“Ja, man. That’s what happens if you get a CSO. Chronic Sperm Overload. All work and no nooky makes Jack a very unhappy boy. Seen it happen in the army lots of times.” Kleinpiet drew patterns in the froth of his beer. “We’ll have to ask Gertruida. She’ll know what to do.”
Of course she knew. “But you have to understand: some problems can’t be solved. Sometimes it’s best to leave Mother Nature to sort things out. At his age, he must rather walk the horse instead of trying to get a leg over.” Vetfaan didn’t get it and Kleinpiet didn’t want to explain, so the matter was left there.
A week later the chug-chug-chug of a lorry using its airbrakes disturbed Vrede to such an extent that he ran, howling, into Boggel’s Place to hide below the counter. This, in turn bothered Boggel, who woke with a start. It is not unusual for barmen to rest during the day, you see, especially if you consider the hours they put into their jobs.
What sounded like a huge machine, turned out to be a smallish truck without a silenced exhaust. It had canvas banners on the sides, advertising Madame Zavira and the Talking Cards. A byline read: Manicures for man and beast at discount prices. Now, both of these statements caused a bit of discussuion at the bar. Surely this Madame was a straightforward fortune teller, a purveyor of lies and deceit, a sinful bender of desires, somebody that would have you believe she could see into the future. But, as simple as the analysis of her fortune-telling personality may be; a manicurist? Of man and beast? Who on earth would have a sheep manicured?
Of course such a complicated question warranted a lengthy discussion over several beers. It would have been easier if Gertruida was around; she would have known what to do. A market analyst in Upington invited her to give a talk at the Northern Cape Economic Forum, so she wouldn’t be back until later that afternoon. It was Boggel who suggested the drawing of lots. Somebody would have to find out what this Madame was all about and what, exactly, she did for a living. Maybe it’s because Servaas drew the last straw, but he got the short one in the end.
By this time, Madame Zavira had set up a little table at the back of the truck and sat there, waiting for customers. She was a sight to see: huge hoops in her ears, a bandanna that allowed a few stray hairs over her forehead and several shiny bracelets on each arm. She wore a flowing caftan and boots. Huge sunglasses, a smile and a lot of lipstick completed the outfit.
Now, Servaas is the head elder in the church, remember? It would be unseemly for him to rock up as a representative of the congregation – Oudoom would certainly disapprove. With the help of Vetfaan, who knew something about camouflage in the border-war days, Servaas eventually sported a floral shirt; shades and one of Precilla’s wigs she used when she was a chorus line girl. Even Boggel had to do a double-take when he saw him.
Servaas gathered the hapless Vrede under his arm, took a final swig from his glass and set off to talk to this Mistress of Sin, Madame Zavira.
She looked up as he approached the little table; this was the first time Servaas saw her eyes. They were huge. A mass of mascara. Big and blue and beautiful. Sparkling and shining. Deep pools of compassion and understanding. They seemed to draw him nearer, draw him in, call him closer and closer.
“Ah, I see you haf come,” she said with a heavy accent. “You hat to, no? You were leetle afraid to see Madame Zavira, but here you are. Vell done.”
“We drew lots…”
“Yes, yes, I know. You were chosen. It vas in-ev-i-table.” The last word was broken up in syllables, each pronounced separately to emphasise the fact he had to be there.
“Come. Come inside. Ve haf to talk.”
The back of the truck had been converted to look like a small lounge. A single red bulb hung from the ceiling, creating a twilight-feeling in the area that contained a sofa, a table and a chair. Make-believe curtains masked the sides and a thick carpet covered the floor. She swept her hands around in a regal gesture to welcome him. He noticed the many rings. The tinkling of her bracelets seemed to echo in his mind.
“Feel velcome, no? Thees sees my consulting room.” Con-sul-ting got broken up into three words. “You vill sit dere.” Servaas sat down on the Sofa. “Now, let us see.”
She took some cards from the stack on the table, shuffled them and laid them down on the table.
