For a moment Boggel thinks the man stepped out of one of Robert Redford’s old movies. With his hair slicked back, the red jacket, and the designer jeans tucked into the brown boots, he only needs a blond girl in a Gatsby dress to complete the picture. But, Boggel decides, the man should rather have spent money on a dentist, not at some fancy clothing store. His teeth apparently has taken a liking to a famous fly-half, which gives him the true bunny look – which doesn’t improve even if he closes his mouth. Those teeth just refuse to be hidden…
When the Porsche stopped in front of Boggel’s Place, Vetfaan remarked that they must have graded the road to Grootdrink: a car with such a low ground clearance wouldn’t be able to make it otherwise. They watched as the Rainbow Man (Boggel’s term) oozed out of the vehicle, bent down to retrieve his laptop and ran his hand through the oiled hair.
The customers in Boggel’s Place eyed each other for a few silent seconds – and gave a collective nod. This was one of those people – a conman, a slick artist, a crook. They know the type by now… Precilla scampered out through the back door to call Gertruida, and Boggel opened the Cactus Jack. They are ready for him…
“It’s unfortunate – for him, I mean – that he chose to visit us so soon after Mustapha. I’m rather looking forward to this; that last guy was really entertaining.” Kleinpiet draws a gallows, with a stick-man dangling from a rope, on the counter top. “I wonder what Rainbow’s pitch will be.”
When he pushes open the door, the newcomer is considerably smaller than they anticipated. Getruida says it’s because people imagine that Porsche’s should contain muscular men and petite women, which, of course, isn’t necessarily always the case. Large young men buy such cars to hide their tiny insecurities, while small old men try to brag with their failing prowess – according to Gertruida’s Law of Phallic Cars.
“Good morning…” The voice is timid, unsure. “I have come to see a lady. A woman who studied chemistry a few years ago, I may add. She is, let me see…” The man opens the laptop and to switch it on.
“It can only be Precilla. She’s the only chemist in town.” Boggel is puzzled. This guy isn’t trying to sell us something? What’s wrong with the man?
“Yes, that’s right. Is she around?”
At this moment, Precilla walks in with an out-of-breath Gertruida next to her. “Yes, I am. What can I do for you?”
“I am Neville Lindeque,” (he pronounces it Lin–deek) “and I’m here on behalf of Mark. Now, I have to make sure I have the right person here. Did you, or did you not, correspond with a certain Chris Hughes, during the period from 2001 to 2003?”
Whe Precilla nods, yes she did, Mr Rainbow asks her if she can prove it.
“Why should I prove anything to you at all? For your information, yes I can; but I fail to see why?”
“Please, madam, this is very important. I have papers you must sign before midnight. If you don’t, you’ll really be sorry. It won’t cost you anything, I swear. You must just sign some papers… If you can show me any letter that Mister Hughes may have sent you, we can clear this situation up quickly. It won’t take much of your time, I promise.”
“Now listen here, Neville, in this town we are used to all sorts of men who come here under the mistaken impression that we are easy prey. They think because we live where we do, we’re backward and ignorant. Why, just the other day we had an oracle as a guest. And there were others, too. So I suggest you get into your flat little car and scoot back to where you’ve come from.” Vetfaan looks twice his size when he’s angry. “We’ve got no time for games here – there’s a lot of drinking to be done and you’re interrupting our efforts.”
Neville-the-Rainbow turns red, white and green in quick succession. “But, mister, I only want…”
By now Kleinpiet has stood up, and threatens an attack from the other flank. He clears his throat, and then starts cleaning his nails like he’s seen in the Mafia movies. “If you feel lucky, Punk, you can stay. We’ll make your day.”
When Servaas enters – swinging his cane around in anticipation of a long, cool beer – Rainbow has had enough. He runs for the door. Seconds later, the Porsche disappears in a cloud of dust.
“What was that all about?” Things just happened too fast for Servaas; he is completely confused by the events.
“Some conman, I’m sure. Trying to rip Precilla off, this time. But we got rid of him quickly, didn’t we?” Vetfaan doesn’t have a Porsche, but he sure does have an ego.
“What’s the story with this Chris Hughes chap? The name sounds familiar? Or is it because I’m thinking about Howard?” Gertruida is trying to piece the puzzle together.
“No, he wasn’t somebody special, Gertruida.” Precilla blushes slightly. “Way back, when I was a student, my university came up with the idea that we South Africans were still too isolated from the world. So, they got several students from America’s top universities to correspond with us. It was a cultural exchange thing, see? They learnt how we lived, and vice versa. The guy I wrote to, was Chris Hughes; he studied at Harvard, I think. A real geek. Couldn’t spell right, either. He was into computers, or something.”
Now it is Gertruida’s turn to blanche. “No, don’t tell me that…” She sits down. “Did the Neville chap say he was here on behalf of Mark? … No, this can’t be happening?”
They pepper her with questions, but it is only after the second Cactus Jack she tries to make sense of it all.
“Tell me, Precilla, can you remember whether this Chris guy ever mentioned his room mate?”
“Did he mention him! It wasn’t necessary. He used to scribble a note at the bottom of every letter Chris ever wrote. I remember it well – my letters back would contain two sections – one for Mark, and one for that pal of his. Zack, if I remember correctly.”
“Precilla! Not Zuck?”
“Yes, that’s right. I eventually got tired of the letters, and told them both to figure out a way to make it easier for people to communicate with each other. A sort of personal thing. I remember it well: in my last letter to them I said they were at Harvard, for goodness’ sakes. Surely they can work out a way to do this type of thing on computer?”
Kleinpiet is quite a mean driver if you get him excited. He catches up with the frightened Neville, just before the bridge over the Orange River, where he is negotiating the deep ruts and potholes with his low-slung Porsche. It takes a lot to convince him to return, but after Vetfaan threatens to hook a chain to the Porsche’s front bumper to drag him back, Neville Rainbow follows them meekly.
Precilla is now the only one in the Northern Cape with a signed photograph of Mark Zuckerberg on her wall. She’s rather proud of the inscription, too: With best wishes. To Precilla – who gave me the idea. Mark Zuckerberg.
Sometimes, when the men irritate her too much, she’ll invite Kleinpiet and Vetfaan over to come and look at her share certificate. One thousand Facebook shares is nothing to sneeze at, especially if you can get them free.
Kleinpiet still doesn’t understand
Gertruida says it’ll help if he buys a Porsche.
PS: Any resemblance to any person is purely coincidetal. This story is a story…maybe.©