Rudd sits still, pleased to be in the shadows. Outside the storm picks up again, rattling at the door then shrieking off around the building, shaking the windows. It pushes, and shoves. It throws over tables, and kicks them into walls. Furious. Banging. Crashing. Slapping. Then slowly, slowly, like a child bored of a game, it steadies, sulking into corners.
Jacobus’ voice reaches out through the bluster. “Tonderai, this cyclone thing is new hey. None of us are ready. But this rain – all this rain that never stops. And the wind. Something’s wrong, hey? Let’s just hope the Nyahonde doesn’t get out of hand.”
Tonderai nods his head slowly. He speaks slowly. “But I am the one. The senior one. I tried to tell them. But some … they would not listen.”
“Agh, don’t worry about that man. If anyone had told us to leave, I would have told them to voetsek.”
“Tonderai …” Fred’s voice is shaky. He tries to raise it louder, clearing his throat. “They never listen to me …”
“Ha!” laughs Bernard. “That is whites for you. They do not respect their elders.”
“Not true,” said Jacobus. “We do, but they’re not the only ones telling us what to do.”
Tonderai’s eyes stay on the fire. “I am the clever one in my family. I went to the mission school. My mother worked every day to pay for school fees. But then what? Fighting. Independence. Working here. Busy, busy. But now there are no tourists. And this … ” he swings a mackintoshed arm out towards the storm.
Bernard clicks his tongue loud and hard against the back of his teeth, repeating the sound as he shakes his head.
“We didn’t know it would be this bad,” Rudd says.
“We saw the warning,” Tonderai replies his voice insistent.
“But the Government said nothing.”
“The Government?” Jacobus almost chokes on the word. “Really? This Government? C’mon man. Who are you kidding? As if they’d do anything.”
A bash of wind swallows Rudd’s reply, then Marybelle steps in.
“Jacobus,” she shouts, voiced determined, “this is the only government Rudd knows. We’re old hey? We remember how things used to work. He …”
Rudd leans closer to try to catch what Marybelle is saying, but he cannot hear, for the wind has started its din again, battering the door against the old stove, faster and faster. But the cast iron block does not budge, and again the wind retreats, leaving just the rain galloping over the roof.
“Tonderai, I’ll take you to your village when this is over. I’ve got my truck,” Jacobus calls out.
“Ah Jacobus…” Rudd hesitates, his voice shrinking, “the carpark …”
“That landslide out the front. Remember?”
“Ja,” says Jacobus. “Speak up man, I can’t hear you.”
“Okay. Looks like the whole kopje has come down. Car park is buried. And some of the cars… ”
“Some of the cars what?”
“What? No way!” Jacobus surges to his feet. “My truck?”
“I can’t say for sure.” Rudd stands slowly, anxious at the rage building in the bigger man. “But it doesn’t look good.”
“What? No!” Jacobus’ voice is taut.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023