Daily Prompt: The Music of Yesteryear

“They just don’t make music like they did in the old days.” Old Servaas knits his brows together in distaste. “Listen to this new thing they call crap…”

“It’s called ‘rap’, Servaas. It’s the newest craze. Big in America, they say.” Gertruida, who knows everything, is quick to correct the old man. She even knows who Jack Sparrow is.

“You can call it what you like. These new guys can never be as good as Virginia Lee. Remember that song about the red eyes?”

Servaas gets misty eyed when Boggel fishes out a 78 to play the song.

“No man, nobody beats Charles Jacobie, the singing cowboy. Remember him? That man made you long for home big time.” Vetfaan smiles at the memory.

Kleinpiet shakes his head. “Gee whiz, Vetfaan. That accent! And a poor translation, if you ask me.  If you want to listen to old Afrikaans songs, its hard to beat Chris Blignaut.”

“My foot! That’s ‘Deep in the Heart of Texas’ dressed in khaki. Original Afrikaans? Look no further than Jeremy Taylor. And he was funny, too!” Boggel smiles at the memory.

“Funny, sure. But not Afrikaans. What about the Briel Susters? Now that’s pure nostalgia.” Oh the memories! Even Precilla looks sad…

“No, stop it with the old songs. Theuns Jordaan does it for me.” Surprisingly Oudoom displays  romantic streak. Must be the changing of the seasons…

“Oh give me the new version of that song about the girl with the auburn hair. Elvis Green or somebody.” Fanny tries to remember, but Gertruida is quick to help her with the correct surname.

“Well, bring on David Kramer then. He’s the one who should be singing here. That Royal Hotel is so typical of Boggel’s Place.” Sammie has always said that David is a distant relative.

Servaas sits back, closes his eyes, and remembers Siena’s favourite song. It isn’t Afrikaans, but it’s in German and that’s near enough. And it even contains a message for all the new-fangled, long-haired monotone falsetto youths who call themselves musicians these days: ‘Let the lips remain silent…”

 

Daily Prompt: That’s Amore…only in the Movies.

images (67)“Love stories are just that.” Servaas raises an angry eyebrow in an invitation to start an argument. “Stories. Just stories. This thing in the movies doesn’t exist. Movies make us believe a lie.”

They’re all back in Boggel’s Place after the screening of ‘Love Story’ in the little church hall. Oudoom organised it to raise money for the leaking roof in the vestry.

“Ag, but you must admit it was a nice. And sad. And sweet…” Precilla has that faraway look.

“…and then she died and he lived happily ever after.” Servaas isn’t giving up.

“Ag sis, man!” Gertruida rarely uses this tone of voice, but they all agree Servaas deserve the rebuke. “Just because you’re in a cantankerous mood, you don’t have to be so cynical! No man! I’m ashamed of you.”

Servaas knits his bushy brows together to scowl at the group. “Love, my friends,” he makes friends sound like an insult, “is blêrrie hard work, let me tell you. Forget about the violins and little Cupid and wagon loads of red hearts. When I courted Siena, I dressed my best, brushed the horse until he shone, and I even learnt that poem by some Wilcox woman:

“She had looked for his coming as warriors come,
With the clash of arms and the bugle’s call;
But he came instead with a stealthy tread,
Which she did not hear at all.

“And you know what she did? She laughed and told me I’m silly.  Said love isn’t about fancy words. So she recited a few lines by Neruba. I remember them to this day:

“I do not love you except because I love you;
I go from loving to not loving you,
From waiting to not waiting for you
My heart moves from cold to fire.”

“My, my, my, Servaas!” This time, Gertruida’s voice is soft, sympathetic. “I never knew you were such a romantic. Imagine you, black suit and all, reciting poetry to a lady! Well, I never…”

“Maybe there’s a romantic in each of us. I remember how I imagined my lover would be, way back when I was young and sexy.” Kleinpiet sighs and shakes his head. Precuilla, like all women, imagines her best years as being something in the past. Worse: is she saying something about him in an oblique way? He waits for her to continue. “I also had a poem in my head. It’s by George Etherege:

“The Nymph that undoes me, is fair and unkind;
No less than a wonder by Nature designed.
She’s the grief of my heart, the joy of my eye ;
And the cause of a flame that never can die !

