The Life of Henry Fuckit
Ingachini. It was a Shona word meaning Place where Wise One consorts with baboons. The main group of buildings stood on a low koppie, and from beneath and within the browlike shadow of the verandas one could look out over the treetops. It had frightened Mrs O'Riley, this view. Many years later he was to enquire of an educated Zimbabwean:
"I wonder why it was called the place where the Wise One consorts with baboons?"
The eyes widened and then laughter and thigh slapping.
"Too stupid! That is too much Colonial bullshit. Straight from the horse's arse."
"Oh. So what does it mean?"
"Mean? It means Place of the Demented. What else? Ingachini."
Never mind drowning in a sea of bush, it was a wonderful place. He grew up with the same sort of enthusiasm for it as that expressed by Dr Witherspoon on turning a bend in the dusty path and being confronted by a Coral tree in full bloom.
"Magnificent! Made me decide, on the spot, there and then, to end me days in Africa."
An extravagant display of red flowers, startling amidst the drabness of dusty greys, yellows and browns. Aggressive, threatening and masculine. It was so un-English.
"Stood rooted to the spot. I was absolutely overwhelmed by the unexpectedness of it. I wanted to shout with laughter, it was so ridiculously extravagant. I must have been transfixed for a good ten minutes, only stirring in response to repeated attacks by a battalion of Megaponera foetens."
"That's the Matabele ant, isn't it?"
"Exactly. Ferociously bellicose, as you well know. Took a lot to distract me. That Coral tree was such an affirmation, such a glorious statement. I knew I had to remain here, where life flows to the surface like blood."
It was a private institution that had been established for the benefit of Mrs Lydia Rabinowitz shortly after the end of the Second World War. The holocaust had devastated her life, leaving her a widow with emotional and psychological impairments. On a convalescent tour to Africa she had found a certain peace in the bushveld and her wealthy South African relatives had willingly acquired a tract of land for her. A sprawling mansion and some outbuildings were constructed on the koppie that lay in a sea of acacias stretching to the horizon. Three boreholes pumped sweet water into reservoirs, there was a small dairy herd and a kitchen garden, and two diesel-powered generators supplied electricity.
The first Therapeutic Specialist, Dr Gaylord Endaway, was appointed at the beginning of 1948. A young American charlatan of the Freudian school, he was charged with the task of selecting four suitable companions for his principal patient. The criteria he was to use were threefold: they should be well-educated persons of a cultivated and refined disposition; their psychoses should not be debilitating and their delusions should be instructive and entertaining; and, most importantly, they should be pleasing to Mrs Rabinowitz. Within a mysteriously short time Dr Endaway found three candidates who proved eminently acceptable. They soon took up residence and began what was to be a long and congenial stay at Ingachini. Two of these gentlemen were English and one was German: Septimus Braithwaite, Aubrey Witherspoon and Fritz Friedemann. Finding the fifth member of the coterie proved more difficult. For over a year the search continued until late in 1949 Mrs O'Riley was taken in on compassionate grounds. After her death her room remained unoccupied except on the odd occasion when Mr Wim Naaktgeboren made one of his visits. The club of five turned out to be a club of four.
Mrs Rabinowitz was a gentle compassionate person and she insisted that the orphan be fostered at Ingachini until suitable adoptive parents could be found. As no attempt was ever made to locate such parents Henry remained where he was, growing up with a strong sense of security and belonging. This was his family and this was his home. He was one of the inmates just as they were and there was no question of needing to hunt down strangers so that he could call them Mummy and Daddy. That would have been ridiculous.
His education proved to be excellent, of such a high standard as to be beyond assessment by normal pedagogic means. Because of its informal nature he did not at first realise he was receiving any education at all. In the large study, with its French doors leading onto the veranda, the walls were lined with shelves containing the best private library in Africa. The books were catalogued, arranged and kept in fastidious order by Mr Septimus Braithwaite, MA Oxon., Latin scholar, linguist and historian. Dr Aubrey Witherspoon, the renowned entomologist, maintained a fine collection of insects as well as a small herbarium in which the flora of the area was represented in detail. Professor Fritz Friedemann was the brilliant physicist and mathematician who had discovered the unifying principle that had caused Albert Einstein so much frustration. He was also deeply knowledgeable in the areas of Psychology and Philosophy. Here at Ingachini were gathered three of the brightest minds of the century, only a little deranged, and they were at his disposal for the first eighteen years of his life. No wonder his interests were encyclopaedic. No wonder his curiosity was voracious and insatiable. No wonder he developed a view of the world that was to set him aside from the vast majority of his peers.
Not that he grew up without the company of ordinary mortals. They were there in the form of staff, children of staff, family and friends of staff, and the passing world.
Frikkie Welgemoed and Albert were roughly his age, maybe a year or two older. Albert was the son of the housekeeper, Mrs Hildagonda de Groot. She was a Dutch widow of formidable strength, greatly respected by the houseboys and, for that matter, any other boys unfortunate enough to encounter her. Frikkie's father was in charge of the garden-boys and maintenance-boys. He ran a tight ship. Gave short shrift. Called a spade a spade. Knew where they stood, they did.
Then there was Frikkie's sister Lucille. She was surprisingly slim and pretty. Surprising, considering the grossness, the Cro-Magnon coarseness of her parents. In later years, on the pavements of Pretoria, he was to observe this puzzling phenomenon on a grand scale. So many luscious girls, all with ugly mothers, fathers and brothers. Not long before he left Ingachini at the age of eighteen he was shocked to learn that Albert had been fucking this sister of Frikkie's. Not once or twice, not even three times. No. Thirteen times! According to Albert, who had a healthy imagination but was not a habitual liar, on thirteen separate occasions he had screwed Frikkie's sister in, on and under various items of household furniture!
Except for these three young people, Albert, Frikkie and Lucille, there were no other white children at Ingachini, and he grew up largely in the company of adults. There were, of course, plenty of young kaffir boys with whom he, Albert and Frikkie waged war, smoked dagga, and played much soccer.
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