Before going to look for Farleigh, Justice went in search of their childhood retreat. It was a big old tree in one corner of the property, next to a disused borehole pump. When he finally found the tree he could see that nobody ever came there anymore. It was so overgrown he could not tell if there was anything left of the borehole structure. Breaking his way through the jungle, he reached the tree and pulled himself onto a wide branch reaching out just inches above the ground.
Gazing up at the sky through the branches, he heard a polite cough. He was not surprised to see Farleigh standing there.
“You don’t come here anymore,” joked Justice indicating the derelict state.
“Hello. No. I don’t think I’ve ever come here.” Farleigh vaguely remembered Beth always suggesting he go play in the tree.
“You don’t remember. This was where we always played. Just about over there in all those weeds was the enemy fort. Don’t you remember?”
“No.” Farleigh looked at the branch where Justice was sitting. “Wait.” He picked his way through the battered trail left by Justice and hoisted himself on to the branch ahead of him. Straddling the wide limb he gazed out at the tangle of weeds. “There was the remains of an old borehole pump somewhere over there.”
“That’s right. They was the enemy. We used to bombard them from up here. When you were very small I used to put you up here and then climb up behind.”
“I remember!! But it was a much wider branch, wasn’t it? We could lie flat so that the enemy couldn’t see us. I remember!” Farleigh became flushed and sat back as long forgatten memories came flooding back.
“I remember the day,” said Justice, “when you first managed to climb up here by yourself. You were nearly four I think. I’m sure it was like a week before your birthday, or something.”
“It was! It was! I still got a fireman suit for my birthday cos now I could climb trees.” Farleigh was shrieking with delight. “I’m going to run away and become a fireman, that’s what I’ll do!”
Justice laughed out loud. “Come Farleigh, let’s hunt down the enemy.”
“Wait. Let me get some weapons.”
A few minutes later he was back, making a racket dragging an overloaded wheelbarrow backwards through the weeds. The enemy fort was soon exposed and vanquished but they continued until they had cleared the whole area under the tree. Farleigh looked up into the branches.
“Didn’t we have a swing somewhere?”
“Right here.” Justice indicated some decayed threads on a branch just above his head.
“No! I suppose it must be. It was so high above my head then I remember not believing that you could get up there to tie it. Now I can touch it. Well if I stand on tiptoes. Almost.”
“Wanna see if you can climb up there now?”
“Ha-ha. Come Justice. I’ve got beers in my fridge. Let’s go clean up for dinner.”
“Let’s go. I’ll take these. You can push the barrow with the small stuff.”
* * * * * * *
Cleaning up together in Farleigh’s small bathroom, he noticed Justice perusing his bare-arse as he showered. “What?” he asked somewhat sharply.
Justice grinned. “My, how you’ve grown, cousin Farleigh.”
“Obviously. So have you. Obviously. ‘Sfunny you know. I remember playing here with you but I can’t actually picture you. I mean I can’t put your face into those memories.”
“We must ask Beth. I’m sure she has photos.”
They sprawled in front of the TV with beers in hand. Farleigh was lighting a small spliff while Justice crushed some more to make a big one. CNN showed flickering pictures of world-wide american disasters but thankfully the sound was off.
“So what was up this morning? You was in a mean mood.”
“Who, me? Oh . . . that.” In all the excitement he had completely forgotten the turmoils of the morning. It seemed so trivial now.
“Yeah, that. Was it ‘that’ made you talk of running away n becomin a fireman?”
“Oh, Justice. I’m a fool I know. My whole life has been so pointless. Boring you know.”
“But something happened. You were pretty wild this morning.”
“I know, I know. Don’t remind me. I’m such a fool.”
“You said it.”
“Okay. What happened was this. Well in a word, Edie. Oh god! Your sister.”
“Mmm. She’s a pretty girl.”
“Yes! Oh, I thought she was so sweet. So young and innocent and so attentive. So willing to please.”
“So you seduced her.”
“I thought so at the time.” He looked pensive for a moment. “I was talking to Anna this afternoon. Seems Edie’s far from innocent. Far, far from it. And she’s so young. She’s nothing but a slut.”
Justice could hear the disgust in Farleigh’s voice.
“But what’s really wrong with that? She’s young, she’s pretty and she’s happy to share that with everyone. I see nothing dishonourable in that.”
“Most people wouldn’t agree with you, you know. Even just in terms of safe sex and HIV and all that. But besides that all religions are against that sort of behaviour.”
“Religions are not god y’know. You did use condoms, didn’t you?”
“I, um, well, I just assumed she was like a virgin, you know.”
“And you think it’s cool to go round screwing virgins so that you, as a grown man who should know better, don’t have to use a condom. Then when you find out she’s not a virgin, she’s the baddy. What kinda morals is that?”
“You make it sound like I’ve had a whole string of virgins. It was only her, only she wasn’t.” He pouted.
“That’s even worse. So your previous lovers were not virgins. So unless you were using condoms with them you could be carrying something nasty which you would have off-loaded on some unsuspecting supposed innocent.”
“Oh sod you! It doesn’t matter what I say, you’re just going to attack me.”
“I’m sorry Farleigh. I don’t mean to attack you. Even she should know better. I know she’s only fourteen but as you just discovered, she’s not so innocent and should have insisted. But seriously, it is important to use condoms.”
“I know. It’s just . . .” He looked at Justice.
“She’s the first girl I ever slept with.” His face turned scarlet. Justice looked at him and shook his head. He was about to speak when there was a loud buzzing, like a doorbell, coming from the house.
“Oh, god. That’s dinner. I really don’t feel like dressing.”
“So clean up here a bit.” Farleigh looked dubiously at the clutter around them. “Oh man just make some space there on the table. I’m dressed, not like for dinner, but I can go and make excuses and bring a tray.”
“You can’t do that! Mother will catch a fit. She’ll think I’m treating you like ‘the boy’.” He giggled. “Let me call Anna to do it.”
“Don’t be silly. It’s Sunday evening. Let the poor woman rest. Half your problem is always having someone to call to do everything for you. Nothing alleviates boredom half as much as having to do everything for yourself.”
Farleigh made a face. “Ah’d rawther be boared,” he drawled. Justice left chuckling and feeling rather tipsy. They had flattened three quarts in record time. He stopped in at the bathroom to splash his face and peer at his bloodshot eyes and then he went in search of dinner.
When he returned he found Farleigh’s living room transformed and a big bag of garbage in the passage. There was a fire going in spite of the evening being quite warm, and a bottle of scotch on the table.
“Here we go. Looks good. I reckon Anna knows her stuff. You were right though. Beth wasn’t impressed. I found it hard not to scream, but I was good, hah! Anyway when I explained that you n I still had a lot of talking to do, she accepted it bit still wanted to call Anna. So, listen to this, I told her that I have just as many arms and legs as Anna ‘cept mine are probably stronger and better looking. Mmmph. She still protested so in the end I told her that you were lying naked on the sofa in front of the fire and not expecting a woman to come wandering in.”