“Oh, how I dreamed about my knight in shining armour! Then Kleinpiet came along and changed all that.” She gives him a friendly punch on the shoulder. “He showed me a reality I never imagined…and it is so much better than the dream I had.”

Kleinpiet beams. He’s not sure what – exactly – she implied, but it sounds okay.

Gertruida shrugs. “I suppose we all long for that perfect love, don’t we? The one with poems and roses and late-night whispered conversations. The one Sara Teasdale wrote about when she said:

“I am not yours, not lost in you,
Not lost, although I long to be
Lost as a candle lit at noon,
Lost as a snowflake in the sea.

“Oh plunge me deep in love – put out
My senses, leave me deaf and blind,
Swept by the tempest of your love,
A taper in a rushing wind…

“But then again, “Gertruida goes into one of her typical pauses, “maybe that’s the wonder of love. When you are in love, it opens your imagination. It shifts the horizon. It rearranges your previous dreams to make you more aware of how much more there is to living.  And it makes you feel small and huge, changes the introvert into a clown and makes the warrior put away his musket. Love isn’t just a feeling…it’s a way of being. The same things you saw yesterday aren’t the same things you see today. The colours change. The music is sweeter. It lightens your step and lends weight to your thoughts.”

“But…” Kleinpiet feels completely out of his depth. “I thought love was easy. You know. The love-at-first-sight thing. I mean, when I first saw Precilla, I knew. And after that, loving her became the easiest thing in my life.”

“That’s what I said. It’s hard work.” Still scowling, Servaas orders another beer. “You have to leave yourself behind. You become the servant of a bigger cause. Like faith, love means you have to  die a little in order to discover life. Man, that took some time with me, I can tell you.”

“In a very limited way, Servaas, you are right. If you don’t put in effort, love is wasted. It becomes stale. But every drop of sweat dripping from your bushy brows is worth it if you labour in your love – and I’m not talking about the physical stuff either.” Gertruida tries to hide the blush spreading up her neck. Those evenings with Ferdinand… “I’m simply saying love makes you do things you’d never consider otherwise. And you know what? It doesn’t feel like work at all. If it does, then something is wrong…”

Servaas glares at his glass, suddenly overcome with emotion. Yes, he remembers those days. All thirty-eight years of days he couldn’t wait to get home at night. And how he watched Siena baking bread or knitting on the stoep or hanging the washing on the line. And how he so often wanted to tell her how much he loved her.

And how seldom he did.

“I wonder…?” He can’t finish the sentence.

It is Gertruida, who knows everything, who understands.

“Yes, Servaas, she knew. We women know such things. We know our men and how stupid they can be. And we forgive them, every time, because that’s what love does.”

***

One does not expect to listen to deep conversations in Boggel’s Place. Love and peach brandy can be very uneasy bedfellows, after all. But sometimes; when the patrons aren’t discussing the drought or Vetfaan’s broken tractor; their conversations touch on very serious subjects, like the leaking vestry roof or the rising petrol price.

Or love.

That’s when Servaas fishes out the little handkerchief with the flower embroidery in the one corner from his breast pocket. If he closes his eyes, he can still smell the perfume, remember her smile.

And he’d wipe his eyes with his sleeve – because he wants to keep that hanky just the way it is. That’s when Gertruida says Servaas is right about a few things: true love is a burden, a pleasure, hard work and a surrender.

And it only dies in the movies.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside Kolmanskop

THIS WEEK, IN A POST CREATED SPECIFICALLY FOR THIS CHALLENGE, SHARE A PHOTO THAT SAYS INSIDE.

In the early 1900′s, Johnny Coleman traded his simple wares at the little harbour of Luditz, after travelling over the desert with his ox-wagon. Then, in 1905, a sandstorm forced him to hide in his wagon after turning his oxen loose. They, of course, thought this to be a bit short-sighted, and took off to seek shelter themselves. Well, to cut a long story short, poor Johnny almost died there, but was eventually rescued.

Little could he have guessed at the tremendous wealth he was sleeping on during those long nights he waited for salvation. Three years later the richest diamond field in the world was discovered at this very same spot, which bears the German equivalent of his name to this day. In 1956 the mine was abandoned, leaving only the memories of heady riches and back-breaking labour.

Today, when standing inside the abandoned buildings, one gets the feeling that the ghosts of the past aren’t far away.

