Tag Archives: daily prompt

To eternity…and back (#2)

IMG_2826During the time Servaas spent in hospital, a few strange things happened. There was Matron Krotz, for instance, a formidable huge woman with a  short temper and a large (if sagging) bosom. She reigned over ‘her’ hospital with an iron fist and a booming voice. Hardworking nurses sweated and trembled through her morning rounds, while even Doctor Welman deferred to her many opinions. Called Attila behind her back, she lived up to the name with gusto.

Whenever she came to Servaas’s bed, however, her entire demeanor changed – every time. She’d smile (a phenomenon previously thought to be completely impossible), ruffle the old man’s sparse hair and ever so coyly ask him if he’d had a good night’s rest. Her temper would flare back up to it’s usual and frightening intensity if she noticed that he hadn’t had his morning coffee or if there was the slightest hint that his bed wasn’t made up properly.

Another weird thing she did, was to take her lunch break at his bedside. She’d close the curtains around his bed (‘The patient needs counselling, nurse Botha, and you’re certainly not gifted or qualified to do that properly. Now get out while I attend to the patient you are so obviously neglecting! Go!) and then spend the thirty minutes or so chatting with Servaas.

Nurse Botha grudgingly noted that, while Attila Krotz might be partly human after all,  matron’s conduct was probably proof that hormonal replacement had more benefits than just preventing hot flashes. And, to everybody’s surprise and well-hidden amusement, matron asked nurse Botha the strangest questions about eyeliners, lipstick and perfumes.

Servaas had recovered well enough to be acutely aware of matron’s presence and found it surprisingly easy to talk to her. Whereas other people experienced matron Krotz as an unapproachable and imperious professional, Servaas discovered that she was, in fact, a lonely woman. Her fastidious insistence on perfection in the hospital was simply a way to – as she  put it – do something useful with her life. The hospital, she said, gave reason to her existence.

“The universe never cared about me, Servaas. I’m about to retire – I have to – and then what? After a lifetime of caring for the sick and the needy, I have nothing. What’s a matron after retirement? An old hag with a cupboard full of old uniforms? A nurse with nobody to care for? What use is that?”

Servaas tried to say something about believing that, when God closes a door, He opens a window, but she cut him off. There’s no such thing, she said, only fools believed in such nonsense.

“No, I never married,” she said during one of their lunch hour chats. Servaas had been progressing slowly over the past three weeks, during which their daily chats slowly became more and more personal. Eventually Servaas told matron about Siena – and asked about Krotz’s past. “I was engaged, once.” She blushed, a wry smile eventually fading to a scowl.”Then this hussey came along and he left. I was….twenty at the time. That’s when I said to myself – well, dammit! I shall never allow a man to humiliate me like that again. And…” here she hesitated and glanced with vulnerable uncertainty at Servaas, “…well, I decided to study hard and become the best I can be. I did course after course, ambitiously working myself up the nursing ladder, until I was appointed matron here. That was fifteen years ago. Suddenly there were no more rungs in the ladder, Servaas. I’m stuck in this crummy hospital until I retire. Heaven knows what I’ll do then.”

The other unusual occurrences during Servaas’s stay in hospital, were the lucid dreams he had. These in no way compared to the very real experience during his coma, but they were so intense that he had no problem recalling them afterwards. While most of the dreams concerned past experiences – simple, everyday events – some of them stood out because they seemed so utterly inappropriate.

“There was this dune, you see? One of those dunes with the steep sides and loose sand.” Matron Krotz always listened with rapt attention whenever Servaas told her about his dreams. “Somehow I knew I had to get to the top of that dune, but I didn’t know why. Every time I took a step upward, the loose sand would carry me right back. So there I was: one step up, slide back. One step up, slide back. I was exhausted when I woke up.”

The next day, Servaas could add to the dream.

“I’ve never dreamt in chapters before, Alice.” By now they were firmly on first-name terms. “But my dreams seem to be in sequence these days. Anyway, last night I made some progress up that dune. It was painfully slow, much like you experience in those dreams where you run away from something, but your legs don’t work properly. Eventually, I could see the top. There was somebody there, but I couldn’t see who it was. I reached out, and when I was about to touch that person, the sand slid back again and I had to start all over.”

And then he had one more dream – the last one – before these nightly experiences simply ceased to happen.

“The person at the top of the dune was Shorty de Lange.” If Servaas wasn’t so absorbed in the telling of his dream, he would have noticed matron Krotz’s sudden intake of breath and her pallor as colour drained from her cheeks. “I haven’t even thought about him in years and years, but there he was. Large as life, right on top of my dune. He was slowly sinking into the sand – like quicksand, I suppose – and was pleading that I should help him. I didn’t know what to do…and then I woke up.”

“Who…who did you see there?” Her voice shook as she fought for control.

“Shorty. Shorty de Lange. You won’t know him. A tall, gangling chap I used to know, way back when. He went on to study accounting, I think, and we lost touch. But before that, we went to school together and did a stint in the army – like everybody else in those days. We used to be rather close.”

“Shorty?” The incredulous note in her voice was unmistakable. “Shorty de Lange? Six foot something, thinnish, used to play flank for Prieska’s first team? Brown hair and a little extra pinkie on his left hand?”

Servaas looked up sharply. “Ye-e-e-s?”

“That’s the bastard who left me in the lurch…for that stupid bimbo. May he rot in hell…” Her voice told him: Attila was back. Time to tread softly.

“Then why…why did I dream about him?”

(To be continued…)

ESCOM? Who needs them…?

biodigester-turns-cow-manure-into-methane-gas“Look,” she said, “it’s easy. All you have to do is to produce gas. The rest should be child’s play.”

