Doc Woodcock hates flying. His research has taken him all over the world and made him quite famous amongst the geneticists working on foetal abnormalities (a small and select group, usually men and women with thick glasses and no collective sense of humour) – yet every time he boards a plane, he has this feeling of acute anxiety.
Oh, he can explain how the genetic code works and why some families will never escape mutations in that code – but the science of keeping a massive piece of machinery in the air never made much sense to him. Heavy things don’t float about in the air – they’re not meant to, anyway. He’s told himself a million times it is stupid to be scared of flying and that the chances of a mid-air mishap are slimmer than being killed crossing the street. The advent of the taxi industry in South Africa contributed in no small way to this logic.
When at last the plane levels off on it’s route to Upington, he forces his thoughts away from his irrational fear, to concentrate on his strange relationship with the brilliant woman from Rolbos. After that party in 1994, when the country let out a collective sigh of relief and everybody still believed that then – finally – a better future awaited, they occasionally chatted on the telephone. That was before their weekends became something they both looked forward to and their chats became seriously intellectual discussions.
That’s when he met Molly Mulder.
He has to smile at the thought: Molly was the daughter of a once-famous politician, a staunch Nationalist who still had a degree of influence with the new government. Molly, however, could not be described as a conservative. She was a liberal in every way – from politics to morals. And she could sing..
The International Genetics Congress held in Cape Town was the first one to take place in the new, free and still desperately hopeful South Africa. The organisers (Modise, Mahlangu and Lipshitz – Event Organisers) were still learning the ropes as a fledgeling company in those days. They were collecting the expertise they would later be exhibited with the Soccer World Cup as well as several of our dear president’s numerous weddings (and other miscellaneous political events) that brought in the millions. On that occasion, however, they made several mistakes…
They thought to give the international delegates a taste of The Real Africa, and arranged accommodation for the dignitaries in the various townships surrounding Cape Town. Local families were paid well to vacate the only bedroom in these shanties, feed their guests traditional food and teach them about local traditions. Not only did this scare the unfortunate scientists into a completely new way of thinking about life in general and transport options specifically, it also gave rise to a unprecedented amount of paper work as the claims for stolen wallets and watches started building up.
On the afternoon before the gala dinner at Three’s Company Shebeen, their entertainer for the evening was hijacked in the middle of Cape Town; the usual, every-day technique involving the homeless beggar at the traffic light – with several friends hiding nearby. With both car and original owner now finding themselves in place or places unknown, a replacement had to be found.
That’s when Mr Modise remembered the recent party given for a prominent minister, when sushi was served on the bodies of semi-naked ladies (both the sushi and the girls being of rather doubtful repute). The evening’s entertainment included another pretty young lady with an unusual act: she did a seductive, slow, pole dance while singing old Voortrekker songs. Her rendition of Pappa, kom huistoe; a famous Briel Susters’ song; done while caressing the pole; had been a huge hit.
And so it was that Molly Mulder was hired to entertain the disgruntled scientists digging into their Mopani worm appetiser in Three’s Company Shebeen that evening. While most delegates barely looked up when she sang, Doc admired the way she saw the evening through. Despite her audience’s lack of interest, she gave what she thought to be her best performance ever. When she finished with a flourish (Ou Tante Koba, upside down on the pole), Doc was the only one to applaud.
Doc was, and always will be, appreciative of any honest effort. When the young researchers working in his laboratory made honest mistakes, he would rather praise their efforts than degrade their results. So it was that he felt intensely sorry for the poor woman who tried so hard to make them forget about the meal they had to face. He stood up quietly, went backstage and complimented her.
Now this, we must understand, is not something that has happened with Molly before. Gentlemen knocking on her backstage door (or any other door of hers, for that matter) usually have even more…shall we say...intimate?… entertainment in mind. To find a distinguished gentleman expressing his appreciation and not expecting anything in return…well, let’s say she was astounded at the wave of surprised gratitude that swept through her scantily clad body.
The games people play…and the fickle finger of fate. She told him he’s a real gentleman and how much his gesture meant to her. He said she belonged on a bigger stage with more sophisticated audiences. She said ‘oh?’, not knowing what to say. Doc said he had a friend who knew people…
One thing led to another, and when she landed her biggest role ever – in Jospeh and the Amazing Techicolor Dreamcoat as Potiphar’s wife – she visited the doctor while the rest of the cast celebrated yet another successful performance. She said thank you. He said ‘oh?’, not knowing what to say. She invited him to join the cast at the local bar.
She shouldn’t have done that.
It was here Doc met her ‘agent’ – a known member of The Americans, one of the most notorious Cape gangs. After his third drink – it could have been his fourth – Doc suggested that Molly leave with him. She did. The next day Doc’s car was stolen.
And then Gertruida phoned him. He lamented his loss and she asked a few questions. When she put the telephone down, Gertruida was a worried woman. Using her many contacts in the intelligence world, the ugly truth of Molly, the pole-dancing Mulder, came out. She was, in fact, married to her agent, known as Fingers Naidoo. He used her as a decoy: whenever she gave shows, he’d get the guest list and then direct very well targeted burglaries at the selected homes of some members of her audience. Not every show had somebody rich enough in attendance, so the sporadic thefts in various suburbs were never connected to her.
Gertruida flew down to Cape Town to break the news to Doc on the Friday the police moved in and arrested Fingers, Molly and the rest of the gang. Doc was devastated, only managing a few ‘oh?s” while Gertruida told him about Molly, her husband, and their life in crime.That was their first weekend together.
Doc Woodcock wakes from his reverie when the announcement is made.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is Captain Mokoena speaking. We seem to have a problem lowering the landing gear. Now, please don’t panic. Fasten your seatbelts and assume the ‘brace’ position.
“This is simply a precautionary measure, people. In fact, I can assure you I will do everything possible to get you safely on the ground. And…I may add I’ve done this before. Three times, in the air force, flying those Pilatus planes they can’t seem to maintain properly.
“Thanks for flying with us. We all hope to see each other again…soon.”
This is the moment that Doc Woodcock realises his fear of flying isn’t unfounded. In fact, as he fastens his seat belt, he knows for certain: he’ll never fly again…