Story postcard – on the road (3)

For a while, they drive on in silence. It’s almost ten o’clock, and the pale blue day is getting hotter.

Rudd lifts his damp back a little further from the seat. He fiddles with the air conditioning, but knows he won’t get much out of it. No replacements around, and the lodge doesn’t have the money anyway.

He gives up, and tries to think of something to say. It’s important. He knows that, remembers it from his training.

“Communicate.” “Body language.” “Be accessible.” “Professional.” “Friendly.” “You want them to like you.”


After a few more awkward miles he tries a little conversation.

We’ll be heading through the kopjes soon.

“The what?” Simi turns towards him.

“Kopjes. K-o-p-j-e. Afrikaans word I think. They’re big rocks. Balancing. You’ll see them. They’re beautiful. Msasas all around them.”


Simi raises her hands to adjust the broad yellow band that holds her hair back, fountain style. Her eyes never leave Rudd.

 “Ja. Msasas are trees. They change colour. September, October, and they’ll be all oranges and reds.

But not now?


Her hands drop back to her lap. She twists a ring on her finger.

Getting warm,” she says. “No air con?

No. Doesn’t seem to be working.

Nor my window, thinks Rudd, but he doesn’t tell her that.

Simi presses the button on her door, opening the window slightly.

You know,” she says, as a slither of wind cools the cab, “this place is nothing like I expected. Don’t know what I expected, but the airport was so quiet. It felt tired. Not much 2019 about it. And those petrol queues? What’s going on there?

 “Petrol shortage. It comes and goes. Things are different here.

Thanks. I can see that.” She pauses. “Sorry. I’m a little tired. It’s just that so far nothing feels like the other bits of Africa I’ve seen. There’s no buzz.

Rudd, braves a glance. She’s staring ahead. Eyes lost. He looks back at the road, relieved that at least her tone sounds softer.

I suppose I did ask for somewhere different, but I didn’t want somewhere completely comatosed.” She looks at him. “Is it always like that?”

The airport?


Like what?

Half dead?

 Rudd avoids her eyes. He feels irritated suddenly. It’s his airport. Same as always. At least the main luggage belt worked this time. And the lights were on. Not good enough for her? Then she’d better take her fancy earrings somewhere else.

He shrugs.

“Really? That’s it?”

He looks at her.

It works for us.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

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