“But she came wandering in anyway.”
“No.” Farleigh grinned. “Edie. Just after you left. I guess she wanted to know which way the wind blows.”
“Hahah! I got her to clean up and make the fire. Then I told her that will be all thank you.”
“Good for you. Bit nasty though, don’t you think?”
“Nah. She didn’t look at all miffed. A bit relieved if anything.”
“So now you are virtually naked on the sofa in front of the fire.”
“Yeah. Be a doll and shut the door.”
“Be a doll, huh? Okay.” Justice turned and walked stiff legged to the door, croaking “Mama”. When he returned Farleigh was rolling on the rug clutching his sides.
“Come off it Farleigh, what would mother say? And we haven’t even started on the scotch.”
“Speak for yourself.” Farleigh raised his glass at Justice. There was not much left in it. “Bring the ice n soda from the fridge. There, under the counter. I’ve got a glass for you. Do you drink scotch?”
“Only when I’m awake.”
“Come. Sit. You are such good company. What’s for dinner?” Farleigh lifted the cover from his plate. “Oh good. A big piece of meat. Just what I feel for.”
Justice grinned and sat down next to him.”Cheers.” He raised his glass and took a big swallow. “To life.”
Farleigh looked at him. “Life sucks. So far anyway. Let’s say to the future.”
“To the future then.” They chinked glasses and for a few minutes ate in silence.
“It always seems like such a big hole. An abyss.”
“What are you talking about, Farleigh.”
“Hmmm? Oh. The future. It’s like a really fat novel, only the pages are all blank.”
“I think it’s more like one of those really busy renaissance paintings where every minor event in the picture is a possibility to be explored, and I get the choice every time.”
“I honestly do not know what to do in the future. I really can’t sit around here much longer. I think I would start to decompose long before I died.”
“You probably have already. You should check the sofas you been lying on. Mebbe you leavin bits behind.” Before he had finished an ice block bounced off his head. He put his plate down, tossed his drink and showered Farleigh with half a dozen half-melted ice blocks.
“Yaah! That was cold! That was so so cold.” He rubbed his robe all over his head and neck and then wrapped himself up tight. “I’m not falling apart yet, okay.”
“Okay. Truce. I’m too hungry to do battle. Refill? Thanks.”
“But I still haven’t figured out what to do. You seem to have so many options open to you.”
“I thought you were going to become a fireman.”
“Oh shut up. I’m serious.”
“You gotta do what you wanna do. The only way to find happiness, peace, contentment, whatever, is to do your heart’s desire. To deny your heart’s desire is to deny god.”
“The only way to find fulfilment is to do your own will. Find something constructive to do. Something that you love to do. Love is the constructive energy. Fear is the destructive one. As long as you fear the future you obstruct its possibilities. If you find something you love doing, it doesn’t matter how insignificant that something is, with the creative force of love behind it, you can move mountains.”
“Oh, you’re wearing me out at the thought. I just want something simple to do. Something entertaining.”
“Listen to me Farleigh. You need to get out and do stuff in order to find out what you really want. You can’t just sit here and expect it to come to you. The important thing to remember is every time you’re faced with a choice, take the option that appeals to your true nature. I reckon that every living thing on earth is god, somehow, so the more you get in touch with your true nature, the more you are in touch with god’s will. As long as you keep operating with love you can become as powerful as god, put it that way. But it’s easier said than done.”
“Do you always get so philosophical when you’re drinking?”
“I’m even worse when I’m sober.”
“Actually the thing I most believe in is the Constitution of South Africa, especially the Bill of Rights. In fact The Freedom Charter, on which it is based, says it all in a nutshell. But what the Constitution has done, is expand the philosophy of The Freedom Charter to encompass every aspect of life. If everybody lived with awareness of the Bill of Rights we would find it the greatest guide to living.
“I mean the Bible just doesn’t cut it man. It’s full of prejudice and judgement and bias and fighting.” He slukked his drink and shook his head.
“Actually I’m talking bullshit. I don’t have a clue what’s in the Bible. I don’t think I’ve read more than ten pages of it.”
At this point Farleigh disintegrated, with tears streaming down his face and clutching his sides. Justice looked at him. “Was that really so hilarious?”
“All I ever hear is people going on about how they read the Bible twice a day and three times on Sundays and then Rev Whatsisname’s always saying that I should read it every morning and evening cos it’s the greatest guide to living.” He cracked up again.
“Oh, forget about them. Listen to me. Eish, Farleigh! Make another spliff, it’s obviously working.”
Farleigh calmed down and started crushing. “Shit! Where you find such fine ganja?”
“I believe it’s grown right here in your backyard.”
“Serious? So how did you get it?”
“Uh, I promised not to reveal my source. But I’m sure I can get more.”
“Okay, well do the refill. You can see I’m busy.”
“Yeah, yeah. But I wanted to tell you something. Oh, yeah, bout Rev Whatsisname. Just call them all Pastor Way, it’ll make you feel much better. Never listen to them. They are all still propping up roman domination of the world. Here.”
“That’s what I wanted to tell you bout. The romans.”
“The romans? But the roman empire collapsed over a thousand years ago.”
“Ah. In theory. Actually it was a political move. Out of the ashes of the collapsed roman empire rose the holy roman empire. A far more subtle way of taking over the world. Worst part is, it’s winning.”
“Against who? The moslems, the chinese? Who? Everyone?”
“Everyone else actually. You have to look back at where did the romans come from.”
“Well from Rome obviously.”
“Ouch! What was that for?”
“Listen carefully, and be afraid.”
“I’m already shaking, look.”
“Okay, okay. I’ll pour you a drink. Ouch! Damn! Gimme that, you smoking it all.”
“But it’s so nice.”
“Yeah it is good. Now sit down and listen. According to legend Rome was built by Romulus and Remus though only Romulus ruled cos he murdered his twin brother. How’s that? Anyway they were the sons of Mars. Now this is the interesting part. Mars was one of the roman gods but of course there weren’t any romans until Romulus founded his city. It was the city for his subjects, for him to rule over as the son of god. Do you see the connection?”
“The roman gods were the sons of Adam.”
“And the greek gods?”
“Well they were all the same people only the greeks had their own names for them.”
“Oh, I knew that.”
“Have another drink Farleigh. Adam and Eve were Jupiter and Juno aka Zeus and Hera.”
“Okay.” Farleigh passed him the newspaper and banky of weed. “Here, it’s your turn.”
Justice started crushing. “So now what do you make of the story of Adam and Eve, with the wicked snake which tempted Eve into sampling the forbidden fruit.”
“You don’t really think that’s all true, do you?”
“Sure it’s true, but it’s symbolic. Remember Adam and Eve were as gods. Led the charmed life, had no wants etc, etc. In other words the garden of eden. It wasn’t so much a place as a standard of living. While the rest of the human race had pretty much evolved along with life on earth, eking out their existence in the wilderness, Adam and Eva had elysium.
