Tag Archives: romance

Daily Prompt: That’s Amore…only in the Movies.

images (67)“Love stories are just that.” Servaas raises an angry eyebrow in an invitation to start an argument. “Stories. Just stories. This thing in the movies doesn’t exist. Movies make us believe a lie.”

They’re all back in Boggel’s Place after the screening of ‘Love Story’ in the little church hall. Oudoom organised it to raise money for the leaking roof in the vestry.

“Ag, but you must admit it was a nice. And sad. And sweet…” Precilla has that faraway look.

“…and then she died and he lived happily ever after.” Servaas isn’t giving up.

“Ag sis, man!” Gertruida rarely uses this tone of voice, but they all agree Servaas deserve the rebuke. “Just because you’re in a cantankerous mood, you don’t have to be so cynical! No man! I’m ashamed of you.”

Servaas knits his bushy brows together to scowl at the group. “Love, my friends,” he makes friends sound like an insult, “is blêrrie hard work, let me tell you. Forget about the violins and little Cupid and wagon loads of red hearts. When I courted Siena, I dressed my best, brushed the horse until he shone, and I even learnt that poem by some Wilcox woman:

“She had looked for his coming as warriors come,
With the clash of arms and the bugle’s call;
But he came instead with a stealthy tread,
Which she did not hear at all.

“And you know what she did? She laughed and told me I’m silly.  Said love isn’t about fancy words. So she recited a few lines by Neruba. I remember them to this day:

“I do not love you except because I love you;
I go from loving to not loving you,
From waiting to not waiting for you
My heart moves from cold to fire.”

“My, my, my, Servaas!” This time, Gertruida’s voice is soft, sympathetic. “I never knew you were such a romantic. Imagine you, black suit and all, reciting poetry to a lady! Well, I never…”

“Maybe there’s a romantic in each of us. I remember how I imagined my lover would be, way back when I was young and sexy.” Kleinpiet sighs and shakes his head. Precuilla, like all women, imagines her best years as being something in the past. Worse: is she saying something about him in an oblique way? He waits for her to continue. “I also had a poem in my head. It’s by George Etherege:

“The Nymph that undoes me, is fair and unkind;
No less than a wonder by Nature designed.
She’s the grief of my heart, the joy of my eye ;
And the cause of a flame that never can die !

“Oh, how I dreamed about my knight in shining armour! Then Kleinpiet came along and changed all that.” She gives him a friendly punch on the shoulder. “He showed me a reality I never imagined…and it is so much better than the dream I had.”

Kleinpiet beams. He’s not sure what – exactly – she implied, but it sounds okay.

Gertruida shrugs. “I suppose we all long for that perfect love, don’t we? The one with poems and roses and late-night whispered conversations. The one Sara Teasdale wrote about when she said:

“I am not yours, not lost in you,
Not lost, although I long to be
Lost as a candle lit at noon,
Lost as a snowflake in the sea.

“Oh plunge me deep in love – put out
My senses, leave me deaf and blind,
Swept by the tempest of your love,
A taper in a rushing wind…

“But then again, “Gertruida goes into one of her typical pauses, “maybe that’s the wonder of love. When you are in love, it opens your imagination. It shifts the horizon. It rearranges your previous dreams to make you more aware of how much more there is to living.  And it makes you feel small and huge, changes the introvert into a clown and makes the warrior put away his musket. Love isn’t just a feeling…it’s a way of being. The same things you saw yesterday aren’t the same things you see today. The colours change. The music is sweeter. It lightens your step and lends weight to your thoughts.”

“But…” Kleinpiet feels completely out of his depth. “I thought love was easy. You know. The love-at-first-sight thing. I mean, when I first saw Precilla, I knew. And after that, loving her became the easiest thing in my life.”

“That’s what I said. It’s hard work.” Still scowling, Servaas orders another beer. “You have to leave yourself behind. You become the servant of a bigger cause. Like faith, love means you have to  die a little in order to discover life. Man, that took some time with me, I can tell you.”

