Tag Archives: DPchallange

Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 in Pictures

2012 has had it all. Drama, hardship, joy, beauty, happiness, grief. Looking back, I realise how blessed I was during this time, and how thankful I am that it is almost past. Yet, to concentrate on the positives:

Rolbos was born, and we had a lot of fun at the bar

Rolbos was born, and we had a lot of fun at the bar

I visited 'The Hell', or Gamkaskloof, a wonderful, magical trip and a great place to camp

I visited ‘The Hell’, or Gamkaskloof, a wonderful, magical trip and a great place to camp

I live alone, something other people find hard to understand. This remains a constant source of gossip. Yet, I prefer my neighbours to be the quiet, mysterious type.

I live alone, something other people find hard to understand. This remains a constant source of gossip. Yet, I prefer my neighbours to be the quiet, mysterious type.

It was a privilege to witness the migration of thousands of  Carmine Bee-eaters on the banks of the Zambezi

It was a privilege to witness the migration of thousands of Carmine Bee-eaters on the banks of the Zambezi

Trip 2012 335

Africa is never without a smile, despite the politics – this is a fenced pool in the Okavango River (to keep the crocodiles out)

An elephant peeked around the bush, curious about what I was cooking on the fire.

An elephant peeked around the bush, curious about what I was cooking on the fire.

A brand new addition to the family..

A brand new addition to the family..

Mrs P had a birthday - and she is doing well. My visit with her is a highlight every week.

Mrs P had a birthday – and she is doing well. My visit with her is a highlight every week

And then, ther's writing. Always writing...Check it out - click the picture...

And then, ther’s writing. Always writing…Check it out – click the picture…

So, as the sun sets on this year, I'm looking forward to a new one, filled with letters and words.

So, as the sun sets on this year, I’m looking forward to a new one, filled with letters and words.

May 2013 bless you all with grace and kindness…

The President: ‘Pets are too White’.

“Zuma did it again.” Gertruida issues the flat statement with an air of despondency.

Boggel puts down the Cactus Jack in front of her, raises an eyebrow. “Another wedding? Twins? More improvements at Inkandla?”

“No, Boggel. He’ll need the services of an orthopaedic surgeon this time.” She takes a swig, sighs happily, “Boy, am I glad we live in Rolbos. At least we’re too unimportant to notice, otherwise he would have had a dig at us, too.”

“What are you going on about, Gertruida? You don’t make sense…” The question marks in Servaas’ eyes are all too plain to see.

“Our dear president,” she pauses a second to emphasise her point, “has just said that Africans should not have pets. And if they do, they shouldn’t take them to a vet. And may I remind you his massive complex is situated in KwaZulu Natal, one of the places with the highest incidence of Rabies. Oh, and he didn’t stop there. He said Africans should stop trying to be White. Only White Africans are supposed to keep pets – it’s a bad habit. According to him, straightening hair is a denial of their heritage. He wants to implement a program to ‘correct’ the thoughts of the younger generation – so they can learn how to be African again.”

“But that has been the purpose of other governments in the past, as well. I mean: to ‘educate’ the population to think correctly. Go look at the history of Europe, you’ll find it there.” Sammie doesn’t like politics or discussing it. He says Jews have suffered enough – he wants to be left in peace, that’s why he set up shop in Rolbos.

“Yes, and he lashed out at the fashion industry as well. Said women shouldn’t use facial creams, especially if it lightens their complexion. And that young girls should have children, because it’ll teach them to be mothers.”

“That must have been quite a speech,” Kleinpiet shakes his head, “was he sober?”

“Ag man, he usually makes funny statements. A few years ago he said he cannot tolerate gays.  I don’t think he always follows a prepared speech – he simply rocks up at a meeting – any meeting – and says whatever comes to his mind. And you know what? People love it. They cheer themselves hoarse and sing his praises. Then they go home to feed their dogs and pets – and put on skin-lightening cream while they straighten their hair. It’s all a show, Kleinpiet. Just a show.”

“So why, Gertruida,” Boggel brings her back to her initial statement, “would he need an orthopaedic surgeon? It sounds more like he needs lessons in diplomacy?”

