“He’s really not himself these days.” Gertruida sips her beer tentatively while she watches the bent barman polishing glasses at the other end of the counter. “Look at him, he’s not even chatting to us.”
“Ja, he’s got that hang-dog face and he seems even more humped than ever.” Leaning sideways, Servaas imitates the curve of Boggel’s back. “Maybe he’s in pain.”
“Har! It’s the hump, all right – or the lack of it – if you ask me. He’s been here for years now, and he’s not getting any…if you know what I mean.”
“Ag sis man, Vetfaan!” He gets a punch on the shoulder from Precilla. “Is that all you men can think of? Relationships aren’t formed in bed, you oaf! Couples need more than a quick roll in the hay, I’ll have you know. They need quiet moments for sharing thoughts more than they need anatomical athletics. And I’ll have you know: a gentle fingertip caressing the outline of a face is more sensual than all the gasps, grunts and sighs.”
“Don’t you worry, Precilla,” Fanny quickly defends her husband, “just the other day he brought me some flowers he found in the desert.”
“That’s my point, guys. You share things with your husbands. You wake up to find a true companion in bed with you. You spend your days thinking of new ways to make your partners happy. Now…Boggel doesn’t have that. I tell you: he’s lonely. Yes he’s got us, but that’s not the same.”
“I understand what you’re saying, Gertruida. Me? I get lonely too, but I have the memory of Siena, and that helps a lot. Poor Boggel doesn’t even have that.” Servaas finishes his beer and calls Boggel over for a new one.
“Boggel, is there anything we can do to help?” Gertruida is like this: she gets right to the point. Despite knowing this, Boggel is taken aback.
“What do you mean?”
“You’re moping. You look like Vrede when you take his food away; or Vetfaan, when his tractor breaks down again. We’re not used to you being like this, Boggel. We want to help.”
Boggel shrugs his uneven shoulders. No, thank you. He’s fine. Nothing wrong.
Testosterone is a terrible hormone: it makes men lie. Gertruida knows this and understands the fragility of the male ego, so she doesn’t pursue the matter. Only when he’s returned to his original place, does she start whispering to her companions.
“We must find somebody for him. Even if it is a temporary arrangement, that’s okay. But I can tell: he needs a bit of female attention – look, his hair isn’t combed and his socks don’t match. We have to come up with something.”
“Cheri! That girl with the fishnets! We can get her…?” Vetfaan starts, but an angry look from Kleinpiet silences him in mid-sentence. “Then again, maybe Mevrou will object…” his voice trails off as his attempt to divert Fanny’s attention from Kleinpiet’s past history fails. The glowering look from his friend tells him to shut up immediately.
“If you are thinking to get somebody from the district, even from as far away as Grootdrink, I’m afraid we’ve got a problem. As far as I know, there’s only one unmarried woman nearby.” They all nod simultaneously. The widow Badenhorst…
They all know the story. Magrietjie managed to punch and kick her way out of three marriages before she married Albertus Badenhorst. A formidable woman of prodigious proportions, Magrietjie isn’t somebody to argue with. Yet, when she sets her mind on the next man to help keep her farm afloat, she is unusually successful. It is rumoured that her cooking skills proved that the road to a man’s heart runs through his stomach – amongst other things. Gertruida says she’s got some kind of split personality: the soft, caring one gets the men. The other one gets rid of them as soon as their funds dry up.
Albertus apparently refused to buckle under, and withstood her moods with the patience that can only come from true love. Sadly, even his resolute determination wasn’t enough. The police could never prove that the mushrooms in the Pasta Alfredo were added with murder on her mind. Her defence was simple: he brought it home and she cooked the dish he loved so much. Oh, she said, she hates pasta – that’s why she ate lamb chops that evening.
“No, even if she’s the last woman…” The horrid look in Servaas’ eyes says it all.
“Then we’ll have to import a woman. It’s as simple as that.” Gertruida checks that Boggel is still far enough away. “Any Ideas?”
“You mean a mail-order bride? Like the Russians? I saw an advert in The Upington Post the other day.” Servaas’ hand flies to his mouth as the blush creeps up from his neck. “I-its not that I was looking for something in the personal column at all, I only saw it by accident, you understand?”
They laugh at that, but the idea sticks. What if they got Boggel a mail-order bride? They can scan the photos, sift out the bad ones, and then decide on a finalist. Wouldn’t it be such fun to see Boggel happy again?
And so they all bid Boggel a sheepish goodbye to trudge off to Servaas’ cottage, where The Upington Post holds the key to Boggel’s happiness.
At least, that’s the idea.
Some people think Rolbos is an isolated little village sleeping amongst the heat waves of the Kalahari. How wrong can they be? Where love calls out in pain, the answer is never simple…