Story postcard – in the light of day (6)

“How much food have we got?” Katania asks.

“Plenty,” Rudd replies. “Should have enough to keep us going for another two or three days. Stocks are pretty good thanks to the wedding.”

“Where’s everyone going to kip?”

Simi turns around to see who’s asked the question. It’s Hansie, standing by the sinks in the furthest corner of the kitchen, hands covered in soap suds.

“In the dining-room, once we’ve all eaten and cleared everything away. I think we can find enough campbeds and mattresses for the squash court crew, and any campers who got drowned out. We’ll put the doctors on the sofas.”

 “Any news on the roads?” Hansie asks.

“Hope the doctors can tell us when they get in,” Rudd replies, his voice weary. “I don’t know much more. Listen, thanks again everyone. Oh … by the way, we’re working on the generators, but don’t hold your breath.”

“Okay. Thanks,” says Hansie, returning to the washing up as Rudd heads out through the swing doors.

Simi turns back to her task. On the counter beside her there is one more unopened pack of sausages. She looks at it, and at the gash splaying down towards the base of her thumb. The throb is more intense now, and she thinks the whole hand may be slightly swollen.

You know what? I can do this. Then I’ll bandage it. Should have asked Marybelle, except her head was full of doctors and helicopters. Plus I couldn’t even think straight.

Frowning, she manages somehow to release the sausages from their packet, and tips them into the pan. She adds oil and adjusts the flame, then stands in a headachey haze, flipping them occasionally until the last of them is done and added to the pile in the serving dish. It is when she tries to pick up the dish that a sudden jolt of pain makes her cry out.

“Simi!” In an instant Marybelle is beside her, wiping her hands on her apron. “What’s happened?”

“My hand,” says Simi, clutching it by the wrist.

“What? Oh no. I forgot all about it. Here, let me have a look. Actually, let’s go outside. The light’s better.”

Outside Marybelle takes Simi’s palm and examines its inflamed ridge. Then she reaches up and places a hand on Simi’s forehead.

“I like your hair wraps. You’re so clever with them. I love this yellow,” she says, arm stretched upwards to just below Simi’s hairline. She lowers her hand. “You know you’re a bit hot. I don’t think it’s normal. And I think your hand’s a bit swollen. You shouldn’t have done all that work.”

“Well, I felt okay when I started.”

Simi feels Marybelle’s worried gaze, roaming inside her, examining.

“You’re not looking that well. Too bad Tim’s gone with Jacobus, but I think I heard those helicopters coming in just now. Come. Come with me. I want them to have a look at you,” she says, reaching for Simi’s good hand, and leading her back through the kitchen, past the counters piled with dishes of chips and peas, and bread being cut into slices, and on towards the swing doors into the main body of the Lodge.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

Story postcard – in the light of day (5)

Simi’s hand is worse, much worse, by the third batch of sausages. The ache has been there since she woke up, but now the pain feels deeper. She can no longer use the hand, and its uselessness does nothing to improve her mood, neither does Marybelle’s constant cheer, nor the clattering of the kitchen.

She is wiping one arm across her forehead, when Rudd comes in through the swing doors. As he comes over to her she half-raises her spatula in greeting, and notices his grey, stare-eyed look. She wonders if he’s had any sleep at all.

 “Hi Simi. Thanks for your help.”

“No problem,” she says trying to sound cheerful, while she pushes the crusted sausages one by one into the serving dish beside her.

“Can I do that for you?” Rudd asks.

“Sure. Thanks,” she says, passing him the pan. She stands back and studies him as he takes over her cheffing duties.

“Do you need to get in touch with anyone?” he asks, as he scrapes out the crisped remains. “No comms here but I think the doctors should be able to help. So maybe when they’re back?”

“No. No need.”

“Really? Helicopters should be in before dark.”

Who would I call anyway? Nobody missing me right now. Free and single. This is it.

“No. No thanks. All good. How are the doctors?”

“Worried, that’s for sure. Aid gurus will come next,” Rudd says, his voice flat.

 “Don’t you need the help?” Simi can’t see Rudd’s face but she can see the tension in his shoulders.