“It’s called the incurable and highly contagious oropedal deformity, Boggel. It’s an extremely serious condition for people with a high public profile. In fact, it’s often the cause of a spectacular fall from esteem, tending  to end up with them flat on their faces.” This, she can see, is way over the heads of her little audience. “It’s a form of foot-and-mouth disease, guys. When it’s in that deep, only a qualified surgeon will be able to dislodge the foot from the mouth. There’s only one condition with a worse prognosis: the infamous cranio-anal malformation.”

Of course, she doesn’t have to explain any further. If you’ve lived in South Africa long enough, the antics of politicians can’t surprise you any more. And we don’t laugh about it anymore, as well.

It hurts too much.

Daily Prompt: Immortalised in Stone

Daily Prompt Challenge: Your personal sculptor is carving a person, thing or event from the last year of your life. What’s the statue of and what makes it so significant?

This rock, on the Kafue river in Zambia, was sculpted a long time ago by the forces of nature. It reminded me  of a lion. Or is it a mutilated face? Or is there a person inside the rock, straining to get out?

In some ways, it tells the story of struggle and survival. Of endurance. Even of the soft erosion Life is capable of: the forming and shaping of our personalities over long periods of time. At last, when the features become clearly distinguishable, the result is stark, and eternally visible..

The Christmas Cow

“I suppose we’ll have to clean up this mess,”Gertruida says with a sigh. As usual, she is right. Boggel’s Place is strewn with wrapping paper and the skeletons of used Christmas crackers. The leaking ice bucked was responsible for the little pond in the middle of the room while Vetfaan may be blamed for the streamers dangling from the fan in the ceiling. “If Boggel sees the place looking like this, he’ll have a fit.”

Last night’s Christmas party was a huge success. It had been Kleinpiet’s turn to be Joseph this year while Precilla filled her usual role as Mary. Vetfaan says he doesn’t think the two Biblical figures could have had such a close relationship: them being unmarried at the time, understand? It was left to the three wise men to separate the two – Oudoom, Vetfaan and Platnees intervened just as the smooching got too serious.

Gertruida says it’s a lesson learned: next year the Christmas play should be held at the beginning of the evening, and Joseph may not attach some mistletoe to the rafter above the counter. Not ever again. A virgin birth should imply purity, after all.

“Hey, but you must agree that we weren’t responsible for all the mess. Those sheep Vetfaan brought must have eaten something odd before they came here. And it’s not as if they had the good manners to choose a designated spot at all. They spread more than goodwill all over the floor.” Kleinpiet has donned a glove and points to the accumulating evidence in the bag he’s holding.

“Don’t blame my sheep, Kleinpiet!” Vetfaan leans on his shovel, breathing hard behind the handkerchief over his nose. “Your cow made a considerable contribution, as you can see very clearly.”

“I wonder how Boggel is feeling this morning? I’ve never seen him lose the plot like he did last night! One moment he was a shepherd gaurding the sheep at night, the next he handed out the peach brandy – even Oudoom had three glasses.” Precilla feels much better after the three Brufens she had for breakfast.

Gertruida unravels the streamers from the fan, balancing on a chair. “But you must admit he was a huge success as a Russian dancer. He could have won fair and square. I thought he was very good at it – never knew he could do those funny moves while balancing on one foot.”

“He had some help, remember? With his hunchback and the support of the cow’s leg, he made it look easy. It’s such a pity that the cow didn’t cooperate, though. Ten more seconds, and he would have completed the dance.”

They fall silent as each one remembers the plaintive moooo! before the cow decided she has had enough. The kick was executed with bovine flair – landing perfectly on Boggel’s wriggling rump to propel him on a crash course with the mistletoe. Mary, Joseph and the Three Wise Men managed to drag Boggel to bed, placing (as it was Christmas, after all) two cold beers on his table before leaving. Gertruida (who knows everything) said Boggel’s condition was due to the kick – from the peach brandy, not the cow.

Just when the last sheep dropping is carefully cajoled from under the counter, Boggel stumbles into the room. Except for the lump on his forehead (he landed on the table on his way down, but a considerate sheep softened his fall to the floor), he seems to be all right. On the third attempt he manages to croak a recognisable Good morning and then“Is Christmas over?”

 

Fortunately for Boggel, it is. It’ll be a full year before it is Christmas again. With most of the mess cleared up, the Rolbossers sit down at the counter to discuss the evening’s events. Boggel manages to find some cold beers to shove over the counter.

“Where’s Oudoom?”

