“What does PG stand for?” Precilla points at the letters with a worried frown.
The poster in the window advertised Tropical Fire, a Masterpiece of Cinematography. Several letters and numbers appear at the bottom, while the girl in the white bikini drapes herself over the rest of the poster. One show only. Today: 12 o’ clock, is written at the top.
Kleinpiet hates to admit he doesn’t know. Even when Gertruida (who knows everything) makes a statement, he’ll give a non-committal nod, as if he’s in complete agreement. The stuff on this poster might as well have been in Latin – or maybe it is?
“Geez, Precilla, I’m not sure; but how difficult can it be? It must be something they use frequently, like in Prize Gradient. Or Profoundly Good. Maybe: Possibly Great. Previously German, now translated? Maybe it has to do with: Pure Grammar, like in no foul language. Whatever it is, it seems to indicate a Good Product.
“ I think the numbers afterwards, tell you how good it is. 13 would mean mediocre. 16 must be better. And 18 must be really, really good. It’s like they grade gold. If you get a 24, you’re in the pound seats. I suppose they determine ticket prices with that. 13: cheap. 24: expensive. What do you think?”
Precilla shrugs and points: “But what about the letters?”
“Well, V must be for Very Good. L can for Loudness, so you’ll have too take ear plugs. And S … I think that’s for Sound. This new thing they call Stereo. I listened to Jim Reeves on stereo in Kimberley, when I sold that prize ram. You could hear the distant drums on the one speaker, and him on the other. It was awesome..”
“So you’re telling me to take ear plugs to listen to stereo?” Precilla is confused.
“No man! I’m just telling you what it all means. The N has to stand for New. It’s not like Ben Hur or Gone With the Wind. It means it’s a new movie, something made in the last five years or so.”
Precilla is impressed. She thought Kleinpiet only knew about sheep and Boggel’s Place; and here he is, telling her about all these new, modern things.
The two of them are in Upington. Kleinpiet had to get some spares for his tractor and Precilla came along for some fresh vegetables. Remarkably, by eleven they had done what they came for, and Kleinpiet suggested they stop at the Wimpy for a bite. While they were eating, Precilla saw the poster.
“So what are you doing the rest of the day?” Kleinpiet raises a speculative eyebrow. “We have some time and it’s been ages since last I saw a new movie….”
Precilla hesitates, knowing that Kleinpiet may think of such an outing as a date. The again, what harm can it do? If, indeed the movie is Very Good and Pure Gold, then they’ll have something new to discuss in Boggel’s Place. To Kleinpiet’s delight, she nods a yes. Checking his watch, he tells her they must hurry, or be late.
And so it happens that the two decide to go to the Upington Bioscope, where they find a group of solemn faces parading about. They all carry identical placards with a black line through the word, MORALS.
“Must be a new sect or something,” Kleinpiet mumbles as he buys the tickets at the little window.
The cinema is almost empty, so they find seats right at the back. The lights dim as they sit down. Precilla shoots a furtive glance to Kleinpiet’s direction, but his attention is on the screen where they advertise new tractor tyres. After a burly farmer assures the audience that these tyres will outlast any tractor – and that you get a brand-new pocket knife with every pair bought – the screen goes blank for a second before The Girl in the Poster appears.
She’s even more beautiful than on the poster, only now she’s wearing a fur coat. In the background a tropical scene unfolds, complete with a white yacht on the transparently blue waters of a little bay. Palm trees grow right up to the beach, where small waves lose momentum to drain back over the sandy beach.
“I haf been around the vorld wif my yacht.” The Girl in the Poster says. “As you can see, ve are in ze tropics, wif ze palm trees, ze clear water, a few monkeys…and, of course, my best friend, Sven.” Sven, dressed in the smallest Speedo ever made, strolls up behind her with a bunch of bananas over his shoulder.
“Oh, my!” Precilla’s hand flew to her mouth. “I haven’t seen bananas like that for ages! Oh dear…”
“It must be one of those art movies with a tiny budget. Otherwise they would have gotten him the correct size underpants,” Kleinpiet said, more or less confidently. “And maybe some proper jeans as well.”