“In a very limited way, Servaas, you are right. If you don’t put in effort, love is wasted. It becomes stale. But every drop of sweat dripping from your bushy brows is worth it if you labour in your love – and I’m not talking about the physical stuff either.” Gertruida tries to hide the blush spreading up her neck. Those evenings with Ferdinand… “I’m simply saying love makes you do things you’d never consider otherwise. And you know what? It doesn’t feel like work at all. If it does, then something is wrong…”

Servaas glares at his glass, suddenly overcome with emotion. Yes, he remembers those days. All thirty-eight years of days he couldn’t wait to get home at night. And how he watched Siena baking bread or knitting on the stoep or hanging the washing on the line. And how he so often wanted to tell her how much he loved her.

And how seldom he did.

“I wonder…?” He can’t finish the sentence.

It is Gertruida, who knows everything, who understands.

“Yes, Servaas, she knew. We women know such things. We know our men and how stupid they can be. And we forgive them, every time, because that’s what love does.”

***

One does not expect to listen to deep conversations in Boggel’s Place. Love and peach brandy can be very uneasy bedfellows, after all. But sometimes; when the patrons aren’t discussing the drought or Vetfaan’s broken tractor; their conversations touch on very serious subjects, like the leaking vestry roof or the rising petrol price.

Or love.

That’s when Servaas fishes out the little handkerchief with the flower embroidery in the one corner from his breast pocket. If he closes his eyes, he can still smell the perfume, remember her smile.

And he’d wipe his eyes with his sleeve – because he wants to keep that hanky just the way it is. That’s when Gertruida says Servaas is right about a few things: true love is a burden, a pleasure, hard work and a surrender.

And it only dies in the movies.

Bianca (# 3)

Credit: Sodahead.com

Credit: Sodahead.com

“You became a…a…street-woman at fourteen?” Precilla just can’t get herself to say ‘whore’.

Bianca leans against Servaas, who doesn’t listen any more. He’s off on his own imaginary pink cloud, drifting off in the type of dream no elder of the church should have. “Well, if you put it that way, it sounds terrible. I prefer to think I was an escort. You know, a companion? I looked way older than I was, and in Brakpan there were a few very rich and very lonely old men. Most of them were so old, they weren’t up to anything at all. So I played cards, listened to music, paged through family albums – that sort of thing.

“It started very innocently, understand? I was on my way home, when this old toppie stopped his Mercedes next to me. He said he’d give me pocket money if I had coffee with him. And you know? That’s all that happened. He had lost his wife a few months ago and he was lonely. After that, we had a once-a-week date. He told some of his friends and they taught me how to play bridge. My, how those old men enjoyed those afternoons! Eventually I was booked for most afternoons, earning enough to keep me and Dad going. But those old men – they just wanted company.

“I was surprised. If I dressed nicely and said the right things, I made more money – tax free -than my father did when he’s sober.”

“But it didn’t stay with innocent little afternoons, did it?” Gertruida sneers her disgust.

“Aunty Gerty! I was…am still…a girl with morals! In those days I always carried my ID with me. Back then statutory rape  was punishable with death, remember? It’s not like now, where rape is the most common crime in the country – because the politicians have gone soft on it. So if a man got frisky, I’d remind him about the consequences.

“It was only later the game changed…”

***

When Bianca was eighteen, her father died. The doctors said his liver just couldn’t cope with his addiction.

“Somehow, his being around – even when he was drunk – kept me on the straight and narrow. I respected him, despite everything. He really, really loved me, see? I was Daddy’s girl, even when he was stumbling around in the house. I was the only, single good thing in his life – that’s what he always said. And I knew his drinking was partly due to his inability to look after me properly. I felt guilty about that. Strange, isn’t it? I felt it was my fault that his life didn’t work out.

