Bianca (# 1)

Part of the old Sillimanite mine at Bokkop

Part of the old Sillimanite mine at Bokkop

“Boggel?” Gertruida leans across the counter, smiling coyly. “I’ve been wondering…”

Now…any experienced man will tell you that you must be very careful when a woman starts wondering. Vetfaan – with the new-found experience of the recently married – says it’s like the puzzled look a lion has when he’s caught a springbuck: which part to eat first is always a difficult decision.

The point, he says, is that the damage has already been done.  It is therefore not surprising that Boggel gets on his crate with slightly distant but politely curious look.

Sillimanite

Sillimanite

“If I added a bit of building next to the bar, we can have a guest house. You know? A bed-and-breakfast setup. I’ll do the breakfast and in the evenings the guests can have a few snorts here. And then we can market Kalahari tours: Vetfaan can take tourists to his farm or Kleinpiet can show them the old mine at Bokkop. And on Sundays Oudoom can expect more people in his church, which will increase the offering. And Sammie…”

“Whoa!” It’s all too clear that Gertruida has done more than just a bit of wondering. “I get it. I suppose you have the building plans all drawn up and approved already.” He’s being sarcastic, of course, which isn’t something you do to Gertruida. Vetfaan says that’s intellectual suicide.

“Of course, Boggel, you know I never do things half-heartedly. Look: this is what it’ll look like.” She produces a plan from her rather large handbag, spreading it open on the counter.

“But who will want to visit us? We’re so far off the beaten track.” Precilla has that frown that makes her look vulnerable. “And the economy being in the state it is…” She doesn’t bother to finish the sentence.

Oudoom smiles quietly. “If you will build it, they will come…”

***

  Most animals will stand still once the lion has grabbed onto it – there’s just no sense in fighting the inevitable. Boggel knew that, of course. You don’t climb Everest in flip-flops, so Gertruida’s annexe to Boggel’s Place got built in record time. The building inspector from Upington tried to do his job, but he never got past the counter at the bar. He was also the first (unplanned and unpaying) guest in Gertruida’s guest house. He tried to sign off the building the next day, but decided the official rubber stamp would have to do. Holding the pen the right way up, was too difficult.

***

“What a nice man,” Gertruida says as she watches the zig-zagging vehicle negotiate its slow way down Voortrekker Weg. “To think he had no objections to our building techniques. I was a bit worried, you know?”

“Blame it on Boggel and the Cactus, Gertruida.” Servaas tries to smile, but even he has a hangover this morning. “I thought he was a bit strange, especially later last night when he told us how he inspected Nkandla. He was rather convincing, telling us he needed two weeks just to inspect the bathrooms.”

“Ja, that’s before he did the pole dance with the bar stool. He became quite thirsty after that.” Vetfaan lets out a guffaw. “But now we have to think of a name for the place, so we can advertise in the Upinton Post and Farmer’s Weekly. Any suggestions?”

792“Well, Rolbos Guest House is out. That nice place in Calvinia has already taken that. We’ll have to think of something else.”

“Just stick to Gertruida’s B+B. Booze and Bed, The inspector showed us how to do it.” Servaas swallows two Disprins to prove the point. “Then you don’t even have to serve breakfast.”

***

In the week after the adverts ran, the whole town gathered in Boggel’s Place to watch the telephone. They wanted to be there when the first booking was made. Nothing happened…

“Do you think anybody saw the advert, Gertruida? Maybe we should have put in a photo of Precilla reclining on a bed.” Kleinpiet ducks in time to avoid being hit and smiles apologetically at his wife. “You know I  was only joking, sweetie.”

Lionesse hunt in packs. Everybody knows that. Kleinpiet should have ducked again, didn’t, and that’s why he got a not-so-playful playful slap from Fanny.

Then…the telephone rang.

***

“We’ve got our first guest.” Gertruida smiles triumphantly. “She sounds rather nice. Mrs Bianca Smuts. Says she’s just got divorced, and now needs peace and quiet. She doesn’t know how long she’ll stay, and she’s paying cash. Now that’s what I call good business.”

“How old is she?” Servaas is tries to look innocent.

“Servaas, we all know that behind your holier-than-thou look, you’re a lecherous old man.” It’s difficult to judge whether Gertruida is joking. “But, sadly, I didn’t ask her age. She sounds youngish, I’d say. Forty or so. Maybe a tad older. Whatever you may be thinking, she’s far too young for you.”

Servaas tries to look hurt.

“Oh, my, Servaas!” This time Precilla chips in. “Are you available again? You’ve been single for long enough – what’s it? Twelve years?”

Servaas tries to look innocent and hurt.

***

The arrival of Bianca Smuts in Rolbos, is something the men – especially – will talk about in hushed tones (when the women aren’t near) for a long time. They’ll have arguments about where, exactly, you start to describe the woman.

“Look, I saw her eyes first.” Kleinpiet will say.  “They’ve got that dark-chocolate colour that turn more yellow at the center. And they are never still, either. She’s like a predator, a hunter, a spy – she observes everything as if she’s constantly on the lookout for something. Alert. Intelligent. Tantalising.”

“No man. Didn’t you see the shape of her face? Those high cheekbones with the Julia Roberts mouth? Gee, whizz! And the perfectly-formed nose below that suggestion of a wrinkle between the eyes? Captivating.!” Boggel, who’s studied faces ever since he was a child, reckons she has a face that’ll put Mona Lisa to shame, especially when she smiles – which she does often.

“Oh, no, you guys.” Vetfaan will glance over his shoulder before giving his opinion. “Did you see those legs? Oh man! And she’s not shy to show them off, either. Not with that short skirt. Not a dimple in those thighs, and as smooth as a shot glass. Not a suggestion of stubble. I hate stubble.” It’s well known that Fanny sometimes lets a week go before sorting out the coarse growth she’s blessed with ; which is why the remark always elicits a laugh.

“Well, I harboured no such carnal thoughts.” Even Oudoom will join the conversation. “Some ladies just know how to dress. She loves combining red and white. Red for passion, white for innocence. Enticing, I’d say, in the broadest sense of the word. Nothing to do with knowledge of the flesh, mind you. Not me. I don’t look at women that way.”

This too, will result in a subdued guffaw or two.

“She’s got wild hair.” Sergeant Dreyer, a confirmed bachelor, will remark. “I wonder what it’ll look like all tussled up? And whether she’s a natural blonde? One of you chaps must find out.” This will always result in looks of utter amazement – how dare any man think things like that? But, because Sergeant Dreyer has this rather-slow-Tom-Cruise look, they won’t pursue the point.

“I like women who are not too short, and not too tall.” Servaas will hasten to add, trying to make light of it all. “Otherwise you can’t get in the shower with them.” His remark will result in a few wolf-whistles and a good-ol’-buddy slap on the back.

***

Understandably, the women of Rolbos won’t share the men’s high regard for Bianca Smuts. Gertruida will sum it up:

“That woman is a lioness. She’s dangerous…”

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