Following the story of Dogs of Peace…
The arrival of miss Fanny Featherbosom in Rolbos marks the exact minute of Vetfaans final decision to abandon all and any plans to erect a satellite dish on Verlorenfontein, his farm in the outback of the Kalahari. It’s not that he wants to be an ignorant hermit or the fact that he hates violence so much; he says no man in his right mind would want to look at that scene again – ever.
It started, of course, when Sally Sheppard convinced him to host ‘maiden or maidens yet unknown’ in the very popular reality show Boer soek ‘n Vrou (Farmer looking for a wife). Sally, a beautiful and rather curvy young lady, left behind a starry-eyed Vetfaan and Shirley, the overweight and love-starved Basset. At night, Vetfaan dreamed about the company he was sure to share one of these good days, while Vrede, the town’s dog, had a much more tangible and satisfying experience of said company. In fact, the exhausted Vrede only rose rather sluggishly to eat his meals long after Boggel’s Place started serving every day, much worse for the wear but as happy as a dog can be.
Shirley, on the other hand, seemed to have reached into the deep well of abstinence to find the source of irrepressible energy. She became completely un-Basset-like, trotting up and down Voortrekker Weg with a happy doggy smile while poor Vrede tried to muster the strength to use some muscles to yawn. And Vetfaan, a man living so near nature, took note of these events and convinced himself that every man-animal on the planet deserves to be spoilt like that at least once in his lifetime. His dreams, one may add, were strictly R-rated.
It is not surprising then, to find Rolbos gathered in Boggel’s Place to welcome Sally and whoever she brought along on the day she is expected to arrive. The telegram gave only the date, so Vetfaan was up at dawn to prepare for this momentous occasion. He shaved off the stubble, trimmed the moustache and slicked down his hair. He had to rummage around for clean underwear, iron his khaki shirt and shine his boots with sheep’s fat. The pants proved to be a problem. His every-day pair of jeans have several dark blotches on them – oil, paraffin, sweat and some paint he used to cover the rust marks on his bakkie – and it would have been in bad taste to welcome a celebrity like that. The old pair of rugby shorts, so handy when shearing sheep, don’t fit that well around the middle any more; which left his khaki-coloured short pants. When he tried that on, the top button refused to take the strain of the impressively bulging abdomen, and popped off into the toilet, where it sank and disappeared into the French drain. A safety pin, carefully hidden behind the belt buckle, had to do.
Everybody complimented Vetfaan on his slick appearance, and even Mevrou said something nice. The stage was set. The town held its breath.
The line of dust on the horizon is first seen by Servaas, whose turn it is to be the lookout on the stoep. His excited shouts cause a mini-stampede as the bar empties and everybody crams together in an excited group on the veranda. Wild speculation follows. Is she blond? Brunette? A city girl? Tall? A model? Maybe a singer? What is she wearing – something provocative? The men stare at Vetfaan with obvious envy; while the women suddenly act like school girls again, giggling and whispering amongst themselves.
Much to their dismay, the vehicle appearing from the cloud of dust is not Sally’s Land Cruiser, but a rather large truck. A huge sign on the side announces the arrival of Real TV Adventure Productions. Squealing brakes bring it to a stop right in front of Boggel’s Place. Men cascade from the lorry and, seemingly oblivious to the stares of the crowd, start off-loading cables, cameras and lights. A deep rumble inside the truck signals the start of a powerful generator. Ten minutes later, timed to perfection, the Land Cruiser glides into town.
Sally Sheppard, dressed in a sequinned blouse and a too-short skirt, pushes back her Ray-Ban’s and strides over to Vetfaan.
“Are you ready, you he-man you?” She punches him on the arm and smiles brightly at him. “Let me tell you how this works.”
