Tag Archives: daily prompt

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.

Rolbos-eng

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,

Gertruida.

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.

Silence.

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. 

“Why?”

“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.”

“But…”

“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…

 

Fairytales, Antlions and Love.

Antlion1_by_Jonathan_Numer“Those creatures give me the creeps.” Precilla points at the little hollow next to the steps up to Boggel’s Place.  “I once saw a picture of one of them, and boy, are they ugly!”

“Well, they have a distinct disadvantage when you compare them to jackals and swans, if that’s what you’re getting at. But we mustn’t be harsh. When last did you see Boggel before he brushed his teeth in the morning? Man, now there’s a sight to scare small children with.” He’s teasing, of course. Kleinpiet actually likes the little bent barman a lot.

In the stifling heat of a typical Kalahari day, the townsfolk have assembled under the veranda in front of the bar, where Gertruida now stops fanning herself. 

Antlion_trap (1)“One must never underestimate Nature, guys. That little antlion has survived all the millennia to come and make it’s nest here.  There is evidence of antlion fossils dating back 150 million years! Droughts and floods, progress and war have not changed its lifestyle one bit. It’s a true survivor.”

“But it is rather primitive, won’t you say? It digs a hole, waits for an unsuspecting passer-by and then devours it. And, I heard, those jaws are quite poisonous. Got a venom in there that stuns its prey.”

“That’s right, Precilla. It sucks the victim dry, chucks out the hard bits, and lives on the fluid it gets in this way. Never drinks. And…it doesn’t have an anus. What it takes in, remains in. At least, until the change comes, it retains everything inside.”

“Ugh! That’s despicable! Imagine that? A lazy little blob, waiting at the bottom of the pit for a free meal…it sounds like the parliament, if you ask me.”

“Now there’s an unlikely comparison if ever I heard one! It takes the concept of bottom-feeder to a completely new level. A low level, I might add.”

Gertruida gets up to stand behind her chair. They all know she wants to deliver another lecture, so they quickly order another round. Gertruida can lecture the legs off a donkey when she’s in the mood.

“One of the most beautiful things in nature happens with that poor animal you so wrongly judge to be ugly. Sure, it’s got jaws. And sure, it has a bit of venom. And yes, it waits patiently at the bottom of the little pit it dug without hands or tools. 

“At least, it isn’t devious about what it’s doing. That hole is there for anyone to see. If you get trapped there, it’s because you weren’t paying attention. The antlion only does what it has to do.

“Now, consider the 2,000 species of insects in the family Myrmeleontida. They occur world-wide, but prefer to live under inhospitable circumstances. They don’t like a crowd, you see? They are called by many names: Little Dog of the Wood, Pit Elephant, Doodlebug, Little Armadillo and Vulture Louse. The Spanish call it Tonto – Little Bull – which always reminds me of the famous Indian in the cowboy stories.

“What is interesting, is the little pit you observe down there. That’s made by a larva – the baby that emerged from the egg it’s mother laid. At first, it practices its trade from a small pit, catching small prey. As it grows, it makes larger and larger pits to catch more appetising meals. 

“But it is completely defenceless, as you can see. The little pit is exposed to wind and rain and anything that treads, trots or slithers across it. Whenever the pit is destroyed, the antlion simply constructs a new one. It has to, to get to the next stage.”

“What next stage?” Vetfaan has seen large areas of the Kalahari with these little pits, and never thought much about it. An antlion is an antlion – you don’t end up studying them, for goodness sakes! Now, with Gertruida in full cry, he is strangely intrigued.

“Well, they evolve, you see. Once the larval stage is over, they turn into lacewings.”

424px-Antlion_life_cycle.svgWarming to her subject, she tells them how the helpless, ugly creature becomes a little silk-lined cocoon. After a month of so in this pupal stage, they finally emerge as an adult insect.

“The transformation is remarkable. The helpless, immature larva emerges from the cocoon as a beautiful little animal, much larger than the antlion, it is able to fly.  People often confuse them with dragonflies, unless they pay attention to the clubbed antennae of the lacewing.

“Mostly nocturnal, they even get swatted by people who take them to be largish mosquitoes. 

“So, my friends, don’t look down on that hapless creature surviving below the surface in that hole. It’s really trying to find a way to become what it should be: a flying beauty.”

Ever the romantic, Precilla smiles shyly.

“Wow! At first an egg. Then an ugly larva – and then, under the right circumstances, it spreads its wings to discover a completely different way of living. That’s so sweet!”

Distoleon_tetragrammicus01Gertruida isn’t finished yet. “There is a fable, Precilla, about these antlions. A small group of San people say that ithey represent the way it is with men and women. They revere the antlion as a sort of good luck sign. You see, they say we are all born to be helpless and then we try to fight our way through life. But…as we all find out, it is often through many trials and tribulations that we realise we have the ability to fly. We can leave the pit of selfish existence to spread our wings in search of a mate. When those San people see the the fluttering lacewings, they tell each other about a better life; a life where they find freedom and love. To them, an antlion is a sign of love.”

