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

Story postcard – in the light of day (3)

Simi longs for Rudd to dismiss their offer of help, and to send them off to their rooms, but he doesn’t. Instead he thanks them, and warns them that they might be on their own. “Reckon most of the staff will have gone to get news, or help their own families. Hope they get through,” he shouts.

Simi feels Marybelle’s elbow in her ribs. “Come on Simi, let’s go. You’re okay to help aren’t you?”

“Well … I’m … oh, sure,” she says, as Marybelle steers her towards the kitchen. “Aren’t you tired?”

Marybelle laughs, but does not stop. And she does not stop until breakfast is done. Neither does Simi. Katania is also in the kitchen. Supervising.

Trust her. Just as well I haven’t got the energy to resist. I’ll do the bacon, and that’s me. She can check the gas. Count the slices. Get them delivered. All that’s hers.

So that’s how it goes until at last, clogged with exhaustion, Simi leaves the kitchen, her kaftan dragging through the wet as she crosses the verandah. She feels terrible. Her head aches. Her hand aches. Her feet ache. Her friend is still in the kitchen. She barely notices that the clouds are lifting, and the sun peering through occasionally at the tired bodies fretting over the damage. At the bottom of the stairs she steps around the upturned table jammed against the wall, and limps on towards her door, the wind slapping into her as she fumbles for the key in her kaftan pocket. She opens the door and steps inside, instantly kicking off her shoes. It’s as she closes the door that she catches sight of herself in the mirror.

Oh my God. Look at my eyes. Like mine shafts, all collapsed. And my hair wrap. I look drunk. Whole thing’s slipped. Like a chef’s hat.

One-handed, she unwinds the fabric, and releases her hair.  As it bounces free she notices that one of her earrings is missing, snagged, she thinks, on the blanket. She unclips its surviving partner, and in the mirror sees the bed waiting, sheets folded neat as an envelope, with the mosquito net curled above them.

Oh bless that bed. I am coming. Just got to deal with this hand first.

She lifts her kaftan over her head, steps over it and tiptoes barefoot across the cold stone floor of the bathroom to the basin, where she unwraps the bandage, peeling back its layers, until she reaches the raw edges of the gash. Trying not to look too closely at the wound, she bundles the bandage down between the taps, and turns on the cold water. The sting of it is instant as it streams over her hand. Wincing she holds it there for a few painful seconds, then gently pats it dry.

Will get more antisceptic later. I just have to sleep.

Back in the bedroom she releases the mosquito net and eases between the cool, clean of the sheets. They feel safe against her skin, and the pillow deep. Outside, voices call to one another, and there are the splashing footsteps of someone running, but Simi barely hears, and does not care.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023

Story postcard – in the light of day (2)

Simi looks around the little group. She sees Marybelle undaunted, standing beside Fred who is pale and creased, next to the blanketed Bernard. On the other side of Bernard is Tim, his glasses spattered.

What keeps these people going? Place is ruined. We’re in the middle of nowhere. No blue lights in sight. I feel like I’m about to fall over. About as much use as a bread stick stuffed in water. Why are they still standing? And anyway who’s going to pay for all this?

She doesn’t mean to ask the question, but she does, and too abruptly. Marybelle, turns and stares at her, then echoes the question, as if she can’t understand it. “Who’ll pay?”

Come on … surely. Surely somebody’s thinking like me.

“There must be insurance?” Simi tries to make the question a little clearer, to unhook herself from Marybelle’s question mark eyes.

“What? Insurance? Doubt these guys had any.”

 “Maybe they do,” says Tim, with a shrug. “Maybe. Anyway, the big thing is everyone’s okay … at least I hope there was nobody in that squash court.”

“Oh no! I hope not …” A flash of horror crosses Marybelle’s face then vanishes. “No. We would have heard by now. Thank you God,” she says closing her eyes.

Not sure what God’s plan is,” says Fred, “but I think he’s going to need a hand here. We’ll have to make the plan. Help Rudd sort himself out.”

 “Hope it works,” Simi mumbles, trying to smile.

“Well, nothing much we can do about any of it right now.” Tim, voice energetic, turns to his charges. “Priority is to get you two gentlemen to a place to rest. That’s my plan. Let’s go. Hope to catch you ladies later.”

Together Simi and Marybelle watch the trio squelch slowly across the verandah, towards the stairs down to the bedrooms.

“Shall we go and check on our rooms?” Marybelle asks.

Simi nods. She is glad to feel the small arm loop again through hers, glad to be able to think of a bed at last.

At the top of the stairs, they pause to look out over what was once the swimming pool terrace, with the angled height of the squash court along its far end. Now there is just a small lake, with a pile of bricks in the distance, and a group picking its way over them. Simi recognises Rudd out in front. They hear him call out to the others. “Hey guys, doesn’t look like there’s anything here. Think you’d be better off searching in the other area. Be careful though. More may collapse.”

The five or so move off, weary as flags at half-mast. Rudd does not follow. Instead he begins to head up towards the Lodge. Then he turns and calls back to them. “I’m going to see if I can get breakfast together. Give me an hour and I should have something ready for you.”

A few replies bounce back as he continues on towards the kitchen. Marybelle shouts across to him. “Rudd, can we give you a hand with breakfast?” Rudd stops and waves. Even from a distance Simi can see the strain on his face.

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023