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Umuzi

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Excerpt from Birdseye: Bird Breaks the News of Her Twin Brothers’ Disappearance to Her Grandmother

BirdseyeUmuzi has shared an excerpt from Máire Fisher’s new novel, Birdseye.

Birdseye, which was launched at The Book Lounge in Cape Town recently, is Fisher’s debut novel, and tells the story of Bird and her five siblings, growing up in Marchbanks, an imposing mansion above a seaside town in the Cape.

In the extract, Bird’s ten-year-old twin brothers, Oliver and Oscar, go missing after a fishing trip, and Bird has to break the news to the sinister figure of her grandmother, Ma Bess, who rules over the house from her room at the top of the stairs.

Read the excerpt:

Annie never got very angry, but by the time seven o’clock came she was furious.
      ’This is beyond a joke,’ she said, as Orville came back in through the front door. ‘Any sign of them?’
      ’No,’ Orville said. ‘I tried the beach and the harbour. All the way along Main Road to Simonstown.’
      ’Simonstown? But they’d never go there,’ Annie said.
      ’I know,’ Orville said. ‘I thought maybe they’d met friends and gone off with them.’
      ’Did you ask at the harbour?’ Annie said.
      ’Nobody’s seen them,’ Orville said. ‘They haven’t been there all day.’
      ’Nobody?’ The anger drained from Annie’s voice. ‘That’s impossible. That’s where they were going. They said so.’
      ’Darling,’ said Orville. ‘There’s something else.’
      Annie sagged forward. ‘Yes?’ she whispered.
      ’Their bikes were at the harbour. One of the men they fish with recognised them as Oz and Ollie’s, and put them in his bakkie for safety.’
      ’So the bikes were there, but my boys weren’t?’
      ’They weren’t anywhere,’ said Orville.
      ’We have to call the police,’ Annie was babbling. ‘We have to tell them at once, Orville. At once.’ She was yanking on his arm, pulling him towards the phone.
      ’I have, Annie.’ Orville’s voice was a bit wobbly. ‘I stopped on my way home.’
      The police? My dad had spoken to the police?
      Silence settled in Marchbanks.
      And then Ma Bess’s large bell trilled through the house. Followed by two muffled thuds from her cane.
      Annie glanced at her watch. ‘I can’t deal with her. Not now,’ she said. ‘Bird, run up and see what your grandmother wants.’
      ’But Mom — ‘ I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t like the way Annie’s face had gone white and how she was clutching Orville’s arm.
      ’Bird!’ Orville snapped. ‘Listen to your mother.’
      I turned and ran up the stairs. My dad was never horrible to me. He never spoke to me like that. I wanted to sit on the bottom step and wait for Oscar and Oliver. I wasn’t upset with them for not taking me any more. I wasn’t even angry with Annie for telling me I was too young. I didn’t like the feeling in my stomach. It felt like when I had shivered in the dining
room. All creepy and uncomfortable. And besides all that, I hated going up to my grandmother.
      Ma Bess’s bell rang again and I started the long climb up the stairs to her room. It was gloomy on the landing; even on the brightest of summer days the sun struggled to make its way up that last flight of stairs to the white door and the small table standing to one side of it. I reached up to the switch on the wall and the landing outside her door flared into light.
      I knocked and waited.

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