“You learn a lot by watching animals,” Vetfaan says, “especially the clever ones, like a jackal. They are so clever, they can be con-artists or politicians.”
“If you insist on making comparisons, try to use things that aren’t the same. It’s more convincing that way. Effective communication is a skill, you know?” Gertriuda looks up from her knitting with a irritated frown. She gets like this every time she reads a newspaper. Boggel tried to hide the latest edition of the Upington Post – the one with the president on the front page – but she ferreted it out from under the counter.
“I watched one the other day. Just as the sun set, I was on my way to my house, when I spotted a movement in the veld.” Vetfaan ignores Gertruida completely. “I stopped the bakkie and tried to see what it was with my binoculars. He was so well camouflaged that it took ages to spot him, but he was stalking a rabbit and I eventually got them both in sight. First, he crawled nearer, like a dog does when it wants to impress you. On his belly, crawl, crawl.” Vetfaan tries to imitate the animal, but his paunch is too big; and he has to stop when everybody laughs. “The rabbit knew he was there, I’m sure. It was watching the jackal very carefully, lifting his front paw as if he was uncertain what to make of the situation. Now, I don’t care how stupid you are: when you’re a rabbit and a jackal comes crawling along, you have a pretty good idea what’s on the jackal’s menu for tonight. That rabbit just sat there, staring at the crawling beast.
“And you know what he did then? He started fooling around – playing the clown. The jackal rolled over, played dead, jumped up and ran a little circle before going down on his stomach once more. The rabbit looked at him, went hop-hop, and looked again. All the time, the jackal moved closer. And closer.” Vetfaan signals for another beer as he remembers the little game the two furry animals played. “All friendly-like; two old pals having a romp in the sand for the fun of it.”
“Tell me he didn’t kill the rabbit!” Precilla’s hands are over her mouth, her pretty eyes wide in horror.
“That jackal sneaked ever closer, and then started to make little fun-bites. You know? Teeny little snaps of the teeth, showing the rabbit he was just putting on a show. Nothing to be afraid of.”
“Come on, Vetfaan! Tell me he didn’t do it!” Her voice is strained. “That poor rabbit shouldn’t play with…”
“You’re right. The last fun-bite was the killer. Chomp! Exit rabbit, stage left. Hero on stage, enjoying supper at his leisure. And he did take his time, too – as if the foreplay made him appreciate his meal even more. No running and skidding around rocks; just a meal delivered, easy as you please, right there where he wanted to enjoy it.”
“Ag no, Vetfaan! That’s a stupid story! How can you expect us to believe you?” Precilla desperately wants to believe it’s all a lie.
Ten minutes later, amid the hush on the stoep after Precilla’s angry departure, Gertruida gets up to fetch the newspaper.
“It’s true, isn’t it? The jackal and the rabbit and the game? I see it’s all over the front page as well. Zuma wants to speed up land reform – and abolish the principle of willing buyer, willing seller. He says the ANC will fix the economy. That; in the same week our credit rating has gone down again. And, he says here, businesses that backed the ANC, will prosper. What does that mean? It’s the most subtle, civilised form of bribery…
“No, that jackal played it perfectly. He got the rabbit. If we don’t wake up, the same is going to happen with us. It is, my friends, inevitable…”
Vetfaan agrees. He says he knows Nature must take its course, and that certain events are predictable in the maintenance of the food-chain. The ecosystem is the ecosystem, nobody should tamper with it. But he drives around with his rifle on the passenger seat these days. Just in case. At the very least, he can scare the jackal off to go and do some proper hunting.