It was all change for me that day, exciting and different. Another ‘let the hair down’ day onto the collar of my old khaki shirt. This new challenge, in which I was confident, had been perfectly planned, must have a plan! At the bottom of the hill I joined South street, driving Dirk’s open bakkie, I swung a left at the Fraser’s place onto the old Kalkloof road, away from the dam towards Sipho’s minibus stop. This was a tarred road most of the way, with narrow dirt shoulders often falling away at a steep gradient into the thorn trees and undergrowth both sides which spread out to tracts of woodland, open grassland with an occasional marshy area. The sky was blue and the sun shone.
Soaring high above the trees in the azure sky I could see an eagle. Not a fish eagle, they were too lazy to soar like that, probably a martial eagle, searching for a late breakfast. They are big bastards, usually preferring the open plains or scrubby thorn bush and feeding on guinea fowl and hares; but maybe a small monkey from the forest was on the menu today. Poor little devil! Spotting from a distance and attacking at great speed they are the largest eagle in Africa.
It was scorching hot although it was only seven and quite a late start for me. Unlike our eagle friend, breakfast was noisily digesting inside me. I felt free, on top of the world, and man, it was great to have no office to open and no customers to deal with, only working on the tools again. Sipho was to be our new maintenance assistant. He was Dirk’s contact. Sipho was out of work and money was tight. It had been his co-incidental good luck that it was all change for me as well.
The hairs on my arm were beginning to singe with my elbow out the window and it was only the end of November. Gonna be a hot one!! I rounded a bend in the road running next to the start of natural forest which was flanked by pea green tree ferns and grass scrub; way off in the distance, were the hills of Karkloof, with a belt of white mist hovering above the darker green trees. Beautiful! Not a care in the world, just like me.
“Well, ja! O.K., O.K, maybe that wasn’t all true.”
Bloody thing was, it went back to my ‘so close’ family, where you towed the line or got pushed out. I was the son who didn’t make it, while my brothers’ took the old man’s lead in employment and married all the right girls too. Married… what me? Nah!
My family home, as I remember it then, was one of the sought after homes in Knysna over- looking the lagoon with a view of the Outeniqua mountains. It had an east African flair, rough plastered walls and polished granite flooring; six en suite bedrooms with lavish colour schemes, purples, blues and greens. My bedroom was black and white and had its own lounge with an access to patio, pool and sauna.
“Suppose I sound like a T.V. ad?”
The dining table seated twelve. Gold upholstered high backed chairs with cream and burgundy fabric draped walls, overwhelming to say the least when your mates came around! They loved our woven rugs and the abundance of cushions on sofas to drape themselves over while stinkwood ceiling fans kept turning.
“How am I doing?”
But Dad was always ‘all important’ and I didn’t manage to do anything to make him proud. This unruly blond hair and deep thinking head went against his high flying standards. Now, my thoughts on offspring since then, are, that I wouldn’t marry and didn’t want any other kid to go through this. How could I trust myself not to become like him. It could be in the genes.
“Jeans! No jeans today; shorts from now on mate!” I shouted to the passing vegetation.
Thing was, I had to go back. But not today, I was confident it would be alright if I kept focussed and busy. Hey, my day could be at risk of going seriously downhill thinking like this and that wasn’t part of ‘the plan’.
“Get a grip, man!”
I pulled the bakkie over to the side of the road creating a huge dust cloud, wondering what had brought that little bit of evil information to the front of the cranium. Does there always have to be a reason?
Waiting at the crossroads as the sun beat down, I scanned the top of the bushes for signs of road dust lifting into the air which could mean the bus was imminent. There was a strong not too pleasant hum of animal droppings lifting into the air as a noisy continuous twitter came from the roadside vegetation where the babblers searched for insects and seeds. They’re sociable birds that forage together, even build and share nests. Above the ferns and vegetation line, the sky was alive with butterflies and disturbed moths taking flight from the bushes.
I unfolded the letter from my shirt pocket and read it again. It was damp from perspiration.
“No, sorry, not today! Too much freedom.”
A few cars passed by heading for town before the beige combi stopped across the road producing even more dust, which hung over the road in a haze. After much shuffling of seats, some passengers getting out and some back in; Sipho emerged. He came from behind the bus as the cloud was settling, with a white toothy smile and a wave of his hand, clutching a carrier bag containing his lunch in the other.
“Another happy, happy man!”