Chains and Links

Words || Tom Wade



Outside the supermarket Sihle reached into his pocket for his keys. A bag of groceries weighed down on his wrist making each movement in his pocket slow and deliberate.

He pulled his keys out of his pocket, but they were stuck, attached to the lining of his pocket now inside out.

‘What the fuck?’ He wrenched his keys, bags thumping against his thighs. His arms were heavy and lopsided as he worked at his keychain. 

The bags swinging against his wrists made it hard to get a feel of the situation.

A flame of brown hair and a fan of orange dress pulled up next to Sihle with a rattle and a clank. Caught in his trance of circling and swearing, Sihle didn’t notice. ‘The fuck is wrong with these motherfucking keys?’

‘Do you need some help?’ This was the first time Sihle noticed. Someone had sent an angel on a bike to help him with his keys. Her face glistened with beaded sweat and she was trying to suppress a heaving chest. She’d ridden far to help him. ‘Here, let me get that.’

She reached into the basket of her bike, pulled out her phone, and shone the assistive light on Sihle’s trousers. His keys hung there, caught a strand of thread at the end of pocket lining.

The woman reached for Sihle’s keys and fumbled with them, she was still holding her phone. The light caught Sihle’s eye and dazzled him, leaving spots. ‘Do you want some help?’ he asked her.

‘Your hands look full already.’ She was right. The handles of the plastic bags were starting to cut into his wrists. He heard the jingle of his keys and she help them up. ‘There you go, your jeans accidentally became part of your keychain.’

‘Thank you.’ How did he keep this going? He could feel the moment slipping through his fingers, she was going to be gone forever. ‘My name’s Sihle.’

‘Maria.’ She put out her hand, they shook, and she got on her bike to leave. She pushed down on a pedal, it resisted. He heard her change gears, the bike sputtered and clanged down a few ratios. Her leg swung free and Maria had to put her foot down to stabilise herself. 

‘Seems like your bike needs a service,’ Sihle realised his chance, ‘I could do it for you.’

Maria looked up from her bike, ‘I’d love that.’