They watch as an ant tumbles down the steep side of the pit. The waiting antlion pounces immediately, dragging it’s prey below the surface.

“Ugh,” Precilla says.

“It’ll fly one day,” Gertruida smiles, “become something beautiful.”

“Like love, Gertruida?” Vetfaan doesn’t get it.

“Exactly, Vetfaan. Antlions are Mother Nature’s fairytale. It’s the story of Cinderella who gets rescued from hardship. Or Sleeping Beauty who wakes up. Even…Pinocchio who gets to feel what it is to be alive. The beast, turning into beauty. Love does that, my friend. It is only once we discover the wings of love that we finally discover the wonder of flight.”

Boggel gets up put an empty bottle near the antlion’s pit.

“Just so we don’t step on it accidentally,” he explains. “Even an antlion needs some protection sometimes.  It’s the least we can do.”

Gertruida smiles quietly. Yes, she thinks, love is such a vulnerable thing

Daily Prompt: French lingerie will get her there

Daily prompt: Tell us all about your best confidence outfit. Don’t leave out the shoes or the perfect accessories.

ff

“Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.”

The younger one gasped. You thought that out all by yourself?

No, I didn’t. It’s a quote by Regina Brett, but it’s appropriate. It is a special day. We have to get her  at least halfway.

If they can get her to halfway, the rest should be easy. That’s why the two women are going the extra mile: every inch gained, will make the journey easier.

It’s too big, the one with the glasses and the sad look said as she lifted the garment in the air.

Not really, her friend said, she’ll fit into this. And we can pin it back a bit, too.

But she hates black. She always hated black.

Yes, but this is affordable. She didn’t want to use cheaper, but that’s what she meant. They both knew they couldn’t afford buying at the PEP store across the street. The hospice-run shop had to do. Franny always dressed up for any occasion, and this one wouldn’t be any different.

The dress must have been an eye-catcher in the years gone by. The one with the glasses said it was a Princesse style, hanging in a straight line from the shoulders and flaring at the hem. Her friend was impressed.

They both remembered the way she looked when they had the Vermaaks making music on New Year’s Eve in Boggel’s Place. Franny was the centre of attraction, with a flared floral skirt and a flimsy blouse. She danced the polkas and mazurkas with wild abandon, causing slow wolf-whistles from the men and envious glances from the ladies.

And there was the time on Vetfaan’s farm, when he celebrated that record wool cheque, remember? Her companion nodded. That was a great party. Boggel introduced them to the newest drink on the market: Cactus Jack. Rolbos was never the same after that. She must have been the first woman, ever, to do a pole dance with a Voortrekker dress. And after her kappie fell off and that long, blond hair cascaded loose over her shoulders, even Oudoom applauded. They laughed at that.

We’ll miss her. She used to be such a sport on the parties. She teased Vetfaan and Kleinpiet and flirted with Boggel. She even had Oudoom drink a toast to Love and Happiness one night, remember?

She’ll need gloves, and a hat, as well, the younger one said, and shoes.

They rummaged around in the boxes standing around in the charity shop. An almost-new pair of black high-heels immediately met with their approval. The 1940’s bonnet was just right. Elbow-high silver gloves completed the outfit.

She’ll love this.

Do you think they’ll leave the coffin open at the service?

The funeral was in two day’s time, to give her wide circle of friends enough time to come from all over the country.  The response to her death had been overwhelming – they never knew how many people’s lives she had touched or influenced in some way or other.

No, not after the accident. The hospital said…

She let the sentence hang in the air; it was too sad to complete

Her companion nodded. I know. It’s just such a pity.

They left with the clothing folded up in a brown paper bag. Walked out to dress their friend who graced their lives from time to time; when she paid them a rare but welcome visit. Walked out without looking at the poster next to the newspaper vendor – the one that read: Kalahari Ballerina to be buried in her Hometown. They didn’t see – didn’t want to see – the heading above the photo of the wrecked aeroplane; No Survivors in Blazing Crash.

They drove off, heading for the boutique in central Upington.

Have we got enough money? She’d insist on real French stuff, you know?

Oh, yes, the clever one with the glasses said. We’ve saved so much on the clothing we can really go to town now.

They both remembered how Franny used to corrupt the famous quote on lingerie: if your lingerie makes you feel glamorous, you’re halfway to turning heads. Only she worded it differently; she said you’re halfway to heaven.

Now she’s only got halfway to go, the younger one said on their way back to Rolbos.

And the woman who knows everything smiled sadly. Maybe less, she said.