“Nah, I think he won’t be in today. Said a nativity play shouldn’t be like ours. Once his headache is gone, I’m sure he’s going to work on a sermon for next Sunday.” Precilla sounds worried. “I think he’s upset.”

“He should be. Platnees had to take him home.”

“No man, Platnees took the cow to the shed. He said so himself.” It’s Vetfaan’s turn to look worried.

“Ahem.” When Gertruida says Ahem! like that, you know she knows something that you should know, but don’t. “Then what is the cow doing on the lawn in front of the church?”

 

Maybe it’s a good idea to leave Rolbos right now. Some things are better left unsaid – especially since the cow can’t (and the rest won’t) tell you why that was the last nativity play to feature in Boggel’s Place. I can reveal that Oudoom recovered sufficiently to deliver a long sermon on Love thy neighbour enough to see him safely home; and that Boggel refuses to ever do his Kossak imitation again.

But all is not lost. Gertruida is working on a new play for next year, based on the story of the Nutcracker. She says there are more animals in the story and she’ll see to it that nobody drinks a drop before the performance.

Shows you: even she can be wrong sometimes.

Please do watch out for the cow if you ever should visit Rolbos. She’s the one with the innocent eyes staring at you from beneath the alluringly long eyelashes. You’d swear she’s the kindest, friendliest, nicest cow you’ll ever see. But…people who know, say that she changes her expression when you are a few feet away. They say she is the only cow on the planet capable of an evil smile…

The Wounds of War

It was between Christmas and New Year’s – dates didn’t matter much back then – that Vetfaan crawled across the hot sand of the Caprivi to check out the strange mound in the track. Potholes and ruts were common; mounds could signal danger. A booby-trapped hand grenade or a landmine might be concealed beneath that heap of earth.

There! The glint of sun on metal! The arming pin – pulled out once the mine is set – had been thrown away at the side of the track. Vetfaan was sure then: the landmine was a given fact; the possibility of an ambush an almost-certainty. He froze for a second, then lifted his hand in a signal to the rest of the patrol to disperse.

The effect was catastrophic. As the men stepped sideways into the bush, the carefully laid minefield exploded. The ambush was not by an invisible force armed with AK 47’s; the enemy had been much more devious in their planning. Knowing the scouting group would be suspicious about the little mound of earth, they mined the immediate area around the path.  Vetfaan’s platoon was out-thought, outsmarted and wiped out. Even the arming pin had been left there on purpose.

The human mind is able to process information at incredible rates. The hand on the hot stove gets whipped away before damage is done. A foot will find the brake pedal before the eyes register the running child in the street. The brain is, literally, quite amazing in analysing and reacting to the unexpected.

But sometimes, rarely, when the input of information is so unexpected, so grotesque, so massive, the brain cuts out. The neurons simply stop firing. Memory patterns halt. Analysis stops. Activity ceases. The body belonging to such a brain in those moments, ceases o function in a logical manner.

Vetfaan doesn’t know how long he lay there. He can’t really say. It could have been a second, or an hour. To this day, the black cloud of amnesia – the reaction to block out unacceptable events – still shrouds his ability to remember exactly what transpired in that time. He didn’t black out; he was aware of his surroundings all the time. It’s just that he was so paralysed with fear and anger and surprise and revulsion that time simply ceased to exist.

Later, when his arms and legs started obeying his mind once more, the absolute silence made him sit up. After the explosions, there were no whoops of victory from the enemy. No shots of an ambush. And in the eerie quiet, even the birds and the veld had become quiet; as if to apologise for what had happened. Sorry, Mother Nature was saying, so sorry.

It was an absurd thought.

Slowly, gingerly, Vetfaan glanced around him. It must have been some bounding Valmara VS 69’s. Vetfaan had seen a demonstration of such a mine: exploding at chest-height level, it had a killing zone of 30 yards. The three men in his group had no chance. Obviously the mines – he guessed there would have been five – had been laid to eliminate anybody stepping off the track. What saved Vetfaan, was the fact that he was laying down at the time of the explosions.

In slow motion, Vetfaan crawled away. There was no point in lingering – his men had been mutilated beyond recognition, shot to pieces and obviously dead. To venture off the track carried the risk of detonating even more mines. With the radio destroyed, his best chance was to try and get back to the base, report the incident, and let them dispatch an expert group to recover the bodies. Retracing his steps, he backed away from the mound, made a mental note of the position, and started the long and lonely road back to safety.