“First, some background on your beau. We had great difficulty in persuading any of our girls to come and live in this.” She sweeps an arm towards the vast expanse of sand known as the Kalahari. “Fortunately we had a late entry – an English girl sent by one of our main sponsors. Fresh out of Oxford, she comes from a very rich and aristocratic family. Normally I would have refused of course, but she represents our main backer; so I said it’s okay, but she must come here. Don’t you think it was such a good idea? Brilliant diplomacy? See, I keep everybody happy. That’s me: Sally-the-wizard-of-solutions. You got a problem, you come to me. Now let’s get the cameras started.”
Breathless after her monologue, Sally takes the dumb-struck Vetfaan by the hand to lead him to the middle of the street, where she nods at the cameraman who has set up his equipment in the meantime. Lights get switched on. A boom microphone dangles above them.
“Hello and welcome to Rolbos!” She’s addressing the camera with a brilliant smile and a wink. “Here we have a lonely farmer, Vetfaan, ready to meet our most adorable contestant. As you know,” she goes on in a conspiring tone, “the two will live on Vetfaan’s farm for a week. After that, we’ll return and see how they’re getting on. At that stage either of them can terminate the game, or both of them can choose to pursue the friendship. If they choose to continue, we’ll move in with them and film their progress. But of course,” she gives a dismissive wave with a much-bangled wrist. “you know that already. Now, let us witness the moment of their first impressions. Bring on Fanny, let the show begin!”
An aide rushes to the back door of the Cruiser to open it with a dramatic bow.
And Fanny Featherbosom starts getting out.
It takes ages.
Fanny Featherbosom is arguably the biggest woman ever to visit the Kalahari – both in length and girth. Gertruida gasps at the sight of the rouged cheeks and the postbox-red lips. Boggel stares up at the mop of unruly red hair in complete amazement. Precilla’s hand clutches at her breast as the tea-pot shaped woman manages to get a tree-trunk leg on the ground – the other obviously still stuck somewhere inside the vehicle. Kleinpiet gasps as she opens her mouth to protest at her discomfort, showing the large and uneven yellow teeth. And Servaas, who has no sense of humour, tries in vain to stop a bout of giggles.
Fanny’s arms start flailing around as her centre of gravity forces her ample frame forward, outward, and makes her lose her balance. Vetfaan, being the nearest, instinctively lurches forward to grab her; but in the heat of the moment he forgets a simple mathematical reality: momentum. The law governing this is very simple: if a mass of a bigger size moves along at a certain speed, a smaller mass of less size will slow it down, but be carried along the original trajectory.
The result is predictable.
The camera zooms in on the abundance of British-pale flesh colliding with the deep tan of Vetfaan’s muscular (if overweight) body, propelling him backwards, tumbling, turning, and eventually squashing him face down on the uneven surface of Voortrekker Weg.
Sally doesn’t miss a beat. “Isn’t that wonderful!” She’s in front of the camera again, completely unruffled by the situation. ” Boy meets girl. The gallant knight to the rescue! Isn’t this just the most romantic meeting you’ve ever seen? Let’s get Vetfaan’s first impressions…”
The camera follows her as she kneels down to talk to Vetfaan. Fanny is still perched, very horseman-like, on his back, looking for all the world as if somebody pushed her ‘Pause’ button.
“Sooo, Vetfaan” She holds a microphone to his face, “what do you think of your English rose?”
She underestimated the extent of Vetfaan’s vocabulary. After thirty seconds she looks up at the sound engineer and draws a finger across her slender throat. There is no way they’ll be able to use that scene.
“Let’s go,” she tells the crew. “We’ll be back next week” Then she turns to the little crowd with a triumphant smile. “This,” she says, ‘ is why I just love this job so much.”
Even the sun seem reluctant to set today. It hovers (in sympathy?) above the horizon as Vetfaan and Fanny drive off to Verlorenfontein. The group in the bar maintains a full minute of reapectful silence for their – as Gertruida puts it – fallen friend.
While they discuss the day’s events, Shirley-the-Basset starts prodding Vrede. He’s slept through all the excitement. Surely he’s recovered enough by now? Then, with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes, she starts licking his face. Tenderly, sure; but with a certain urgency even the exhausted Vrede won’t be able to ignore.
(To be continued…)