“I mean…escaping in a python? Really…?”
They’ve been discussing the technical details of Liar Louw’s latest tale. Liar (originally ‘Klasie’, but nobody calls him that behind his back) is an infrequent but most welcome visitor in Boggel’s Place. As the only diamond prospector in the Kalahari, Liar has a way of popping up unexpectedly, especially in winter when the nights can force the Mercury down to far below zero.
“Pythons,” Gertruida says because she knows everything, “are capable of swallowing antelopes – surprisingly large ones, too.”
“But then the antelope doesn’t escape again by using a Swiss Army knife. That bit was hard to swallow.” Servaas shakes his head. “Also the way he says he rubbed gravy-flavoured Vaseline all over himself to make it impossible for the snake to ignore him.”
“Well, he said he was in a hurry. The terrorists had surrounded him on that isolated hill…and it the thunder storm was on its way. I just loved the little detail he added: hiding from the rain because he didn’t have a rain coat. Quite ingenious.”
“We have to give him credit.” Vetfaan signals for another beer. “Liar’s stories aren’t one-dimensional. There he was, trying to lead the entire Cuban force away from the covert camp in Angola, outnumbered and outgunned. Then he got the snake to swallow him – not only because he had to use whatever camouflage available, but because he didn’t fancy getting his uniform wet!”
“….and so he smears goo all over himself? Gimme a break!” Boggel smiles at the way Liar had them all at the edges of their seats. “Still, he tells a good story. When the terries left, he slit open the stomach, climbed out and stitched up the wound. I liked that bit – not killing the poor snake, I mean.”
“Ja, he loves happy endings, Liar does.” Like the rest of them, Kleinpiet has a soft spot for the crazy prospector. The old man (impossible to guess his age) has a way of looking at you with his piercingly blue eyes and a frown that furrows his tanned forehead – and you’d think he is incapable of bending the truth. “The nice thing is: I think he actually believes his own stories.”
“Maybe the war blew out a few fuses in his head. It happened, you know? Some chaps came back as complete strangers to their families.” Precilla glances over at Vetfaan – she knows how the war had an influence on the burly farmer. “And look at the way he lives: he’s a nomad, walking the dunes in search of diamonds! Who lives like that? A backpack, a sieve, a few essentials…”
“…and a Swiss Army knife.” Servaas adds, hooting with laughter.
“And now he tells us the government is spying on him – using an aeroplane! He paranoid, I tell you.” Most of Liar’s stories are almost believable when taken with several pinches of salt, but the allegation that a spy-plane was tracking him, left them all unconvinced. Who cared what an off-beat character like Liar was doing in the desert? Surely Zuma’s problems with Escom, the railways, SAA, healthcare, the police service, Nkandla, nation-wide protests and Fifa were more pressing than worrying about somebody like Liar?
“Unless they want him to join the ANC,” Kleinpiet says, downing his beer. “They sure could use better liars than they’ve got now. At least our Liar is entertaining, which is more than you can say about our minister of police…”
The drone of an engine interrupts Kleinpiet’s sentence.
“An aeroplane? Here?” Gertruida’s brow shoots up in surprise.
They all rush out to the street, where they watch the Cessna fly overhead, heading in the direction Liar had taken.
“Well, I’ll be…” Vetfaan sits down heavily on the steps leading to Boggel’s veranda. “Does this mean…?”
“Yes, Vetfaan. Somebody is up to something. I have a bad feeling about this.” And, because she knows everything, the little crowd around Gertruida turns to Gertruida for an explanation. “We’ll have to help him.”
“You serious?” Incredulous, Vetfaan turns back to see the plane dip lower.
“When last did we see an aeroplane here, Vetfaan? And now Liar tells us a story and barely an hour later we have one – apparently following his tracks? What are the chances? No, I tell you, somebody is after Liar and there’d be a good reason for that. If there’s something I can’t live with, it’s an unexplained mystery. I want to know…”
Even while she’s talking, Gertruida is heading for Vetfaan’s old Land Rover.” Are you coming, or not?”
(To be continued…)