“Intoxicating.” Servaas murmurs as he sniffs the air while suppressing the little shiver that threatens to crawl down his spine. Precilla has just walked past, neat a freshly shorn prize ewe in her tight fitting jeans and white T-shirt, and smelling like spring (Vetfaan’s thought).
Vetfaan glances around to make sure they’re alone before nodding. Yes, indeedy!
“That perfume should be sprayed all over the world. We’d have a global Woodstock with flowers and music….and love, of course.”
“But,” Boggel interjects, “it’s artificial, chaps. Fake. Phoney. Unnatural. Women – as well as men, for that matter – were never supposed to smell like that. We’re earthy creatures, reeking of sweat and dust. Now, don’t get me wrong? Precilla sure smells nice, but it comes out of a little, expensive bottle. She’s saying: sniff the air, boys, I’m woman with a capital W. But it remains the oldest trick in the book to advertise your femininity. It’s not real.”
His two comanions on the veranda stare at him in horror.
“Gee, Boggel! Had a bad dream last night? Any tick bites on your legs? You can be such a wet rag when you set your mind to it.”
The bent little barman blushes at the rebuke. “Slept like a rock, I’ll have you know. But…I’m simply stating a fact. Why should a mixture of plant oils and alcohol make a woman seem more attractive? My point is this: perfume is all good and well, but the real allure of a lady should be her mind, not her scent.”
Of course he gets nods of complete agreement. No, they never implied that the feminine mind wasn’t important. Golly gosh! The outward appearance and the aroma surrounding a curvy figure only serve to attract the bees to the flower – but it is only a superficial allure. The real connection is a mental one, just like Boggel said. Especially if the said woman happened to wear a miniskirt and high heels. Then the mental attraction is irresistible.
Boggel goes pffffft! at this lie and goes out to get a fresh crate of beer.
“Another borehole dried up yesterday.” Vetfaan sits down heavily and snaps his fingers impatiently to order a beer. “I’ll have to start selling some sheep. I simply don’t have enough water for my flock.”
The Kalahari is perhaps the healthiest place on earth to live. The bloody conflicts in the rest of the world are far away, crime is almost nonexistent, cellphone connections are patchy and – best of all – people still care about each other. There is a downside, however: the area is prone to regular droughts. Not droughts like in a few months without rain – real, championship droughts that last for years and years. And, even worse, when the rain comes, often only a few drops splatter down before the clouds evaporate before the unforgiving sun.
“Oudoom is planning a prayer service on Sunday.” Boggel pushes over the beer. “For rain,” he adds unnecessarily.
“I’ll be there,” Vetfaan’s determined frown doesn’t lessen when he downs the ale.
“Politicians,” Servaas remarks, “are just like women. They create an image, a promise, you’dd like to believe in, and then they leave you high and dry.”
“Clouds that don’t rain.” With his glass empty, Vetfaan signals for another. “People do that, too.”
“Yes, I remember how the prez promised jobs and houses and electricity in every home.” Servaas gathers his brows in an angry line above his eyes. “Now we have loadshedding every day and Number One says it’s Apartheid’s fault. Twenty-one years later he still blames the whites. I mean, the way he drove out Jan van Riebeeck’s spirit the other day was simply atrocious!”
“Ja, without old Jan, he’d still be herding cattle. Now he’s stuck with Nkandla…and the 700 cases of corruption he used his position to disappear. That’s real progress.”
“Disappearing clouds, Kleinpiet. Our parliament should have a cloud in it’s coat of arms.”
Boggel knows his customers. Once they get into politics, it fouls up the atmosphere in the bar. He has to steer the conversation away from Jacob Zuma or else they’d all go home early.
“Girls, politicians…they all use perfume to attract. And, after all the aeons of time, generation after generation falls for it. One would have thought that evolution would have sorted out the gullible amongst us, but no! We sit back and allow the sweet scent of improbable promises lure us into disappointment.. When will we ever learn?”
Suddenly, a far-off rumble causes them all to sit up. Thunder?
They rush outside to watch a dark cloud building up behind Bokkop. It’s a wonderful, black cloud with a white crown. The wind around it whips up huge masses of water to obscure the sun.
Gertruida stands alone, in awed silence, as she remembers the words of that great poet, Jan F Cilliers:
Soos ’n vlokkie skuim uit die sfere se ruim
kom ’n wolkie aangesweef,
maar hy groei in die blou tot ’n stapelbou
van marmer wat krul en leef –
(Like a fleck of foam from the heavens/ a small cloud comes a-drifting/ Growing in the sky to a stacking/ of marble that curls with life)
“I can smell it!” Vetfaan’s jubilant cry causes Oudoom to rush from his study to also stare at the sky.
“It’s the scent of Life,” he breathes as he folds his hands together.
“It’s the promise of survival,” Vetfaan sighs.
“The sweet smell of truth, ” Boggel whispers in awe.
Precilla emerges from her little pharmacy to join the small crowd in the street. This time, not a single head turns her way as the first drops fall heavily into the dust at their feet.