The exasperating thing about Gertruida is that she has this way of simplifying things to the point where you expect events to follow a logical course – which often happens…and sometimes not. Add a couple of shots of peach brandy, yet another power blackout and a candle, and you find yourself following her instructions as if you had no choice.

The group at the bar had been discussing the dismal performance of ESCOM, the state-run, bumbling organisation that is supposed to supply the country with electricity. Like the SABC and South African Airways, ESCOM has managed to run itself  into shambles lately. Oh, these companies did hang on for a few years due to the efficiency of management in the bad old days of the previous government, but then democracy came along and everything went to pieces. Complete mismanagement has resulted in undiluted chaos, with everybody blaming everybody else. Like Gertruida said: it would have been funny if it wasn’t such a tragedy.

Still, they had to do something. Drinking warm beer in the dark was just not acceptable.

busa1“We must generate our own electricity, that’s all. We have no other option.” That’s what Gertruida had said. Then, reminding them that you only needed a generator (the derelict one behind Sammie’s shop), she suggested isolating them from the national grid (‘That huge switch at the last pole. Just flick it to the ‘Off’ position’). Coupling Oudoom’s car’s one driveshaft (he has the smallest vehicle in town, a 1969 Mini) to the generator, and connecting to their own Rolbos Electric And Light Company. RealCo, she said, would show the rest of the country how it should be done.

“Think of the money we’ll save , guys. In 2010 ESCOM’s salary bill hovered around 14,7 billion Rand – and one can only speculate what it is now. Think about it: those ridiculous bonuses to the so-called executives, the costs of new power stations – Madupi will come on line R150 billion  later – and heaven knows how much they have to spend on infrastructure….well, if the country could save all that money, we’d be able to afford our president. Now, that would be something.”

“That’s nice, Gertruida. But that Mini needs petrol to run, and you know how expensive that is.”

digesterGertruida smiled while she shook her head. “No, there’s a company in Oklahoma with the solution to that one. They call it CRAP - Caloric Recovery Anaerobic Process. It’s simple, really. You take a drum, fill it halfway with cattle or sheep manure, add water and let mother nature do the rest. You then produce a very combustible fuel in the form of methane gas and when the process has run it’s course, you’re left with a drum full of fertilizer.

“I’m sure Vetfaan will only have to remove the carburettor from the Mini’s engine, connect up a piece of hose from the gas collecting bag to the engine, and that’s it! We have an engine running off cow pooh, and that drives our generator – and no more  blackouts!”


It sounded so simple.

It might have worked, too, if Servaas hadn’t put a match to his pipe while listening to the bubbles rising to the top of the sludge inside the drum.


One must give credit where credit is due. Gertruida says a good storyteller leaves the graphics to the mind of the listener.

“Just give the audience enough of a skeleton to hang the details on – and make the listener smile at the pictures created by the imagination. No matter how hard a narrator tries, he can’t beat those images. A picture, especially a mental one, is worth more than a thousand words…”

Nowadays, the patrons in the bar are quite content to enjoy the intimate atmosphere created by a few candles. They poke fun at Gertruida, who says it’s not her fault that Servaas has been banned to the veranda. He should have known better. Anyway, according to her, he should be able to join them inside again next week.

Provided he continues showering three times a day, that is.

The Doggy in Boggel’s Place

(Daily prompt: allow a non-verbal subject to address your audience.)

IMG_3608My name is Vrede, and I’m the guardian and pride of Rolbos. Guardian? Sure, there hasn’t been a single burglary while I’ve stayed here. (Okay, neither before, but that’s irrelevant.) I’m an ex-police dog, a sniffer who can tell drugs a mile off. I’ve also made an in depth study of human scents, which has helped me apprehend a number of criminals, including a police commissioner.


Click to buy. Arf, arf..

I tell some of my stories in a book, so I’ll not repeat them here. Suffice to say that these stories have spread my fame all over the world, and that I’ve received fan mail from Europe, America and even Gauteng. It’s not something I brag about, mind? Just barking the breeze, understand?

I love the cushion under the counter, here in Boggel’s Place. I get to hear all the gossip first-hand, get rewarded by treats whenever I sit up and beg, and can snooze away the hours while the townsfolk dream up stupid schemes to pass the time.

Was I born and raised here? In a manner of speaking, I suppose. According to the stories on the blog, I arrived here after exposing a corrupt official in the police force. But, if I had to be honest, I wasn’t really born. Not in the usual manner. I was, however, created; which is something completely different.

How did this happen, you ask? Well, you only have to park a writer in front of a keyboard, add a bit of writer’s block, and stir in a warped imagination. Go on, do it! Voila, you’ve got a doggy of your own. You can name him – or her – anything you want. We feed on virtual bones and titbits, never embarrass our owners and are loyal forever.

See, dogs like me can’t die. We just don’t do that. Oh, it’s nice to live in the computer like I do, but once your story is in a book, you’re immortal. (Which is more than real people and dogs can say.) This makes me a perfect pet, for I’ll entertain untold generations with my wit and wisdom. And what’s a dog if he can’t curl up in your mind and make you wonder about what it means to live a virtual dog’s life?

So, to those of you who received the gift of imagination, I’d like you to create more of us. Go on, try? While the real world is becoming overcrowded, there’s no such problem in the virtual one. We don’t bark when you want to sleep. We don’t whine when we’re hungry. We don’t go about humping important guest’s legs or stuff like that. Oh, we’ll accompany you to work occasionally, and even make you smile while you’re filling in your tax returns – but we’d never, never bother you.

So there. Now you know about me. You won’t ever feel lonely again. Ever.

Bark-bark-arf. (That means goodbye for now.)