Come on. Come inside…

The old generator has lost the battle against time

The old generator has lost the battle against time.k3Sweat-soaked miners would clean up before strolling over to the theatre or casino especially built for them.k2The silence of the dunes now rule where once gossip and laughter reigned....and they drank with gusto, of course.  One can only guess what fun these bottles brought to the isolated village. …and they drank with gusto, of course. One can only guess what fun these bottles brought to the isolated village.Sit down on the red chair. Let your left hand dangle down, touch the bottle at your feet. Close your eyes.  Imagine....Sit down on the red chair. Let your left hand dangle down, touch the bottle at your feet. Close your eyes.

Imagine…. 

Daily Prompt: Something So Strong – The Vrede Story

The prompt today: Tell us the origin story of your best friend. How did you become friends? What is it that keeps your friendship rockin’ after all these years?

Credit: woodenwindow.com

Credit: woodenwindow.com

“It’s difficult to define the factors that keep friends being friends.” Servaas has that faraway look you only get after the sixth Cactus Jack. “Look at me: I’ve not kept a single friend for longer than a few months. That is, of course, with the exception of Siena.” He stares balefully at Oudoom, mutely challenging the reverend to take up the argument.

Now: everybody in Rolbos knows Servaas can become rather morose, especially when summer is on its way out end autumn chills the evenings. This is when you need a proper goose-feather duvet or a warm sleeping partner. Boggel smiles at the thought: he’s got Vrede, who loves snuggling in under the blankets when he thinks Boggel has dozed off. The presence of the old police dog is strangely comforting.

Servaas, however, is too stingy to buy a duvet and spends his winter nights in several layers of clothing under the threadbare blankets he and Siena got for a wedding present soon after WW II.  This causes the old man to get up in the morning and grumble all day long. Then at night – like now – he sits in front of the hearth in Boggel’s Place, looking for somebody to argue with.

“Ag, you know Servaas,” Precilla takes up the challenge with a twinkle in her eyes, “I think Koos Kadawer likes you a lot. He’s forever staring at you with undisguised admiration.”

“Because I refuse to breathe out my last. Koos Kadawer doesn’t count. Undertakers only have lasting relationships with their customers, that’s all. And only afterwards, if you know what I mean.” Servaas orders the seventh, oblivious of the fact that she’s poking gentle fun with him.

“And what about Boggel? He likes your being alive. You must be one of his best customers, especially in wintertime. And the rest of us simply lo-o-o-ve you when you don’t dress up in that awful black suit.” Precilla doesn’t let up and continues in a whisper. “We’ve been thinking of buying you a nice suit for Christmas – a blue one. Maybe white.”

“You making jokes about me?” Servaas swivels around in his chair to fix her with a less-than-benevolent stare. “Respect your elders. Ask Oudoom: it says so in the Book.”

“Don’t drag me into this argument, Servaas. I sneaked in here for a quiet quickie. I’m still working on Sunday’s sermon and can’t stay too long. Mevrou will get suspicious.”

Boggel clears his throat as he serves the Cactus.

“Friendship is worse than love, Servaas. When you love somebody, you are obliged to endure everything with the loved one. Oudoom will tell you Love endures all. If revels in suffering. It forgives  everything.

“But friendship? Now there’s a thing for you. It’s a choice. You don’t have to be a friend to anybody at all. Man, you can simply make friends and discard them as soon as they irritate you. I hear you can even push a button on this thing called Facebook, and presto! You’ve unfriended somebody. Bang! Just like that. People, to my thinking, are much better at unfriending others than working on being a good friend to a mate.

“And you know why? Because we take ourselves far too seriously, Servaas. You do something I don’t like, then my mind pushes the unfriend button in that mushy grey matter between my ears and that’s it…I don’t care any more. It’s so much easier than getting into your erstwhile friend’s shoes to see things the way he or she does. Oh no – we insist on being right all the time and that’s where things go completely wrong.

“You should think about that.”

This is – you’ll know if you are a regular in Boggel’s Place – an uncommonly long speech by the bent little man behind the counter. Boggel is usually an exceptional listener and will refrain from becoming involved in an argument.

“You mean it’s like Vrede?” Precilla is enjoying the bit of a spat. “Or we should be more doggy-like in our relationships?”

“That’s it!” Oudoom snaps his fingers. “That’s going to be my sermon on Sunday.” He uses his hands to write the theme in the air. “Love…Let us learn from the dogs.”

