Tag Archives: friends

Daily Prompt: Something So Strong – The Vrede Story

The prompt today: Tell us the origin story of your best friend. How did you become friends? What is it that keeps your friendship rockin’ after all these years?

Credit: woodenwindow.com

Credit: woodenwindow.com

“It’s difficult to define the factors that keep friends being friends.” Servaas has that faraway look you only get after the sixth Cactus Jack. “Look at me: I’ve not kept a single friend for longer than a few months. That is, of course, with the exception of Siena.” He stares balefully at Oudoom, mutely challenging the reverend to take up the argument.

Now: everybody in Rolbos knows Servaas can become rather morose, especially when summer is on its way out end autumn chills the evenings. This is when you need a proper goose-feather duvet or a warm sleeping partner. Boggel smiles at the thought: he’s got Vrede, who loves snuggling in under the blankets when he thinks Boggel has dozed off. The presence of the old police dog is strangely comforting.

Servaas, however, is too stingy to buy a duvet and spends his winter nights in several layers of clothing under the threadbare blankets he and Siena got for a wedding present soon after WW II.  This causes the old man to get up in the morning and grumble all day long. Then at night – like now – he sits in front of the hearth in Boggel’s Place, looking for somebody to argue with.

“Ag, you know Servaas,” Precilla takes up the challenge with a twinkle in her eyes, “I think Koos Kadawer likes you a lot. He’s forever staring at you with undisguised admiration.”

“Because I refuse to breathe out my last. Koos Kadawer doesn’t count. Undertakers only have lasting relationships with their customers, that’s all. And only afterwards, if you know what I mean.” Servaas orders the seventh, oblivious of the fact that she’s poking gentle fun with him.

“And what about Boggel? He likes your being alive. You must be one of his best customers, especially in wintertime. And the rest of us simply lo-o-o-ve you when you don’t dress up in that awful black suit.” Precilla doesn’t let up and continues in a whisper. “We’ve been thinking of buying you a nice suit for Christmas – a blue one. Maybe white.”

“You making jokes about me?” Servaas swivels around in his chair to fix her with a less-than-benevolent stare. “Respect your elders. Ask Oudoom: it says so in the Book.”

“Don’t drag me into this argument, Servaas. I sneaked in here for a quiet quickie. I’m still working on Sunday’s sermon and can’t stay too long. Mevrou will get suspicious.”

Boggel clears his throat as he serves the Cactus.

“Friendship is worse than love, Servaas. When you love somebody, you are obliged to endure everything with the loved one. Oudoom will tell you Love endures all. If revels in suffering. It forgives  everything.

“But friendship? Now there’s a thing for you. It’s a choice. You don’t have to be a friend to anybody at all. Man, you can simply make friends and discard them as soon as they irritate you. I hear you can even push a button on this thing called Facebook, and presto! You’ve unfriended somebody. Bang! Just like that. People, to my thinking, are much better at unfriending others than working on being a good friend to a mate.

“And you know why? Because we take ourselves far too seriously, Servaas. You do something I don’t like, then my mind pushes the unfriend button in that mushy grey matter between my ears and that’s it…I don’t care any more. It’s so much easier than getting into your erstwhile friend’s shoes to see things the way he or she does. Oh no – we insist on being right all the time and that’s where things go completely wrong.

“You should think about that.”

This is – you’ll know if you are a regular in Boggel’s Place – an uncommonly long speech by the bent little man behind the counter. Boggel is usually an exceptional listener and will refrain from becoming involved in an argument.

“You mean it’s like Vrede?” Precilla is enjoying the bit of a spat. “Or we should be more doggy-like in our relationships?”

“That’s it!” Oudoom snaps his fingers. “That’s going to be my sermon on Sunday.” He uses his hands to write the theme in the air. “Love…Let us learn from the dogs.”

Vrede, who has been dozing next to the fire, lifts an ear and opens an eye. He knows – like all dogs do – exactly what the people are discussing. And he can’t understand – simply can’t understand – why people insist on being so unforgiving. It’s so stupid, really. The hand that you bark at today, is the same hand that feeds you biltong tomorrow. How difficult is that to understand?