He must have progressed a kilometer or so – it may have been two, it may have been five – before the delayed reaction set in. When his brain finally started computing what happened, the enormity of the situation started filtering through. Up till then, his only thoughts had been about getting away, getting back to safety; but then the images of his mutilated patrol popped up again, demanding to be filed away under some heading in his mind. For a while he mulled about that: was it Sad, or Unnecessary, or Stupid, or Negligent, or Unavoidable, or … It seemed terribly important to find a category to suit the massacre.

And then a great sadness overwhelmed him. He had known those three men well. The one had always bragged about his little daughter at home. They had always laughed at his corporal’s jokes. And then there was the ferrety little bloke, who had dreamt of the ultimate love affair once he got discharged. They had been real, live, people. And now they’re dead.

Vetfaan found a tree, sat down, and cried. Great racking sobs ripped through his body, tears streaking down over his dusty cheeks. It seemed as if something inside him just gave way; he wasn’t crying out of sadness. Nor even frustration. He was weeping because there was nothing else to do. It didn’t help to feel sad. He couldn’t bring those men back. Like a mother holding a dead baby, he cried because the promise of tomorrow had been broken.

For a while, he tried to blame somebody. First of all, he wondered if he should have been more careful. Then he blamed the hands that set the mine. Later he shifted responsibility to the factory in Italy, where the greed for money allowed the manufacture of these killing devices and they traded death for Dollars. Inevitably, eventually, he charged the politicians for killing his mates. Fat, unfit, whiskey-drinking men in oak-panelled offices sent his little patrol of fit young men to fight their battles. The cowards, he decided, were the men who refused to commit to compromise.

Vetfaan got back to the base. He reported the incident. The bodies were recovered, the flowery letters sent to the grieving families, and a clerk in Headquarters filed the report neatly with the others – all marked by the little black ribbon on the right-hand corner. The admin was done. The politicians used the facts to escalate the war. Peace on Earth – at what price?

Constant war?

During the rest of the Border War, Vetfaan participated in several skirmishes with the enemy. He joined the ranks of men with their stuttering guns – but he always made sure he aimed too high. That was the only way to protest the stupidity of it all – a one-man non-fight for peace.

Now, in the time between Christmas and New Year, Vetfaan will always saunter into Boggel’s Place and order the old army-drink. Rum-and-Coke. Four of them. Doubles. His salute is always the same:

“Broken Promises! Lost innocence! And lonely ladies!”

The other patrons think it must be some old Irish toast, or maybe it’s a Greek one. They’ll raise their glasses and salute silently.  It’s only Gertruida who notices the cold, cold look in his grey eyes when he drinks the one Rum after the other, finishing the four drinks in silence. And later, when she helps him to get home, she’ll have to assure him there are no mounds in the road. Not a single one, Vetfaan. It is safe. It’s okay.

One day she’ll rustle up enough courage to ask him about it; but some instinct warns her to wait. Sometimes the wounds of war take a long time to heal.

In some cases, they never do.

Boxed in on Boxing Day

“At least Christmas is over.” Vetfaan rubs his hands together in anticipation. Boggel doesn’t open the bar on Christmas, and by now the collective thirst of the town is almost as overwhelming as the drought in the district.

“Ag, Vetfaan, show some respect!” Servaas – who shares the thirst, but feels he should set an example as elder in the church – wags and admonishing finger in the direction of the big farmer.

“At least we don’t have to put up with the bustle in the big cities.” Kleinpiet tries to change the subject. “I hear the people bought just about everything in the shops. Imagine that happening to Sammie? Well have to wait until next week for the lorry of Kalahari Vervoer to restock. Worse: what’ll happen if we drink Boggel’s dry? That’ll be a catastrophe.”

This is a serious question, which causes a shocked silence. Even Servaas has to admit – respectfully, but still – that the town without Boggel’s Place would be unthinkable. Sure, people drink there – and maybe sometimes a bit much – but this is where they gather to exchange news, talk about the drought, listen to each other’s hardships and small delights, and tell everybody next year will be better. Except for the brief chats in front of Oudoom’s church, this is where they share hope and joy and grief.

“It won’t happen.” Vetfaan is adamant. “I saw the extra boxes he ordered from Upington. It’ll last well past New Year’s.”

