She walks into Boggel’s Place, ramrod-straight (back), suitably curved (sides and front) and wearing a seductive smile.
“Hi, guys. What does a girl do for a drink around here?”
Vetfaan almost upsets his beer when he turns to look at her. Wearing her red hair in a stylish bob, and with the leaf-green eyes and inviting lips, she certainly is something to stare at. The rib-knit waistband allows her skirt to flare out from the hips, accentuating the deeply tanned and muscular legs. She’s wearing a loose-fitting cotton blouse with an embroidered Chinese-style collar, complementing the gentle curve of the elegant neck. What strikes Vetfaan most, is the impish sparkle in her eyes when she meets his gaze.
“Hello, big man, you like what you see?”
Vetfaan blushes to a beetroot red while he tries to think of something to say. Boggel comes to his rescue by serving some beers.
“He’s not well. Severe laryngitis, the doctor said. Highly contagious; but as long as he keeps on drinking, the germs can’t get out. So we’re safe.”
She wrinkles her nose in mock disgust and sits down carefully. Despite her caution, the sight of a goodly piece of upper thigh makes Vetfaan gulp down his beer.
“You’re new around here, Miss…” Boggel dangles the sentence in the air.
“I’m Lucy. Lucy Lombaard.” She smiles coyly as Boggel introduces himself and Vetfaan.
Boggel has known two Lucys in his life. Lucy Bredenkamp was one of the matrons in the orphanage – a huge woman with massive hands and a short temper. The other Lucy had the surname of Botha, a girl from Brakpan with busy hips and naughty eyes. Now, he decides, the stalemate is over: there are more fun Lucys than grumpy Lucys in the world.
“And what brings you to our little town, Lucy?”
Her eyes cloud over as she steals a quick look over her shoulder.
“My boyfriend.” Her voice drops to a whisper. “He won’t leave me alone. I told him a million times it’s over, but he suddenly develops this selective deafness and keeps on following me everywhere. He’s about as big as mister Laryngitis over here, but not that old. And a bit more handsome, if I may say so. He’s one of those cage-fighters, you see? I think they knocked him out too many times. He’s not quite normal.”
“Well, you mustn’t think Vetfaan is over the hill. He actually managed to catch an international criminal not so long ago. Put up quite a fight. The other chap had a gun, but that didn’t stop him.” Boggel giggles behind his hand as Vetfaan goes red again. “So your ex is on his way here, is he?”
“No. That’s why I came here. Back of the woods. As far away from civilisation as I can be. I’ll need a place to stay for a few days. Where’s the hotel? I’ll need a suite with a lounge. They must have a laundry service. And a manicure. And they must have a vegetarian menu – I can’t stand what they do to the poor animals. All that blood…ugh!”
The two men have some difficulty to keep their faces straight.
“Well, Lucy, I have good news and bad news. The good news is we can find somewhere for you to stay. Maybe we can get somebody to do your laundry. But the nearest hotel is at the Oasis Casino in Upington, and even there you’d be lucky to find a nail clipper. In Rolbos we eat meat and do our own nails.”
Only some girls manage to pout properly. It is done by the subtle pursing of lips and a corresponding narrowing of the eyes. Too much, and they look as if they invite a kiss. Too little, and it is totally ineffective. Lucy gives an excellent demonstration of a genuine, organic, free-range pout. Even the hurt look in the eyes seems genuine.
“Aw…damn! You serious?” She sniffs loudly. “I-I can’t go to Upington. Too many people. They’ll recognise me.”
“Oh.” Boggel stands back to look at her intently. “Are you famous or something?”
This time the pout is more pronounced, the pained expression even more so. “You-you don’t know who I am? Really?”
“I’m sorry. We live an isolated life here. Once a week we get The Upington Post, and radio reception is sketchy. No television. And we rarely have celebrities around, except if you take the pole-dancer from Prieska –she visited us a year ago.”
This time, Lucy blushes.
“It’s just…well, everywhere people stop and ask for my autograph, you see. Everywhere. Even in Vosburg, just the other day, an old omie asked if he can give me a hug.” She pats her hair in place and inspects her reflection in the mirror behind the shelves. “I play the role of Sandy in Sewende Laan.” Seeing the blank stares, she explains. “It’s a soapy.” More blank stares. “Oh for goodness’ sakes! It’s a television show. On every night. Everybody watches it.” She sighs. “Except you guys in this one-horse town, I suppose.”
