THE TEXT

The Life of Henry Fuckit
(1950 - 2015)

 

12   Mr Welgemoed helps him on his way

Figtree is a siding some twenty-five miles southwest of Bulawayo. It was here, in the middle of the bush, as the locomotive took on water, that Henry first experienced homesickness. The previous three days had been filled with activity and excitement as he prepared himself for the great adventure. The altering of his mother's passport had taken many hours of work by that master of calligraphic steady-handedness, Septimus Braithwaite. The last supper had been a mixture of ill-concealed sorrow and high-spirited festivity, and had ended with an emotional rendition of "We'll Meet Again". Then, an hour before dawn, he had let himself out and made his way down the dark road to meet Frikkie's father.

Mr Welgemoed had not bothered to conceal his resentment at having to give Henry a lift to Bulawayo. After several attempts at companionable chit-chat had been rebuffed with snorts and grunts, the passenger decided to provoke the surly driver by declaring "Well, I must say, it's a relief to know I won't be fighting in this stupid civil war." With extravagant ferocity the bull had charged at the red rag and Henry was treated to a tirade of hateful bigotry. It was all very predictable, but entertaining nevertheless. A forceful oratorical style. A powerful performance.

This had been about ten miles beyond Gwelo, just after the sun had risen. Not another word was to pass between them ever again. For the rest of the journey to the station Dolf Welgemoed hunched himself forward, his knuckles white on the wheel, his breath rasping in his throat. The speedometer needle flickered between eighty and ninety right into the suburbs of Bulawayo. In front of the station building he skidded to a halt and Henry got out. As he reached for his luggage in the back, the wheels spun, the bakkie shot forward, and Henry only just avoided having his bags knocked from his grasp.

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