“We’re a bunch of unfit misfits.” Vetfaan runs a worried hand over his paunch. “I’ll have to start doing some exercise, otherwise I’ll have to ask Sammie to order a whole new wardrobe for me.” Finishing his beer, he signals for another.
“Exercise can do more harm than good, Vetfaan. You start wearing down those joints, and it’s off to Cape Town for a hip replacement. And there’s the danger of overburdening your heart, too. And…remember what happened to Piet Potlood?” Kleinpiet shakes his head; one has to be very careful with these things.
Vetfaan nods. Poor Piet had the dream of completing the Comrade’s Marathon, and started running from Grootdrink to Rolbos at least once a week. He’d flop down on a chair in Boggel’s Place and always ordered water on arrival – something that cause much more consternation than his running did. Gertruida said it was the stress that made his hair first go completely white, before falling out. That’s when he began using a cosmetic pencil to draw in a small, black moustache on his upper lip. Vetfaan shudders at the thought.
“But look at you, too, Kleinpiet. Your belt is almost too short these days as well. No man, I think we must do something. Maybe start walking or doing those slow Japanese exercises where you hardly move. Surely you can’t do harm with that?”
“Boys, I’ve still got a Jane Fonda tape from way back.” Seeing their puzzled looks, she explains. “She’s a very sexy lady dressed in a leotard, and she tells you what to do. It’s not hard, but if you do it every day, I can guarantee results. I used that tape when I picked up weight a few years ago – and look at me now: I’m still in shape.” Precilla has been worried about Kleinpiet’s weight for some time now, and pounces on the opportunity.
“Do we have to wear those as well? Leotards, I mean? I refuse. I’m a man, not a circus clown.”
“No, Kleinpiet, you can exercise in anything you want, any time you want. It doesn’t even have to interfere with your visits to Boggel’s place. I’m sure the two of you can manage that, somehow?”
Landslides, avalanches and an obsession with weight have a few things in common. They start small, and they can become all-consuming. What started as a hesitant, uncertain few steps this way and that on the music, while Miss Fonda shouted out instructions, became a race to see who lost the most. They meet weekly in Boggel’s Place, where Oudok placed his scale. Much like two boxers, the two men would shed as much clothing as is socially acceptable, step up to the scale and wait for Precilla to announce the reading.
It was a neck-on neck affair for weeks. The sessions with the tape became longer and longer. Some weeks Kleinpiet won with a gram or two, at others Vetfaan was the victor. Boggel started taking bets and made quite a bit of money this way.
After yet another weigh-n where Kleinpiet lost 25 grams more than he did, Vetfaan decided it was enough – he announced that the next week would be the final week of this ‘sissy-dancing’ and that whoever lost more in the coming week, would be the overall winner. Kleinpiet agreed thankfully.
“Platnees, bring your guitar. You must play for me.”
Platnees has worked on Vetfaan’s farm for many years. He knows all about the farmer’s moods, most of his strange ideas and about the peach brandy he keeps locked up in the old chest in the dining room. Despite this, he is astounded.
“Eish! The last time I heard such a story, was when Saul asked for Master David to play for him. Oudoom had a sermon on that a few years ago. That story didn’t end well.”
“No, man! I just need music to dance to. You can’t expect me to do all those fancy steps in silence, can you?”
It takes a long time to explain what it’s all about, but eventually Platnees gets it. “So I play, you dance, and you win Mister Kleinpiet?” Scratching the stubble on his chin, he eyes Vetfaan critically. “It’s a bit like crooking, isn’t it? And you’ll have to pay me.”
“Name you price, you scoundrel.” Platnees knows it’s just a mock show of anger. Vetfaan’s eyes have lit up in triumph – victory is assured.
“Two bottles of peach brandy. One is for playing – I don’t play so well if I haven’t had a sip. The other one is payment. And I promise I won’t tell anybody.”
Platnees goes off to find his petrol-tin guitar after taking a few healthy swigs. On his return, he notices that Vetfaan has cleared the stoep, and that he has stripped down to the blue underpants. He’ll have to remember to wash the red one before church on Sunday. Being careful not to say anything and averting his eyes, he takes a seat on the top step to the stoep.
People make a lot of noise about poor Lance Armstrong and all those athletes that spend thousands of Dollars to use performance-enhancing drugs. It’s because such contestant s use complicated and convoluted programs that involve drugs that are bad for you. They should have asked Platnees’ opinion about speed and endurance; he’d tell them the answer is peach brandy. And even if you’re a bit sozzled, they can’t ban you for life, can they? As long as you stay in your lane, you’re fine.
So, while Platnees started off with a slow waltz and a few old Voortrekker songs, he gradually changed to his rendition of the popular tunes of David Kramer. However, the peach brandy enhanced his performance to such an extent, that Vetfaan had great difficulty moving his feet to the rapid beat.
Halfway through the bottle, Platnees is in his own world. He sees himself on stage next to Mister Kramer, with a whole rugby field full of people cheering madly. Dawid steps up to the microphone to introduce South Africa’s newest sensation, the man from the Kalahari who can play the guitar like no other. The crowd goes mad as young girls throw various bits of clothing at the stage. ‘Ah, the rewards of fame’ Kramer smiles at Platnees, ‘you know you made it if they start doing that.’
Platnees, now at full speed and completely oblivious of his surroundings, is halfway through the next song when Vetfaan’s scream stops him. In a desperate attempt to keep up with the tempo, Vetfaan has pirouetted off the stoep. That didn’t do the damage. The prickly pear did.
It’s a well-known medical fact that you can’t put clothes on a man full of thorns. You have to remove the thorns first. To do that, it’s preferable to have a sober assistant who can focus on one thorn at a time. It also helps if your assistant doesn’t think the whole incident is hilariously funny.
Also, it isn’t customary to wash your prickly pear every now and then. People seem to think these cactus plants have a self-cleaning ability, which is obviously not true. Two days after Oudok removed the thorns (after the wild chase to get him to the doctor, while Platnees did his rendition of an ambulance siren with remarkable gusto), Oudok sent Vetfaan to Upington to get some antibiotics and a hefty dose of cortisone.
“It’s the cortisone,” Vetfaan mumbles at the weigh-in. “I was way ahead until I had those shots.”
“No,” Precilla smiles sweetly. “It’s the new underpants. Those are far too big – now that the swelling has gone down.”