“So although they had the fabulous life and at least incredible longevity and possibly immortality, in which case they’re still alive somewhere, the one thing they were not allowed to do was reproduce. Firstly the earth could never support an expanding population of immortals and secondly it was a delicately balanced cosmos with each species, including the humans, living the culture they were created with. If Adam and Eve had babies they would grow up and fuck with the natural humans thereby fuckin up the natural culture of the humans which would destroy the cosmos’ delicate balance.”
“So where does the snake and the apple tree come into it?”
“Ouch. Stop that. Gimme that bottle. God, it’s empty.”
“So I just discovered. Listen ? this CD you’re playing.”
“Erykah Badu. What about it?”
“Skip back a few tracks. Not that one. It starts ‘I have some food in my belly’.”
“Oh this one.”
“Ok now listen. Shh. Sit down.” A few seconds later she sang
“And if you don’ want to get down with me
“Then you don’ want to pick from my apple tree.”
“It was Adam’s snake that seduced Eve’s apple into giving up the womb.”
“You mean the original sin was ‘they fucked’?”
“Well I reckon they were free to play with each other n themselves as much as they liked but he was not allowed to impregnate her. But it was not the act that was the problem, it was the effect.
“The interesting thing is, and this is one of the few bits I’ve read in the Bible, they only had sons.”
“For real? I mean that it’s in the Bible.”
“Eish bru! Ya, it’s in the Bible ? some versions of it anyway. I have a theory about this. I reckon Eve was just an ordinary girl until Adam donated his rib, but that rib was not from his skeleton. It was a piece of genetic material. Thereafter he only had two Y chromosomes instead of XY and that is why they only had sons.”
“So that’s why people generally want sons. To be like Adam.”
“And yet it’s all wrong.”
“I mean that was what Adam did wrong. That was the Original sin. None of the rest would have happened if he had stuck to wanking.”
That set Farleigh off in peals. This time Justice had to fetch ice from the freezer to stop him.
“Shh! It’s after two in da morning. D’you wanna wake someone?”
“Okay, okay. I’m fine. No I’m not. Wait. I’ve got another bottle somewhere.” He struggled to his feet and wobbled into the bedroom. After rummaging around he came back triumphantly.
“Jesus! What’s that?”
“I dunno. I thought it appropriate. It’s something consecrated from an Italian monastery.”
“On top of the scotch?”
“Well that was on top of the beers and we’ve made it this far. The spliff’s not finished is it?”
“Not much left.” Justice looked at the bag sadly.
“You gotta go back to dat tree tomorrow. Gimme your glass.”
“Here. Wait, I wanna get this fire going again, it’s getting cold in here.” While he got busy with the fire, Farleigh snuck up on him and dropped an ice block down his back. Justice sat up very straight, very fast, and reaching behind with both arms he grabbed Farleigh in a backwards bear-hug.
Unfortunately when he stood up he lost his balance and they both went crashing into the sofa with poor Farleigh underneath. Justice quickly rolled off of him.
“Askies. Are you okay?” He started feeling him all over for broken bones.
“Mmmm,” said Farleigh deliciously and started rubbing Justice’s chest. Justice slipped both arms under Farleigh, lifting him and grabbing the open wine bottle with one hand.
Realising Farleigh was about to shriek he quickly stuck his tongue in Farleigh’s open mouth while his free hand found its way into Farleigh’s boxers. He only just made it to the bed before losing his grip on the wriggling Farleigh.
“Wassamatta? You don’ want?”
“Fuck you!” Farleigh took a deep breath. “Come here.” He grabbed Justice around the neck and pulled him down onto the bed.
“Do you know what time it is?” Farleigh looked at the bedside clock in amazement.
“Do you care what time it is?” Justice stretched luxuriously.
“No serious. The cocks going to crow any minute and we never even really slept.”
“So? Da cocks have been crowing in here for hours.”
“Aaargh!” Farleigh grabbed a pillow and attempted to smother Justice with it. Justice wrestled him off and sat up.
“So are you throwing me out before we get discovered and Beth thinks we been sinning under her roof?”
“And you’re sure we haven’t been?”
“Did it feel like sin?”
“This hang up bout sex is all part of the roman bullshit. You see what I read in Genesis is that the sons of Adam found pleasure in the daughters of man; that is the so-called common herd, the evolved species, us who lived in the wilderness. Except Adam and Eve also got banished to the wilderness for having committed the Orignal sin.”
“But do you get what you are saying? I mean Pastor Way tells us the snake was satan but you say it was Adam’s penis.”
“Yeah, in other words Adam n satan are one and the same. I mean, obviously. Why do you think it was called the Original sin? Before that there had been no sin at all in the whole world. Which is not to say we had never committed acts of murder or assault or even rape – just that they were not sins. All our actions were purely the will of god no matter what we did. We were just as innocent as the lion who murders the springbok, as innocent as the gorilla who murders his new wife’s baby cos it’s not his own. And like the lion, gorilla etc we never did lie, cheat or steal. We did not conceive of the idea of saying something that was not true and so far as stealing is concerned – there was no ownership, property is a purely satanic ideal.
“But then Adam’s sons repeated the Original sin by fucking with the daughters of men. Remember what I said last night about why they should never have had babies. And look at the mess the world is in now.”
“But what’s the connection?”
“Look, Adam and Eve had been used to being virtually gods. They never got their hands, or feet, dirty. They probably never needed to take a crap. Then suddenly they were demoted and had to live as mortals. But they couldn’t face the thought of having to wipe their own arses as such. I mean being a mortal meant having to toil in order to eat; to sweat and get dirty. That was intolerable to them.”
“So they lorded it over the human race, and everyone had to serve them.”
“”Yeah. Quite literally. When they were banished from eden n told to go and live like the mortals, they refused. Instead Adam proclaimed ‘I am the one god and you shall have no other god before me’. It was that very act that made him satan. And their kids grew up in this environment and considered themselves better than everyone else. I reckon the original concept of marriage was introduced to try to get Adam’s sons to take on the natural culture of the girls they were screwing and take responsibility for their kids. But of course the prejudices of these blond men prevailed and through the culture of marriage the oppression of women began.”
“So what was the culture of these humans? I gather they were quite evolved but were they like beasts. I mean did they just live by instinct?”
“Farleigh, are you taking sides against us?”
“Before Adam brought his pretty face out into the wilderness, yeah, we were the innocents. We lived simple lives centred on survival. We had neither money nor religion and no more need of either than a wild creature. All the superstitions and so-called primitive religions came after Adam. The mere existence on earth of one so beautiful, so immortal and not needing to toil to survive is what triggered primitive superstitions.
“Before the days of the roman empire, the people of Europe were living simple tribal lives just like the pre-colonial Africans. Sure there were cultural differences between us and them but it was still a more natural lifestyle than what was born of the roman empire.
