I’m having a flashback to the weekend before the exile.
I’m all alone, kneeling in front of a tarpaulin, staring at a huge chunk of bloody flesh and bone – an impala’s hindquarters. Impalas leap as they run, springing off long, elegant legs, showing off their stripy bottoms. That’s why they have such muscular legs – and bottoms.
It’s day one of our weekly two-day break. Time for laundry and lectures, shopping and sightseeing. Or butchery, in my case. The others are out, on a jaunt through the pretty hills of the Swazi Middleveld. Nice.
The Rolling Stones, in mellow mood, waft down from the eaves where the stereo is stashed. ‘Waiting for a Friend’ from Tattoo You. Ooooooh – yeah. Love that saxophone.
I hack away at the poor dead creature’s leg. A cluster of tapeworm eggs nestles in a muscle bundle. I toy with the idea of putting them on the director’s plate, telling him it’s a rare white form of caviar. No I don’t, not really. By the time I’ve salvaged enough meat to feed 14 hungry diggers for a week the skin on my arms is taut, crusty with drying flesh from wrist to elbow. Like a rash of scabs.
That was last week. This week I won’t be there when the team pulls into town. This time someone else will be cooking (and washing Tagalongman’s socks).
But I’m missing my Stones – that sunny, soothing, sexy sax.
There’s a record shop, Fran says, in Mbabane, not far from the ‘OK!’ supermarket. Maybe I could run some errands – her car, my credit card? I pull into the car park and dash for the shops, dodging the raggedy boys with the faraway eyes. They’re begging for coins. They’ll use them to buy glue – for sniffing.
The record shop has vinyl, some cassettes, no Stones. Looks like I’m stuck with ‘Cats’. Fran keeps the tape in the car – she’s learning the words for an amateur production. So, I trudge around the OK! then load up with flimsy plastic bags full of bread and milk, yogurt and tins.
Singing along to ‘Memory’, I ease the diesel down the hill, past the distant peaks of Sheba’s Breasts which rise above – legend has it – King Solomon’s Mines. A stark banner across the road tells me ‘Faster may mean disaster’. I ease my foot off the accelerator.
Inside I’m in knots. What have I done? Who is this guy Tex? What do I really know about him? Who do those weekly letters come from, hmmm?
Maybe you think I’m being a tad over-anxious. But I’m in exile. It warps your perspective, believe me.
I arrive back on the farm as the setting sun slips behind the hills. Fran’s smiling – there’s a message. Tex thinks Percy Sledge is singing tonight at the Lugogo Sun – can we meet? Fran offers a lift. My worries evaporate. Except . . . what shall I wear? And is there time to wash my hair?
Ain’t love grand?
‘Next time’ apology: you’ll be used to my random ‘next time’ offerings by now but for the next instalment I think I really will do night-time manoeuvres – though maybe not Mozambique prawns. We’ll see. And there’s a little fictional short on its way too – It’ll all end in tiaras.