And Gertruida, who sits a little apart, thinks, yes, it’s all about boxes. Cities marching outward with little box houses, box lives, box schools, box churches. You either fit into the box, or you don’t; which means you won’t last. Millions upon millions of individuals, being taught that you have to fit into the mould. Radio stations, newspapers and TV stations telling people to conform to fashion, politics and religion. Think this. Wear that. Lip-gloss so. Vote for the right guy. Bank here. Go to the right church. Move with the masses and be safe. Artificial satisfaction guaranteed at the end of the queue for gratification. Come on! Be politically  correct and environmentally friendly. Swim against the stream and some horrible fate awaits you: a label screaming: Not Normal!

Not long from now, she thinks, there’ll be surgeons paying off expensive cars with their ability to bore little holes in the rebellious skulls to make them all good ol’ jolly fellows en route to Valhalla.  At least now, she thinks, some people still think for themselves – but for how long?

“You’re pensive, Gertruida. What’s wrong?” The little frown of disapproval creates a skew furrow on Precilla’s brow.

“Just thinking about Boxing Day, sweetie. About what people are allowing other people to do to them. How we are blind to Syria and sad with Sandy Hook. Mugabe and Zuma hammering the lid shut on justice. People boxed in by following stupid trends. thinking it’ll set them free. Small lives being governed by insecurity. And insecurity fanned on by fashion houses and politicians, to make you buy and spend and fit in with a constantly changing environment. The impossibility of a forced, homogeneous society. You know…everybody’s so boxed-in?”

Precilla nods – she knows better than to ask for an explanation. Gertruida sometimes has such outlandish ideas.

“Ah, here comes Boggel. Come on, Gertruida, let me buy you a drink.”

And Gertruida trudges along willingly, not keen to pursue the line of thought any further. The fate of those poor people…!

She’s right, of course. In Tokyo and New York and London and Cape Town, millions of people stand in front of overfull cupboards, uncertain what to wear for the obligatory lunch dates with the Trendsetter Family and The In Crowd. They have to fit in, you see? Their lives depend on it…

Weekly Writing Challenge – A Picture Is Worth 1,000 words.

Me, Dad, and Lilly

People think my Dad is an austere, strict man. He looks like that, doesn’t he? But he says we all must look serious, to keep up appearances.  Especially if you consider we have to start all over again – in a new town.

Now, Lilly, my sister, she’s a bit young for this game. She’s not so fast, see? That’s why she gets caught so easily; and it spoils the fun, if you ask me.

When Mom was still alive, things were different, of course. She was an architect and she brought in a lot of money. She told Dad to be the stay-at-home-mom, and I remember them arguing about that. She told Dad he should have finished school, but he said he didn’t want to become another brick in the wall. I don’t understand that, but Dad says I mustn’t worry, he doesn’t either. Sometimes – with Dad – it’s better to nod than to argue.

So, when Mom stepped off that girder on the building she designed, it changed a lot of things. At first Dad sat at home, reading the papers and saying words we children aren’t allowed to. He said reporters always go for the kill, but I know Mom died from that fall. That’s not what Dad says. He says there was nothing wrong with Mom’s drawings and she fell accidentally. He always cries when he says that.

After the funeral, we had to move to a trailer outside town. It wasn’t so bad. There were lots of other shacks and many other children. Dad said we must stay away from them, because they sniff things and do ugly stuff with litte girls. That’s when he came up with the plan.

We practised a lot, see? While the other kids kicked a ball around or went swimming in the creek, we practised. We practised until Dad said we were okay and that’s when we started going into town every day.

It’s not as easy as it looks. You have to reach up to slip a hand into somebody’s pocket, and when you’re as short as Lilly is, you get caught – every time. That’s when Dad would run up, give her a spanking and apologise to the person who started hollering that the little girl tried to rob him.

Now, that was quite brilliant. Who would go to the police to lay a complaint against a four-year-old? They don’t do that. They’d scold her, give Dad a stern talking-to, and then walk off.

With me, it was different. I’m quite good at sidling up to some kindly old gentleman in the park and ask him if he was Father Christmas. They always go ho-ho-ho and lift you on their laps. I had this story about my dog that died and how much I’d like another puppy. It brought tears to their eyes, it did. And then, while they’re telling me it’s alright and they’re sure I’d get another dog, that’s when I lifted the wallet.

Dad always said I was the best.

Until today.

Lilly actually got a bag. Right there, in the middle of town, she got a a very neat suitcase. It was in front of one of those fancy shops where people buy jewellery, expensive stuff, just because they can. Dad says I won’t believe how much money some folks have.

