“Did you notice he is actually ignoring us?” Gertruida has the deep frown between her eyes, telling everybody she’s really, really upset. “We’ve been so popular over the last few months, with people reading about our antics in many countries. Almost 4000 readers visited the blog he keeps on us since February and people tell him how real we’ve become. And now this…”
“Ja, it’s sad.” Kleinpiet draws a broken heart on the counter with his froth. “I thought we were important, too.”
Sammie seems to be the only one who understands. “Listen, he’s a writer. That’s what they do. They create characters and places. People read about stuff like this, make their own pictures and make us come to life. They escape the dreary reality of every-day life – to live with us for a while. That’s fine, you know? That’s what reading is all about.
“But he has to make a living, as well. Look at Boggel: if he sells no Cactus Jack today, his till remains empty. My shop is just the same – I need you guys to buy things so I can survive. So I can understand that he needs the business, I really do.”
“But that’s no excuse. If people from more than twenty countries want to read about us, he can’t just ignore that? Surely we must talk to him.” Vetfaan can see how Rolbos will disappear if nobody wrote about the town any more.
“It’s that book he wrote. Stories of rangers and animals and Africa. The real Africa. I read a few of them, but it isn’t like Rolbos at all.” Gertruida puts her National Geographic down. “I don’t like the title all that much. Imagine: Africa! made me think those stories are just fictional – in the mind, as it were. And you know how clever readers are: you can’t fool them. When I read them, I could feel they are real. Almost like us, I suppose.”
“But what has that got to do with us? We’re not a threat to something else he wrote?” Vetfaan still doesn’t get it.
Sammie uses his patient voice, like when Frikkie-die-vrek does his shopping. “Listen, you guys. Our stories are free – just like your imagination. The man has to do other stuff to make money so he can keep us going. Business is business, like my folks always say. And, with all the Cactus Jack you drink, we don’t come cheap.”
Gertruida has a lightbulb-moment. “Oh, I get it. If people buy Imagine: Africa!, then we’ll be all right and he can keep us going?”
And that, whether you are in Argentina or Christchurch; Dublin or New York; is called advertising.
Cheap advertising, but still…
Most read Rolbos stories this year:
|Freedom in Captivity|
|Joost and the Slushmobile|
|Rolbos – Friday Flash Fiction|
|Sunday Afternoon Kleenex|
|26th March – Coward’s Day|
|It’s in the eyes…|