The Slave Girl, Wine and yet another Electricity Failure

cape_settlement“It is a well-known fact that women know more about wine than men.” Gertruida, who knows everything, watches the men, waiting for the inevitable challenge. Vetfaan doesn’t disappoint her.

“That’s hogwash, Gertruida. Men have been guzzling down wine since Noah planted some grapes. Monks made wine. And we drink the stuff. So there.”

It’s been a quiet afternoon in Boggel’s Place. After venting their frustration at ESCOM for – once again – failing to produce enough electricity, the patrons in the little bar had to settle for warm beer. This of course didn’t go down well and resulted in a protracted discussion about the causes for these occurrences – which Servaas hoped nobody would ever repeat, especially not in printed form. He said it might be a constitutional right to have an opinion, but that lawyer’s fees are rather expensive. To change the mood – and the subject – Gertruida started talking about wine, a subject they could explore at length without the threat of litigation.

“Well,” Boggel chips in, “I read somewhere that women started making champagne?” He poses the sentence as a question, hoping that Gertruida would stop teasing the men.

“The veuve story? Yes, of course.” She reminds her little audience that ‘veuve’ is French for ‘widow’, and that famous widows like Barbe-Nicole Clicquot (née Ponsardin), Louise Pommery and Lily Bollinger used their widowed state to create new wines, new labels and new methods – resulting in the brands we still know today.

“It was in the 1850’s and 60’s that they started using the word Veuve on their labels, perhaps hoping that wine-drinkers would take pity on them. Whatever the reason, the idea was a spectacular success.”

“That’s nice, Gertruida, but we men started making wines in the Cape.” Vetfaan scowls absently at his warm beer, thinking dark thoughts about what he’d like to do with South Africa’s electricity supplier.

“Let me tell you,” Gertruida says with a superior smile, “about Angela van Bengale, also known as Mooij Angela.”


Way back, just after Jan van Riebeeck started the colony, a slave girl arrived in the Cape of Good Hope. This young woman had survived the hardships of the trip from Bengal and was sold to van Riebeeck by the ship’s captain, Pieter Kemp. Angela, also known as Ansiela, worked hard in the van Riebeeck home, becoming a trusted and even loved member of the household. Here she met a Khoi woman, Krotoa, who was often mentioned in van Riebeeck’s writings as ‘Eva’. It is unclear whether Krotoa was a slave or a volunteer, however, she acted as a reliable interpreter with a solid command of Dutch, Portuguese and several local dialects.

When van Riebeeck left the Cape in 1662, Angela was sold to his second-in-command, Abraham Gabbema. Gabbema must have been impressed with the young girl – she was 20 at the time – for he freed her in 1666.

Quagga“Now this Khoi woman, Krotoa, was the sister of one of the wives of Oedasoa, an important headman of a group of Khoi people living in the area we know today as Paarl. At the time, Krotoa brokered a deal between the Dutch and the Khoi, resulting in the local tribe supplying cattle and sheep to the Dutch in the Cape. Oedasoa seems to have been on good terms with van Riebeeck, and even agreed to capture ‘wild horses’ for the commander. These weren’t horses at all, but the now extinct Berg Kwagga.

“Be that as it may, poor Oedasoa unfortunately had a bit of a scrap with a lion during this escapade and was seriously injured. Van Riebeeck must have felt bad about this for he sent Angela to nurse the chief back to health – which she did. As a token of his gratitude, Oedasoa granted the right to farm on a portion of fertile land to his nurse – on a farm known as Wittenberg. Here the freed Angela started making wine, an endeavour that proved to be 153075rather successful. Apparently she married a cooper from Brussels, one Jan van As or Aschen. Their son, Jacobus van As, registered the farm in his name, where he continued producing wines of a superior quality.

“This history, you see, makes Angela van Bengale the first woman winemaker in the country. The slave girl and the roving cooper helped to establish an industry which thrived through the years. Humble beginnings, to be sure, but a proud heritage.”


Vetfaan still doesn’t agree with Gertruida about her statement on women and wine, but he enjoyed the story so much that he forgets to argue his point. And who can blame him after Gertruida quoted one of the most famous of the veuves, Lily Bollinger : “I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it when I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it. Unless I’m thirsty.”

This, he has to concede, is unquestionably the words of an extremely wise woman. One should never argue about something as important as that. Electricity? Who needs that? Wine is essential, electricity only a convenience. It took twenty years of democracy to teach us that.

The Zodiac of Zuma

Daily Prompt: You’re tasked with creating a brand new astrological sign for the people born around your birthday — based solely on yourself. What would your new sign be, and how would you describe those who share it?

Credit: citypress.co.za

Credit: citypress.co.za

“Well now,” Gertruida says, rising to the challenge, “That’s an easy task…I think.”

Whenever the conversation in Boggel’s Place slews towards long ‘Umm’s” and grunting ‘Aahhh’s”, the best thing to do, is to ask an impossible question like “How big is the universe?” or “When will people see the problem with BEE?”. The magnitude of those questions will keep Gertruida talking for hours at end, providing ample opportunity for debate to while away the empty hours. The creation of a new Zodiac sign was Precilla’s idea, who thinks some people don’t fit into the twelve described in The Upington Post.

“Now, let’s see… Yes! Let’s think of somebody who we know nothing about. Nothing personal, that is, but still somebody everybody is familiar with. Then we can create a personality, a Zodiac sign, and suggest something in the future according to the stars.”

Oudoom and Servaas immediately objects, saying such things are unbiblical, but Precilla assures them it’s only for fun. And anyway, she says, they’ve talked about the drought for days now, what else could they possibly discuss?

“Look,” Vetfaan ventures, “we all know the people in the newspapers – or at least, know about them. But we don’t really know them, do we? They’re just names; faces we recognise, but with no idea what they are like in real life.”