Sven puts down the bananas slowly, while the camera zooms in on his bulging biceps. The woman is still telling the audience about their many adventures when Sven picks her up and carries her towards the crystal-clear water of the bay.
“Vait! Vait!” she cries. He stops, startled by her protest. She comes running back to the camera, coat flapping open just enough to reveal the white bikini. “I must tell ze people about you! … Sven, over there, is a stallion. A stud. A man of great … power, if you know vat I mean. Bot I, I haf ze power to make him do anything! I vill show you vhy.”
Slowly turning towards Sven, the coat starts sliding down .
“Oh!” Precilla is trying to hide behind her hand as the coat slowly moves south. The camera follows the coat from her shoulders, inch by inch, past half-way to the finish line. Kleinpiet sits bolt upright, staring bug-eyed at the screen.
“Really, really small budget,” he whispers. “Tiny. Miniscule. Maybe non-existent.”
“Kleinpiet: it is one of those movies. I think we should leave.”
“No man – just look at the size of the coconuts on those trees.” He tries to sound convincing. Fails. Soldiers on. “Huge, hey? I think this is the modern way to teach people to conserve the environment. Lets watch a bit more and see what happens.”
Well, of course it happens. Right there, in front of them, the two embraced in a way family members never will. Not in the Kalahari, at least. As Sven stares deep into the eyes of the woman, he whispers that he has never been as ready as he is right now…then…the lights came on.
“Everybody out! Out! This is Upington, not Las Vegas! Out! We have morals here!” It is one of the solemn faces they had seen a few minutes ago. “Go home and repent! Ask forgiveness and return here no more. Boycott this House of Sin, brothers and sisters! Out!”
As they trudge out, Kleinpiet asks another stern-faced man with a placard whether they could get a refund. The man ignores the question.
Back in Rolbos, the two avoid eye contact as Boggel serves the beer while standing on his crate behind the counter. He noticed they were very quiet ever since they came in. It is now their third beer and the silence is deafening.
“Say, I don’t know what’s wrong; but whatever it is, get over it! I haven’t had an atmosphere like this in the bar since Kalahari Vervoer killed our chicken. Maybe it’ll help if you tell me what’s wrong?” A good barman does things like this. Morose customers tend to scare off other thirsty patrons.
“Boggel, you know what a blue movie is?” Kleinpiet writes PG on the counter with his froth as he asks the question.
“I’ve seen one,” Boggel says, “in the orphanage. Fred Astaire, I think. The film was so old, everything had a blue tinge to it. The local congregation treated us.”
“No man, one with girls and stuff.”
Boggel shakes his head. “No, can’t say I did. Like the Sound of Music, perhaps?”
“Ag, Boggel! No… we saw a movie in Upington. It had bananas and coconuts all over the show, and some very…adventurous…people in it. They didn’t dress properly.”
“I hate it when that happens,” Boggel says as he polishes a glass.
“And there were some very angry people who chased everybody out, shouting and screaming at them.”
“Well, you can’t have a movie without a plot, characters and some conflict now, can you? Did you enjoy it?” Always the diplomat, Boggel is.
Kleinpiet turns to Precilla. “What did you think?”
Precilla shrugs. “The girl wasn’t all that sexy and the man…he’ll never last in the Kalahari with those trunks. It wasn’t all that bad, it’s just that it ended so suddenly.”
Boggel brightens. “It’s the way they tell stories these days. They give you clues during the story, then you have to figure out the end all by yourself. Sounds like you had fun.”
Kleinpiet gives up. “We’ll have one for the road, thanks Boggel.”
Later, Precilla takes her old rain coat from the cupboard. She’s just had a shower and is ready for bed, but she has to do this first. Donning the coat, she stands in front of the long mirror as she allows the material to slide slowly, seductively, from her shoulders. No, that girl didn’t do it right. It looks much better this way. She smiles demurely at the mirror before switching off the light.
Back at his farm, Kleinpiet has upturned the big box in the attic, and is now searching through its contents. He used to be in the Grootdrink swimming team – way back, in Standard Six.