writer whose work has appeared in Botsotso, Cleaver Magazine, Jalada, Brittle Paper, New Contrast and other literary journals. In 2017, her short story “Plums” was longlisted for the Short Story Day Africa Prize. Her academic work, which focuses on the depiction of race, gender, and animals in South African fiction, has been published in English Studies in Africa, Scrutiny2, and the Journal of Literary Studies.


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