“Like our president?” Kleinpiet’s remark results in a protracted silence.

“Ye-e-e-e-s. I suppose that’s a good one.” Precilla isn’t entirely convinced, but anything is better than Oudoom’s disapproval.

“I like it.” Boggel spreads an imaginary banner in the air. “Born under the sign of Zuma!” He ignores the guffaws. “It’d describe almost anybody involved in politics these days.”

Precilla takes out a small notebook and jots down the suggestions made by the group at the bar. People who are born under this sign:

  • Like to shower. They are extremely fastidious about cleanliness.
  • Don’t care much about formal academics – they go with their gut instinct and do not mind making mistakes.
  • Laugh a lot, especially when such mistakes are pointed out.
  • Have a way of avoiding pointed questions, blaming problems on others and ignoring criticism.
  • The men, especially, are known for their romantic side. Relationships are often compromised by their wonderful ability to attract women – especially if such ladies are conversant in the art of flattery.
  • Attract rich and influential friends, irrespective of their social standing. Being born under this sign makes such individuals immune to criticism and disapproval. If you have the gift to rub up an ego, you’re a friend for life.
  • Choose to be ignorant about financial matters. As long as the money keeps rolling in, it doesn’t matter where it comes from.
  • Love the idea of having large swimming pools, a few chicken coops and enough bodyguards.
  • Cannot drive slowly. They usually must have a few cars with flashing blue lights to clear the way in their need for speed.
  • Prefer flying – whenever they can get somebody else to foot the bill.
  • Cannot be labelled as egocentric – as long as they have an imbongi, they will sit listening with rapt attention for hours.
  • The older they get, the better they were. The past is extremely important.

Precilla doesn’t write down everything. Some of the remarks bordered on the ridiculous, like Servaas’s suggestion that Zumians have a propensity to provide ample numbers to future generations. Or Kleinpiet’s remarks about  these individual’s ability to fool everybody all the time. Still, by the time she covered three pages, the mood in Boggel’s Place may be described as hilarious – a pleasant change from the dreary discussion of the drought,


Gertruida says that is one aspect of our human nature she doesn’t understand. Why do we laugh at the things that hurt us most? Or joke about serious matters? Surely having a thirteenth Zodiac sign would be unlucky? Or is it the only way to digest the diet of bad news we have to face every day?

That question remains unanswered while Boggel serves another round.

A Letter to an Imaginary Friend, Oscar Pistorius.

Credit: starrfmonline.com

Credit: starrfmonline.com

Dear Oscar,

I imagine you’d be surprised by this – after all, one doesn’t usually write to imaginary friends…and then expect them to read such a letter. Imaginary friends, by definition, are supposed to be fictitious and only exist in the realm of the subconscious. You, however, aren’t anything like that. I think most people of the planet are aware of your existence by now. Be that as it may, I take the liberty of writing, expecting the letter to find you…even if the chances of your reading it are rather slim.

Why should you, even if you could? I caught myself thinking a few moments ago: most of your mail will be censored (if ever delivered) and the majority of those letters that make it to your cell, will (quite naturally) be hate mail. If I were in your shoes (please, no pun intended), I’d ignore any letter from anybody I didn’t know – so I’d understand if this letter gets chucked into the ‘I-simply-can’t-face-another-bit-of-scripted-abuse’ bin.

I wanted to tell you that you’ve been a wonderful imaginary friend for a long time. I followed your running career with some interest, often gaining strength from the way you refused to give up when the going got tough. Man, you were good! And then the olympics and the paralympics – you made me so proud.

So we never met – why should we? – but I thought of you as a role model and an icon and all those words one uses towards somebody you respect. My friend – imaginary, to be sure, virtual by the very nature of things – but indeed somebody I’d have liked to share a drink with.

And then Valentine’s Day happened and everybody screamed for revenge. Icarus had flown too near the sun, the wax had melted, the wings were destroyed. The world – so righteous and filled with sinless people who never did any wrong – bayed for blood. Driven by their lily-white personalities and oh-so-forgetful consciences, everybody watched in horrid fascination as you were paraded on television to millions across the globe. They saw your tears and remorse, and rejected it as playacting for the judge’s benefit. They heard your faltering voice stumbling down the straight of the advocate’s scathing questions while every tabloid dug and dug into the imperfections of your past.

My imaginary friend, it turned out, had feet of clay. Like me, he was riddled with fault lines that had eroded his dreams. Oh, he was still famous – but for all the wrong reasons.

And of course, there were the families. Your own stood by your side when the storm refused to abate. And Reeva’s kin followed you with sad eyes and thoughts of justice. Your world-wide family of supporters simply faded into the background. Like St Peter, they said they’ve never heard of you, ever before. No, they didn’t know you, never rejoiced in your successes.. Only this time, the cock’s crow was replaced by the judge’s hammer banging down after the sentence. Once was enough. Case closed.

But the case will never be closed, will it? Whether you spend ten months or a lifetime in custody, you can never undo the things you have done. Your prison has mental walls, the bars being the past and the bricks made during the sleepless nights  when the 14th of February will screen inside your head, over and over again.

You’ve incarcerated a lot of people in their own prisons too, I’m afraid. The Steenkamps will never recover, neither will the Pistoriusses. Whenever they think about you – which will be all too often – they’ll retreat to their own cells of misery and regret. Sadly, too, so will so many other erstwhile fans.

I’m writing this for me, if you can understand that? My imaginary, virtual friend is in prison and I have to grow up. My idol has fallen. I must greet you, say goodbye, and try to forget how I cheered you on so many podiums. Still, I do so with a sense of profound regret, and I want you to know about that. Walking away from a prodigious superstar, who inspired a nation into believing that there is, indeed, something good in our country, isn’t easy. However, it must be done, even if it is only for my own sake.