“A day after the funeral, a man arrived at the house. He wanted money; said my father owed him ten grand. He…he was the first one to overstep the line. It was horrible. He said he’d be back…”

She didn’t know what to do. Frightened by the experience, she fled to Durban, where she booked in to a dingy hotel. The next morning she met Tiny Visagie.

images (47)“Tiny was a huge man. Arms like tree trunks. Barrel chest. Shoulders so broad, they almost didn’t make it through the door. Well, he said I mustn’t think I’m so clever at all. I can run, he said, but I can’t hide.

“Tiny was part of a syndicate that smuggled arms into the country. The man my father owed money to, was his boss. I was to learn that they had an extensive network right through the country and that they had spies everywhere. They had a prominent right-wing organisation as a front – this kept National Intelligence busy. But behind the scenes, their only object was to make money…and they made lots of it.”

Tiny told her to return to Brakpan and face the music. She cried, begging the big man to have mercy.

“Funny thing, that. If a beautiful young girl sheds a few tears and tells a big, burly man he is her only hope, testosterone kicks in. The dominant ape will outwit the others. Superman to the rescue. You Jane, me Tarzan. So me and Tiny, we became friends. He housed me in his flat and I cooked. He never told his boss he had found me.

“And then I found out why he was so big and strong – he had used massive doses of steroids. Testosterone, cortisone, you name it. And…” Bianca suppresses a snigger, “that had an …effect on him. He wasn’t much of a man any more, understand? He couldn’t. The steroids shrivelled everything up. Two raisins and a dangling match stick – that’s all he had.  And because I accidentally walked into the bathroom one morning, I discovered his secret: the big man was a fake. Not a man at all. Then, instead of Tiny holding all the cards, I had a trump up my sleeve. I could shatter his image in the organisation.”

“Why is it that some men think like that?”  Precilla is so caught up in the story, she forgets she doesn’t like the woman.

“All men think like that, ‘Cilla. They’re wired to be the biggest, strongest, cleverest, best baboon in the troop. Why? I’ll tell you: they can’t help it. It’s a factory fault, and the guarantee has expired.”

Bianca told Tiny not to worry, she’s just glad to feel safe and have a roof over her head. A month or two later, the organisation had a major setback when the police swooped on a Brakpan home and arrested the boss.

“Tiny became the number one man then. He was the new boss. And I was the trophy-wife that told all the other men what a man he was. It worked for both of us. Suddenly, I didn’t have to hide in his flat any more. I could move about as a respected member of society, where men left me alone because Tiny had a terrible reputation when it came to fights and things like that. How I shopped in those days! Money was never a problem…

“Sometimes I think that was the happiest time of my life. The common-law wife of an impotent gangster.” She pulls a face. “What a farce.”

Bianca slumps forward, resting her chin on her folded arms. “I’m so tired – so very tired of life…”

“You poor, poor thing,” Servaas, clearly moved by the story, finishes his drink and yawns. “It’s late. Maybe I should escort you to your room?”

“Yes, I’m tired too, ‘Vaasie. And thank you, but Aunty Gerty has shown me where it is. I think I’m calling it a night and now I’m off to bed. Nighty-night, everybody. See you tomorrow.”

***

Servaas doesn’t wait for the conversation to start up after she’s left. Humming softly to himself, he waltzes out into the night, leaving the others in a startled silence.

“He’s lost his marbles.” Kleinpiet states it as a fact, not as a start of a discussion.

“I think he’s found them,” Precilla giggles at the thought. Servaas? Marbles? No way!.

“You’re all crazy.” Gertruida gets up, glares at them, and stomps out.  At the door she stops and turns to address them all. “There’s something wrong with that woman, I tell you. Something seriously wrong. And you know what? I’ll find out. You’ll see…”

The night swallows her as she leaves a deafening silence in the bar.