Vrede, who has been dozing next to the fire, lifts an ear and opens an eye. He knows – like all dogs do – exactly what the people are discussing. And he can’t understand – simply can’t understand – why people insist on being so unforgiving. It’s so stupid, really. The hand that you bark at today, is the same hand that feeds you biltong tomorrow. How difficult is that to understand?

Servaas goes ‘harrumph’ and lifts his glass. “Nobody,” he says ‘noborry‘, “can ever accuse me of taking myself too ser…seri…serioushly. So there.”

Vrede gives one of those growls. Not an angry one, understand, just one of those low-down grumbles dogs do when they pretend not to be laughing. Then he frowns, gets up, stre-ethches, and walks over to Boggel. He’s had enough of this.

Boggel looks down as Vrede gets up on his hind legs to rest his paws on the counter.

“Yes Vrede?”

“Grmf, arfarf, grrr, yawl.”

Boggel gets it immediately. Vrede said he’ll sneak into old Servaas’ bed tonight. Snuggle real tight when the night wind brings in the cold in the small hours. And, if he does that, the patrons in the bar must club together and buy that duvet in Sammie’s shop. Tomorrow. Not a day later.

“What’s it with the dog?” Servaas peers at Vrede like only an inebriated man can: a combination of myopia and diplopia.

“Oh nothing, Servaas. Nothing much, that is. He says you’re going to be in a good mood tomorrow.”

Oudoom’s sermon will be a huge success. People will listen with serious expressions and nod here and there. They’ll tell him he’s a wonderful orator. And then they’ll go home, telling themselves that a preacher should be much more practical. He can’t, for heaven’s sake, expect them to lower themselves to canine standards, can he?

Dogs are so far down the evolutionary ladder, we can’t be expected to descend to such ignorance. We are the superior race, not so?

It’s only Vrede, who knows better, that’ll disagree. And until we all speak fluent Barkish, we won’t know how wrong we are.

The Miracle

hare-head01plFaith and politics, Gertruida will tell you, have a lot in common. A lot of what we believe are based on promises that we choose to believe. The action following the promise, however, is a matter of personal interpretation.

Take for instance – and here Gertruida will smile knowingly – the case of Ma Roberts’ rabbits. If ever there was a club for non-believers, then Ma would have been the founding member and life president. And it wasn’t like Oudoom didn’t try either. Back then, the townsfolk would observe a full minute’s worth of silence – staring longingly at the glasses in front of them – every Wednesday afternoon as Oudoom’s old Ford huffed its way down Voortrekker Weg to pay a visit to this formidable woman.

Oudoom used to say Ma Roberts was his equivalent of Jonah’s whale, especially placed on earth to test his faith, his conviction and his commitment. To his credit: it must be said that he never wavered. Regular as clockwork, he visited the huge lady with the short temper – every Wednesday afternoon. He took his Bible along, of course; but he was careful not to overplay his hand. With Ma you had to be careful…extremely careful. She had a way of clamming up, growing red in the face while her eyes bulged ominously, before telling you what (exactly) you could go and do with yourself. This was the same for the occasional traders that visited her farm, the campaigning politicians, and poor Oudoom. He said she can move surprisingly fast, just like a hippo – which we all know is the animal responsible for most killings in Africa.

And, Gertruida will add, one must not forget that Ma was a progressive farmer. Quite successful too, if one considers her methods. She started off with chickens, which she supplied to the fried-chicken franchise in Grootdrink. It is rumoured that she made quite a fortune with this endeavour; which one can understand if you take into consideration that after two months, her neighbours didn’t have a single chicken left. These neighbours remembered what happened to Japie Mulder, the chap who had a dream of representing the district for the ANC in the town council. Oh, he can walk quite well again, even without the crutches (for short distances).  But still, one thinks about such an incident quite deeply before accusing Ma Roberts of stealing a simple thing like a chicken.

With her supply of chickens gone, Ma Roberts contemplated the prospect of a diminishing cash flow, which would have meant reducing her intake of peach brandy. That’s when she took up rabbit farming. Actually, it wasn’t rabbits she kept in that cage behind her house: they were hares. But skin a hare, marinate it ever so slightly in lemon juice, and not even an expert will tell the difference.