Despite having said that, I do wish you well. The burden you will carry for the rest of your life, must be born with dignity – and that will be hard. People will remark, point fingers, write less-than-complimentary words. And every night, when the sounds of the prison reverberate around you and the keys in the locks make their crunching sounds, you will remember things you’d rather forget. What I’m trying to say is this: may you find peace. I don’t think it’ll be easy.

My dear imaginary friend – the one I’ve never met and hardly expect to, either – this letter serves to tell you that I’m not prepared to cast the first – or any subsequent – stones. Bear your burden, serve your time. Make peace with the past and try to find the strength to forgive – yourself and others. And believe that not everybody thinks that time in prison will heal the wounds. The scars, my friend, are permanent. Because I understand that, I’m writing to tell you that – as a previously faceless, anonymous fan – I hope you’ll find new friends in a new life. Try to find a  way to climb the steep mountain of recovery, even when your legs refuse to move another inch.

As for me, I somehow accept that it’s normal for imaginary friends to have superpowers, even after I’ve said goodbye..

I think you’re going to need that.

Kind Regards,


Everybody has a You (#12)

randall 002aDespite the dry mouth, the almost unquenchable thirst and still feeling dizzy, Boggel manages to stumble through the events leading up to his friends finding him. He has to pause frequently to sip water from the canteen Sersant Dreyer offers from time to time. Even the wounded Smartryk seems a bit better, sitting next to Precilla. If Boggel noticed them holding hands, he doesn’t remark on it.

He was closing the bar that night, he tells them, when the huge bulk of Brutus was framed in the doorway. The man seemed friendly…but he had a problem. Would Boggel please help him? His aeroplane had developed an uncommon splutter – something the man said he had noticed while on his way to Upington. To err of the safe side, he landed not far from town on an even patch of veld. He thought it’s the carburettor, but needed a specific spanner to get to it. A number 15, he said.

“Well, you all had left and there I was, talking to this guy. I didn’t want to wake anybody and I had just such a spanner in my toolbox. So, naturally, I agreed to help. That’s what we do in these parts, isn’t it? But when we got to the aircraft, the lights went out.”

Boggel says he was near the Cessna when he felt a tremendous blow to the back of his head.  “Must have been that spanner, I think. The next thing I knew, I woke up to the roar of the engine. I was strapped in one of the back seats, and I thought I saw somebody outside, waving.”

“That was me,” Sersant Drayer remarks. I thought I recognised you…”

Boggel nods before continuing. “Yes, that makes sense. Anyway, I took a particularly dim view of the situation, and whacked the pilot a proper one on his head with my fist. He let out a yelp of surprise – must have thought I was still out cold – and turned to belt me back. I must say: if I had known we were in the air at the time, I might have reconsidered my attack. Still, that’s what I did, and that’s what he did. To get to me, he had to let go of the controls, of course, which isn’t a nice thing for a pilot to do.

“But this man – Brutus? He has a nasty temper, as I was to find out later. Or maybe I already found that out when he turned to strike me. Once he gets angry, he retaliates immediately. Not clever, not clever at all. Especially not under those circumstances. He immediately realised his dilemma, of course. When the Cessna slewed to one side, he turned back to the controls, but by then it was too late.

“I suppose one must give the devil his due: he is – was – a great pilot. How he managed to belly-land that Cessna is a pure miracle. I gashed my shoulder during the landing and he banged his head on the control panel – but that was all. We could have…should have been killed.”

Despite Brutus’s injury, he remained a formidable, strong, giant of a man. Boggel tried to escape, but Brutus simply felled him with an almighty blow to the head.

“I had no chance, no idea what was going on, and no way to escape. He pinned me to the ground and told me to take him to the nearest vehicle.” Boggel shoots a guilty glance towards Kleinpiet. “I knew Kleinpiet always leaves the keys in the ignition and that we were somewhere near his homestead. With Brutus frogmarching me along, I had no choice but to lead him there.” He pauses, smiling shyly. “I’m sorry, Kleinpiet.”

“I would have done the same, Boggel. Don’t worry.”

Boggel bobs his head. “Thanks. Anyway, the man said we were going to Upington. He asked directions. And I thought: bugger you, laddie. Whatever you’re up to, I’m certainly not going to help you. And, because it was still quite dark, I had him drive towards the desert. It’s a shortcut, I said. He believed me – must have thought I was sufficiently scared to tell the truth all the time.”

With Boggel promising that they’d reach the tarred road any minute now, Brutus drove on through the desert…until the petrol ran out.

“Man, you should have seen him then! He was beside himself! I told him he should have let me know, and I would have filled up the tank properly, but he didn’t think it was funny. But then, my friends, the tables were turned. He knew I was his only hope to get him back to civilisation. He calmed down and then, ever so friendly-like told me to lead the way. I said no way, not until he told me what this was all about.

“We had a heated debate about that, as you can imagine. But I sat down on the sand, refusing to budge. He ranted and raved, but I knew I had him. He tried to lie initially – and later when I found out that he was a lawyer, I understood why. Still, after while, I told him to tell the truth or be prepared to die in the desert. That made him blanche. He told me not to say such things. Death, he said, is the only thing he was afraid of.”

Boggel shrugs,. The man’s sudden change from being the self-assured aggressor to confessing his fear of mortality shook the small barman. Brutus sank down on the sand next to him, suddenly all friendly and coy.

“He’s a psychopath,” Gertruida says. “Anything to manipulate you. No remorse, no conscience. At first he tried to scare you to do his will, then he swung around, trying to gain your confidence through pity. Typical.”