SHIMMERstate

And finally , after three years, the book is finished. Here’s a synopsis:

Near-death experience – the final portal to the ultimate truth?
Peter Small doesn’t know it, but when he steps in front of the speeding taxi, he’s about to embark on a paranormal journey that will provide the answer to the biggest question of them all: Why are we here? While his body is suspended in a comatose state, Peter discovers a world where he exists as a shimmer – a condition not connected to the physical world. To his surprise, he isn’t alone.
Mary Abrahams, the nurse at his bedside, is facing a completely different problem: she is harbouring an unwanted pregnancy. Must she marry the man responsible, even though he suffers from an obviously dangerous personality disorder? What about abortion?
In his meetings with other shimmers, Peter Small seeks answers and eventually connects with The Entity, the Creator of All. He gets insight into the many religions of the world, as well as the nature and origin of the universe – and Life. Then he is tasked to save Mary’s unborn baby …
Enter Danny, the ruthless lover, George, a sexually frustrated conman, and Frederik Verster, a doctor who has become a social recluse. Add a Cape Flats gang member, a paralysed professor and a caring matron, and you have a page-turning thriller with the twists and turns the author has become famous for.
But there is more … SHIMMERstate is a story of Destiny, of Fate and of Faith. As the story unfolds, the reader is swept along to re-examine the concept of a physical God and heaven. In SHIMMERstate the author explores the deeper spiritual questions about Life and Death, to come to several surprising conclusions.

           Click to buy.

Click to buy.

http://www.amazon.com/SHIMMERstate-ebook/dp/B00EKWDS3A

Boggel’s Moon (# 3)

Magrietjie Badenhorst

Magrietjie Badenhorst

Magrietjie Badenhorst – she of the prodigious figure and the ample measurements – finally negotiates her way down from the passenger seat of the lorry. She’s dressed in a long frock, a bolero-type of crocheted little jacket, and the customary church hat with the wilted, plastic flowers at the side. There can be no doubt that she went to a lot of trouble to soften her appearance: the amount of rouge next to the red lips would have painted a roof.  She teeters around on the high heels while the townsfolk recover from the shock.

“You…you’re not Anna!” Gertruida gasps. “Magrietjie Badenhorst, what are you doing here?”

“I can use any name I want. And don’t you be uppity with me, Gertruida, Introduce me to my beau. I’ve been lonely long enough to be desperate, Come on, woman, get on with it! We can’t stand around like this forever.”

“But..you deceived us, Magrietjie Badenhorst! How dare you?”

“Come off your high horse, will you?” Magrietjie seems to calm down a bit. “Do you think anybody would be interested in an old, ugly woman like me? I merely did what everybody else is doing on the ‘Net. Fake name, fake photo…and you never know when you’re going to get lucky. Anyway…nobody else responded, which goes to show even glamorous girls aren’t so popular. That’s my point.”

“But you’re not Russian.” Servaas folds his arms in disgust. “You’re just like us. That’s no good.”

By this time, Boggel is back on his cushion below the counter, rubbing Vrede’s ears to settle the poor dog. They’re both upset and angry. What a mess…!

Outside, Oudoom steps in, holding up his hands as a signal of peace (or surrender, it’s difficult to say).

“Brothers and Sisters, no need to fight about this little misunderstanding. Here we have a woman in search of love. And there we have a town full of people who want to see Boggel happy. Now, things didn’t work out exactly the way everybody hoped…but hey, we all live on hope, don’t we? We hope things will change. We hope the government will become responsible. We hope for many things every day…but most of all, we hope for love.

“Now, Marietjie, you didn’t do right. And as for the people of Rolbos: I’m ashamed that you went behind Boggel’s back – as curved though it might be – to arrange something he wouldn’t have approved anyway.” Here he pauses, letting his word sink in. “So…I suggest we call it quits. You were all deceiving, lying, dishonest in what you did. You should be ashamed. You should apologise.”

A long silence follows his speech, until Kleinpiet starts sniggering.