“That is why I say ‘us’ not ‘them’. Even the Europeans were robbed of their culture by the romans.”
“So that the descendants of Adam could continue to live lives of relaxation and not have to admit that they are no longer gods. So that they don’t have to get their hands dirty. Same thing as why white people have black maids. In Europe the maids were usually white. In Europe you get the common folk and the nobility or aristocrats. They were the ones who could claim descent from Adam.”
“But Adam was satan!”
“Ta-daa! The best kept secret of the western world. But let’s see how they came to be romans. I reckon the sons of Adam and Eve were fair of face like their parents. When they started breeding with the local evolved species, some of their kids would have been more blond than others. But in order to keep their supremacy over the locals they needed to breed back the blond line of Adam. They must have heard that there were blond tribes living to the west of them, so leaving all the darkie kids behind, they went west. Their first stop was Greece where they made a huge impact. But the Greeks were not blond enough for them, so they travelled further west to Italy.
“Their dark cousins left behind would have been the ancestors of the founders of Islam.”
“So who were the Jews?”
“They must have been the original tribe in the area. It would have been their daughters who allegedly ‘seduced’ Adam’s sons. Do you see how deep the whole race, gender discrimination thing is?”
“And the Middle-east war.”
“It’s too much. The whole thing is such a mess and you’re making my head spin. I’m tired. Let me sleep.” He pulled a pillow over his head.
“That’s Beth,” said Justice standing up.
“What?” mumbled Farleigh, confused.
“Beth is calling.”
Farleigh sat up quickly, rubbing his eyes. “Who, me? What’s the time? God it’s to nine.”
“Go to sleep. It’s me she’s calling.”
“In the bathroom,” Farleigh mumbled pointing in that general direction. “You can put on my bathrobe.”
“Actually it’s lying on the floor by the fire.”
“Yeah, but there’s a clean one in the bathroom. It’s bigger, might cover more.” He sniggered. Justice threw a pillow at him and went out to the bathroom. When he came back Anna was cleaning up the living room. Justice quickly crossed the room and closed the bedroom door. He looked at Anna and put his finger to his lips. “We never slept all night so don’t wake him now.”
“I’ll be very quiet, I promise. Beth is looking for you.”
“Tell you what,” said Justice putting the tray she had just loaded into her hands. “Take this downstairs and tell Beth I’ll be down as soon as I’ve had a bath.”
* * * * * * *
“There you are Justice. Can I offer you breakfast?”
“A glass of juice, a piece of toast. Maybe some coffee after.” Seeing Beth’s deflated expression, Justice glanced at the side-board to see a veritable buffet breakfast that could have put Sun Hotels in the shade. ‘Well’ he thought, ‘might as well pig out while I can.’
Aloud he said, “Mmm. On second thoughts I think I’ll have some of each.” Beth beamed as he took a plate and started loading it.
It was a couple of hours later and his second cup of coffee when Beth asked him his plans for the day.
“Well, it is Monday so I could go and look around town for some work.”
“You only just got here Justice. At least take a few days to relax with us first. If you need cash you do have some you know.” She winked at him.
“What do you mean Beth?” She stood up and retrieved an envelope from the side-board.
“I took out this thing when you were first starting high school. It was a small thing. R100 per month. All these years I never stopped it and every so often we would increase the subscription. Coincidentally, the official maturity date was the beginning of this month though you do not have to cash it all in at once. It is quite a bit. Here.”
Justice read the letter and whooped. “And this is mine! Beth you are the best. Everybody should have a mum like you. Really.” He jumped up and gave her his best bear hug. Sitting down again he said, “Farleigh and I were, um, talking last night. With him as a partner I could freelance far more easily, especially now with this little nest-egg. Whoo-hoo!”
“Farleigh only has a BA. He is not an engineer you know.”
“I need someone to keep track of admin and logistics an all that. If we do field trips he can be chief cook and bottle-washer.”
“Cook!” Beth hooted and gave her falsetto ha, ha, ha. “Please Justice I doubt he can even wash dishes. It is a miracle he can even tie his own shoes.”
“Mother!” Farleigh stood in the doorway. “If it’s any consolation, Justice, I can at least fry eggs and make tea. And I have washed dishes before. So there.” He looked decidedly miffed but it was probably ninety percent hangover.
“When, where have you ever washed dishes?” Beth is incredulous.
“‘Snone of your business.”
“Aw Farleigh. This is my mum. Be nice to her. Please.”
Farleigh looked at Justice in astonishment.
“I washed a huge load of dishes in a club in Paris, okay.”
“What! Why? Did you run out of cash, Farleigh?”
“No, mother. I had a bet with somebody which I lost. Spectacularly.”
“Oh please tell us, Farleigh,” implored Justice.
“Well I was pretty drunk by then but so was everyone else so it didn’t really matter. Anyway there was this really pretty, petite, dark, french girl at the bar and she looked kinda shy. So I told my friend I was going to get her to join us. He disagreed with me. ‘Impossible’ is what he claimed. He said I would just irritate her with my bad french. I mean really! My french is perfect. Anyway I insisted the mere fact of my being a foreigner would interest her. I think actually we were being quite loud about it and she may have heard us. I don’t know. And I can’t remember why it was about the dishes. Oh, Oh yes.”
“Tell, tell,” both Beth and Justice insisted.
“He was actually the barman and had just been complaining to me about the pile of dishes waiting for him.”
“Hah! He probably owned the place and did not fancy his wife’s grumbling in the morning,” interjected Beth.
“Whatever. Anyway, I approached the mademoiselle and spoke to her in my best french, explaining that I was a stranger to Paris and asking if she would join me. Well I don’t know what I said wrong but first she shrieked something incomprehensible at me, then she threw her drink at my shirt and then she stormed out of the club.
“My luck being what it is, the whole scene happened just as the band stopped playing and it was all eyes on me. Of course my friend, the barman, quickly made a loud announcement about our bet and a huge tub of soapy water was brought to the bar and load after load of dirty dishes was brought out. It was a lark, actually, like I was the new attraction in town. Within half an hour the place was packed, standing room only. And all these girls kept coming to help me until their boyfriends dragged them away. It was like my fifteen seconds of fame only it was more like fifteen hours.”
“Did it really take that long?”
“Nah. It was over in less than two hours but it was memorable. My fingers were all wrinkly afterwards. There was this,” Farleigh cleared his throat. “Well they brought lotion for my hands n all that.”
By this time Beth was amazed. “Well, you certainly loosened his tongue. I don’t think we’ve had this much conversation out of him in the last ten years.”
Farleigh made a face and helped himself to coffee.
“How are you feeling this morning, actually this afternoon.”
“What? Oh, okay, only just. I think I’m going back to bed. You?”
