“Look,” Gertruida points at the laptop’s screen, “Anna Kourinikova. It says here she lives in Miami, have split up with Enrique Eglisias and she wants to – and I quote – live a life of simplicity for a change. She was born on 7 June, 1981, which makes her a bit young for Boggel; but what a birthday present it would be if she received an invitation to visit Boggel, all expenses paid! I mean, what has she got to lose? Life doesn’t get much simpler than here, does it?”
“But is she Russian?” Servaas is adamant that only a Russian girl would foot the bill ever since he saw the advert for mail-order brides. He says they are desperate enough to accept an invitation to nowhere to meet with a nobody. Precilla slapped him – hard – for being so callous.
“Of course. She only speaks American to fool Westerners. All Russians do,” Vetfaan says. He remembers the days during the border war, when their prisoners of war all drawled like John Wayne, It was a communist trick to confuse the troops into thinking they have met up with the CIA. It worked well…
“We have to raise money for her ticket, then. But we have to do it quietly, otherwise he won’t play along. You know Boggel – he hates charity; and if he knew we were setting him up, he won’t be interested in the least.” Servaas hesitates for a second, ” But if we send her a telegram on her birthday…”
“I like it!” Fanny does a little skip-dance. “I like it a lot! Gertruida, you can write the invitation. Vetfaan, have you ever considered cleaning up all the old scrap you heaped up behind the barn? It’s a real eye-sore. I bet if you and Kleinpiet collected all the old ploughs, bits and pieces and the rusting wrecks of old cars and tractors on your farms, you’ll get a pretty penny for them at the scrapyard. They sell those things to the Japanese to melt down again? How about it?”
“Look: they’ve got an e-mail address. Maybe we can send a telegram there?” Servaas will never catch up with technology. Maybe the rest (except Gertruida) neither.
To: Miss Kournikova, Miami,
Visit the jewel of the Kalahari. Meet interesting people. Live simply.
Expect you soonest. All expenses paid. Happy birthday.
Secretly – and honestly – not one of them expected an answer. Fanny and Precilla thought the clearing of the scrap from the farms was already reward enough for their Cactus-induced mad idea. Indeed, when they all sobered up the next morning, the idea seemed a bit absurd, to say the least. What were they thinking? Still the telegram had been sent and they couldn’t very well erase that fact, could they?
The group gathered, headaches pounding, in Boggel’s Place for their Green Ambulances.
“That was a stupid idea.” Kleinpiet cups his face in his hands. “Fortunately, we doon’t have to worry about her coming here. She’ll never do it, I’m sure.”
“Ja,” Vetfaan whispers so that Boggel can’t hear. “Miss Kournikova must get thousands of letters and telegrams on her birthday. Maybe she won’t even read our e-mail.”
At this moment, Gertruida sits down quietly – bleary-eyed and dejected.
“She’s coming,” she says with a tired voice, before resting her head on the counter. “She’s really coming.”
“Anna Kournikova? A Russian? Coming here? For me?”
Boggel can’t believe his ears. Of all the dim-witted ideas…! He walks out for some fresh air – and to escape the searching eyes of the townsfolk. Sure, they were only trying to help, but… Really, this is too much! Ordering a Russian girl to keep him company? What on earth is he going to do? And she’s already arriving tomorrow – she must be pretty desperate. Taking a deep breath, he returns to his place behind the counter.
“You guys messed up big time. How could you do this to me?” He sighs when he sees the pairs of red, embarrassed eyes staring back at him. “I’m going to ration your drinks from now on.”
“We’re really sorry, Boggel. It seemed such a good idea at the time. You know how we get after a few drinks – we just felt sorry for you and wanted to help.” Spreading her arms wide in apology, Precilla smiles sweetly at the little barman. “Anyway, how bad can it be? She’s quite beautiful, you must admit.”
“Maybe. But she’s a celebrity and I’m Boggel. She won’t even look at me twice; and that’s the cruellest thing of all..”
“Despair not, Little Man, we will all be at hand to help. Anyway, there’s nothing we can do now. She’ll be here tomorrow, and then we’ll make the best of it.” Vetfaan sips his Green Ambulance and smacks his lips. “Did you add enough cane to this? It tastes like plain Creme Soda.”
“Told you I’m rationing you guys. Tit for tat.” Boggel snorts. “Maybe we can convince Servaas to take care of this…this…Anna.”
“Don’t be like that. We’ve arranged a nice picnic for you two.” It was Gertruida’s idea. She’s such a romantic. “And it’s full moon tomorrow night. You know Boggel, pessimists never win battles. We’re going to dress you up nicely, match your socks for a change, and you’ll have a great time. You’ll see, it’s going to be wonderful.”
When the lorry of Kalahari Vervoer trundles down Voortrekker Weg, the entire population of the little town gathers on the veranda in front of Boggel’s Place. They’re all dressed in their best casual clothes – with Boggel standing out in the white shirt Fanny had starched and pressed for him. Even Vrede sits to attention when the lorry stops.
When the woman attempts to alight, ladylike, from the lorry, it’s Gertruida who is first to react.
“Oh. My. Word.” Eyes wide in surpise, she manages another single word: “Noooo!”