“It’s actually funny, Dominee. Here we are, talking about love and hope and trying to make sense out of the lives we lead. Magrietjie, we all know, is a woman of wide experience in romantic matters. Boggel, on the other hand, may be considered a novice. Yet, in the final analysis, they’re both looking for the same thing. In a weird way, it strikes me as funny.”

“That, Kleinpiet, is the definition of life and of living. Humans – just like animals – tend to look for a mate. What we do, is to seek that soul-mate that’ll be the love of our lives,” Oudoom is building up steam, warming to the subject. “Love, my friends, isn’t something you can manufacture. It is. Full stop. Oh, you can be friends or companions, and in that you’ll find elements of love as well – but the love between man and woman is a sacred thing. It is also a vastly misunderstood term.

“You cannot expect Boggel – or Margrietjie – to feel obliged to fall in love just because you had these good intentions. And if you’ll excuse me saying so, neither a mail-order bride nor Magrietjie must necessarily be something with a guarantee to success.

“Moreover, Love has consequences. It implies a responsibility to honour and respect the loved one under all circumstances, It might even mean that Love may lead to loneliness, because it isn’t returned with the fervour it is offered with. Of all human emotions, Love can be both the kindest as well as the cruellest of feelings.

“So, my friends, let us not make Love a cheap thing. Let us respect this deep and humbling emotion and grant every lonely soul the right – and the opportunity – to find an individual destiny. It cannot be forced.”

Servaas can see how Oudoom struggles not to say ‘Amen’ at the end of his little sermon, and suppresses a smile. What Oudoom has said is true; he and Siena experienced it first hand. He met her, quite by accident, when she crossed the street without looking. He almost killed her that day. When he got out of the car to give her a piece of his mind, he saw the loneliness in her eyes. He could never explain it – and didn’t want to. Instead of scolding her, he offered her coffee at the nearby café. That, he’ll tell you, was the start of his life.

The group has no other option but to amble over to Boggel’s Place. Magrietjie, still not completely comfortable with her humiliation, joined them for a round of Cactus. As usual, it proves to be the ultimate social lubricant: after the fourth round, the place is abuzz with conversation. Vetfaan tells them of the wonderful set of circumstances that brought Fanny to Rolbos, while Kleinpiet and Precilla says that’s nothing – he must hear their story.

Through all this, Magrietjie sits quietly, absorbing the atmosphere.

“I’ve been around the block more times than all of you together,” she says, “and what Oudoom said, is true. I realise that now. If love isn’t meant to be, it won’t. It’ll come to me if it must. ”

This leads to a round of apologies, where everyone  said they’re sorry – which leads to Boggel having to fetch another crate of Cactus Jack from the store room. The buzz becomes a boom, the boom increases to people having to shout to be heard.

That’s when Boggel sneaks out of the back door, whistling softly to Vrede to join him. The two of them walk down Voortrekker Weg towards the almost-garden in front of the church, where the only bench in town is bathed in the light of the full moon. It is here that he will, like so many nights before, sit down to talk with Mary Mitchell, the only girl he ever loved. It doesn’t matter if she’s not there.

He knows she’ll hear him.

That is the nature of Love, after all.

Fanny’s Surprise (# 26)

“What’s this thing with women, Boggel? One moment they’re blowing hot, the next you’re skidding along head-first on the ice. Look at Fanny now. Yesterday she was full of sweet words and hugs – and today she might as well be somewhere on Mars…or even in another galaxy.  I don’t understand it.”

“You’ll have to get used to it, Vetfaan. The intricacies of the female thought process will forever be hidden to the male’s mind. They have trigger points for happy, sad, angry, hurt and rejection that just doesn’t exist in men. We are like the old wind-up toys we had when we were young; they’re like the modern games on computer. There’s no comparison between the two. The technology  changed. Of course, seeing that Adam was the prototype, Eve must have been an upgrade.”