“Maybe.” She watches him place the pan back on to the gas ring. When he speaks there is an angry tightness to his voice. “Maybe we do, but I don’t like aid. Stops us helping ourselves. Adventure time for them. Hiding the rot. Half the funds going to the wrong place.” He takes a deep breath, lets it out slowly, then runs both hands up through his hair, then down to massage his temples. He turns to face Simi. “Sorry. I know we need the help right now.”

“You look knackered,” Simi says. “Have you slept?”

He shakes his head.

“Eaten?” she asks

“Bits,” he says, trying a smile.

“Why don’t you grab a sausage now?”

“No. I’ll wait. Thanks. I’ve got to keep moving or I’ll stop for good. Like aid – give me too much and it makes me sit-back stupid.” He nods at Simi, and walks away. Also keeps you going, she thinks turning back to the sausages.

She is counting them when she hears a pot being bashed. She turns to see Rudd in the centre of the kitchen. “Hi,” he begins as the noise stills. “Thanks everyone. Really appreciate all you’re doing. Just a quick update. The doctors should be back soon. Half an hour max. They’ll need food. Also Jacobus managed to get a message through to us. I don’t know if you know, but he left this morning on foot with Tonderai. Sounds terrible out there. They still haven’t reached Tonderai’s home. Seems we’ve been lucky, so for the next few days may be a bit of coming and going here.”

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

Story postcard – in the light of day (4)

It’s the banging that wakes Simi. She tries to ignore it, but it insists. Head sunk in her pillow she registers that the sound is connected to a door. She opens her eyes, and tries to focus sideways, through the mosquito netting, but its blur sends her straight back to sleep.

“Simi … Simi …” The voice plays in her head, but her eyes stay closed. “Simi!” The voice comes closer. Much closer, and pulls both eyes wide open. They see a figure, ghost-like through the mesh, standing at the end of the bed. “Simi!”

Simi sits up, her mind piecing together like a jigsaw. “Marybelle?”

“At last. You’ve been sleeping ages. Are you okay? Listen I’ll go and get a cup of tea for you. Tea? Or coffee?”

“Coffee please.” Simi thumps back on to her pillow.

“Okay. I’ll be five minutes. Doctors are here from Harare,” Marybelle calls as she closes the door behind her.

Groaning, Simi fumbles her way out from under the net. She picks up yesterday’s kaftan and drapes it over the back of a chair, wincing at the pain in her hand as she does so. In the bathroom, she lets the shower wash over her, one hand lathering and the other raised awkwardly. By the time Marybelle returns with coffee, she is wrapped in a towel and putting cream on her face.

“What time is it?” Simi asks.

“Oh, it’s about three …”

“In the afternoon? What?” Simi walks over to the patio doors and pulls open the curtains. Light and heat fill the room.

“The helicopters woke me.”


“Yup. Here’s your coffee,” says Marybelle passing her the mug, and walking over to the cupboard. “Which kaftan are you going to wear today?”

“What helicopters?”

“The doctors’. Two. Two helicopters. Four doctors. I think you should wear this one …” says Marybelle, picking out a kaftan in sunflower yellow, patched against sky blue. She holds it out to Simi. “Oh, maybe you should sit first, and drink your coffee.” Marybelle pulls out the chair. “When you’re finished we’ll get you ready. I’ll sit here,” she adds, clearing mosquito net off a patch of bed and sitting down, with the kaftan beside her. “The doctors say the area’s wrecked. Can’t even reach some places. Roads, bridges, houses … all gone. Landslides. Everything. Sounds terrible Simi, and more rain coming.” Marybelle sighs, trainers tapping on the floor.

Simi sips her coffee. The dry and the warmth, and Marybelle so breezy in jeans and t-shirt, make her feel like the night before never happened, but when her eyes drop down to her coffee all she sees is Tonderai’s face in the firelight, alarmed for his sister’s family.

“Are you okay to help in the kitchen?” Marybelle asks, eyes watchful.

“Sure, but not in that.” Simi nods towards the chosen kaftan. ”I’m saving it for going home.”

“Oh Simi … today’s the day. It’s cheer up day. It’ll be perfect.”

“Cheer up day? Really?”

“Yes. We need bright. And you. I don’t want to be by myself in that kitchen being bossed around by Katania.”

“Where are the others?”

“Clearing up. Rudd wants us to feed the doctors. Oh no!” Marybelle jumps us. “They’ll be back soon.” She holds out the kaftan. “You ready?”

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023