“Sure. That’s what I thought as well. He started telling me about his irregular heartbeat, his visits to the cardiologist and goodness knows what else. I thought he was mad. Didn’t believe a word he said, even after he told me he needed to get to his pills as soon as possible. That, I thought, was a blatant lie. A big guy like that, dependant of cardiac medication? So I said I was sorry to hear about his troubles, but what was the idea behind him abducting me in the way he did?

“And he said – I remember the words – there is a woman he needed to talk to. What woman, I asked? And he said Mary Mitchell.” Boggel closes his eyes. “The bottom fell out of my world, right then, right there. After a while, I managed to ask why? And he said she knew stuff about him, he’d rather keep to himself. I was the key, he said. If Mary knew I was with him, she’d come immediately.

“That’s when I decided to walk him to death. A man who is prepared to use me as bait to get to Mary,” and here he allows his gaze to rest on her, “must be crazy. I will do no such thing. By then I had serious doubts about his sanity…but no doubt at all about his violent tendencies. No, I thought, let me play along for a while, lead his deeper and deeper into the desert, and get us both completely lost. We had one water bottle – courtesy of Kleinpiet’s pickup – how long can we last?

“So we walked. On and on and on. Eventually – the next day or the next – I lost track of time – we rested under a bush like we so often had to. I woke up to find him gone. You know what? I couldn’t care anymore. I thought – so be it. There was no way he’d get much farther and I wasn’t up to much, either. So I closed my eyes. The next thing I know, you guys buried me and here I am…”

Gertruida fixes the bent little barman with a knowing look. She knows he’s left out a lot. The two days walking under the scorching sun, the freezing nights, the arguments along the way… Typical of Boggel, she thinks, to avoid telling them about the hardships along the way.

“It’s all my fault…” Mary’s eyes brim with tears. “Oh, Boggel, I’m the poison, the bane of your life. I’m so terribly sorry.”

Boggel shrugs. “I would have done the same for Gertruida, or Sersant, or…even for Servaas.” He smiles his lopsided smile again, takes a swig from the bottle, and sighs. “Life is never fair, Mary. You and I were dealt a hand of cards when we were born. Some people get winning hands, some don’t. We have no choice, really. Play with what we have is what we must do.”

“But…” Mary wants to protest, but Smartryk holds up a hand.

“Boggel, you’ve been incredibly brave…and unbelievably lucky. There’s a lot we have to talk about…a lot. But, seeing the sun is burning us all to a crisp, I suggest we prepare to get back to Rolbos. Maybe there, after cleaning up and with something cool to drink, the two of us can have a chat. Man to man…if you know what I mean.”

And Boggel, with the look you find on the face of a sad Basset, finds himself nodding. Yes, that’s what they must do. Mano a mano. He also realises that the hardships of the past days may fade in comparison with what lies ahead.

Everybody has a You (#5)

SadWomanThe arrival of Mary Mitchell and Smartryk Genade in Rolbos might just go down in the town’s history as one of the strangest the inhabitants have ever experienced. Of course the patrons at the bar all knew  about Mary – she’s visited Rolbos before - but they have to look twice to recognise the once-vivacious girl they’ve met before.

“I don’t believe it,” Precilla breathes as Mary gets out of the Golf. “Is it who I think it is?”

“Yes, it is, Precilla. And I think a lot of water has run into the sea since last we saw her.” Gertruida takes in the mousy hair, the unkempt appearance and the wrinkled brow. “Whatever she’s done during the last few years hasn’t done her any good, I’d say.”

Still, when the two travellers walk into the bar, Smartryk hardly gets the opportunity to introduce himself. In rural South Africa there is an unwritten law regarding such events: you first act overjoyed – saying how well the years treated the new arrival – then you offer something to drink while making small talk, and only then is one permitted to ask questions. Today, however, that rule is completely ignored as Mary shuts them all up, to ask about Boggel.


They don’t know.

“Maybe…,” Mary draws a deep breath, “I should tell you my story.

“You see, I only landed in Cape Town a few days ago – and that same night you guys get an aeroplane landing in Rolbos and Boggel disappears. That – to me – is just too much of a coincidence. I fear it has something to do with my return.” She proceeds to tell them everything she told Smartryk the previous evening. The townsfolk listen in complete silence, exchanging worried looks while she’s talking. When she finishes at last, nobody says a word either.

“Mmmmm….” Gertruida has that look. “Servaas, pour me a double, I need to think.”

While the others converge around the two new arrivals, Gertruida takes her drink to sit outside on the veranda. She knows about the drug scene in Rio and have read about Fernandinho, but he’s still in jail, isn’t he? Now, that Brutus Malherbe….he stood trial, got sentenced, and was released on grounds of a medical condition. Even if he wasn’t locked up any more, he still had to comply with his parole restrictions, hadn’t he?

“Sersant! Dreyer…come here.”

A few minutes later, Dreyer trots off to his office to make a phone call. Gertruida rubs the frown between her eyes, sighs, and returns to the bar for a refill.

“Look, all we know is that  whoever flew that plane, took Boggel along. We have no proof of abduction, no letter of demand , to know that Boggel went against his will. The frightened face Dreyer saw? Well, we all know Boggel hates flying, anyway. The aircraft crashes for whatever unknown reason… and then we know they raced off towards Grootdrink, but they never got here. We all drove that road, and we know there hadn’t been an accident to explain why they never got to the roadblock. Deduction? They veered off into the Kalahari and are lying low.

“Who was the pilot? Person unknown, as far as I’m concerned at this stage, but… He – let’s assume it’s a man – could logically have something to do with Mary…or not. Boggel doesn’t have any enemies. So let’s go with Mary’s suggestion that her presence in the country could have something to do with this fiasco. Now that, my friends, opens another set of questions. Who knew about Mary’s involvement with Boggel? Who connected those dots?  And, assuming somebody did so, why abduct Boggel? What possible value could our Boggel have in this situation?

