Story postcard – getting closer (1)

Rudd stands in the shade of the trees by the lodge entrance. With him is James the gardener.

“Make sure everything is away. All the tools, buckets, pool equipment – anything that the wind might take. If this storm comes they say it will be very strong.”

“Yes. Tonderai told us this morning, early, early. My wife is here now. She is happy.”

“That’s great. I am so glad. Better to be …”

Rudd breaks off, as a low rumbling sound lifts out of the trees along the road down to the lodge. It grows louder and louder. Shading his eyes, he sees a dust cloud, and then suddenly, at its centre, the red mission truck bounces into view, its engine rasping through its lowest gears.

“Eish, but this driver is very careful,” says James, shaking his head, as the truck edges over the last of the culverts.

Rudd laughs. “I think it’s the new priest. First time down here. First time in Africa I think.”

The truck swings in through the gates, turns a slow circle in front of them, then stops precisely in one of the stone marked parking spaces. Rudd steps forward to meet the tall man, unwrapping himself from around the steering wheel.

“Not much of a road that,” the man says, emerging from the vehicle, and placing a Panama hat on his head. The two men shake hands.

“Apologies for the road. I’m Rudd, the manager here.”

“Pleased to meet you. I’m Father Norman. If I remember correctly we’ve bumped into each other a few times,” he says, dusting off his trousers.

“That’s right. And then again this morning.”

“Yes. Your visit was quite a surprise.”

“For me too,” says Rudd. “Anyway, I’m very pleased you’re here, and I know they’re waiting for you, so I’ll take you to freshen up quickly then we’ll go out to them.”

 “Excellent, thanks. This dust gets into everything.”

“And it’s no good trying to shake it out,” Rudd laughs.

As they crunch in over the gravel they pass James raking twigs off the grass by the entrance.

Father Norman calls out to him, with a tip of his hat. “Quite a wind last night.”

 “Good morning sir. Yes sir,” says James, the long easy strokes of his rake unbroken, as they walk past him into the lodge.

The wedding party is waiting by the bar. Katania, the first to catch sight of Father Norman, rises to her feet as he approaches. Rudd stands back and watches the introductions, then he leaves them to their planning and heads off to the kitchen to check on preparations. As he pushes open the doors the air swirls over him, rich with the aroma of the slow-cooked sauce, simmering in the two large saucepans on the stove. Beside the food hatch waiters, neat in their brown uniforms, pile plates and cutlery on to trays.

Rudd walks in further, to the cooler part of the kitchen. Here the large fridges stand like wide, steel pillars, with the metal gleam of a scrubbed counter top between them. Along its surface, in ordered trays, golden twists of koeksisters are laid out to cool.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

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