“Most in-te-resting. Very. Mmm.” Servaas craned forward. This woman was fascinating him., despite the undertones of shame and disbelief in his mind. He didn’t want to come here at all, yet… “Bot ferst ve do de doggy. He looks, um, peaceful, no? Vot is his name?” Servaas said it was ‘Vrede’ and that he didn’t like strangers. She said it vos a co-in-ci-dence, no? Look, he is happy to see her…
Vrede had his manicure in complete silence. His big dog-eyes followed her movements as she clipped the long nails. When she was finished, he licked her face and she laughed. Servaas was spellbound.
“Now for you. De cards says something about you. Dey say, you very lonely, no? And I see a church con-nect-ion. Very re-li-gious. Den dis card, dis von, dis card she says you vill be asked for, um, how do you say, dinner? Yes, dinner. Or supper. Something to do in the e-ve-ning. She says you vill go. You vill tell de lady…um… yes it vill be a lady…um…you vill tell her something she did was a good ting. She vill gif you vine. You vill haf a good ee-ve-ning. Dat’s all.”
She waited another hour at her little table outside Boggel’s, but no one else had the guts to go and see what her cards said. And with Vrede the only dog in town, no other animals needed a manicure, anyway. Boggel’s patrons watched as she packed up her stuff, slammed the door and drove off in the direction of Grootdrink. Rolbos survived the attack of the Sinful Gypsy. Servaas ordered a round of beers. Only Vrede seemed unperturbed. He slept on Boggel’s cushion under the counter.
Of course the patrons in Boggel’s discussed Madame Zavira’s conversation in great depth. “When Gertruida gets back from Upington, we’ll have to ask her about cards and stuff. She’ll be able to explain how this Madame knew about Servaas’ church connection.” They scoffed at a woman who will ask Servaas out on a date, saying it is impossible. Servaas doesn’t have women friends, so that part of the prediction didn’t matter. But the church…how did she know that?
Just before sunset, Gertruida drove into town, stopped in front of Boggels and sat down at the counter to order a beer. Vetfaan told her about the Madame.
“That is sacrilege!” Her response was immediate and condemning. “How can you believe anything like that? She knows the people in small towns are all involved in the church in some way and most of them are deeply religious. She took a chance and you all fell for it. And Vrede is a peaceful dog; that was just luck on her part. She couldn’t very well say he was beautiful or fierce, could she?” Vrede ignored the remark and she went on: “Servaas, the gypsies have a way of hypnotising people without them knowing it. They can get you to tell them anything. She could have made you tell her where you hide your cash, or your bank account details. This is very serious, people!”
Everybody knows Gertruida knows everything, so it wasn’t unnatural for Servaas to ask what he had to do then? If that woman tapped into his brain, she could ruin him.
“There is a way to find out, Servaas. I have a book on Gypsy spells. It details how the Gypsies originated in Afghanistan, but eventually became known as the Romanies in the Middle Ages. It contains detailed information of their many spells, and also how to break free from them. I would suggest you come with me immediately and let’s find out what damage that woman did. I think you are in deep trouble.”
A worried Servaas followed Gertruida to her house. He gladly accepted a glass of cool wine while she paged through a rather large leather-bound volume.
“Ah, here it is. It says we have to light a candle, turn off the lights, and concentrate on something good. ‘Nice and pleasurable things’ it says here. There has to be complete silence. The spell-breaker must sit opposite to the victim, hold his hands and wait. If the victim is under a spell, his hands will start shaking. The spell-breaker must blow out the candle immediately. Then the victim is free.” She closed the book, returned it to the shelf and went on, “It sounds rather simple, doesn’t it? Do you want to try?”
Well, you know how it is. They lit the candle. They put off the light. They sat in silence thinking about good things. Servaas found his hands shaking. Gertruida blew out the candle.
Afterwards Gertruida gave a throaty giggle. “Now dat vos very good, no? You vere fan-tas-tic.”
Few people understand the bond of trust between Gertruida and Boggel; but then again, a barman is privy to many secrets. Late at night, when loneliness becomes a weight too heavy to carry alone, people talk to the man serving the drinks.
Rolbos watched as Servaas walked down the street the next day.
“He looks twenty years younger,” Kleinpiet said.
“Maybe more,” Vetfaan observed.
It was about midday when Oudoom shuffled over to the pharmacy.
“No way. No way at all,” Gertruida said as Vetfaan stared at the reverend with an arched eyebrow.