“Well I’ve just spent the whole morning eating; something I haven’t done in years. I’m feeling so powerful now, I thought I would spend the afternoon getting Palesa’s veggie garden going again. I thought you might lend me a hand.” Farleigh rolled his eyes. “Oh, come on. We were a good team yesterday. Let’s do it again.”
“Is Palesa’s fridge stocked with beers?”
“We can always get some.”
“Okay but I might decide to lie down after ten minutes.”
“Whatever. Let’s go.”
Out in Palesa’s yard Justice wanted to know, “There was this hmmm, hmmm what? Who rubbed lotion on you where?”
“Oh shit! Actually it was a gay club and the girls helping me were actually dragged away by the dykes. Except for the ‘ladies’ but they only did it for photo opportunity. And after it was over this gorgeous bouncer man came and rubbed lotion all over my hands, only he didn’t stop there.”
“Oh Justice. You just don’t know me. What between Pastor way and HIV/AIDS I’ve mostly dedicated my sex life to Onan. I’m such a ninny.”
“There was nothing wrong with you last night.”
“Yes but . . .”
“Well I was very drunk. Also I was in a safe space and, I dunno, you’re a big guy but somehow not in a threatening way. I mean you make me feel,” he waved his hands about helplessly. “I dunno, secure I suppose.”
“Well we may have been drunk but we did condomise so you have no need to feel afraid. Maybe you just suffer from a fear of latex.”
“It feels kinda funny insisting on condoms. Like you’re implying there may be something wrong with the other person.”
“Or with you. It protects both ways. Never feel shy about that.”
“What’s the time? Look we’re done. The whole yard is clear.”
“Three o’clock, but we’re only just ready to begin.”
Farleigh removed his shirt and wiped his face with it. “Oh. Well okay. I’ll just open another beer. I may not have your powerful torso . . . hmmm, but actually this is fun. At least I’m not bored. But is it really worth it? These little kitchen gardens can never compete with the big farms.”
“But it’s those big farms that are the problem with the world. It’s the huge plantations which created the need for slaves and robbed us of our food sovereignty. It all goes back to that roman thing of bigger, better, faster, more. Or progress as they like to call it.
“But it leaves the general population dependant on commodity trading for our staples and that’s where we’re screwed. The fact that the robber-barons can trade with our food for the sake of their profits is a crime against humanity. It’s through commodity trading that the modern roman empire is controlling our supplies. Look at all the staples like maize meal, sugar, rice. The colours of the packaging is mostly the old roman colours of red, white and green.
“After London became the new rome, we got the british empire which was just the roman empire in drag. Their colours were red, white and blue. You find these colours in France and the Netherlands too. France is particularly empirical with their metrication of the world.”
“And the United States.”
“Yeah. The New World because that’s were all the original wealth went. And see how they have maintained imperial measurements. But the point I’m making is that all the staples not in red, white and green are in red, white and blue. Try and survive without buying anything packaged in imperial colours. Unless you are really really rich, you will starve. Look at the food riots. Countries where most of the rice is grown, their own people are struggling to afford rice. This is what AGRA is planning to do to Africa. Commodity trading! It’s all bullshit. We’re propping up the romen empire just to survive.”
“Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa. It’s a long story but basically the capitalists are running out of markets upon which to capitalise and have decided that African land is under utilised and they intend to profit from that. So they started AGRA as a front whereby they can look like they’re doing good while robbing even more Africans of their ancestral lands. What’s left of them post colonialism.”
“But it’s like you’re saying the only way to save the world is to go back to subsistence farming. We’ll starve.”
“Like everybody else you’re thinking Zimbabwe. But it doesn’t have to be like that. And it doesn’t have to be subsistence farming either. The important things are ruling out the need for excessive transportation, stopping the whole mono-culture style of farming, and sticking to original seed. No hybrids, no GMO’s. But first and foremostly Africa needs to stop exporting food so long as there are any hungry Africans.”
“I thought the reason there were hungry Africans was because we could not produce enough food.”
“Have you any idea how much African fruit and meat is being consumed in Europe and North America. And other places. And because of foreign investment they get to buy it as a raw material with prices set by the market. I’ve just spent some months with my ngunu in Qwaqwa. She never buys vegetables. Her pension money is for maize meal and fish oil. All her veggies she grows herself during summer. Oh and some greens in winter but she stock piles mealies and beans for the winter.”
“She eats meat when she goes to funerals. Almost every Saturday. Sometimes she will slaughter one of her chickens but only for very special occasions. Like Christmas or the day I arrived home.”
“But still. It’s too idealistic. What about the urban population? Think of people living in places like Hillbrow. How many veggies can you grow on a miniature balcony?”
“Sure. If we’re going to decentralise, the urban population is going to be our biggest problem. But although they are high density areas, the majority of people are not in the urban areas. Well I don’t know exact figures in South Africa but generally world-wide and especially in Africa as a whole, the masses are living simple lives as they do in Qwaqwa.
“Do you know what the bench-mark is? The determining factor. Access to piped water and, even more, water-borne sewerage systems.”
“Determining factor of what?”
“Of who’s who. The haves vs the have-nots. Ordinary plumbing, like indoor taps and geysers, well even electricity, are luxuries denied to the majority of people world-wide. The lucky ones have there own outside tap and don’t have to queue at a public tap or risk using polluted river water. But generally it’s only those humans following the system ie romans that have waterborne sewerage.”
“What do you mean by water-borne sewerage? Do you mean simple flushing toilets?”
“So we’re romans?”
“Absolutely. Look at your lifestyle. How many vehicles do you have for the personal use of your family, never mind the farm vehicles. Look how many people are working for you just in your home.”
“But we have three cars because three of us drive. How does that make us romans?” By this time they were sprawled in the shade of a big tree exploring the contents of the skaftien Anna had packed for them from the breakfast left-overs.
“The mere fact that you can’t see how excessive your lifestyle is, shows just how roman you are. The point is it’s not possible for everybody to have this lifestyle. In fact already the planet is fucked up just from the small proportion of those who do have it. The only way the earth is going to survive is if everyone gives it up.”
“What! I must stop using my flush toilet and dig a hole in the yard. You’re mad. How is that going to save the world?”
“Don’t worry Farleigh. You see that was the whole point. Adam was not supposed to have sons at all. It’s not your fault that he did. But what was worse is that his sons were never supposed to have colonised the world at all. They had other options open to them. In fact the one that would have been their salvation was homosexuality. If they had stuck to just playing with each other they never would have destroyed god’s delicate cosmos. They could even have continued their luxurious life-style because they would have remained finite. I’m sure it still holds true. As long as you’re gay, that is non-reproductive, it’s fine to live like this.”
“Oh yes. I like you. That’s obviously why you’re called Justice.”
“Just Ice, heh-heh.”
“But do you really believe that? They were supposed to turn the world gay.”
“Well I don’t know if that would have happened. The point was they were not supposed to upset the cosmos. But considering how long they lived and how much they were admired, I reckon even if they had died out, homosexuality would still have had its place as the righteous option.”