“Don’t joke,” Vetfaan sighs as he points to his empty glass, “The old Ford pickup is such a straight-forward machine. It needs petrol, a battery and clean spark plugs – and it’ll take you anywhere. I had a look at one of the new BMW’s in Upington the other day, and couldn’t figure out where the radiator was.”

“Still, the basics remain remarkably the same. Look: what do you want in a relationship? “ Boggel pushes over the cold beer. “Only one word: respect. All the other emotions rest on that one single thing; it is the petrol that keeps the engine running. You can’t love somebody that doesn’t respect you. You can’t be loyal or trust someone who thinks you are worthless. Commitment, compassion, companionship? Without respect, it’s impossible.

“Now, with women it is the same. You respect her, and you’ve got a chance.” Boggel spreads his arms wide, smiling wryly. “Soo… if she is distant today, respect that. Be kind. Don’t push too hard – but don’t pull away either. Distance, Vetfaan, is what kills relationships. If you want this thing to work, you have to be near enough to be there for her – but also far away enough to give her space to work out whatever is bothering her.”

***

Gertruida lives within a much more complicated mind than Boggel will ever guess at. Her vast encyclopaedic  memory banks are the result of a unique combination of intelligence genes, a photographic memory and years of reading everything she can lay her hands on.  Ask her about the working of the brain in a man, and she’ll draw a straight line (usually after wetting her finger in Kleinpiet’s beer) on the counter top.

“Connect A with B. That’s it.”

However, both she and Boggel are only halfway correct: ask Kleinpiet…

“It is true that men are blessed with a much more logical circuit in their brains. When it comes to making gears fit and engines turn, men can focus exclusively on the problem and concentrate all their energies to one single task. Women keep on running a number of other programs in their minds, which causes them to spend thinking energy on a lot of unnecessary issues at critical times. This, my friends, is the defect they try to hide. No exclusive focus. Men are streets ahead of them in that department.”

Which just goes to show: nobody has a clue…

***

Vetfaan drives back to the farm in silence. Next to him Fanny stares out at the barren veld, occasionally wiping a tear from a rosy cheek.

Vetfaan has no idea what to do, or what to say. Okay, so he’ll respect her silence. Okay, he’ll give her space… But what does that solve? Anything…?

The road to the farm is a twisting two-tracked path across the thick sand, forcing the driver to keep up the speed in order to maintain momentum. Too slow, and you’ll get stuck. Too fast, and the vehicle will veer off into the veld.

That’s when, at last, the little light bulb above Vetfaan’s head suddenly glowed brightly.

“You’re a sandy track, Fanny.” He glances over to see if she heard. “I understand that now. To use Boggel’s word, I respect that; and I don’t want to rush you at all. But, whatever is bothering you right now…well, it won’t go away if we don’t talk about it. If we lose momentum, we’ll get stuck. If I push too hard, we’ll lose our way. Now, I’m not sure what brought this mood on; but if we can’t get those pistons to fire again, we’re going nowhere.”

She draws her feet up, onto the seat, to hug her knees against her chest. Gertruida would have likened it to an upright foetal position.

“Do you want children, Fanie? A boychild to follow in Pappa’s footsteps?”

The question catches Vetfaan completely off-guard.

“Shouldn’t we get married, first? And before that, we must get engaged. And before that, I must ask your hand in marriage.” He tugs on the steering wheel to keep the wheels in the tracks. “But to answer the question: babies should be planned, as far as I’m concerned. It’s an issue to be decided between two people, not just one. So…if I ask you, if you say yes, if we get married, and if we wanted a child, we can think about trying. It’s not about me or the farm, Fanny. It’s about us.”

Fanie!” The unexpected shout almost makes Vetfaan swerve off the road. “Stop! Stop now!”

“I…I can’t, Fanny. Not here. The sand is too thick.”

Her hand flies to her mouth and for a second, her cheeks bulge.

