Boggel knows the story. It’s a tale of heroism and stupidity, although it is difficult to say which attribute belonged to which individual. It was a troubled time – one he’d rather not think about when Boggel’s Place is brimming over with beer and jovial laughter. But today is the 5th of June, a day forgotten under layers of history and the will of a generation that doesn’t want to remember.
It is also the day when his father took the final walk up that little path he had built with his own hands, so many years ago – the day Boggel officially became an orphan.
Boggel closes his eyes to relive the scene.
He places the stones with a mason’s accuracy – which indeed he is, or was, before they caught him; high in the mountains, hiding from the Regime. His choice had been simple: be conscripted into the Army or go to jail. That is the law of the country: his country, the beautiful stretch of land at the Southern tip of Africa.
But they caught him in the end, like they always do. It may take time, but somebody, somewhere, will always see a dishevelled figure hiding behind a bush, a rock, a house as the vehicle with the flashing blue light cruise by slowly, looking… Then the usual scene with the sleek Alsatian chasing, the hopeless attempt to escape, the shouts, the anger, the cuffs and the supposedly protective hand behind the head as they lower their captive into the back seat. Always the same. No exception.
They gave him a heap of rubble and told him to do something to make the courtyard look better. It’s a game, you see. They want to break you until you have nothing left. Then you get a brown uniform and get sent to the border, where you fight the criminals who oppose the government. You have to break. It’s the law. If you refuse, they continue playing games.
That’s why he refuses to break. He’ll use the rubble to cover their stupidity. He won’t bend and buckle and bow down and play dead.
So he builds a path, a road, from the commander’s office to the small building with the trapdoor in the floor. A straight path made from black and red and white and yellow stones, neatly arranged to look like a modern little walkway. He wants it to look straight and neat, because it’ll be the route of his final journey. A man has his pride: if you know it’ll be your last steps, it may as well be along a path you chose yourself.
It takes weeks, but he is patient. The heap of rubble is finished – they bring on a new one. He builds and builds, careful to keep to the pattern, careful to keep it straight.
On the last morning of hope, he places the last fragment of brick at the step of the small building before he walks, calmly, to the commander’s office. They all know him by now: the mad whitey who is building a path across the courtyard. They don’t pay much attention when he pushes the door open.
When he emerges, he doesn’t try to hide the bloodstains on his dirty prison uniform. There is no need to. They’ll find out anyway. Then he sits down on his little path. The path with all the colours blending together in the intricate pattern only he can see. The straight path to the small building with the trapdoor in the floor.
And Boggel, his crippled child, became the orphan nobody wanted….