The Life of Henry Fuckit
10 He learns of his non-existence
Henry had no intention of serving his country in any way, least of all by fighting in the army. It was an absurd notion. He did not consider himself to be a Rhodesian, even though he had lived there all his life, and he felt no obligation to get involved in a civil war between black and white when any sympathies he had lay with the downtrodden blacks and not with white racists. Albert and Frikkie had already received their call-up papers and were due to commence service in two weeks. He knew his own conscription was imminent and his mind was hard at work with alternative plans.
"Ven are your two friends going off to fight in zis crazy var?" Herr Friedemann asked him at the lunch table. Henry was dipping a thickly buttered finger of Mrs de Groot's wholewheat bread into his bowl of tomato soup.
"The poor fools will be on their way Monday week. Solomon," he addressed the waiter, "Please tell chief cook the soup is excellent. Also tell Madam Shout-Shout to hurry up with main course. Baas Henry makulu hungry." Solomon rolled his eyes expressively.
"Fools?" Witherspoon queried. "Why call them fools? They are merely doing their civic duty. You've read Rousseau's Social Contract and you know how democratic societies are structured."
"Ho hum, nuncle." Henry was mopping his soup bowl. "Solomon, did you convey my message? Do not fear that woman. Bring the flesh, konamanje." He looked at Witherspoon coldly. "The times they are a'changing. Haven't you heard? I refer to them as fools because I have suggested two methods of avoiding the strong possibility of being blown to bits, and they continue to deride my advice and insult me with terms like 'chicken' and 'commie'. I don't mind 'commie', as I know their ignorance regarding communism is almost total. However, the gallinaceous epithet refers to a lack of courage. I would argue that it takes more courage to dissent than to conform."
"Ah, but on what grounds do you dissent? On the grounds of fear for your own safety, or on the grounds of conscience?" Witherspoon ladled gravy onto his cutlets before helping himself to peas, carrots and sweet potatoes.
To rattle the opposition Henry commenced his main course without the aid of cutlery. "Not 'fear' for my own safety. 'Concern' is a more accurate term. Out of self-respect." He licked his fingers and wiped them on his shirtfront before reaching for the salt. "On the contrary, I am the courageous one. These fools are in mortal fear of not conforming. Even though they have no stomach for battle they are too chicken-hearted to run away."
"Vot are ze two meffods for saving ze young men from ze early grabe?" Herr Friedemann was mashing a sweet potato in order to cement peas to his fork.
"My first suggestion is that they masquerade as homosexuals. You know that there is nothing that scares the average white Rhodesian male more than blatant homosexuality. I could write a psychological report on an Ingachini letterhead, and I still have my mother's underwear. I want them to wear bloomers and suspenders at the medical examination." He began to gnaw his second cutlet.
"Preposterous! No wonder they're not interested." Witherspoon was indignant. "And the second damn-fool suggestion?"
"To join the chicken run with me. Even before my papers arrive I intend to be south of the border. My departure is imminent." Henry spoke with melodramatic emphasis. But Braithwaite, who had been eating in silence, now looked up and dropped his bombshell.
"You won't be receiving any papers. You don't exist." All eyes were on him and all mastication had ceased. He was visibly pleased with the response. He dabbed his mouth and folded his napkin with maddening preciseness before elaborating. "It's quite simple. Your birth was never registered. I had me suspicions and, accordingly, last week went through the records and found your mother's file. The form was filled in but it's still lying there. And so is your mother's death certificate."
"Gott in Himmel!" Herr Fritz was excited. "Zis is unbeliefable. Mein seory is crowned vif vindication. No vonder you vere in search of ze new name. Britevite is kvite right. You do not exist. Ze mind boogles. You are free to create yourself or continue in ze state of non-beingk."
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