“Fanie, if you don’t stop now, I’ll vomit all over your dashboard. Stop! Now!”

A few seconds later Vetfaan sits frozen with his hands clamped around the spokes of the steering wheel, listening to the retching outside. Slowly, ever so slowly, he feels the blood draining from his face. Even the male mind can connect different sets of dots; and now, with realisation dawning, Vetfaan lets his head sink to his hands.

What’ll Oudoom say…?

Oudoom on the Warpath

When Oudoom rushes up the steps to the pulpit, everybody knows a storm is brewing. In a place like Rolbos, it usually doesn’t take a genius to figure out who did what wrong, and where, so all eyes swivel to Servaas and Hybie, who sit next to each other at the back. The creaking of the old benches settles down as Oudoom holds up a hand.

“Today, we’re not going to read from the scriptures. I won’t deliver a sermon. We won’t sing.” He pauses and allows the silence to make his congregation uncomfortable. “We will, of course take up an offering, as usual.” Like a good politician, he waits before he goes on.

“Today I want to talk to you about silence.” Again the pause. “Silence can be a sin, did you know that? Remaining silent about a sin, is a sin.” Now his words tumble out in a cascade of fury. He slams his fist down on the dais, and shouts: “All ye who remain silent about sin, are as guilty  as the sinners themselves! Not a single person – no man or woman – had the integrity to complain about the gross misconduct that everybody knew about. You all harboured the snake of Satan, fed it, silenced it, and lived with it.”

Bu now, there is no doubt that he is going on about Servaas, the elder in the church, and his association with Hybie, the widow of Egbert, who fell from the roof on a Sunday because Hybie told him to get up there to fix it. A man of the church, stooping so low…and getting involved

“Now I don’t have to spell out the rules of the church, do I? I don’t have to remind you of the wages of sin. You know right and wrong, Lord knows, I’ve spent my life teaching you about it. You’re about to gamble away your life in eternity and I shall not allow it! You must root out the unjust. You have a holy duty to declare you allegiance. You have no excuse! No excuse!” The fist comes down again. “I’ll give you a week. One week to sort this out. And then we’ll see…”

He stomps out, forgetting to ask somebody to take up the offering.

Outside the church the little congregation gathers in a much confused group. Servaas fled to his home, leaving Hybie to walk alone towards hers.

“Don’t you think he was talking about Boggel’s Place?” Vetfaan tries to make sense out of the sermon that wasn’t. “Remember how he objected to Boggel becoming a deacon?”

“Yes, but that was before we learnt about his regular supply of Port. You’ll recall he later preached about Paul who said a little wine is good for your health. No, there’s no prize for guessing what’s going on in his head. And I, for one, won’t do anything about it. If old Servaas is lucky enough to find a bit of company in his old age, I say we let it be.” Kleinpiet still dreams of the right one to grow old with him. He’s a romantic at heart, despite the rough exterior. “If you guys want to start complaining about things, you go ahead. I’m off to Boggels for a drink – I can sure use one right now.”

Not entirely surprisingly, the rest join him.

The atmosphere in Boggel’s Place is somber as the bent little man serves them all. It is obvious that Oudoom won’t let this one pass without some serious consequences. They all followed the romance between the two old people with a mixture of joy, jealousy and several smirks. Imagine that at that age, one can still become excited about …

“We’ll have to think of something, guys.” Life in Rolbos won’t ever be the same if Oudoom makes a stand of it, and Vetfaan knows it. “Maybe we should appoint a delegation to talk to Oudoom?”

“With him in such a mood? You’ve got to be joking. Nobody will sway him if he acts like he did this morning.” Gertruida – who is an expert on human behaviour (amongst other things) – is using her lecture voice. “No, I think we must rally in support of Servaas and Hybie. Sure, we had a nice gossip about them, but their happiness is at stake. Did you see the look on Hybie’s face when she had to go home alone? Both of them are crushed right now. They need us more than Oudoom needs somebody to come and lay a complaint. If nobody complains, he makes himself guilty of acting upon gossip. There’s something in the Bible about that, as well.”

