Story Postcard – only doing this for you (1)

Simi can’t decide whether it’s the beef or the tea that makes her feel stronger, but something does. She thinks it might be the biltong, slithers of it shaved into their hands by Jacobus.

“Our delicacy,” he says, as he comes around again. “Doubt we’d still be in Africa without this stuff.”

Simi accepts a little more, gratefully. She wouldn’t have tried it, if it hadn’t been for Marybelle.

“You’ll love it Simi!”

“Oh yeah? Dried cow?”

“Yes! It’s so good.”

She’d said no. Said it twice. Told Marybelle about her first experience, couple of years ago in London en route to a Mandela exhibition. She’d got chatting with a white woman in a kaftan heading in the same direction, and she’d offered her some, like a blessing, and in a spirit of togetherness, she’d accepted.

OMG – that was a mistake.

Simi almost gagged just telling Marybelle about it. That piece, strip of fat running through it, had sat in her mouth like a lump of chewed carpet until she’d been able to get away from the white woman, spit it into a tissue and hide it in her pocket.

“So?” Marybelle laughs. “This is not like that. Come on. You need to keep your strength up.”

She tried refusing some more, head shaking, hand hiding, but Marybelle kept tinkling away about Jacobus risking the storm to fetch it. So brave. So delicious. So rude to say no. So she gave in. She’d taken the slimmest slither, placed it on her tongue and chewed slowly, Marybelle’s eyes watching her like she was about to rise from the dead.

And in a way she had. The flavours of pepper and coriander pleased her, and the meat was cut so fine it was easy to swallow. She’d been embarrassingly keen for her second handful.

“Good, isn’t it? I love biltong. Haven’t had any for ages,” Marybelle grins, eyes shining.

Simi nods, finishes off her last few pieces, and calls out her thanks to Jacobus as he heads back to his seat by the door. As he disappears into the shadows, she turns to look at the youngsters on the far side of the room, partly to avoid any more of Marybelle’s shining enthusiasm, and partly to see how the priest is doing. Whether he tried any biltong. But she can’t find him in the dark beyond the fire. And then Jambee’s announcement distracts her.

“We never got the speeches.”

“You’re right!” voices shout, including Marybelle’s, chiming with delight, beside her.

“We could have them now.”

“The best man’s here. And Jacobus could do the introductions.”

“No way. Not now. I’m on duty,” Tim objects. “I’m looking after Fred.”

 “No need for that,” says Fred, his voice weak but clear. “You go boy!”

“Brilliant,” says Marybelle, jumping up and shedding the blanket. Simi pulls it tight, smiling at the sight of her, like a ragged fairy, petite and disheveled, both hands outstretched in front of Tim. In seconds she’s pulled the protesting doctor to his feet, and positioned him by the fire. “I’ll look after Fred,” she insists, bending to kiss the old man on his cheek.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

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