motifs

Orlando Patterson is a West Indian whose first novel The Children of Sisyphus published by New Authors, Hutchinsons Ltd, was reviewed by C. L. R. James in nlr 25. The Alien is the first chapter of a forthcoming novel.

. . .outside I stood for a while with my forehead pressing on my arm which was creased against the trunk of the mango tree. Vacantly, I stared down at the roots of the tree. It had been a dry, harsh August. The grass in the garden had withered away. The earth was parched and cracked. Stiff, dead leaves lay about, brown as the earth and motionless. The roots of the tree, though hoary, appeared strong and secure, as if they were fixed there for eternity. I turned my stare from the roots to the dry patch of land that was once a green lawn.

With that I felt more familiar. The harsh, brown, dusty aridity of everything there seem to meet some vague yet deeply embedded demand in me. It was with difficulty that I prevented myself from falling to the ground and wallowing all over in it. Little dry lot of land hemmed in by the thorny hedges, I thought to myself with tenderness. Somehow I seem to have found a momentary security there—there, in the bare, dry nakedness of everything. A security I never felt in the smug little green garden my mother kept when it was cooler. Everything was now stripped, shameless and undemanding. I faced in the barrenness the compulsive simplicity of cruelty. Above me the mercilessly hot sun shining through a sky which was horrifying in its stark, blue clarity. Below me the earth—arid, severe and tough. I loved them. I was obsessed with them even if they inspired nothing but the desire to escape them.

I thought then that I would walk to the sea. I was sure, at that moment, that what I needed most was to linger by the edges of the ocean, to stare at the long wrinkles of the vast blue-grey blanket of the harbour. Perhaps the raw, salty sprays will touch me as the tide begins to change later in the afternoon.