For the rest of the week, Servaas, Hybie and Oudoom remain confined to their homes. The first two are rarely alone, however. Kleinpiet spends his days playing poker (beans as chips) with Servaas, while they talk about everything – except Hybie. Precilla and Gertruida take turns to visit Hybie, who keeps herself busy with a huge tapestry of an Eland. Nobody visits Oudoom, who can be seen peeking through the drawn curtains of the pastorie.

The talk in Boggel’s Place revolves around the question whether anybody should go to church on Sunday. Kleinpiet says they must all boycott the church, but Gertruida reckons that would be wrong. “We’re angry with Oudoom, not the Lord. Let’s go and hear what he has to say. If he starts up with Servaas and Hybie, we can all walk out and leave him shouting at the rafters. Maybe he’ll get the message then.”

Servaas visited Siena’s grave again on Friday. For once, he gets no answer. No friendly dust devil and no lonely Springbok arrive to give him a clue. He’s on his own, and he knows it.

On Saturday Boggel watches with a certain amount of trepidation as Servaas, dressed in his best, walks down the street towards Hybie’s home. Half-an-hour later he reappears and returns to his own cottage. He has the determined step of a soldier on his way to the front.

The townsfolk arrive at church on the stroke of nine on Sunday. Nobody wanted to be early for the usual chat-and-banter before the service, in case Oudoom confronts them in person. It is easier to keep the pulpit between the clergyman and the flock – it creates a safe distance which they all feel they need right now.

The Oudoom that emerge from the vestry, is a downcast and depressed-looking man. Gone is the fire and brimstone of last week; replaced with a resigned slouch of the shoulders and an almost whispered welcome to the House of the Lord.

“You know,” he starts in a soft and conversational tone, like one would expect a condemned man would use before the sergeant gives the order to fire; it is stupid and hopeless to argue at that point. “I was hoping for more integrity amongst you. After the years of preaching and teaching, I thought you had enough knowledge and wisdom to recognise the Devil.

“If one of you had the guts to complain, I could have acted. If a single voice went up in protest, I could have prevented the agent of Satan to infiltrate our midst. You’ve all seen it, right under your noses, and yet you remained silent!” He is getting angry again, and several people start eying the doors. They may have to leave soon. “But no. I tried telling Sammie you wouldn’t tolerate it. He laughed in my face. I told him you know about gambling, and that you’d complain. He said if a single one of you complained, he’d remove the Lotto machine from his shop…”

Oudoom doesn’t get to finish the sentence. Despite his anger, he sees how suddenly his congregation starts cheering and laughing.  Kleinpiet is on his feet, hugging Gertruida, who doesn’t know whether to laugh or to cry. Vetfaan skips down the aisle to shake Boggel’s hand. And Hybie, who sits a respectable distance from Servaas, suddenly finds her hand clasped in the bony hand of the old man, while he tells her he loves her.

Once the pandemonium dies down, they circulate a petition to ask Sammie – with great respect and a promise to pay their accounts within the next week – if he would mind if they asked him nicely to remove the instrument of Satan from his shop. Let the rest of the country gamble, but the Lotto is not welcome in Rolbos, where Oudoom is right in saying gambling is wrong. The slightly overwhelmed and confused pastor says a quick prayer of thanks before he allows his flock to start to trudge out, to celebrate at Boggel’s.

“The ways of the Lord…”he whispers, shaking his head as they leave. Then he catches a glimpse of Servaas and Hybie, walking hand-in-hand through the big wooden doors that protect the sacred building. A sad smile hovers on his face. It’s such a beautiful  thing if love found it’s way back to Rolbos, he thinks, I’ll have to congratulate them, once I’ve spoken to Sammie tomorrow…