“Is it though?”
“Sure. It’s not the moffies that’s abusing n raping women and children. Anyway I reckon it was in their contract with god to be gay. In other words to leave the daughters of men alone and make no more babies. But some of them, instead of sticking to the agreement, started prostitution.”
“Sure. They paid the girls for their silence. Y’know ‘Don’t tell my brothers. Here’s fifty bucks’ etc. When it became obvious that too many of them were doing that then god musta said like ‘Fine, then you must marry the girls’ in other words become one of the toilers, the natural father figures, but as I told you last night they used marriage as a tool of oppression instead.
“In the meantime, because they were bringing forth more and more generations while the original gay brothers eventually died out, the wicked hettie half of the family started a pack of lies to discredit homosexuality.”
“Wow. So you really believe it was originally more righteous to be gay.”
“For sure. Still is. There’s even a very old roman word for the earth, gaia, and the original meaning of the word ‘gay’ had only positive connotations. It was linked to the word quick as in it’s original meaning of having life but I’m sure it referred to the original homosexual livelihood that Adam’s sons were supposed to adopt in order to preserve the life of the cosmos. The thing is, Adam’s sons were not naturally a part of earth’s life force. To be gay was their way to connect with it; to get permanent resident status as such. It’s only in the past fifty years that the dictionary has added ‘of loose morals’ or some such to the definition of gay.”
“And maybe because of their guilt at having disobeyed god they’re now trying to destroy that life force”
“Hey!” Justice became pensive. “I always thought the destruction of the earth was a side-effect of their disobedience. Maybe you’re right, maybe they’re deliberately destroying god. I mean if that was the plan all along they’re certainly succeeding. The world is fucked Farleigh. Oh I know from your vantage point on the sofa it can’t look that bad, but it’s bad.”
“Firstly carbon build up in the ocean is reaching saturation point. The surface of the ocean used to suck up the excess carbon rapidly and then it would slowly filter down to the sea floor. The top layers of the ocean are now totally saturated and can only absorb carbon at the same rate that it is filtering down. Soon the excess carbon is going to build up a black greasy layer on the ocean. Crazy thing is when the so-called experts were calculating the carbon foot-prints of industrialisation, they forgot to include international shipping. When they realised this a couple of years back it turns out this footprint is huge but nobody wants to take responsibility for it because generally there are three parties involved. There’s the country which owns the ship, there’s the country which owns the goods on the ship and there is the country that will take ownership of the goods on the ship. And they all want to blame each other.
“Even in the atmosphere it wont be long before we can actually see the carbon build up. Already I’ve noticed that when the moon is just a small crescent it looks brownish. And I don’t mean when it’s low in the sky cos that can be attributed to local smog. I mean when it’s high overhead. Check it out for yourself.”
“But I’ve never heard of that before, the ocean thing.”
“Yeah stuff like that is not considered sensational enough to make headlines. The global warming thing is even worse. Apparently it’s been happening for millenia.”
“Well then surely it’s just natural phenomena.”
“There are some people who claim that but if you had to plot the earth’s average temperatures on a cartesian plain you will see that for millenia temperatures have been climbing at a minimal rate. The line on the graph looks almost horizontal. In the last one hundred and fifty years there has been a sharp incline. In other words the curve is hyperbolic and we’re probably very close to the forty-five degree mark. That means the incline will become steeper very quickly and will soon approach the vertical.”
“Check it out for yourself Farleigh. Don’t sit around waiting for the sky to fall on your head. Look at the Pacific ocean. It covers nearly half the planet and one third of it is a garbage dump.”
“Yeah. All the rubbish washed down by asian and american rivers or dumped by shipping, gets carried by ocean curents to a central spot, kinda like when you pull the plug in the bathtub. Actually there are two central areas, one to the east of Hawaii and one to the west. But because shipping routes follow the currents, nobody noticed the garbage. Then one day this rich dude who’s been sailing his yacht away from home decides to tack his way back, straight across the middle. It was bad. He says for a whole week he sailed through garbage, mostly plastic floating just below the surface. And he was thousands of miles from land. And if the Pacific is like that I reckon the other oceans are much the same.”
“Then it’s over. If the sea is that trashed it’s too late to try anything.”
“Don’t matter how late it is, we still gotta try Farleigh. There’s even worse news.”
“Although the focus of global warming is on the carbon build-up, it’s due to greenhouse gases and some of them are worse than carbon dioxide. Because of industrialisation there are now more and more other elements accumulating in the atmosphere that were either never there or were present in virtually negligible quantities. Some of them are highly inflammable.
“By the time the global temperature graph starts approaching the vertical it only has to get hot enough to ignite any one of them that burns at a lower temperature. Once one ignites the heat generated will set off a chain reaction in the rest of them. Of course having the surface of the earth covered with networks of crude oil, and petroleum products by the barrel and tanker load, as well as mountains of coal in strategic places, and plastic trash lying everywhere, will just stick ol’ earth onto the end of that chain reaction. Boom!”
“Oh great. So we’ll get this spectacular global fireworks display and then the planet itself will become a ball of fire.”
“If there’s enough oxygen left.”
“Let’s just buy a gun and shoot each other. No that wont work, we’ll need two guns. Oh god.” He put his head in his hands. Suddenly he looked up. “But what about Kyoto Protocol, and Bali? I thought they had come round and were now sorting the problem out.”
“Yeah right. They can’t make it go away by holding talks about it. It’s all much too little too late. In fact it’s just lip-service to satisfy the bourgoisie. The proletariat, us masses who are already suffering the side-effects, are of no consequence. We wield no power and have no commercial impact as such. In fact those talks are dominated by big business money looking for ways to exploit the situation in the name of combatting it. But most of what they’re really doing is using it as an excuse to exploit us further, like AGRA. Besides the majority of us are too concerned with where the next meal is coming from to be aware of global situations.”
“It’s like that? Us and them. And you’ve decided to join the proletariat versus the rest of the world.”
“No Farleigh. Not the rest of the world. Not even the rest of the human race and there is a big difference. The proletariat are the ones being truly squeezed right now, of the humans that is. The whole world is feeling it. The plants and animals have been suffering much much longer. The only taste the bourgoisie have had is a tiny tap called load-shedding. And look how they screamed while the proletariat didn’t really notice it; they’ve been suffering electricity shortages for generations, those of them who have access to electricity at all. Imagine when the going gets tougher. The ‘us’ vs them is actually the whole world including about ninety percent of the human race. In fact the ‘them’ may be even less than one percent of the humans but a lot of us are still helping to preserve the roman status quo, maybe unwittingly so. While, like I said, the majority of us, are too busy trying to survive to even grasp the big picture. The number of us who are waking up to the truth of the state of the earth is growing, but still small, but we are realising how desparately we need to do something really drastic.”
