THE TEXT

The Life of Henry Fuckit
(1950 - 2015)

 

32   End of an era

Later he thought of them as his 'student years'. They were mostly carefree and full of fun. But towards the end of the two years a dark cloud drifted in towards them, blowing in from the future, or overtaking them from the past, they couldn't tell. Joe was sentenced to six months' imprisonment for stealing the British ambassador's Rolls Royce Silver Turd parked outside the Nico Malan Opera House. Aided and abetted by drink-crazed friends and screaming chicks he had raced out to Noordhoek over Chapman's Peak Drive and hit the hard sand at low tide as the moon reached its zenith. It was probably the vehicle's inherent lack of seaworthiness that led to his downfall. Guinevere left Steve for WB O'Keefe, moving in with the student librarian at his fixed abode in Dean Street. Ivor's insomnia became debilitating and he was prescribed tranquillisers and anti-depressants. Mike received a particularly brutish putting in of the rugby boot that resulted in what was referred to as a 'severe groin injury' from which it was doubtful if he would recover fully. Kaye's brief entanglement with a forty-year-old neurosurgeon ended abruptly and she announced her intention to continue her studies in Israel. The cloud darkened and settled lower.

Rain lashed the house and the August storm roared from the northwest and rattled the windows. In the kitchen, which abutted upon the main edifice and had a separate lean-to roof, water dripped steadily into a strategically placed bucket. The night was advanced, the Vrotters was low, the three men, Ivor, Henry and Steve, had lapsed into gloomy reverie. Henry got up from the table.

"Anyone for toasted cheese? A man must eat to keep up his strength and withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. I see Mike came back this afternoon with a nice big piece of ripe cheddar from Wellington's. Tried to hide it at the back. Parsimonious eunuch." He was rummaging in the fridge. "Steve, cut the bread and I'll do the rest."

He set the six slices of wholewheat bread with their thick cheese covering beneath the grill in the electric stove. The oven door was left ajar for him to peep at the progress. "Damn thing takes forever to heat up. Probably needs a new element. Cheer up, O miserable ones, sustenance is at hand."

"Last night I had another vision." Ivor's face was gaunt, his eyes were red from too much dagga and not enough sleep. He stared fixedly in two directions. "Heard the door open and saw a faint light. Sat up. Cold. Shaking with terrible numbing cold. Choking on cold, foetid stench. Before me I could see this glow. Fuzzy at first and then definition. It was a woman."

"Jesus Ivor, a woman. You were dreaming about a fucking woman." Steve didn't like these symptoms of insanity. "Fuck it, man. Snap out of this kak. We all dream about women. Fucking bitches!"

Ivor wasn't listening. His voice was flat and monotonous. "She moved towards me and stopped. She was wearing a long nightdress, old fashioned, from a bygone era. She stood there and I realised she was floating. She had no feet. My God. And when I looked at her again I realised she had no head either. God it was horrible, and then she just disappeared. How am I going to sleep tonight?"

Steve and Henry stared at him aghast and then exchanged looks of alarm and dismay. The poor bugger was having a breakdown.

"The toast is burning." Ivor made the statement in the same flat, matter-of-fact tone.

"Shit!!" Henry leapt up. Thick smoke was curling up from the oven door. He wrenched it open and the rush of air resulted in instant ignition. Flames leapt forth. He cast about for something with which to extinguish them.

"Shut the fucking door!" screamed Steve.

"The toast is burning," repeated Ivor.

Henry grabbed up the bucket and dashed its contents in at the tongues of fire. There was a loud bang and all the lights went out.

"That Jewish poes of a landlord." Steve began to rant at the darkness. "Why should we pay rent to that thieving motherfucker? Just because he's filthy rich and we're indigent goyish nobodies. He laughs at our troubles. He mocks our poverty. He scorns us just because we're poor and we are gentiles. Just because we haven't had our cocks mutilated. He thwarts us at every turn, taking our hard-earned money and giving us what in return? Nothing but blackouts, burst pipes, blocked drains and a leaking roof. And what's his reason? Because we're not Jews. If we were Jews he would have sympathy. Would he cut off the power? Would he turn off the water? Just because we couldn't pay the rent? No. If we were Jewish he would only threaten and cry and plead. But we aren't Jewish. Have we not eyes? Have we not hands, organs, senses, affections, passions? Do we not eat, shit, copulate like a Jew? Do we not sicken from lack of proper nutrition? Do we not get cold in winter, living in this dilapidated hovel? Prick us and we bleed, just like a Jew. Tickle us and we laugh, just like a Jew. Kick us in the balls and we scream, just like a Jew. Poison us and we die, just like a Jew. Oh yes! Treat us like dog shit and we seek revenge just like a Jew. Just let me get hold of that cocksucking, high-and-mighty, sneering, avaricious, heartless… What the fuck's that noise?"

There was a staccato popping and banging coming from upstairs. "Great arcs of leaping electrical current!" Henry was shouting excitedly as he blundered towards the door. "I've heard it before. Eight thousand degrees of searing heat! Frikkie's arsehole father did it at Ingachini once. Nearly burnt the shit out of us all. Imbecile! Christ, I smell smoke. Call the fire brigade. Phone Slick and tell him to increase his Sum Insured. Where's Mike. Mike! Mike!"

He found him leaning out the window at the top of the stairs.

"Stand back, Fickit! Women and children first." He had knotted sheets and blankets together to form a rope.

"There aren't any women and children and you don't need to climb out the window. Come downstairs, you stupid cunt."

"This is something. Kaye should have been here to see this. And Joe." Henry stood in the street with Ivor and Steve and Mike, watching the fire fill the house with more and more light until it was full and the flames began to overflow in bursts and leaps, reaching through the shattered windows, groping upward.

"I'm going to sue that fucking Jew." Steve was already at work compiling in his head an inventory of all the valuable items he didn't possess but would be claiming from the landlord's insurers. "Hey, here comes the fire brigade. Jesus, the driver must be drunk! This is going to be a slapstick spectacle straight out of Charlie Chaplin. Look at that monkey with the axe." A fireman was hacking down the wooden gate in the low picket fence. "All he needed to do was use the thumb latch."

"This makes such a mind-blowing picture. If only I were an artist, or a really good photographer! Driving rain, roaring wind, shooting flames in a stormy night, the building ablaze, the shadows rushing in and being beaten back - this is a grand statement." Ivor's condition was improving with all the excitement.

"Mike, do me a favour old boy. That chap over there, the one who thinks he's running the show; keeps shouting "Mind the flames!" and "Pas op vir die hitte!" Give him a hand, won't you? You know how to talk to these wallahs." Henry's lips were brushing Mike's left ear. "Be a brick and get them into some kind of respectable order. Direct operations, if you don't mind. You know how to give orders, marshal forces, put the show together. Tell that pumpkin to douse me outbuilding. I've some very valuable books and clothing worth preserving from the flames. The house is a gonner. It needs somebody like you to exercise a bit of judgement. Preserve what's left. Oh, Mike, and please make it clear to that clown I don't want any water damage. Thanks old chap."

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