Servaas goes ‘harrumph’ and lifts his glass. “Nobody,” he says ‘noborry‘, “can ever accuse me of taking myself too ser…seri…serioushly. So there.”

Vrede gives one of those growls. Not an angry one, understand, just one of those low-down grumbles dogs do when they pretend not to be laughing. Then he frowns, gets up, stre-ethches, and walks over to Boggel. He’s had enough of this.

Boggel looks down as Vrede gets up on his hind legs to rest his paws on the counter.

“Yes Vrede?”

“Grmf, arfarf, grrr, yawl.”

Boggel gets it immediately. Vrede said he’ll sneak into old Servaas’ bed tonight. Snuggle real tight when the night wind brings in the cold in the small hours. And, if he does that, the patrons in the bar must club together and buy that duvet in Sammie’s shop. Tomorrow. Not a day later.

“What’s it with the dog?” Servaas peers at Vrede like only an inebriated man can: a combination of myopia and diplopia.

“Oh nothing, Servaas. Nothing much, that is. He says you’re going to be in a good mood tomorrow.”

Oudoom’s sermon will be a huge success. People will listen with serious expressions and nod here and there. They’ll tell him he’s a wonderful orator. And then they’ll go home, telling themselves that a preacher should be much more practical. He can’t, for heaven’s sake, expect them to lower themselves to canine standards, can he?

Dogs are so far down the evolutionary ladder, we can’t be expected to descend to such ignorance. We are the superior race, not so?

It’s only Vrede, who knows better, that’ll disagree. And until we all speak fluent Barkish, we won’t know how wrong we are.

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The Rape of Miss Katie Malone (# 5)

CIMG6483Manie Schoeman lets out an extremely unman-like scream as the bits of his Marantz music centre slices into his back, causing a sound even the state-of-the-art speakers could never reproduce. Vetfaan stands off to one side, but only after Gertjie  has lowered his not inconsiderable bulk onto the unfortunate customs officer’s chest. The scream quite naturally peters out to become a strangled gasp.

“I…can’t…breathe…!” Manie’s arms flop around helplessly.

“Tell us about Katie! Now!”

“I’m just a spotter. That’s all! I didn’t do anything…”

***

Fanny makes notes while Manie does his best to confess, while Gertjie sits with a cherubic smile on his battered prisoner. Yes he tipped them off. Them? The man known as Contact, the man who pays him to be a spotter. And then…? The Contact leads the woman to the Transporters. “And then…? The victim is delivered to the Man…at The Warehouse.

“Now, Mister Schoeman, where is The Warehouse?”

Silence.

Vetfaan walks over to the well-stocked bar, where he selects a bottle of 21-year-old Chivas Regal. Returning the the hapless Manie, he positions the bottle exactly above his head before letting go. The crunch of the bottle against the nose of The Spotter makes everybody flinch.

“No…! Please!!”

***

Miss Katie Malone wraps the blanket tightly around her body. She’s sitting right next to the door of her windowless room, waiting… As far as her abductors are concerned, the pills would have induced a deep sleep again, rendering her harmless. Her only hope and her only weapon is surprise. She knows her chances for escape must be rated as near-zero – but this is all she’s got. The alternative is to wait for the inevitable; whatever that might turn out to be. She has no doubt that it’ll involve a lot of unpleasantries…

The Caretaker arrives after what seemed to be ages and ages. Acting on the new orders to keep their captive healthy and well-fed, she’s carrying a tray on which a McDonalds burger and a glass of milk is balanced. She guides the tray carefully on the one hand while she unlocks the door.

Two things happen almost simultaneously: The Caretaker notices that her prisoner isn’t curled up against the far wall, where she usually sleeps and…she trips over the extended leg of Miss Katie Malone. Instinct forces her to try to balance the tray while she stumbles, but that only causes her to be more off-balance. Katie watches as the woman pitches forward, glass and hamburger arching through the air…and can’t help flinching when her warden cracks her head on the hard concrete floor.