“I’ll give you a hypothesis…” Everybody stares at Gertruida while she waits for Servaas to fill her glass. They know she just loves to parade her superior intellect about and that it won’t help to rush her along.

“I’ll tell you what I think. Somebody – and it could be the pilot – knows a heck of a lot about Mary. Intimately so, I might add. This somebody knew she was back in the country. He had no way of knowing what her movements here would be…unless he guessed that she would want to come to Rolbos – which is farfetched. But he knew about the loyalty between Boggel and Mary, so he kidnaps Boggel to use as bait. He wants to lay his hands on Mary, see? If he wanted Mary to come to him, he only had to make it known hat Boggel was in his care.

“Now why would a person do that?” She pauses dramatically, a cynical smile hovering on her lips. “Why land an aeroplane here – at night – take all the risks, and steal our Boggel? Only to get Mary to come to him for a chat? Noooo, my friends. It’s because he needs something from Mary, that’s why. This man is so desperate to talk to Mary, that he hatches an evil, criminal plan to get her to come to him. Using Boggel is as brilliant as it is stupid. Brilliant, because the police would never have connected the disappearance of our barman with the return of a criminal from Rio. Stupid…because he obviously planned in haste – hence the aeroplane and the risks. This man knew about Mary, but didn’t know about her return until the last minute.

“We have two men she told us about. Fernandinho – as far as we know – is still locked up in Rio. And anyway, he would have known about her release. Didn’t she tell us that he took care of her in prison? No, he kept tabs on her and would have known.

“But Brutus? Now there’s a possibility. He got her involved in the first instance, didn’t he? He spent months dating her  – softening her up to be a courier – and I’m sure he knew as much about her as anybody ever did. He would, I’d guess, have known about Boggel…”

“Oh. My. Word.” Mary sits down heavily, ashen-faced and distraught. “Yes… I…I told him everything…”

They all start talking together when Dreyer storms in.

“You’re right, Gertruida! Brutus Malherbe has skipped. His parole officer reported him missing last night: he last visited Malherbe a week ago. And…that aeroplane, the Cessna? It was stolen from Lanseria the same day Mary landed in Cape Town. Malherbe’s home is five kilometres away from that airport…”

“Okay then.” Gertruida sits down next to Mary. “Suppose you tell us what Malherbe wants from you? What have you got that he wants so desperately? Come on, Mary, Boggel’s life may very well depend on you being honest with us?”

At this point Mary starts crying uncontrollably. Her life is a mess – always has been, always will be. And now she quite possibly have ruined Boggel’s life – if not all the people of this little town…

The Return of The Kalahari Biker

cropped-boggel-se-plek1By the time Servaas sputters the old Enfield down Voortrekker Weg, he is tired, bone-sore and as dry as the rocks on Bokkop. He has spent a full day on the motorbike, leaving him with only one thought: his favourite chair in Boggel’s Place. He’s been fantasising about that chair with the comfortable cushion and the easy backrest…

bronsonHe allows the old engine to die while he kicks out the stand. Getting off is a slow and delicate task. And then he adjusts the kudu tail, rams down the hat firmly, and tries to be a  Bronson look-alike when he staggers up the steps to Boggel’s veranda.

Yes, the fluffy hairs above his ears have grown ever so slightly and the moustache has become a bit unruly – but what he lacks in looks, he makes up in attitude. Has he not completed an epic journey, something most men in their seventies wouldn’t even vaguely consider? And has he not had adventures the others can only dream of? No, he is Servaas, The Kalahari Biker, and he’ll make a grand entrance…

Taking a deep breath, he slams open the swing doors with gusto, to see….nothing. The place is empty. Not a soul in sight, not even Vrede, who usually sleeps under the counter on Boggel’s cushion.

“Well, that’s a fine home-coming,” Servaas mutters under his breath, “a real welcome to a weary traveller.” Snorting loudly, he shuffles around the counter, selects the Cactus Jack, and pours himself a generous tot.

“Here’s to a warm reception,” he swings the glass towards the empty room, gulps down the fiery liquid and refills the glass. Then, feeling slightly better, he makes his way to the chair. Oh, for a nice rest…

The chair is not there. It’s gone. No chair…

While he gapes at the empty space, the group in the store room simply can’t contain themselves any longer. Guffawing and sniggering, they emerge to crowd around Servaas.

“Your chair, sir…” Kleinpiet and Vetfaan had hidden the chair behind the building, and now carries it back to its original place.

Smiling sheepishly, Servaas sags down with a contented sigh.

“Come on, Servaas, tell us all? What happened? How was the trip?” They all seem to be talking together.

“Ag, you know, I had some fun, but I’m glad to be home again. Got arrested, spent some time in jail, caught a baby – things like that. Nothing special, you see?”


Gertruida says that’s the way one should live: a bit closer to the edge. Comfort zones, she’ll tell you, are the most dangerous of all places: one must avoid these very carefully. Oh, she’ll warn you not to be stupid or anything like that, but still: complacency is the first step on the road of slow self-destruction. Once you settle in a certain groove, you’ve got to ask yourself: what’s next?

Oudoom agrees. He likes to quote Romans 8:15 from the Message: This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?”

Servaas isn’t so sure. He’d like to remain in his chair for a while, thank you very much.

But…there was the discussion he had in Nieuwoudtville, where he met that friendly mechanic. What was his name again – that chap at Protea Motors? Thinus, that’s right! He said something about microlight aeroplanes, and how one could build one powered by a motorcycle engine. Now there’s a thought!

Maybe…he thinks, just maybe….

