‘When a ma-an loves a wom-an . . . ’
Percy’s warming up, the same song three times, the same lines three times, testing the sound system. Not sure we can stay till he does his thing for real because Tex is on a curfew – must be home by midnight, or else.
Or else what, I wonder?
We have a few drinks, laugh a lot and I sympathise with Janet. She broke a bone in her foot while disposing of a dead mouse. She lends me a children’s book and gives me a bag of sweets. I feel like an invalid but she’s the one in the cast.
The clock hands edge past eleven and all too soon the fun stops. It’s time to go.
The Land Rover chugs its way towards Malkerns, down that dark, mysterious valley, the heavenly Ezulwini. Mountains, streams and waterfalls – even King Solomon’s mines – are resting under the cover of night.
The diggers’ lively chatter tails off. They have to drop me off and make it back themselves before the Land Rover turns into a pumpkin. Or whatever it is the director’s cursed them with this time.
I’m getting anxious at the thought, the: ‘When will I see you again . . .’ kind of thought. Why is it songs you’d rather not have in your head pop in at critical moments and stay? Popular culture, an unwelcome song for every occasion.
It’s a sad parting. I light the lamp in my caravan, contemplate writing some notes but I’m not in the mood. I try and read the children’s book but the thought of that murdered night watchman slips into my head. My ears alert for the sounds of the night, I lie awake, happy and sad.
I’m just dropping off to sleep when I hear a vehicle approaching. The engine stops. I hear footsteps. Adrenaline’s amazing stuff. The penknife’s in my hand. The footsteps are very close. They stop. There’s a gentle knock on the door. (The door that doesn’t lock – I’ve added a wedge of cardboard to buy me time when the murderer of my fertile imagination arrives.)
‘It’s me, are you asleep?’
I rush to remove the wedge and let him in. Yes, it’s the return of Tex, gone midnight.
But what about the curfew?
Seems there was a plan all along. They went to bed, waited till the director was off in the Land of Nod and the door to his private rooms firmly shut. Then ‘covert ops’ sprang into action. Sneaking out into the shooting-star-spattered night they pushed the Land Rover – Tex at the wheel – uphill. At the top they set it off rolling, down through the bat-flitting, monkey-sleeping orange groves, heading for the road. Safely out of hearing range, Tex set the engine running.
And now . . . It’s still dark, but it’s morning. (You didn’t really think I was going to say any more about the night, did you?) As Tex sets off a tiny pearl of light’s beginning to grow on the horizon. The mountains, like nosy friends, peek from behind the net curtain of dawn. The air is saturated with dew and impregnated with wood smoke.
I stand on the step of my temporary home, just looking. The night watchman has survived the night – at least he’s walking, so he’s still alive. I watch his thin figure, arms hugging his thick greatcoat to his reedy body in the chill of the southern African winter. I wave. He shrugs.
Back in the caravan I notice something on the pillow. A cassette. Tattoo You. I have my sexy sax back, just in time. It’ll help me while away the time, Waiting for a Friend.
Next time: not sure, Baked Alaska or Scary, Scary Night? We’ll see.