Story postcard – when hope turns sideways (3)

Tonderai swings the final chairs into place, each half-moon now complete with bright white plastic seating. He steps back to count them.

“Looks great,” says Rudd, turning at the sound of voices behind them. He sees a pair of sun-hatted birdwatchers, strolling across the golf course, heading back up to the lodge. As he watches, more come into view.

“Tonderai, who’s cooking breakfast?” he asks, suddenly worried.

“Number two chef, Witness. He’s young. Not bothered by this rain story. No wives. No children. A young man – he lives forever.”

Rudd smiles. “Good. We need everyone to stay calm. I think we’d better go up to check all is well, shut away any stuff we don’t need just in case this storm does come.”

They slip in behind the last of the bird-spotters as they wander slowly across the green.

Rudd listens to the burble of chat, the talk of breakfast, the laughter, all untroubled by the weight in the air. He wonders where Simi is. As far as he can tell she is not in the group, and he knows she would be easy to spot if she was. He wants to ask Tonderai, but already his tall stride, neatly creased in khaki, has carried him too far ahead to hear him. Rudd walks a bit faster, legs stretching, and the sight of his own shorts reminding him that he should put on trousers for the service. He knows he has to make an effort to look the part – the manager. The white manager. He laughs to himself.

Tonderai could do this facing backwards. But … if the owners want to pay me, I’m not complaining. Anyway, they’re old guys, old school. They still think white skin is incorruptible. Maybe. Once upon a time. At least they know me. Always gripped tight to any rails I can find.

He lengthens his stride, trying not to jog.

Up ahead, Tonderai pauses and turns to ask him a question. “Have you told the guests? About the cyclone?”

Rudd catches up, and clears his throat. He is about to say something, then changes his mind. He rubs a hand around the back of his neck, and carries on walking. A few yards on, he calls back.

“One guy asked me this morning, before I saw those reports. So … no. I haven’t told them yet. Anyway, they’re up here to switch off.”

Tonderai does not answer, but Rudd sees his shadow on the grass, starting to overtake him. He walks a little faster.

“Tonderai, I’ve learned you have to feed these guys, before giving them bad news. Maybe I’ll tell them after breakfast.”

“Yes,” says Tonderai, now by his shoulder. “I told the staff after their early tea this morning. It will be good to tell the guests after breakfast. They should be told. It is our duty.”

 “Yes. After breakfast,” Rudd agrees, as they reach the grassy steps to the lodge. He looks up ahead, and notices that the sky behind the trees has a haziness to it. He can’t remember whether that’s normal or not.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

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