Lilly was walking past the shop when she heard the shot. Dad was on the other side of the street, watching her, but he was too late to stop her. When the shot rang out, Lilly had such a fright that she ran straight into that shop. Yes sir. Straight.

Dad says he reached the doorway just as the men stormed out. Two big men, with guns. They wanted to get to the car that was parked outside, you see? I know I mustn’t say halluva, but that’s the crash they had. Huge. Those men ran straight into Dad and the next thing you know, there are bodies sprawled all over the pavement.  The two men over there and my Dad over here. And in the middle, there was this bag.

Well, Lilly grabbed it and scampered off. She says it wasn’t such a big thing to, it just seemed as if nobody really wanted it. Yeah, right. I know she’s lying.

Oh boy! Then there were sirens and hooters and policemen all over the show. Dad says that is what panic buttons are for, but I’ve never seen one. They grabbed Dad and the two men and had them in the back of a van in no time while some other men with guns watched them. Dad tried to say something, but the one policeman gave him a smack in the face and told him to shut up, they know what they’re doing.

I think it must have been the shop owner who snitched on Lilly. He started shouting and pointing at her as she struggled to drag the heavy bag into a blind alley. She’s not that big, see? Now that was plain stupid. Dad told us never to run into anything we can’t run out of. Of course they caught up with her in no time.

Now, here’s where I have to take my hat off to Lilly. She did what Dad said she must do when she got caught. She sat down and cried. And, may I add, real tears. Real tears. That’s something I hadn’t seen since Mom stepped off that building. What with Dad locked up in that van, I suppose you can’t blame her.

I knew it was up to me, then. The policemen didn’t want to listen to me at first, but with the people crowding around saying  ‘aaw’ and ‘shame’ and all that, I suppose they had to.

So now Lilly is a hero. Dad says the papers made her one, just like they made Mom look bad. I’m not sure how it works, but they write about the little girl who saved the fortune in jewellery instead of mentioning Dad, who stopped those crooks.

So, here we are, all dressed up in the new clothes that shop owner gave us. Dad has a pocket full of money from the insurance company; at least they know how brave he must have been to storm into that shop.

You can see we’re all trying to look serious. Dad says if we laugh too much, somebody may figure out we were just lucky. He also says we now have to move to another city – people will recognise us here.

I’ll miss our trailer.

It’s not that easy to smile, now that I come to think of it, anyway.

Crime and Forgiveness (Part 3)

 In the months leading up to the trial, Precilla and Kleinpiet find that adoption isn’t as easy as it sounds. Sersant Dreyer gave them a clearance certificate from the police without any hassle, but the process of having to go for psychometric tests, the appearance before a panel of social workers and the visit by the authorities to inspect Kleinpiet’s home seemed to take ages.

BabyNelson, during this time at least, was completely unaware of proceedings. His grandmother welcomed the visit by Kleinpiet and Precilla after the telephone call and tried to put on a brave face when they arrived at her shack.

“I have six children to look after,” she complained, “and only my old-age pension to buy food with. My daughter, Precious, lost her job at the Wimpy because they retrenched some staff and she wasn’t needed any more – she went to Keimoes to work on a farm there. And the no-good man she wanted to marry – he’s in jail awaiting trial; I hear he was involved in a number of farm attacks.

“Now Precious – that one has only given me trouble. Always with the wrong man, always drinking and promising me money – which never comes. Hai! I am an old woman. Do I deserve this?”

Kleinpiet explained why they are there. At first her reaction was that he must have been joking. No, he told her, they’re serious. See, Precilla was shot…and he told her the sad tale of the loss Precilla must live with. Now we can’t have children of our own, understand? And when the baby’s father was caught – sleeping in the house – was that not a sign? Why would a couple who’d love children, have their path crossed by a baby with no future? Is it not the right thing to do, to see the circumstances for what they are? Was it not fate that brought them together? How else would they have known to come to her, the grandmother, had the father not stolen the bottle of peach brandy? Surely that was the reason?

The old woman asked them to come back a week later. This time they were met by a whole delegation of older people, all crammed into the tiny square formed by the cardboard walls of the shack.