The Kalahari Biker Rides On

IMG_2398What made Servaas turn off the main road to Springbok? Was it his tired hips or the arthritic fingers on the throttle? Or perhaps some hidden spiritual instinct that told him to do so? One cannot always explain these things – we all do something at times and then try to tell ourselves some intuition guided us to do so. 

Oh, he’ll tell you it was the sign at the open gate, but  – as obvious as it may seem – that’s not true. He decided to turn off long before he saw the gate. The solitary little rondawel next to the big Bluegum tree and the slowly-turning windpump made a pretty picture in the emptiness of the barren veld around it. And yes, he was tired. His aching backside – not used to the uncomfortable seat – demanded a bit of respite. But there was a tug, a desire, to  ride through to that cottage that he later couldn’t explain. 

When he stopped his Enfield (with a relieved sigh) next to the small verandah, the place seemed to be deserted. A tired rectangular rockery sported a few dead twigs while the stoep was dusty, the steps unswept for a long time. Wilted weeds struggled to survive in the cracks in the steps. But there was a tendril of smoke coming from the chimney, suggesting some life inside – and that’s what made him knock on the door which stood slightly ajar. While he waited, he noted the one hinge hanging loose – the place was obviously in a bad state of repair.

The cottage had a wooden floor and after his third knock, Servaas heard the shuffling of feet inside. An ancient face peeked through the gap between the door and the frame. 

“Ye-e-e-s?” Suspicion weighed the question down.

The voice belonged to an old woman. Sparse grey hair, mole on the prominent nose, pale lips, wrinkles. Too many wrinkles. It was the face a photographer dreams of – it told of hardship and endurance; a lifetime of struggling and disappointment. The eyes – barely visible between the wrinkles – were dull and uninterested.

Servaas didn’t know what to say.

“I thought I’d stop by to say hello.” It sounded as lame as it was. 


“The sign said to keep the gate closed. It was open.”

A cackle of laughter surprised Servaas.

“He escaped a long time ago.”

“The tortoise?”

“Yes, him too. Now go away.”


“Listen, that tortoise was mine. Mine! And he shouldn’t have left.” For a moment, Servaas saw fire in those dull eyes and felt ice slip down his spine.

Servaas is no fool. Here was a woman with a temper and a  touch of insanity – there could be no doubt about either. The dishevelled appearance, the unkempt hair, the rags she wore…no, this one wasn’t normal, he was sure about that.

“He escaped?” In his mind, Servaas saw a running tortoise shooting anxious glances over its shoulder, scowling to see through the dust. The image made him smile.

“He sure did, that mean critter! Took to the road and thought he’d get away with it. Got him half a mile down the main road the next day and brought him back.”

“You sure it was the same tortoise?”

“Of course! I painted my initials on his stomach. Come, have a look.”

The strange woman then led Servaas into the dark interior of the cottage. She seemed to have forgotten that she recently ordered him off the property and was now humming to herself when she stopped to point at the object next to a well-worn sofa. 

“There,” she said, “you can see for yourself.”

IMG_2430The ‘object turned out to be an empty tortoise shell, quite large by local standards, even larger than one Servaas had to swerve to avoid that morning.

“He’s dead?” 

“Of course he’s dead, Mister! Are you stupid or something? That’s his shell. And here’s my initials.” She turned the shell over to show the faded paint paint spelling DdM. “Dorothy de Meyer, that’s who I am. See?”

Just like Daisy de Melker, Servaas thought with a shudder. Not wanting to offend her, he nodded.

“Are you staying for dinner? My husband – he adored that creature – won’t be in, so it’ll be just the two of us. Liver patties. They keep surprisingly long in the  freezer if you add enough salt and pepper.”

Again, her sudden hospitality surprised Servaas. She was, he decided, quite unpredictable.

“Why did he die?” His curiosity got the better of him.

“Chopped his head off, I did. Made a lovely soup. He’s not going anywhere, ever again…but I keep the sign up, just in case.” She stared out of the window. “You never know, do you?”

“Where did your husband go? Won’t he join you for dinner?”

She laughed again: a cackling, raspy noise emanating from her ancient chest. “Hardly likely, I’d say.” Her eyes had suddenly become hard and icy again, measuring Servaas from head to toe. “Well…?

“No.” He’d made up his mind by this time. “I just came to tell you about the gate.”

“He ain’t going anywhere,” she said, pointing at the shell, “I saw to it.”

Servaas made his way to the door, stopped to stare at the rectangular rockery, and shook his head. 

“I’ll be on my way, then. Thanks for the offer for dinner, but I have to go. Give my regards to your husband, will you?” He had to get away from that place, from the suspicion slowly growing inside him. As he laboured his leg over the frame of the Enfield, he saw her watching the rockery with unusual intensity.

“You sure about the liver patties?” Her rasping voice was almost drowned by the starting of the engine.

41Servaas engaged a gear and rode off, shaking his head. He had to get away from that woman. And the tortoise shell.

…And that rectangular rockery where nothing grew.

To make sure, he closed the gate behind him. One cannot take chances with such things. Servaas isn’t a superstitious man – not at all. But just like gates aren’t supposed to keep tortoises in (and, of course, they don’t pay much attention to people telling them where to stay), so one cannot always assume that the liver patty you get for dinner has its origin in the butchery in town. After all, the old woman’s remark about the freezer sent a chill down his spine, didn’t it?

No; Servaas will confess if you give him enough peach brandy, sometimes it is far wiser to ride off into the sunset than to ask one more question – or to wonder about the urge that made him stop there. And, he’ll whisper, it’s not only animals that want justice. But justice, he’ll go on, comes at a price. A man must decide whether it is worthwhile to pursue the matter before committing yourself.

Maybe that’s what the old woman’s husband found out eventually, as well…