Gertruida says one mustn’t confuse hares with rabbits. Rabbits have a soft, succulent flesh – which is why the Belgian restaurant in Kimberley was keen to procure the real thing. But hares? They’re a lot tougher than rabbits. They occur naturally in the Kalahari, fend for themselves within an hour after birth, and do not need the fancy feeding rabbits do. As an aside, Gertruida will remind you that a baby rabbit is called kittens, while the young of hares (which are hairy at birth) are called leverets. This she says just to impress you – not because it has anything to do with The Miracle.

So Ma sent out her labourers to catch the hares on her farm (for a start) and after a week she had eight of the furry animals living in her old chicken coop. After a month, she had twenty-four, due to the original hare’s natural…er…social interaction.

And during this time, Oudoom redoubled his efforts to get Ma Roberts to reconsider her faithless life. He told her about Hope, Love and Mercy. Ma wouldn’t listen, telling him that’s why the country is in such a terrible state. Oudoom changed tack and told her about Jesus – His life, His teachings, and His crucifixion.

Now, Gertruida adds happily, it’s time to talk about Herman du Preez, the chickenless neighbour. Herman was a sickly old man, patiently waiting for the end of his days on the dying farm where the drought (and Ma Roberts) finally stole his hope of a better life on earth. Realising The End was slowly creeping up on him, he took to reading the Bible on his stoep every day, while the only other living thing on his farm – Butch the sheep dog – rested at his feet. Oudoom visited him occasionally to assure him the Paradise was real, and yes, the streets were paved with gold, indeed. This made the old man very happy.

That is, until the day he realised Butch was missing. He closed the Bible, noting the chapter in the book of Job he was studying, and shuffled to the back of the house to look for his faithful friend.

And he found Butch.

With a hare in his jaws.

The hare was dead.

And old Herman looked up at the sky and told the Lord he still had to finish Job. And the New Testament, old Herman prayed earnestly, needed another going-through as well. Surely he can finish that before he closed his eyes for the last time? He reminded his Maker that Ma was a rather deadly opponent, just look what happened to Japie Mulder?

So he sat down, took the dead body from the guilty-looking Butch, and he thought about his problem deeply. If Ma knew his dog had taken one of her rabbits…er, hares…

Herman washed the little body in the basin in his kitchen. Then he dried the dead hare, fluffing up the fur as well as he could. He remembered his long-departed wife’s meagre collection of cosmetics, fished out the almost-dry lipstick and added colour to the lips and a touch of rouge to the cheeks. The brush came in handy, too.

That night, when all the Kalahari slept peacefully, old Herman walked all the way over to Ma Roberts’ farm. Being old and frail, this took longer than he expected, but he made it an hour or so before dawn. He found the wooden gate to the chicken coop, opened the latch, and quietly deposited the small corpse next to the one sleeping hare, who didn’t seem to mind too much.

Then he started shuffling back home.

That Sunday he attended church as usual and was completely surprised to see Ma Roberts in the front pew. Oudoom smiled broadly and halfway through the service he said one of the members of the congregation had something to say.

Ma Roberts hoisted her hefty frame upright, turned around and said she was happy to announce that she’d been wrong all along.

“Look,” she said, “Oudoom has been badgering me about faith for a long time now. As you all know, I thought it was just to soothe his own conscience. But…” and here the whole district saw Ma Roberts falter for the first time in her life, “I was wrong.”

She took a deep breath.

“Oudoom told me about the Resurrection last Wednesday. I listened with one ear. He asked if he could pray for me. I said yes because I wanted his sorry ass off my property.” She ignored the giggles. “Well, he prayed for a sign. Any sign, he said, to make me see the Truth.”

Another deep breath…

“Then one of my rabbits – er… hares – died and I buried it in the veld. It was dead. Really dead.

“And you know what happened? That bloody hare rose from the dead, returned to the coop and looked more alive than I’ve ever seen any hare look like – in all my life.”

***

Old Herman died the following month – peacefully in his sleep. When Koos Kadawer laid him out, he was amazed. Corpses, in his experienced opinion, have slack faces. Mostly expressionless. Unless they died of fright or after being struck by lightning, like Electric Eddie, the best weather forecaster the district ever had.

Not so with old Herman. He looked contented. Happy. His lips curled upwards in death, like a smile.

Or like somebody who knows a delicious secret he doesn’t want to share.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Perspective…Holey Moley!

South Africans are famous for many things. We make mountains out of molehills. And we are great at ignoring important stuff. We live with shocking figures when it comes to murder and rape statistics; turn a blind eye to corruption and crime; and hide behind the high walls of survival.

