“Come on Tim,” one of the young crowd shouts. “Entertain us.”
“Cheer us up!”
“Jacobus you too. You’ve got to stand up there, and introduce him,” Marybelle urges, as she heads over to Jacobus, hands beckoning him insistently.
Simi watches Jacobus’ try to resist. She knows it is futile, for Marybelle is as tenacious as time. Their voices argue back and forth, and the rain raises its tempo.
“No … no … Okay … from here, man.”
“No Jacobus … this properly. Up … get.”
A slow clap begins on the far side of the room. Simi shrugs off her half of the blanket and tries to join in, but the pain in her hand makes her stop. She holds it up against her chest and watches the tussle of the speeches unfold. Tim points at the table with its piles of logs and steaming clothes, the shrug of his shoulders implying that there’s nowhere for him to stand. Instantly Tonderai leaps to his feet. He clears him a space, and then, mission accomplished, he invites Tim to the pedestal. As the doctor hesitates, the clapping becomes more insistent.
The stomping chant mixes with the rain, with Tim’s voice loud over the top, urging Jacobus to join him. As the crowd waits, it changes its chorus to “Jacobus! Jacobus!”, closing off any hope of escape for either man. At last the doctor climbs on to the table, and holds out his hand to the embarrassed Jacobus, who crosses the room to join him. Tim hauls him up, and the pair stand together, one slender and the other like rock. Slowly the applause and laughter still. Tonderai sits down, and Marybelle slips into the vacant seat beside Fred.
“You okay, Fred? Bernard?” Tim asks.
Simi sees Fred raise one hand in response, while Bernard nods emphatically beside him.
“Right,” calls Marybelle. “Jacobus, I want to hear you now. Not the rain.” As if obeying her, the pounding on the roof eases.
Jacobus wags his finger down at her. “I’m only doing this for you, hey.”
Marybelle blows him a kiss, and Simi pulls the blanket close. She’s looking forward to the speeches, anything to distract herself from the thrashing of the storm. The wind has dropped back, but the sudden violence of the rain when it comes still shocks her, and she doesn’t even want to think about the possibility that it might go on and on for hours.
Jacobus begins. “Ladies and gents, I haven’t got my notes with me, but may I introduce to you Dr Timothy Southwaite, the best man. Hansie’s mate since they were kids.”
The far bench claps, and Tim swings round to face it, his head almost touching the roof.
“Right,” he begins, “here goes. I’ll skip the toast to the bridesmaids, etc.” Below him, the hecklers start to jostle for drama.
“You’ve gone all Pom now man … can’t understand you.”
“Okay …” Tim raises his voice. “Well, for those of you that don’t know, the first time I met Hansie was at my fifth birthday party. April – best month of the year.”
“Apart from this year …” Jambee calls.
More laughter. “You can say that again.”
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023