When the ship veered into the Cape of Good Hope, Mum caught the spicy, heady scent of Africa on the changing wind. She smelled the people: raw onions and salt, the smell of people who are not afraid to eat meat, and who smoke fish over open fires on the beach and who pound maize into meal and who work out-of-doors. She held me up to face the earthy air, so that the fingers of warmth pushed back my black curls of hair, and her pale green eyes went clear-glassy. "Smell that," she whispered, "that's home." Vanessa was running up and down the deck, unaccountably wild for a child usually so placid. Intoxicated already. I took in a faceful of African air and fell instantly into a fever. In Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight, Alexandra Fuller remembers her African childhood with visceral authenticity. Though it is a diary of an unruly life in an often inhospitable place, it is suffused with Fuller's endearing ability to find laughter, even when there is little to celebrate.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
March 10, 2003
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller
Mum says, "Don't come creeping into our room at night."
They sleep with loaded guns beside them on the bedside rugs. She
says, "Don't startle us when we're sleeping."
"Why not "
"We might shoot you."
"Okay." As it is, there seems a good enough chance of getting shot on
purpose. "Okay, I won't."
So if I wake in the night and need Mum and Dad, I call Vanessa,
because she isn't armed. "Van! Van, hey!" I hiss across the room
until she wakes up. And then Van has to light a candle and escort me
to the loo, where I pee sleepily into the flickering yellow light and
Van keeps the candle high, looking for snakes and scorpions and
Mum won't kill snakes because she says they help to keep the rats
down (but she rescued a nest of baby mice from the barns and left
them to grow in my cupboard, where they ate holes in the family's
winter jerseys). Mum won't kill scorpions either; she catches them
and lets them go free in the pool and Vanessa and I have to rake the
pool before we can swim. We fling the scorps as far as we can across
the brown and withering lawn, chase the ducks and geese out, and then
lower ourselves gingerly into the pool, whose sides wave green and
long and soft and grasping with algae. And Mum won't kill spiders
because she says it will bring bad luck.
I tell her, "I'd say we have pretty rotten luck as it is."
"Then think how much worse it would be if we killed spiders."
I have my feet off the floor when I pee.
"Hurry up, man."
"It's like Victoria Falls."
"I really had to go."
I have been holding my pee for a long, long time and staring out the
window to try and guess how close it is to morning. Maybe I could
hold it until morning. But then I notice that it is the
deep-black-sky quiet time of night, which is the halfway time between
the sun setting and the sun rising when even the night animals are
quiet-as if they, like day animals, take a break in the middle of
their work to rest. I can't hear Vanessa breathing; she has gone into
her deep middle-of-the-night silence. Dad is not snoring nor is he
shouting in his sleep. The baby is still in her crib but the smell of
her is warm and animal with wet nappy. It will be a long time until
Then Vanessa hands me the candle-"You keep boogies for me now"-and she pees.
"See, you had to go, too."
"Only 'cos you had to."
There is a hot breeze blowing through the window, the cold sinking
night air shifting the heat of the day up. The breeze has trapped
midday scents; the prevalent cloying of
the leach field, the green soap which has spilled out from the
laundry and landed on the patted-down red earth, the wood smoke from
the fires that heat our water, the boiled-meat smell of dog food.
We debate the merits of flushing the loo.
"We shouldn't waste the water." Even when there isn't a drought we
can't waste water, just in case one day there is a drought. Anyway,
Dad has said, "Steady on with the loo paper, you kids. And don't
flush the bloody loo all the time. The leach field can't handle it."
"But that's two pees in there."
"So It's only pee."
"Agh sis, man, but it'll be smelly by tomorrow. And you peed as much
as a horse."
"It's not my fault."
"You can flush."
"I'll hold the candle."
Van holds the candle high. I lower the toilet lid, stand on it and
lift up the block of hardwood that covers the cistern, and reach down
for the chain. Mum has glued a girlie-magazine picture to this block
of hardwood: a blond woman in few clothes, with breasts like naked
cow udders, and she's all arched in a strange pouty contortion, like
she's got backache. Which maybe she has, from the weight of the
udders. The picture is from Scope magazine.