Our national animal should be the humble mole, who hides below the surface, digging blindly to…nowhere.

This morning while walking on the beach, a little mound of sand caught my eye…

3
46

7

The last photograph is blurred (sorry!). Moles are shy and extremely reluctant to be photographed. They hate being seen in the open, and usually disappear quickly when they see strangers near their homes. They don’t like surprises, you see?

So they live solitary lives, avoiding the dangers lurking outside their warm and cosy and dark tunnels. They prefer to let the outside world take care of itself while they live in the dark.

Like I said: the perfect national symbol for a society struggling to get the right perspective on what the word ‘normal’ means… Surely it can’t just be a setting on the program of the washing machine?

Oscar – A Sad Modern Fable

giraffeOnce upon a time a baby giraffe was born. He was handsome, chubby and seemed perfectly formed…except for his legs. They were too short, you see? The other animals crowded around, making sympathetic sounds. This little giraffe, they all agreed, would not amount up to much.

Giraffes, like we all know, need good, strong legs. Without them, they can’t reach the succulent leaves at the top of the acacia trees – and they can’t run away from the many predators in the woods. A short-legged giraffe has no chance.

Still, his parents gave him a name –  Oscar – and tried to raise him as normally as possible. Uncle owl suggested stilts, which nephew Baboon made from strong the bamboo stems. At first the little giraffe struggled to remain upright, but then something strange happened: his mother discovered that he was extremely strong-willed. Oscar refused to give up. This, of course, made his family very proud. Maybe, they thought, the little disadvantaged giraffe will be able to fend for himself, after all.

Something else happened inside the young animal’s mind: he was determined to show them – all of them, especially those who had said he wouldn’t make it – that he would be the best. The fastest. The strongest. In fact, the most famous of them all.

As the bamboo stems dried out, little Oscar found they bent when he put his weight on them. Then, when he shifted his balance, the bamboo would spring back to being straight. Initially, this unexpected quality of the stems caught him off-guard, and his family had to help him up time and again. But later, quite a bit later, young Oscar used this spring-like effect to propel him at amazing speeds across the veld.

Now: everybody loves a winner. They started taking bets: could young Oscar run faster than Lion?

He did.

What about rabbit?

Oscar won.

And cheetah…?

Oscar left him eating dust.

By now, the animals all wanted to be friends with the speeding, short-legged giraffe with his bamboo legs. Sympathy turned into adoration. And the strong-willed and almost-no-longer-disadvantaged giraffe soaked up the admiration. He liked the way the other animals deferred to him, allowing him the best grazing spots, the coolest bits of shade and the nicest place at the waterhole. They laughed at all his jokes. And, because he was so fast, even the predators and the carnivores kept their distance.

Sadly, Oscar developed what the other animals whispered about as ‘a bit of an attitude‘. Nothing much, you understand? It’s just that he became a bit arrogant. And…who could blame him? He was the best, wasn’t he? And should not the best, expect the best? So sometimes – not often – he’d growl and grumble (giraffes do this rather quietly) to show his displeasure if things didn’t quite please him.

Then something terrible happened. One night – quite late – the young giraffe took off his bamboo stilts to lay down. He did this every night, you see, to allow his short legs to rest before he strutted out his prowess for all to see in the morning.

And something happened.  During a dark and stormy night the young giraffe did the unthinkable. He lost control.

What happened?

Nobody is sure, but it became abundantly clear that Oscar did something so terrible, so completely horribly detestable, that all the other animals turned away in shock and shame.

And now something even worse occurred: the animals brayed for blood. His blood. The situation became bad enough for other animals from other parts of the forest came to see how the young giraffe was made to pay for his transgression.

And the young giraffe cried.

And he couldn’t fix the horrible thing he had done.

And then he died. He still breathed, of course, but his strong will was broken and his bamboo legs were to slow and too short to carry away from the shame and the grief he had caused.

And for the rest of his miserable life, the only thing he could hear, was the braying for blood and revenge. When he died eventually – really stopping breathing this time – his last request was that his funeral pyre be stoked with the bamboo stems that once made him famous.

***

There’s a moral to the story, of course.

We’re all born with disabilities – some are a bit more obvious than others. Over time, we overcome these defects and we strive to live normal lives. A select few of us will even become famous for what we’ve achieved. Some will thrive on the attention and the fame and the adoration. And then, inevitably, Icarus flies too near the sun and the wax melts and the wings come off.