“Eish! And we haven’t really achieved anything here today either.”
“But seriously Farleigh. Look at what they decided at Bali. First they want India and China to become completely industrialised. Why further develop their dependancy on fossil fuels when we know we need to stop using them. Meanwhile China has got the go-ahead to plunder Africa. We’ve had centuries of foreign investment which has caused widespread destruction and pollution combined with the wholesale export of all our treasures, oil, copper, diamonds etc and the local people don’t ever benefit even one little bit. They say job creation but it’s just slavery.
“Look at DRC where whole villages are kept as slaves under house arrest in order to mine the black mud, a substance essential to every digital gadget. They should by rights be the wealthiest people in the world. Instead they don’t even have access to the very technology which could not exist without their slavery. Africans have benefitted nothing from foreign investment. Ever. Only the foreigners benefit. It’s time to put a stop to it. All of it.”
“I’m beginning to see your point. What did they say about Africa at Bali?”
“Just about nothing. The whole thing was hi-jacked by the people who are benefitting from the on-going petroleum industry. The main conclusion coming from Bali was ‘Let’s see what it’s like in 2050’ or something like that. It was really pathetic. I reckon they know that by 2050 it will be too late and if we don’t rescue Africa before then there wont be any point in trying anymore.”
“Precisely. So why are you even bothering?”
“Eish Farleigh. It’s nearly forty years until 2050. That’s basically the rest of our lives. We gotta fight back somehow. Come on.”
“You’re not seriously going to start digging again. It’s late.”
“Don’t be daft. Let’s go get another beer and I’ll show you my crib. I see Mum’s gone up to the house.”
“Oh goody, the guided tour?”
It took Justice less than fifteen minutes to convince Farleigh there were plenty of reasons to continue living.
“Your whole body turns red Farleigh, look at you.”
“Ooh I know.” He looked at his reflection in the mirror tiles stuck on the wall. “Mmm. Look at me, I’m dripping. It’s so delicious.”
“Sala-dicious huh? Me too. Let’s dress and go raid Beth’s kitchen garden.”
“You really do like salads. I mean it’s not just garnish to you.”
“Hey listen, salad’s important, especially if you can get it straight from the garden. You gotta look after your body, more than your soul. Your body is mortal whereas your soul survives all. In fact it’s your soul as looks after you.”
“I somehow don’t think Pastor Way will agree with you.”
“Oh but I’m sure we would disagree about everything. I know I’m right cos in my soul I can feel it’s true. That’s the difference when you’ve never been brainwashed by religion as a child. You can actually connect with the truth through your soul.”
“Oh blah, blah, blah. I’m hungry. Are we going to make dinner here?”
“I don’t know. I don’t want to be unfriendly to Beth but I would like to eat with my family sometimes. It’s so difficult with all the class distinctions operating under her roof.”
“You don’t see it as plain old racism?”
“I guess it is but she’s always treated me as one of the family and I’m the blackest one amongst us. But Danny and Edie are her servants. It’s complicated.”
“So let’s do dinner with Beth tonight and you can talk to her about having a family dinner at Palesa’s tomorrow night. You could even invite her. I wonder if she would come.”
“I’m sure she would. Your mother’s not a bad person. I think you just have normal family dysfunctional relationships.”
Farleigh looked at him.
“I mean you know each other too well and at the same time you don’t know each other at all.”
“And you? You really don’t know your family.”
“Yeah, and look. We’re all friends.”
By this time they had gathered salad and found Palesa back at the cottage.
“Brought you some salad, Ma.”
“Justice. Thank you. You didn’ need to. Edie makes me dinner every day.”
“I know Ma, but she never makes you salad.”
“Justice, I’ll see you later. I’m going to dress for dinner.” He gave an exaggerated aristocratic lift of the chin as he left.
Justice laughed. “Right. Later.”
“Come sit n bua le nna.”
“That’s why I’m here Ma. I promised Farleigh I’ll eat with Beth tonight but you know they only eat later. So now I’m going to make a salad which I’ll help you eat before you have your dinner.”
“So what happened? I mean the first few years you were in England and then in Spain, I used to get regular letters. After that I never knew where you were. Occassionally I would get letters or messages from strange places and even stranger people.”
“An Justice, some of your letters, you were cursing the Europeans for their history as if it’s their fault, but also you would say that. I mean that it’s not, you know. Then you just disappear.”
“Askies Ma. You never got my last letter? I sent you my plan, itinerary they call it. Where I was going and stuff.”
“Ja. I got it. There was a number where I could call you when you got to Mombasa. I thought it’s the phone number of one of your friends. Even Beth, she thinks it’s your friends number. When over six months goes by n we hear nothing, she says let’s call your friend in Mombasa. Ha, it was a hotel in Mombasa and they never heard of you. The manager there was very nice. You owe me a trip to Mombasa; he says he’s going to take me out.”
“Woohoo Ma! I’m definitely going to take you there myself. Soon Ma. I’m sorry hey. That was my plan but it was years before I got that far south. Here you go. One fine salad by yours truly and a fork for each of us.”
“This is nice. Thank you just Ice heh-heh.” Palesa cackled. “Anyway this nice manager man asks me the date of your letter then he goes back through all his records to that date. Then he calls me back. They never ever hear from you unless it was just a phone call but no booking.”
“I’m sorry, Ma.”
“You know it would have been worse but having someone to talk to about it helped.And you know that he actually called me back again after a few days. But you had called us by then. From where?”
“Accra, Ma, it’s in Ghana. It was the first real chance I had.”
“That’s what I mean. Tell me what happened. The whole story, starting with the wicked history of the europeans.”
Justice sat back, the salad finished. “Mmm-mmm. Sorry Ma. I think I ate most of it.”
“I had enough. My dinner’s still coming.”
“So’s mine. But Ma the story is so long, even before I started the trek through Africa. Tomorrow I want to have dinner at home.”
Palesa beamed. “Ag. I love the way you say that. Sure you can have dinner with me. Maybe Edith and Daniel will join us. They mostly do their own thing you know.”
“Yeah. Tomorrow I’ll help Edith cook and Farleigh’s coming and I want to ask Beth.”
“Goody, we can have a party.”
“Yeah. We’ll get some wine. Even we’ll invite Salem and I’ll tell the whole story tomorrow night.”
“Tomorrow afternoon I promised to visit Maaitjie. She’s my friend down there ekasi, but I’ll be back before dark.”
“Yay Ma. We’ll make the place nice and have dinner ready.”
* * * * * * *
The news did not go down so well with Edie.
“No, no, no. You’re mad Justice. How could you even think of doing that.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean inviting ‘the madam’ here. You mean Beth is coming to eat dinner here. Off what? Our tin plates? And there are only four of them. We going to have to take turns. And I must sit here between Salem and Farleigh. I’ll run away.”
