Johnny Was

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By the end of today, I will have re-written Johannesburg to the halfway point… version 3.0. The more I work on it, the happier I get with it. Part of this happiness is that I am also finally figuring out what it is that I have written.

It’s not an exploration of what cities do to the people that inhabit theme, nor is it a look at how the roots and themes of a city like Johannesburg almost determine the character of its populace. What it is, is a rolling portrait of a group of people who all, at some stage in the book, feel trapped by who they are and the options they have at their disposal. Johannesburg is a vast city but it is still in a relatively small, developing country where the script isn’t finished. Literally, no-one knows what is going to happen next.

As we move through the multi-view-point narrative, we explore different responses to this situation and peep in on a series of lives that many may never otherwise know even exist as real options. It’s like a mini-series more than a movie. I realise the way I have been talking about this book all along has been getting in the way of what I have actually written… this re-write is slowly but surely sorting out that problem while I iron out the more technical kinks that have been pointed out or I myself have found.

Stifff little fingers
Johnny was a good man, Johhny was a good man

Johnny, the psychopathic knight in shining armour, is one such character encountering the limits of his response to the situation he finds himself in. Life, for Johnny, is about to get interesting. This extract is from just after he experiences some kind of epiphany about his violent tendencies

“Outside the window, clouds scud merrily through the sky. It’s getting dark. Johnny settles back into the cushions. An unfamiliar feeling of contentment steals over him as he watches the sky dim and the lights in the tower blocks around him go on one by one. If every night of the last few years has been exciting because of the uncertainty of what might happen, the thorough newness of a night at home with no intention of doing anything tomorrow courses through Johnny’s veins. Inside his own private cell, Johnny watches the evidence of city life drift by. The traffic noise like the distant sound of waves is a peaceful lullaby that keeps a faint smile on his lips as he sits in total darkness, just the pulsing red blip of the standby light on the DVD player left to illuminate his thoughts.

“Right now I can’t trust myself to do what I want to do,” he muses in the darkness. “So I can do nothing. Maybe if I do nothing for long enough, I’ll forget what I did. Maybe then I can do something else.”

From the novel “Johannesburg”
© David Chislett 2013

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