And we fall…

Then, those of us who are spectators on such a tragedy have a choice: Either we join the carnivore choir for blood and revenge – or we become silent as we contemplate the sad and grim reality of those involved with the Fall have to live with.

Maybe that little giraffe made the worst mistake of his life – willingly or not – and this affected those closely involved in the most negative way. Maybe his life and way of doing things were not solely the result of some birth defect. Maybe the animals who made him believe he could fly with his waxed wings of bamboo legs were responsible as well.

Or maybe the worst thing about the fable is not the horrible deed that was done…but the way the other animals brayed for blood afterwards.

As if they lived blameless lives…

Daily Prompt: Our House

What are the earliest memories of the place you lived in as a child? Describe your house. What did it look like? How did it smell? What did it sound like? Was it quiet like a library, or full of the noise of life? Tell us all about it, in as much detail as you can recall.

breekyster 2010 118Our house was built with stone. It was strong and warm and safe.breekyster 2010 122

I remember the windows. They were large and let light in. In summer I could smell the rain. Or the flowers. Even the sheep as they grazed nearby. I liked those windows. It showed me the world.

breekyster 2010 112We had a Dover stove. Mom baked bread, birthday cakes and leg of lamb, filling the house with delicious aromas. The fire was kept going during the cold winter months, and we’d sit there, listening to Dad telling stories by candle light.

breekyster 2010 127Dad’s pride and joy was kept in the shed. It was a Chev, I think. Like the house, I believed it to be indestructible…

breekyster 2010 036I though nothing would ever change.

I had such a lot to learn…

Let it be forgotten, as a flower is forgotten,
Forgotten as a fire that once was singing gold,
Let it be forgotten forever and ever,
Time is a kind friend, he will make us old.

If anyone asks, say it was forgotten
Long and long ago,
As a flower, as a fire, as a hushed footfall
In a long-forgotten snow.

(Sarah Teasdale, 1884 – 1933)

The Fabulous Force of Fibbing

truth_and_lies_t-607x336If you asked Gertruida who the biggest liar in the district is, she won’t hesitate a single second before telling you about Frikkie-the-Fib Ferreira. She’ll tell you why, as well, just to make sure you understand why poor Frikkie ended up with such a distinguished nickname. After all, we all lie from time to time, and to be recognised as the Lord of the Lies must count for something in a country where lying has evolved to the level where we are the envy of every sinner in the whole wide world.

Gertruida says Frikkie never had a chance. It is in his DNA,  she’ll tell you. He was fathered by Piet ‘Prisons’ Pretorius after the inimitable Piet had persuaded Martie Ferreira to believe it’s okay, he was sterile anyway. Something to do with working in an X-ray department. Neither was true of course: not the X-ray bit nor the sterility. When Martie confronted him with her expanding waist, Piet told her he was – unfortunately and much to his regret – already married to the daughter of one of Cape Town’s most notorious gang leaders. He suggested she had better solve the problem herself or face the prospect of a ‘little visit’ by some chaps with an unhealthy tendency towards violence. This statement, like almost everything else Piet ever said, was a prime example of Piet’s ability to manufacture scenarios to suit his purposes.

Martie was by no means a paragon of virtue, either. She almost succeeded in convincing her family and friends that the pregnancy had a historical precedent which proved men were not necessarily important in the process of procreation. However, when the Big Date arrived without the expected visit by three wise men, there were some sceptics who doubted her explanation.

Be that as it may, Frikkie was born after several false alarms, which – Gertruida will emphasise – is proof of the development of pre-natal lying potential. As a helpless baby, Frikkie soon learnt that imaginary illnesses were extremely helpful in forcing people to pay attention to him. Long before he could walk or talk, he could point to various parts of his body while crying real tears. Von Münchhausen would have been proud. At the age of three, Frikkie had no tonsils, no appendix and had to wear both arms in a sling to alleviate the strain on his shoulders.

Despite this, Frikkie breezed through school. He always had an excuse for not doing homework, was hospitalised without fail during exams and was advanced to the next standard simply because he had so little time to live left. The district doctor at the time tried to convince Martie to take her son to see a specialist in Cape Town, which she promised to do – and didn’t because she lied. She understood the devious way little Frikkie’s mind worked.

