Story postcard – wet as mangoes (2)

“Don’t think we’ve lost anyone,” Hansie replies. “When I was en route to the squash courts I bumped into some of the guys from the tents heading up to the main lodge. They seemed good.”

 “Ja, I saw a bunch of them in there when we went to get the wood and stuff. They were fine. No need to worry about that lot,” says Jacobus.

Glad he sounds back to normal, thinks Rudd. Thought he’d lost it back there.

 “What’s happened to the staff?” Simi asks.

“In the kitchen,” Tonderai replies. “Innocence is with them, and Samere the chef. He is very strong.”

“Strange this rain,” Sal says. “One moment hammering down so you can’t move. Then it stops. Then it comes back like the sky’s ripped open.” As she says this a squall runs over the roof, then disappears. “See what I mean? Just tiptoeing around now, then it’ll come back like it wants to kill us.”

Rudd leans back and rests his head on the wall, listening. Names jump around. Who’s seen who. How they’re doing. Where they are. Cursing the weather. Loving the storm. Adrenalin still pumping after the run out of the squash court. Building aching. Trees thrashing. All safe. Thank God he thinks. Thank God.

He feels the air around him begin to thicken, rough with wood ash, and the damp of wet clothes. Tonderai throws another log into the drum.

“Anyone ever been in a storm like this before?” a young female asks from the shadows.

Rudd sits forward, trying to see who the voice belongs to.

“Plenty,” Bernard replies. “In Malaya … plenty plenty. But in Zimbabwe – never. Not here. Not like this.”

As he finishes, as though applauding him, the rain crashes across the roof again, filling every crevice with noise and slithers of wind, forcing out the chat and the smoke. For minutes the downpour tyrants over them. Then it eases back, slowly. Not quite gone. Waiting.

Rudd curls his fingers tight around the soft edges of the bench, squeezing it hard. He feels tired, weary of the bashing. The damage. The erosion of what should have been. The cat and mouse of the storm.

 “Hey Rudd, do you know what time it is?”

“Around 3am?”

“Not bad.” Tim, holds his watch up to catch the light. “It’s ten to four.”

“Thanks. Should be dawn soon.”

 “Hey Tim, Dr Tim, can I ask you a question?”


“Is this climate change? Do you reckon it’s a thing.”

Rudd tries to put a face to the voice but can’t.

“Climate change? Definitely a thing,” Tim replies, triggering a chorus from the new bench.

Rudd catches snatches.

“No man, it is not a …”

“The West…”

“… China and all that stuff…”

 “… we’re basically fucked man …”

“I think it’s for real, all these …”

“Okay … but you flew here?”

The tempo, and the voices get stronger. Then, cheerful as a playground, Marybelle chimes in.

“Come on, it’s not that bad. I reckon someone, somewhere, clever people like Tim, will sort it out for us.”

Instantly a voice booms out. Hansie. “Not so sure you’re right on this one, Marybelle. I got a message from Mick to say Beira’s disappeared. That’s not normal.”

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

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