The other day, Derek Webb, good friend and top notch mechanic, patted our 1995 Isuzu bakkie on the bonnet and said, “There’s plenty of life in the old girl yet.” We have had her since 2004. She has survived four theft attempts, two on the same night; had both door locks smashed, and the place-where-you-put-the-key-to-start-it, knackered by screw-drivers and wires, but not hot enough.
And then the other day, Quentin had an argument with her. He clicked the remote to open; she obeyed, but then immediately locked. He pressed again; she opened and locked again and again and so forth until this lively repartee between man and machine caught the attention of passers-by keen to see who would win the contest. Then someone with a strong piece of wire materialized, inserted it under the door handle, the doorknob shot up and stayed up. Crowd applauded, Quentin thanked him profusely, came home and said, “Whatever you do, DON’T LOCK THE BAKKIE!”
And like a meek, obedient wife, I didn’t. I parked her at the East Beach, left her unlocked and hove off up a sand dune behind Spike while the car guard shouted and gesticulated in vain. In the afternoon, I went to have tea with a friend, and again, I left the vehicle unlocked. While we sat and watched the ocean over our cups of tea, the bakkie waited vulnerable and patient. Thieves walked past, saw the unlocked doorknobs and reacted with the suspicion of a Trojan observing the wooden horse. I said good-bye, drove home, parked the bakkie safely in the garage and… locked it.
The moment I pressed the remote and heard the doorknobs collapse comfortably, was tantamount to the Trojans pressing the remote of the city gates with the horse safely inside and saying “Let’s party.” A night of great ferocity was unleashed. The bakkie would NOT unlock.
Meanwhile, 600 meters from home at the Royal Port Alfred Golf Club, Quentin has given up trying to talk while a guitar is strummed loudly in his good ear. He puts down a grumpy beer glass, mumbles good-night and heads home. My sister has come for supper and her cheeks are radiant with sweet Jerepigo. Quentin comes through the door.
“I locked the bakkie!” blurt I with such false levity that it hurts. His smile evaporates like evening mist and a dark cloud descends. This does not augur well. The Greeks stir in the horse’s wooden bowels. He grabs the bakkie keys and thus begins the saga of trying to unlock it. I oscillate between my cherry-cheeked sister and Quentin. He is trying to emulate the person who opened it with ease the day before, but he is better at writing poems. I go out with a torch and useless words. I come back with a torch, useless words and a flea in my ear. The cloud intensifies in size and darkness. Then I hear the neighbour say he is going to his workshop and will return with a harder piece of wire. Bless the neighbour. I pour my sister another libation of the blushful sweet and myself some bitter Pinotage as punishment; force it down. Silent is the night. The Trojans are slumped in a stupor. Nothing stirs.
And then, an eerie sound. A bit like “CRASSSHH!!!” but without the “A”. I cannot move. Words not found in the Anglican Prayer Book rend the cloud and evaporate in the starlit sky. The Greeks have struck. Chaos is unleashed. Quentin stumbles inside, his white shirt spattered lightly in blood. He has tried to force down a window and it has imploded into 647 893 418 tinkly bits. He walks into the kitchen with a magnificent sheen of shards on his head, shoulders and beard. It strikes me that he looks a bit like Santa Klaus. I offer him some vegetable curry, but he says he’s not hungry. More punitive Pinotage. I usher my sister out a darkened side door, like a Trojan matron being slipped over the city walls to freedom.
The neighbour returns holding the perfect piece of wire.
Holidays often dish up unexpected events; Hoovering a lawn was unexpected. Quentin’s back aches at the sight of domestic devices so the next morning, I start hoovering, bearing down on each grass-hidden shard like a merciless Greek on a cowering Trojan. 647 893 418, 647 893 417, 416 etc. but these aren’t green bottles and they’re not hanging on a wall. The lawn looks much better after half an hour. I open the bakkie door and a deluge of 647 893 shards fall onto the lawn. [More expletives that have only recently been included in the South African Dictionary.] The hoovering continues. There is glass everywhere. We must remember to wear goggles when we switch on the bakkie fan (aircon defunct since 2008).
Later, as Spike leaps from the bakkie into the field for his evening walk, Quentin presses the remote, the vehicle locks. On our return, he presses the remote, the vehicle opens. As smoothly as refined oil.
Thanks to Port Alfred Glasfit for installing a replacement in less than 48 hours (the equivalent of 24 hours anywhere out of the Eastern Cape.