Frikkie left school (he wasn’t really learning anything, was he?) at the age of thirteen, lied about his age, and started selling beer to the local population. So effective were his half-truths, that he soon convinced everybody that he, himself, was a brewmaster of note. The youngest, in fact, in the world. Therefore, he said, he added secret ingredients to the bottled products only he sold. See how clever I do it? You can’t even see where I opened the bottle and resealed it. Come on, I dare you: the person who can show me how I did it, can get a whole crate of beer for free.

His ‘secret’, he told his customers, was a mood-changer. Frikkie’s Emotional Molecular Moderating Enhancer, of FEMME – an old French invention which he altered and perfected. He told men that it’d make them feel like real men – something roughly along the line on what he told the ladies, too.

His marketing campaign was so effective that he not only became rich very quickly, but the other purveyors of alcoholic beverages soon had to close their doors. Drinkers insisted on Frikkie’s beer with its added oomph.

At the age of eighteen, Frikkie had to make a difficult decision. Realising he had to make something of his life, he decided to follow a professional career. Two options sprang to mind: lawyer or preacher – both which involved a lot of opportunities for lying and twisting facts until they suited you. Despite his lack of formal education, Frikkie decided that Law was  the way to go. Unlike the options in theology, the legal profession only involved lying to people – which seemed a bit safer than messing about upstairs.

By this time, Frikkie was a master forger as well. During weekends while other young people explored the ups and downs of romantic liaisons, Frikkie copied Hundred Rand notes to pass the time. Thus, after consulting a lawyer about a fictitious issue (and having a good look around the office), he went home and forged a certificate which proclaimed that he, Frikkie Ferreira, had passed the LLB degree (Cum Laude). Realising that court appearances could become an embarrassment, he specialised in arbitration and mediation – which naturally relied heavily on his gift of lying. He also drew up a few wills, which he made the clients write out and sign; and he then endorsed as witness. For this excellent service, he charged a rather hefty fee.

Then, naturally (having developed all the necessary attributes and gifts), Frikkie decided to go big. Politics would be his ultimate triumph. He registered his Workers and Traditional Fraternities, a potentially massive collection of all trade unions, ethnic groups and workers. He succeeded in convincing stubborn and suspicious leaders of his good intentions, his impressive fortune and their combined ability to take corruption in the country to a completely new level.

It seemed as if there could be no end to his lying, conniving ways. Frikkie-the–fib, everybody agreed – was on his way to become one of our best politicians. President, even.

Then he made a mistake.

In his election manifesto, he promised to supply houses, jobs, electricity, toilets and infrastructure…to ALL those in need.

“You see,” Gertruida will tell you with a sly smile, “the best lies have at least a bit of truth in them. To be a good liar, the mix of fact and fiction must be such that it causes reasonable doubt that it is, in fact, a lie. Look at our government’s success with this: as long as they can blame all mistakes and problems on Apartheid, they’ll get the majority of the vote. It’s an emotional thing, see? People want to believe it, because it’s the easy way out. Heaven help us the day when the masses start seeing through the propaganda they are fed every day.”

You may, at this point, want to ask what happened to Frikkie, which will please Gertruida immensely.

“Just what he deserved. Frikkie was bankrupted and had to sell everything. You see, you can lie to some people all of the time. You can lie to all people some of the time. But…you can’t lie to all people all of the time. So Frikkie settled on lying his way into a disability grant, coerced some officials to employ him because he was mentally challenged. A sharp-witted HR officer spotted his talent and redeployed him as the new speech-writer to the president.

“He says it’s a full-time job – for the first time in his life he is really challenged to come up with plausible lies. Arguably the only truth ever to make it’s way past his lying tongue, is that he’s never been so unhappy in his life.?”

There is a moral to the story, of course. Lying your way through life may well cause a lot of misery. But…imagine having the responsibility of making a president look good? The wages of sin, indeed…

(Readers are reminded that this is a story. Fiction. A (hopefully) entertaining lie. And, true to Gertruida’s advice, nobody can doubt the fictitious background of this story. Too many lies and not a single strand of truth.)

(Really…)

The Faces of the Cederberg

They’re there.

Stone faces frozen in time. Speaking without words. Telling old stories, inventing new fables.

All you have to do is to look.

And listen, of course.

9

Brooding Neanderthal? Old baboon watching his family?

8

Darth Vader taking a nap

7

Planet of the Apes….

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Lion straining to emerge from the rock.