It’s a well-known fact (Gertruida will tell you with great confidence) that some men suffer from CSO (Chronic Sperm Overload), which manifests with emotional outbursts and erratic behaviour. Although the condition is more common amongst the under-thirties, it has been documented in men of all ages. Other symptoms associated with the malady – although not in all cases – include inappropriate behaviour, such as buying silly, flat little motorcars; growing ponytails and dressing in clothes a number too small. She’ll also point out that these poor afflicted men tend to talk louder to sound more impressive, they express opinions on subjects they know nothing about, and they can’t stand the idea of losing an argument.
After Bianca left Rolbos, Servaas developed a forme fruste of CSO, which escaped the attention of the townsfolk at first. Sure, he became teary more often, but that’s what older people do, not so? He stopped eating chips and biltong, because he wanted to get rid of his impressive paunch – and that the Rolbossers accepted as long overdue. But when Servaas hitched a ride to Upington with the lorry of Kalahari Vervoer, returning with a 1970 Porsche bought with his carefully invested savings, Gertruida immediately made the diagnosis.
“Listen, we have to do something. One of these days he’s going to start tanning in a Speedo – and wearing green shirts with blue flannels and white shoes. If we don’t stop him, he’ll self-destruct.”
After an urgent and whispered debate on the subject, the patrons in Boggel’s Place launched an operation they called the Relief Of All Rolbos – which had the well-being of the town and Servaas in mind.
“Operation ROAR, friends, will only succeed if we keep it secret. If Servaas gets the faintest idea that we’re planning something behind his back, we’ll dent his self-confidence forever.
“Now, our task is simple: get an unsuspecting lady to be a guest at the new guest house, and let nature take it’s course.” Gertruida paused here, building the anticipation for her plan that was sure to follow. It did. “Next week, The Upington Post will carry the advertisement for Miss Rolbos (Senior). It’s a competition for ladies of a … certain age. The first and only prize is a week’s stay in the guest house. We’ll put in the usual stuff: the judges decision being final and all that. Then we can choose who we want here.
“We’ll tell Servaas we’re doing it to get more tourists to visit Rolbos and to generate business for the guest house. He won’t suspect a thing…
“And…we’ll make Servaas one of the judges. That way we’ll see what catches his fancy.” Of course they all agreed. It was brilliant. Wickedly clever. Faultless…
They ran the advert for three weeks.
Competition for Mature Single Ladies!
This is your chance to show the world you’re not over the hill. Richmond has a Book Festival, Hermanus celebrates whales. But in Rolbos, we salute senior women of fine character. Enter Miss Rolbos (Senior) and stand a chance to win a fabulous week-long holiday. To enter, phone Boggel’s Place and ask for Gertruida.
Then, one fine morning a week after the last advert, the phone rang. Somebody wanted to speak with Gertruida. Within minutes, everybody piled in to Boggel’s to hear the news.
“Well,” Gertruida says, frowning at Vrede who looked up expectantly, hopimg for a piece of biltong, “it’s not ideal. The woman who phoned, is a Miss Smellie. Virginia Smellie. Aged 55. Never been married. Used to run the school hostel in Calvinia, but retired due to her failing eyesight.
“My problem with her us that she’s too young. I had the over-sixties in mind.”
“Beggers and choosers, Gertruida.” Boggel spreads his hands wide. “We have to work with what we get.” He doesn’t say it, but he thinks it may be an advantage if the woman can’t see all that well. Servaas isn’t exactly an oil painting.
“But w can’t have a competition with only one entrant. It doesn’t make sense.” Whatever else they do, Oudoom will insist on fair play.
“Well…” Gertruida bites her lower lip in concentration. “There’s Mevrou, of course…and me. We’re old enough. And this Miss…Smellie won’t know us from a bar of soap. Sooo…we have the best out of three, and I call that a competition.”
Oudoom doesn’t like it at all. To have his wife enter a beauty competition (at her age!)…what would the other Dominees say if word gets out? And the Synod? Oh, he knows it’s all for a good cause (Servaas has been useless as an elder lately), but still… Gertruida realises this and has a quiet chat with the clergyman.
“Look, Dominee, the calf is in the hole. We are all committed to getting Servaas out of his depression, and if this is the only way…” She lets the sentence hang in the air for a second. “Tell you what: let’s enter her under a pseudonym. Something like…Perky…um…yes! Perky Galore. Nobody will connect that name with you, Dominee. And remember, it’s just for a minute or two – there’ll be a line-up and the judges will give their verdict. Smellie will win, Perky exits quietly, and Mevrou is Mevrou again. Come on, man, nothing bad can happen.”
Odoom considers ths, and eventually nods reluctantly. “Yes, well…”
Virginia Smellie gets off the lorry of Kalahari Vervoer with the help of the driver. Behind her, the panting Labrador watches as Virginia steps on to the sidewalk and unfolds her white cane.
“Come, Daisy.” Verginia snaps the arthritic fingers and winches at the pain.
“Oh, my word…” Boggel stares through the window as the Labrador jumps from the lorry. “She isn’t 55, Gertruida! She must have been born before the Great Depression. Look at her!”
Virginia Smellie is indeed a sight that’ll cause sore eyes. The sparse grey hair frame a wrinkled face, on which one can only guess where the nose stops and the chin starts. The impressive nasal apparatus protrudes over the area where the upper lip should be and defines the area where one would expect to find eyes amongst the wrinkles.
They watch in horrid fascination as the driver guides the stooped figure to the bar. It’s slow progress, giving Boggel time to fetch a new case of Cactus Jack from the store room. He’s just at the counter when the telephone rings.
“Hi there, good morning. You may not know me, but I’m Rita Sandman from Carte Blanche. I hear your town is honouring the aged ladies of your district with a beauty competition?
“Well, let me tell you: we think it’s a great idea. We’re considering sending a crew to film the proceedings. When will the big night be?”
It’s a good thing poor Virginia has a problem with her eyes. When she settles down at the counter, she doesn’t see the worried looks around her. She smiles brightly (lips curling up, wrinkles drawing back to show the glint of her eyes) and taps the floor with her cane.
“Now tell me – when do I meet the judges?”