Gertruida reckons they’re a man-and-wife team, although it is impossible to say which is which. Both are round, pony-tailed and dressed in khaki. The voices suggest they would make a good soprano duo. Their eyes are dusky-grey, filled with mirth and the bushy eyebrows tend to lift when they laugh. They don’t laugh a lot. And they talk in tandem. They arrived just after opening time.
“Hi, I’m Dee…”
“…and I’m Dum…”
“…like in Tweedle.”
Satisfied that they have introduced themselves properly, the two sat down to order Two glasses of milk… Cold… Thank you.
“We’re used to people staring at us…”
“…because we’re weird. That’s okay. We won’t stay long…”
“…they usually end up ingoring us, anyway.”
Of course Gertruida couldn’t help herself. She had to know.
“We travel a lot…”
“…and we make lists.”
It turned out that Dee wrote up all the positive things they meet along the journey, while Dum noted all the negative stuff.
“But Dum always wins…”
“…because my lists are longer.”
Oh yes, they’ve travelled extensively; here, there, everywhere. All over, in fact; except for the deserted places where no people live.
“There’s no point if there are no people around…”
“…because no people means no Evil…”
“…so there’s no point, is there?”
“So what are you going to do with your lists? Isn’t it a bit foolish to create a list of rights and wrongs?”
They laughed at that, the way you laugh at a joke you’ve heard too often before. You have to have lists, they say. Without lists you can’t compare and have no way of knowing how things balance out.
“But we don’t just make lists…”
“…we also leave gifts…”
“…for you to use.”
“Do you think they made a list here, in Rolbos?” Kleinpiet says after they left. “They surely are the strangest people I’ve ever met.”
“You can bet your life they made lists. They’re professionals, those two. Did you notice how intensely they looked at everybody? It’s as if they mentally weigh up each person they meet. I’m sure they’re extremely serious about this list-business.”
“But why, Gertruida? Why would anybody travel the world to check out what people are? I mean: what do they want to do with those lists?”
“It’s not a new thing, Kleinpiet. Remember how children believed Father Christmas checked out each child – and then decided what present will wait below the tree? Or how the Tooth Fairy rewards well-cared for teeth? We grew up believing we are being watched and behaved ourselves even when our parents weren’t nearby.
“Then we started attending church and Sunday school – and suddenly we became aware of a Higher Presence that knew about everything we did. That was a frightening thought – the constant watch of our most secret thoughts and deeds. Only, the stakes were higher. It wasn’t about a Christmas present anymore, neither about some coins in the slipper before your bed – now it had serious, eternal implications.”
“Yes, Gertruida, but people don’t believe that anymore. They murder and steal and lie as if it doesn’t matter.” Vetfaan shakes his head – the world has gone crazy. “Some attend church and make all the right sounds; but come Monday morning, and you’ll find them scheming to get to the top of the heap. It’s all about Pride, Ego, and Greed – nothing else matters anymore.”
“Maybe that’s why their journey is so important, Vetfaan. I mean: somebody has to remind us about moral values – about Good and Evil – otherwise society will destroy itself eventually. If the church and the courts can’t do it, who will?”
“They will tell the world, won’t they?” Dum is updating the Bad list.
“I hope so. In the other towns nobody believed us…”
“…and it’s a big mistake. That’s why everything …”
“…is such a mess…”
“…even so, we left the gifts, didn’t we?”
And so we leave the two intrepid travellers as they visit town after town and talk to person after person. Few recognise them for what they are and most are surprised to find that – in this day and age – Dee and Dum are alive and well, and still hoping to find enough to put onto the Good list to balance the Bad list.
Well, it’s a bit of a misnomer, really. What Dee and Dum do, is to dust off a few thoughts and impressions in the minds of people they meet along the way. Sometimes it’s a personal encounter, but mostly people only read about them. (Like you, now.) They force people to take a good, hard look at themselves. Their gift is the reminder that honesty and kindness are the two virtues the world needs more than any other.
Sadly, most people laugh at this absurd idea.
That’s why the Bad list is so long…