Justice resisted the urge to laugh at his sister. “Chill sister. I think I’ve distracted Farleigh from your case. I think he may even tolerate Salem. As for the plates, tomorrow you going to get the afternoon off and you n me’s going shopping for dinner. If we have to buy dinner plates, well I’m not yet broke.” He grinned. He had not told anybody about the letter Beth had given him. “I’m sure you can show me the best places to shop. I’ll even buy you a new dress to wear.”
“A dress.” Edie made a face. She was just starting to get excited about the party.
“Oh it doesn’t have to be a dress. I just mean new clothes.”
“You’ll buy me new jeans? Ke a kopa.”
“Whatever you want.”
“Yes! But we have to do something about this place. Please can we change the curtains Ma? Ma bought new curtains but she’s saving up for new furniture.”
“You can change them as long as you wash these ones.”
“Come Edie let’s change them before we go to bed n tomorrow I’ll springclean a bit here.”
* * * * * * *
“Wow Justice. Da place look so beauthful.”
“So do you my darling sister, so do you. I think we did good today. Don worry bout the new sneakers, we’ll go back for them soon.”
“Oh I’m sorry we spent all your money today.”
“Hey, ’twasn’t you, ’twas me and I haven’t had so much fun in ages. There’ll be more money again when we need it. There always is.”
“I like you boet, you don’ stress.”
“That’s the small stuff man. What stress me is da state of everything. Mostly the continent of Africa, my first love. But actually the whole world, my first god, and even da universe.”
“You too deep for me. I reckon live for now and let everyone do their own thing.”
“You’re right Edie.But it’s like too much has gone wrong for too long now. We actually need to stand up and fight for the sake of earth. It really is fucked up.”
Edie was busy unpacking their shopping. “Listen, you doing the fish, right. I dunno what to do with a whole fish like that. I’ll make a green salad and a potato salad. There’s still a coupla bottles of Ma’s yummy beetroot. What else? Should I make rice?”
“Yeah. Rice’ll be good. Once I’ve got the fish in the oven I’m going to chop all these and make the biggest, bestest fruit salad you ever tasted.”
“Mmm an we going to eat it with that luscious ice-cream you bought.”
“Don’t forget you promised to make chocolate sauce. Did you put the wine in the fridge?”
“Ja boet, relax. I even put one in the freezer with the ice-cream so we can open it jus now. What? We got six bottles, surely we can open one now.”
“You’re too young. You not allowed any.”
“Jus try n stop me. Anyway I hear the kids in Europe drink wine like it’s cooldrink.”
“Hardly like it’s cooldrink but yeah they do give their kids wine from a young age.”
Justice was busy preparing the fish and Edith had put the potatoes on the stove. She sneaked the bottle from the freezer and held it against her cheek. “It’s perfect boet. Please can we open it?”
“Edith you will be drunk by the time the guests arrive. What will Beth think? Is Salem coming?”
Edie got the giggles and then pointed out the window. Salem had found the spade where they had left it and was busy finishing the beds they had started making yesterday.
“What a star. Let’s invite him in to join us in a toast.”
“Toast? Oh you mean like ‘Cheers’.”
“Yeah, Edie” Justice shook his head. “Go get him.”
Justice watched from the window while Edie sneaked up on Salem. He could see that the man was fully aware of her yet he succeeded in being surprised when she leapt on his back. He was huge. Not just taller than Justice, even his shoulders were broader.
A couple of minutes later they came through the door, Salem ducking very low with Edie on his shoulders almost falling off. This time Salem hugged Justice first nearly dislodging Edie again. But she was tenacious. Reaching past Justice she grabbed the bottle and the opener and pointed him at the row of new wine glasses lined up under the window.
Justice took them from her and did the honours but he insisted that she come down for the toast. He put his glass in the air and said his usual, “To life!”
“To life!” they both said enthusiastically.
Suddenly Edie shrieked and dived at the stove. “The potatoes.” She tested them with a fork but they were fine. “The oven’s ready boet, is the fish?”
“Er . . . coming up.” He added the finishing touches and put it in the oven. Meanwhile Edie put the rice on and drained the potatoes, leaving them to cool. She turned to her brother. “How are we all going to sit? I mean you can only put six chairs at this table and we’ve only got five anyway.”
“How many are we?” He counted on his fingers. “Seven if Dan turns up, eight if he’s not alone. Well you can sit on Salem’s lap and Farleigh can sit on mine and if Dan’s got company she’ll just have to sit on his.”
Salem looked from Justice to Edie and back to Justice. “Do you think Beth will handle that?”
“Silly!” Justice swatted him. “Tell you what. I wanted to make some changes but I didn’t know how Ma would feel.”
“Come here. Let’s move all the lounge chairs closer together. Yeah Salem take that bench out.”
“That’s the coffee table.”
“I know, but tonight we going to sit on it. Look now there’s space by this wall. Now push the dresser right up against the fridge. There now the bench fits in. Now we bring the table over here. Shit girl! We never made the pudding.”
“Or the salads.”
“Mmm, smell that fish. Okay, oven off. Make the chocolate sauce. Salem you can be barman.”
They all got busy and very soon there was a pot of chocolate sauce and a huge platter of fruit salad taking a whole shelf in the fridge. Edie got busy with the potato salad while Justice made the green salad.
When all was done they cleaned up the table and positioned it in front of the bench. Then they arranged the five chairs around it. Edie started laying the table. What with the new dinner service, wine glasses and even cutlery it was like playing house again.
The cottage door opened.
“Ma! I’m so glad you early.”
“Well I must still go up to the house for Beth but I just wanted to have a peek first. Look at home. It’s so beautiful. Where did you get the tablecloth. It’s mooi.”
“Er, tablecloth Ma? Look.”
“It’s the chintz curtain! You can’t put that on the table.”
“Shh Ma. We’ll sit this end. Beth will never realise.”
“I’m sure you right. I never. Let me go for Beth.” She opened the door. “Here comes Farleigh. I wonder if Daniel will come. Does he have a girlfriend Edie?”
“A gilfriend? Danny? More like the girls’ school swimming team. Take your pick, eeny meeny miny mo.” She went into hysterics.
“Justice how many glasses has she had?” She picked up the nearly empty bottle. “Fill it with grape juice n keep it for her, she’ll never notice.” Edie was too busy having hysterics to see what they were up to. Then she snuck out. Meanwhile Farleigh was standing just inside the front door looking a bit spare. Salem stood up and bowed extravagently.
“Salaam Aleikum Masta Fari. Come in, come in.”
Justice watched his mother rush out into the twilight. It felt so good to be home. It felt as if the cottage was filled up with love. A cosy comfy feeling. And not just the cottage. As his mother rushed up the hill it was like the feeling spread with her, but faster, overtaking her. And suddenly he was overwhelmingly positive that he was doing the right thing. This feeling could spread through the continent of Africa. His dream was not impossible.
Then again, maybe it was just the wine.
‘It’s because of lust that dust doesn’t remain just dust.’