Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Best Defence is To Attack (Then)

Excerpt no 5: Africa Will Always Break Your Heart

We had some weird and wonderful neighbours. We only saw the woman next door when we played soccer or cricket in the street and one of our balls had soared into her yard. She must have sat sentinel everyday. She would be out in a flash, cut the ball in half and throw the pieces back at us.

My friend Edward lived across the road from her. When I started High School he was one grade senior than my eldest brother. Edward failed his exams so many times that he finished school with me. When his dad had drunk enough wine at night to be out for the count we used to steal his car, a DKW. The DKW had a distinctive sound and made a hell of a racket so we worked our asses off pushing it as far as possible down the street before starting it. We had some great joyrides in this vehicle — always managing to evade the local traffic cop who was on the lookout for us. Edward was a hairy bugger and would cover his upper lip with sticky plaster to hide the moustache he grew before every school holiday. He was a great friend.

I went to their house often. His mother never left the house. I never saw her in anything else but a dressing gown and slippers.

A few houses away from us lived Frank. Like most people at the time he was fonder of the bottle than what was acceptable outside of military circles and defi­nitely not something which relationships were built upon. One Friday evening Frank returned from the pub where he’d had a few pints. He got told by his wife:
“Go and buy some bread and milk. We have none in the house. Hurry back. I still need to feed the children.”

Frank did a quick shop and went back to the pub. The party got out of hand and Frank continued his quite impressive intake of beer.

He joined a group of chaps who’d come to town with the sole intent of loading up for the rugby match the next day. The military pub, of course, had to adhere to strict hours. Everyone got totally smashed. The Queens Hotel was their first venue of choice and the public bar and snooker hall had to take the full impact of a bunch of drunken military louts.

Frank was a spectator at the rugby match that Saturday afternoon without having been home yet. The local team lost and the party to drown all sorrows started right after the match. On Sunday morning Frank woke up in the single quarters of the military base. There was still some booze left over and Frank had a serious hangover. He was unshaven and unwashed. He had a splitting headache, a full-blown case of amnesia from the night before and in need of some comfort. Soon they got stuck in again. Frank had a disturbing premonition that he might be in trouble with his wife. These thoughts he tried to drink away.
“I’m always in shit with my wife. It is just the depth that varies. Please pass the rum.”

On Sunday evening Frank arrived home. Standing on his doorstep, newspaper in one hand and a squashed loaf of bread under his arm and a pint of sour milk in the other hand with a plan of action prepared. As he walked in through the front door he immediately started shouting at his wife:
“Why are the bloody children still playing in the road? Do you know what fucking time it is? Don’t you realise it’s a school-day tomorrow?”

The poor woman had nothing to say. Frank was delighted since this part of military doctrine worked so well in his favour. He bragged about it for days in the tea-room.

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