“I am Desmond Kruiper. I am the oldest relative, the grandfather of the mother,” and ancient talking skeleton informed them. “I know you, Mister Kleinpiet. I knew your father as well. The Kalahari has no secrets for us – we know who lives here. We know who loves this world as much as we do. We know who treats the Kalahari well – and who does not.” He allowed the words to sink in before continuing. “And you, Mister Kleinpiet, have been good to us. You provide work. You pay salaries. And you’re fair – which is more than I can say about a few farmers in the district. So – we’ve decided to say yes. If you want to take little Nelson and help him grow to be a man, we can not hold him back.”

Precilla started crying at that point. Kleinpiet put a protective arm around her shoulders and gave her a hug. The woman in the shack – despite the cramped space – started ululating. The sound was deafening.

“But …” Desmond held up a restraining hand and waited for silence. “Nelson must keep his name. Kruiper. He will be Nelson Kruiper and not get other names. And he must be brought up with our values in mind. Too many children today grow up with all these new things. They sit in front of the television. They play with gadgets we don’t understand. They don’t listen to old stories and don’t care about their tradition. That is a problem.

“How can you become a man if you don’t stand on the shoulders of your forefathers? If you don’t know who you are? Or if you despise your past? I see the children in Upington; they wear strange clothes and sit and type in their phones all day – as if they are a new generation. That’s wrong – you’re an extension of the older generation, that’s what. If you want to be a new generation, you throw away your heritage and your culture. And culture, your own, unique culture, is who you are.

“So, mister Kleinpiet, we welcome the offer to help little Nelson. Only: he may never forget that he is San, he is Bushman, he belongs in the Kalahari.”

Kleinpiet stood up and formally thanked them for being there, and expressed his gratitude for their consent. Then: “…but we shall need help. I am a white man, with a white heritage and white stories. How can I tell Bushman stories if I know so few? How can I teach Nelson to dance, to track, to understand the veld like you do? I’ll need help.”

Desmond Kruiper sat back as a huge Cheshire-smile spread across his wrinkled face. “I knew you were the right man. Let me tell you a story.

“Mantis, the Moon, is the man who incurs the wrath of the Sun. Every day – every day – the Sun’s rays strike away bits of Mantis, and it grows smaller and smaller. [i] Eventually, when there is almost nothing left, nothing we can see, it implores the Sun to spare it – for his children’s sake. That’s when the Sun relents, and the Moon gradually grows to be Full again, to be a father to his children in the Kalahari.

“Mantis did nothing wrong to deserve the wrath of the Sun – yet the Sun tried to kill Mantis. And it was only mercy and pity that allowed Mantis to be a father to his children again. This is what is happening here. We Bushmen lived peacefully in the veld, until people came and slowly killed us all, until almost nothing is left. Now little Nelson has a chance to grow. He may become big. He may become strong. He will be the one who brings us little bits together to be whole again.”

Kleinpiet knew enough of the Bushman way of explaining things to understand exactly what Desmond was telling him.

“But you’ll help us, won’t you? Come to the farm when Nelson is big enough –  to teach him your ways?”

And Desmond saw the bits of the scattered tribe slowly merging to be Full again, and he nodded happily.

***

Rolbos celebrated the homecoming of Nelson. Boggel had set up a small crib next to his cushion below the counter, and here Vrede met the new addition to the town. Gertruida knitted socks; Judge gave a soft, woollen blanket; Servaas found a teddy bear somewhere and Mevrou added an embroidered cushion to the heap of presents. Pete and Frans[ii] asked to be godparents. Ben Bitterbrak even donated a lamb for the festivities.

Oudoom sat down next to Kleinpiet with a sigh. “Now you two have a child, I suppose you’re going to get married?”

And Precilla, remembering the bits of Mantis coming together to be Full again, saw how little fragments of her – so scattered by the blows she had taken in life – started to merge together again. And she laughed and held Kleinpiet’s hand while he said yes, he supposed it was time.

That’s why Part 1 stated there are two types of criminals – both of them bad. But … the one type is associated with kalappenings, the other not. Like Gertruida explained – kalappenings[iii] have a way of working out for the better. It is a rare, rare phenomenon…


[i] From Specimens of Bushman Folklore, written by WHI Bleek and LC Lloyd. Publishedby George Allen & Co, London, 1911.

[iii] Kalappening (n). An event starting out as a calamity, ending in something good. Only in the Kalahari. Not commonly used because of most people accept tragedy as final and unable to bring peace or joy. One of Gertruida’s inventions.