Oudoom looked down at his flock to see the patrons of Boggel’s Place all dressed up and clean for the Good Friday sermon. Vetfaan seemed a bit worse for the wear, but the rest managed to listen with varying degrees of attention to the history of the crucifixion.
Sometimes, he thought, it is difficult to think that He was crucified for even these men and women. For them all – Mevrou and himself as well. He remembered how much time they spent in Boggel’s Place and how little in church. These men and women – and he was one of them – had no malice, yet their lives hardly served as examples to others. It would be easy, he thought, for them all to be condemned for so many things.
He felt emotion welling up as he spread his arms wide in the benediction. Instead of the usual little mantra (May the love of God….) he wanted to pray, to say thank you; to say how sorry they all were that they also were part of the crowd, that night they chanted to crucify Him. When the words didn’t come and the silence became unbearable, it was Servaas who climbed up the pulpit.
“Come, Oudoom. It is done.” The gravely voice was kind and soft.
When Gertruida (who knows everything) saw how Oudoom’s shoulders were shaking, she got up to face the congregation. Then she closed her eyes and prayed.
“Dear Lord….We’ll never know – never – what it is to be crucified. We can never imagine the pain and suffering of those moments. We can’t guess what it is like to hang there, waiting for the sweet release of death.
“We are simple folk, us Rolbossers; but when You finally drew Your last breath, You had us all in mind. And we know we are a strange lot – with everything that goes on in town, it is difficult to think that You can love us. Yet, it was for us You rose from the dead – us and the peoples of Grootdrink and Upington and the rest of the world.
And for that, dear Lord, we are truly thankful.”
Later, on the veranda in front of Boggel’s (the little man only serves rooibos tea on Good Friday), Oudoom thanked Gertruida and Servaas. By that time everybody was back in their usual attire and Vetfaan had some colour in his cheeks.
In the little kitchen, where Boggel was boiling some more water, the bent little man hummed to himself. There would be no jokes at the counter today; no crazy scheme thought out, no raunchy songs sung. They’d sit out there on the veranda talking in hushed voices while the heat waves danced across the veld. When the sun sets, they’d go home, light the candles; each with his (or her) own thoughts.
Yes, Boggel thought, that’s what Good Friday is about; such a pity we only remember it once a year. He sighed as he took out the pot with fresh tea.
“We should do this more often,” he said.
“No.” Oudoom held up a restraining hand. “Once a year is enough. The pain is unbearable as it is.”