Gertruida, who knows everything, will tell you that thoughts remain the biggest mystery of all. We can know everything about bosons and quarks, about ecosystems and planetary orbits, and even postulate a theory on a free and fair South Africa – but we can never explain the origin of thoughts. Why would a certain little neuron in a certain place in the brain suddenly give a minute electrical impulse to secrete a micro-quantity of a protein neurotransmitter…and violla!, a thought is born? And every minute, every second, thousands of thoughts get generated to tell us about our environment and circumstances – each of these a judgement call to decide what to do next.
Take Bianca, for instance. Yes, she has a lot of memories (how does that work?) and many stored experiences (don’t ask how!); but her life (like yours) has been governed by thoughts. Millions and mllions of them. And every one of these contributed to her sitting in Boggel’s Place – it is an inevitability that cannot be denied. Lond ago, she believed in coincidences – not any more. She had decided on Rolbos because nobody (she hoped) would look for her there. She acted like a harlot, because she thought people would then never suspect that she had two lists that could destroy the core of the country’s government.
And then – like it does for each of us – Life happened. Servaas got shot because he was infatuated and in all pobability saved her life. Above all – now that she has met !Ka – she can only marvel at the little community she thought to be ignorant and backward.
There are other thoughts racing through her mind as well, of course. Her wasted youth. Tiny, her impotent protector. The sham marriage to Charles. The futile effort to expose the rhino-poaching syndicate. All of these events led to her desire to help others and regain her respectability. For a while, she thought she was doing fine. Then, when she wanted a break and visited Matron Delport, the letter arrived.
My life is a failure. No matter how hard I try, I end up with too many impossibilities. There is no way out: my life started wrong…it’ll end that way. These lists are the fuses leading to the barrel of political dynamite. It’s burning already. The explosion is inevitable.
“Bianca?” Fanny’s voice shatters her reverie. “Hey, girl, are you daydreaming?”
“Er, no. Yes, I suppose so. Everything is so overwhelming…”
“Listen, I have an idea. I haven’t discussed this with anybody, but let’s all chip in and try to get you to safety.
“First of all: you’re not safe here. If those people traced you here, they can track you anywhere. We have to get you to a place of safety.”
Bianca, she states, is about her height, blonde, and although she – Fanny – is a bit younger than Bianca, their looks aren’t so dissimmilar.
“Gertruida, you’ll remember that my father is an internationally known man. He has contacts you wouldn’t believe – especially in television.
“Now: Bianca can’t go anywhere, we agree on that. But I can. I think Bianca must take my passport – I am a British citizen, remember? – and fly out to London. As far as anybody is concerned, Fanny Featherbosom is going home to visit her dad. Once there, she can tell my father everything – and then they can decide how to spill the proverbial beans.”
“But what about the airport, and Customs and Immigration? She’s be travelling with your passport…” Oudoom frowns his displeasure. This is fraud…
“Nobody looks exactly like their passport photos, Oudoom. The passport is valid, I don’t need a visa, and it gets Bianca out of the country. The alternative is for her to stay here…and you can guess what’ll happen next.”
“I think it’s brilliant.” Gertruida stops any further discussion. “I’d suggest Bianca flies out, but that we mention this to no-one. No phone-calls to your dad, Fanny. No letters or e-mails. We’re most probably being watched very carefully, and if they – whoever they may be – find out what we’re planning, the hunt will simply shift to England.”
“You got them both?” The presidential spokesman glares at the speaker-phone. He’s fed-up with the bungling he has to handle every day. He’s an expert at hiding his true feelings, but lately more and more issues keep cropping up and it’s become almost impossible to remain calm. The Arms Deal, Nkandla, e-Tolling, the chaos in education and health, the damn situation with the Guptas, ESCOM…the list goes on and on. How many more lies must he think up to stop the media from finding out the truth? Is this what he fought for? Has the struggle come to this – a banana republic run by corrupt politicians? What happened to to old ideals – those that Mandela held forth?
He reaches for the bottom drawer where the Johnny Walker Double Black awaits.
“Yes, sir. Both of them. And that town, sir…,” the spokesman hears a derisive chuckle, “you don’t have to worry about them. A few ignorant, backward, drop-out farmers and a barman with a bent back. They think it’s just another case of robbery, and that the police have done a magnificent job. They suspect nothing, sir.”
“What about that woman? The nurse?”
“She’s gone, sir. Must have left after things in town got frantic – the shootings and so on. But I think she got the message. She must be frightened out of her wits. But we’ll keep an eye open for her. My guess is that she’ll go back to being a nurse in Uganda or somewhere. And remember – we eliminated that Charles character before he could contact her, so it is doubtful she knows anything of value.
“And sir…” the man hesitates before continuing, “…I think it was a bit of overkill to go after this Bianca woman. According to the people in town, she’s a sex-starved harlot. She even tried to seduce the oldest man in town. How desperate can a woman be? So she can’t be all that clever, can she? No, I think we can relax.”
“You’d better be right. I just can’t face another botch-up. What about that man who got wounded?”
“As stupid as a rock, sir. You remember how you always tell me to watch people’s reactions? Well, I did – I saw him in the bar. He was sitting there in a pathetic bundle, saying ‘ow‘ over and over again. The rest ignored him, so they must think he’s a bit dim, if you know what I mean.”
“Okay. Now get back to Pretoria.”
The spokeman presses the button to disconnect the line. At least this mess is mopped up, he thinks, as he unscrews the top of the bottle. One less thing to worry about…at last!
Way out over the Atlantic Ocean, Bianca sips the whisky from the plastic glass, thinking back over the experiences of the last few days. Is there a rainbow somewhere? Somewhere where she will find peace and happiness. Somebody waiting for her?
In his roomy office, the spokesman relaxes as the golden liquid settles his troubled mind. He’s thinking about the fact that he can reassure the president about the latest operation. At least he can tick this one off his worry list.
Old Servaas smiles at himself in the morror, thinking that age should never be a barrier to romance. It’s time he acknowledges the truth: he’s lonely. Hopefully, maybe, his future won’t be spent in solitude…
And Gertruida, paging through a National Geographic, reads the article on Blood Ivory. Her thoughs stray to the people who have so little regard for life, that they’ll kill an animal – to improve potency? How sad, she thinks, that humanity has sunk this low. War and poaching – isn’t it the same thing? Men trying to prove themselves…for what?
And so – in Pretoria, in Rolbos and in an aeroplane, people are busy with their thoughts. Little neurons fire away in their mysterious way, feeding information to other neurons that do the planning for the future. Mostly, people tend to think about themselves, and that’s natural. Gertruida cannot help but remember Ferdinand, the choices they made and the events that followed those choices. In a way, that’s exactly what Bianca is doing. But, like Servaas and the spokesman realise: we are where we are because we thought what we thought.
And as everybody knows: you can’t unthink the past. Our bodies are programmed to follow these thoughts; and so often, too often, we forget that we have an option to question the instincts that guide us.