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Book Excerpt: Two From Cabin Fever by Diane Awerbuck

Cabin FeverToday we bring excerpts from two short stories fresh out of Diane Awerbuck‘s forthcoming collection, Cabin Fever. The first, “Astronomy Domine”, tells the story of a first date involving a third nipple and an extra toe. While in the second, “Murder Ballads”, Awerbuck’s protagonist covers a murder trial for the SABC. Both stories appear on the Short Story Day South website in anticipation of Short Story Day South on Tuesday, 21 June.

Astronomy Domine

The two of them stumbled out into the sandstone foyer after the show. All the way through it his arm had rested lightly across the back of her seat, touching, not touching, each hair a note in the chorus against her neck. Now their absence made her itch. She wanted to rub against him.

It was impossible; all around them were ordinary people in shawls, drinking sherry under the bunting, hunting programmes and clothing and striped sweets. They were stunned by the stands and the sudden light.

‘I want a T-shirt,’ he said. ‘Let’s get the T-shirt, and then we can say we’ve done it.’

Murder Ballads

When the three men filed into the room they could have been anywhere: a dining room, a waiting room, a courtroom rank with sweat. This was business. Two sat; between them one stood at the microphone and waited.

His hips gave him away, his black hat, the sharp heel of his boot that tapped out the time. The audience knew from the first twang, the ribbed sigh of the metal, that he was the frontman – but more than that: they knew from his possession of the bare human voice that superseded any tool or instrument, the hard-pressed innard and gizzard.

Graham Weir began his ballad, and ballads are stories, are desperate letters, are messages from the grave. It took us in the audience back to the veld, to the open spaces, to the place where you could still choose the ending.

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