What Vrede Saw…

Vrede wakes up with a start, turns his head to the side and then lowers his paw to the floor. Yes, there it is: the distinctive vibration of a vehicle approaching – from the Grootdrink side. No, it’s not the lorry, so it’s not worth it to storm outside to bark at the new driver. It’s something much smaller; one of these cars that run on electricity some of the time. He likes those cars – they stink less.

He gets up to stre-e-etch, shakes his head and looks up at Boggel, who is standing on his crate, talking to the big man. Getting no response, he pads out to the veranda. That one pillar has lost some of his scent: he’ll have to fix it quickly. If a stranger should arrive, he must know: this is Vrede’s patch…

It is, indeed, one of those funny cars that whirr more than they thump. Vrede watches as it approaches the town slowly, quietly; to reach the start of Voortrekker Weg. So far the humans at the counter hove not heard the vehicle. They’re talking about important things: Vrede heard about how the ANC in Potchefstroom shot themselves in the foot, something that made him cringe. Imagine firing a gun at your own paw? It must be terribly painful. If a dog were to do that, he’d be very angry at himself, that’s for sure!

The car slows down even more, whirring silently (almost, but not to a trained police dog) down the street. Vrede has seen such vehicles before, during his term of duty in Pretoria. Not many criminals use them, chiefly because they don’t know how. Bad humans prefer cars that make a lot of noise and leave tyre marks on the tar, for some reason. Then as the vehicle stops in front of Sammie’s Shop (why there?), the whirring stops … and nothing happens. He can see it is a woman behind the wheel – quite a nice-looking lady, even if she’s a bit too thin to his liking. Vrede likes a well-fed human – they’re usually friendlier. The thin ones don’t share biltong that easily and they laugh less.

When the woman climbs out eventually, his interest is aroused. This one he’s seen before. Smelled before. His trained nose sniffs the air as he lets out a small whine. Who is she? Damn! He’s losing his edge. All that sleeping under the counter is taking its toll. Think, Vrede, you have to remember!

As the molecules stimulate the nerve endings in his nasal sinuses, a memory in his brain gets triggered. Woman. Some time ago. Here, in Rolbos.  Friendly with Boggel. A woman…with sad eyes and a sadder smile…

Of course! She’s the one that came here with that other lady. They call her the Italian, the one that stays with the old man down the street. She’s quite well fed and very friendly. And she drove the lorry that brought the thin one, called … ? Boggel called her … come on Vrede! … yes, that’s right! He called her Mary.

Suddenly the street fills up with people. Boggel, despite his hunchback, leads the group, with the one they call Gertruida hot on his heels. She’s shouting something like I knew you’d come, while the fat one huffs along at the back.

Vrede knows better than to rush up and jump against Mary. She’s too thin, anyway – she may just fall over and then everybody would scold him. No biltong for tonight – it’s not worth it. Being the clever dog he is, Vrede sits down in the shade of the car to watch the meeting. For some reason the thin one is crying. Now, that’s something even a police dog fails to understand. Imagine one dog going to the trouble of travelling miles to meet another dog … and then to sit down whining? It’s not done! If you’re glad to see your dog-friend, you bark excitedly and bound around. And if you’re not glad – then why go to the trouble of meeting, anyway?  Humans have a lot to learn…

Now the thin one settles down, blows her nose in a tissue and tells Boggel they must talk. Vrede shakes his head. They can talk the day away, if they wanted to, later. In the dog-world they’d be sniffing each other to find out where the other one had been, ran one or two circles to show joy, and even licked a bit of anatomy here and there. Humans haven’t learnt that yet. They don’t do much sniffing and licking when other humans are around – they prefer to talk. It’s so primitive! It’s only when they’re alone that they revert to more modern habits. Vrede has seen Kleinpiet doing it at night. And last year, after Oudoom visited the bar, it even happened in the pastorie…

Vrede watches as the others return to Boggel’s Place, leaving Mary and Boggel alone to talk on the veranda. Boggel is quite serious, Vrede can see that. When he frowns like that, you know he’s trying to look important, like when he asks you if you’d like some biltong. But Mary – now there’s a work of art for you! She starts off by crying copiously. With the tissue drenched, Boggel has to hand her a handkerchief. If that’s not enough, she starts laughing. Not any old ha-ha laugh like Gertruida does when they tell her an old joke; a laugh that makes her cry all over again. If Vrede ever turned into a human, he decides, he’ll have a bag full of handkerchiefs ready every day. The rate at which women are able to shed tears, is astounding. No, dogs are better off. They don’t go about life in such a clumsy way. Have you ever seen a dog with a spare handkerchief? They don’t need it. They’re far too civilised for that.

Now Boggel and Mary sit down on the veranda, holding hands. Vrede can see how the rest of the town crowds the window to peek at them. That too, is stupid. A dog wouldn’t do that. If a dog wants to see something, he’d come skidding around the corner. And if he’s well-brought up, he’d even try to look guilty. Not this lot. They’re like the baboons on the fat one’s farm: whenever he (Vrede) is around, they peek from behind the trees, thinking he can’t see them. Not very intelligent, are they?

Vrede flinches as Boggel and Mary kiss. It’s so disgusting! Man! Dogs do it much better. They’ll inspect and look and sniff – but they always respect the other dog’s space. This thing with kissing is so totally weird! Why would you slobber all over your friend to show you like him? And that tongue-thing is simply disgusting…

For some reason the lot behind the window starts cheering. Vrede, in exasperation, bends his head towards his rump, so his hind paw can reach his ear. It always itches there when he gets frustrated. Why on earth, if they wanted to tell Boggel and Mary they’re happy, don’t they come out and tell them so?

With a resigned aaarf, Vrede gets up and walks to the bar. Maybe it’ll be better if he takes a nap beneath the counter. By the time he wakes up, the people may have come to their senses. And maybe, if he’s lucky, one of them will feed him a slice of biltong…

4 thoughts on “What Vrede Saw…

  1. Kozo

    You deserve a slice of biltong for this post, Amos. I love the part about scratching behind the ears when frustrated. I might start doing that instead of yelling; it seems so much more civilized.


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