She doesn’t tell them about the director, shouting at her to get her ‘voice’. He said it is important. I she doesn’t do it, she’ll never land the big one…
“Listen, miss, if you want to stay, I can help.” Vetfaan has recovered enough to have the presence of mind to talk with a hoarse voice. “It’s not much. A rondawel behind my house on the farm. The other option is to ask Oudoom and Mevrou to put you up in the parsonage. Not much else available, I’m afraid.”
“A dominee? In a parsonage?” Her brow shoots up in horror, widening her eyes so the white shows all round the green irises. “My dead body! I tell you! No way!”
Over the next hour, the townsfolk trickle in. The news of a TV star wanting to hide in Rolbos spreads quickly and everybody wants to have a look. Gertruida, of course, is the only one who recognises Lucy, something that puts a bit of composure back in the disgruntled redhead. By now, the late-afternoon glow isn’t restricted o the last rays of sunlight through the window; several rounds of Cactus has seen to that. Lucy is regaling the crowd with stories about her career and the role she is playing.
Gertruida says anybody can act if they have to play themselves, and it is most probably true in Lucy’s case. Sandy – her role – is apparently a young lady with an insatiable appetite for high living and male attention. Gertruida sees the way even Servaas is ogling the girl and shakes her head. When men become older, she decides, it is in an inverse relationship to their judgement. As the one goes up, the other goes down.
Eventually, Vetfaan gets up; and still using his rasping voice, announces that he’s off to bed. When he greets the crowd, Lucy jumps up.
“What about me?”
He shrugs. “I didn’t think you’d want to stay on a farm, young lady. No electricity. No manicure. No laundry. No vegetarian menu. It is, I must say, not exactly a place for a celebrity to stay.”
She does the pout-thing again and turns to the rest. “Is there anywhere else I can stay? Anybody?”
Oudoom is at the point of saying something, but Mevrou pumps him a solid one in the ribs. Gertruida still has Judge writing away in her library. Servaas has not had his blood pressure pills for two days. And Precilla shoots a warning glance in Kleinpiet’s direction, telling him silently of dire consequences if he should volunteer. With a big grin, Boggel shakes his head.
And so it happens that Vetfaan has to play host to the whims of Lucy, the girl who plays an minor role on the set of a popular television series. She- of course – is overjoyed. When she drove into town, she noticed the absence of television aerials. Not a single building had a dish mounted on a wall or a roof. Here, at last, she can act out the role of Sandy, the heroine of every household and the object of every man’s desire. She can find her voice here by being Sandy, the desarable wench…
But she won’t stay long. Vetfaan is too much of a gentleman (old enough to know trouble when he sees it) to take advantage of the young lady. And, as is so often the case, the glamour of entertaining a celebrity (especially a would-be one), soon wears off.
Vetfaan sits her down after that first morning, and delivers a long and sincere speech about life and what it’s all about. “Some things in life are real. Some things are not. To be a good actor, you must be able to tell the difference. And then you have to decide where you belong. That’s your voice. That’s where you belong…”
To her credit: she listened attentively. Asked a few questions. Got straight answers.
By the second day, Vetfaan tells her to clean up the mess in her room. That evening, she has to wash dishes. The day after will see her hanging washing on the clothesline and by day four, she’s enjoying the leg of lamb Vetfaan baked in the old Dover stove.
“Hey, this is delicious!” Without her makeup and dressed in one of Vetfaan’s old shirts over baggy jeans, she looks quite different to Sandy, the make-believe TV-star she created in her mind. She holds out her plate. “Please sir, may I have some more?”
They laugh at that. It’s an easy laugh. A genuine laugh. The laugh of pure enjoyment actors never seem to manage quite perfectly on screen or stage.
When they hold a farewell party for her, everybody is in Boggel’s Place to say goodbye.
“I’ll miss you guys,” she says. The tears are real.
“Funny what a few days on a farm can do for a city-girl like that.” Kleinpiet watches as her car leaves a line of dust on the road to Grootdrink.
“It’s a problem with these actors,” Gertruida says, “they become bigger than the role they play. It’s not healthy.”
For Lucy, the visit was a reality check. Two days later she walks into the studio to talk to the director. She tells him she will not be available as an extra any more. When he asks her what she will do now, she tells him it’s none of his business. She has, she tells him, found her voice.
Lucy’s Grill is a small and quaint little restaurant in one of our main tourist towns on the Wine Route. You have to book a few weeks in advance to enjoy the privilege of the main course – the leg of lamb, slowly baked in an old coal stove.
On rare evenings, when she’s not busy in the kitchen, she entertains her guests by being Sandy, the acting extra who got a leading role in real life. That’s when everybody agrees: she should have acted on a bigger stage.
And that – after all – is what finding your voice is all about.