Moving with surprising speed, she gets out of the room, slams the door and turns the key.

*** 

The Man – known by many other names, but likes to go under the handle of Freddy – Freddy-the-Fence or Freddy Fingers. The former relates to his business as middleman (for any type of contraband, from rhino horn to false banknotes) while the latter refers to his favourite amputation game, played with people who’ve shown less than the expected enthusiasm for his schemes.

He’s just replaced the receiver after concluding the transaction with the sheik; a most lucrative undertaking even if he must say so himself. Yes, he’ll dress her up nicely. The sheik will attend a meeting of oil suppliers with the Minister of Energy next week, which means his private jet will be parked at Cape Town’s airport for two whole days. Smuggling the doped woman aboard will be an easy task.

Twelve million! Wow! With that money he can buy a villa on the Transkei coast and disappear off the radar forever!

Smiling happily, he marches off to the holding cell. Best make sure the woman is taken care of properly…

***

“Anything else you’d like to tell us?” Gertjie makes it sound as if it is the most natural thing to ask.

“No..will..you..please..get off…my..chest?”

Sighing with obvious reluctance, Gertjie scrambles to his feet. Casting around for something to tie his prisoner up, he settles for the electric cord of the broken music centre.

“You sure about that address?” Vetfaan has a bottle of 50-year old Port in his and, again strategically and very squarely above the broken nose.

“Y-yes. I swear.”

“Now…you do anything foolish, and you’ll regret it.” There’s no mistaking Vetfaan’s threat. “I’ll personally come back to dismember you. And that, my dear chap, is an unintended pun.”

***

“Fanie?” Fanny glances over at her husband, on the back seat of Gerjie’s minibus. “I’ve never seen you like that.”

That much is true. Vetfaan has a reputation of being a bit of a softie.

“I’m sorry. I think I lost it a bit back there. When I realised he was making money by helping others to abduct innocent civilians – female civilians, nogal – something just snapped.” He seems crestfallen when his eyes meet hers. “I’m sorry, Love…”

Much to his surprise, she leans over to peck a kiss on his cheek. “You ape-man, you! I’m the one to apologise. When the Chivas broke his nose, I wanted to cheer!”

Gertruida leans over from the front seat to fix them with a stern stare.

“If you two lovebirds can leave the necking for later, we can try to concentrate on the job at hand. We have a name – Freddy – and an address in Camps Bay. We assume that Katie is held there. I suggest we go there directly to assess the situation. Going to the police now, will involve a lot of questions, forms and bureaucratic red tape. My thinking is that every minute she spends with that crowd, will simply amplify the trauma she’s enduring. Maybe we can drop Vetfaan and Gertjie there to watch the place while Fanny and I do the police report?”

Gertjie nods, causing a little tidal wave of double chins to run up and down the front of his throat.

***

Miss Katie Malone almost made it to freedom. Almost. She didn’t care if she only had a blanket to cover her body, didn’t worry about anything..the only thought racing through her mind, was to escape, escape, escape…!

A window! An open window! There!

She could see the window overlooks a veranda of sorts. Surely there’ll be a garden? A gate? A street leading to freedom?  The blanket prevents her from getting through the window easily. Grunting in frustration, she pulls it off and throws it through the open window,

“Bloody hell!” The shout freezes her in mid-action. “Where do you think you’re going!” White hot anger colours the words. “I’ll teach you!”

Galvanised into action, she tries to get through the window…but the heavy hand on her shoulder yanks her back. Suddenly, she doesn’t care any more. She can’t escape. Like Lady Jane Grey at the hands of Mary, she has to accept her life isn’t even worth screaming for any longer..

For a fleeting moment, she regretted every love she ever experienced; for from now on, her life would be one of forced smiles and faked moments of pleasure…

What can I say
there’s an empty where your love
filled my life and I know.
That a part of you will always be
a part of me.