by Painted Dog
A humorous look at the terrible drought we are stricken with in Cape Town, South Africa.
|“Who’ll stop the rain…?”
A Cape Robin trilled its soft call to an awakening day, its song a lover’s invite to a shy sun. A cold light began to sweep the stars from the night sky and the South Easter had yet to stir. This was that beautiful pre-dawn, the secret rustling and squeaking of the night was stilled and the din of the day was yet to begin, a Godly silence- as if the whole world paid reverence to the gift of a new day.
For millennia past the pastoral peoples of this Ancient Continent would lie next to their watch fires waiting for a special type of light –nGovivi, Isikhati sezimpondo – dawn the time of the horns, that time when the horns of their beloved cattle could be seen against the lightening sky – that was the official beginning of their day.
Robbie lay very still, his breathing slow and deep, he opened his soul to listen. Again the Robin called its shy lover, Robbie waited, then with an almost sensual softness, the top of the mountain slowly lit up – the Sun had made her appearance! He swung his legs off of the bed and tested his knee joints; “No arthritis today – lovely!” he smiled to himself he looked over to where Bex lay comatose and oblivious. He heaved himself up , immediately the coldest and wettest of noses nudged his naked bottom- stifling a yelp he reached out and smoothed a furry head and was greeted with a morning lick: “ Hello Savanah’” he whispered. He sidled quietly to the front door and slid it open, both of his companions trotted outside, little Jack with his huge ears he inherited from his Corgi dad, wuffing aggressively just in case some errant food-stealing cat was in his space.
Robbie stretched his aching body and walked around to his “herb” garden tucked away down the side of the house. This year it looked more like a model of some foreboding lunar landscape. A few scraggly pieces of mint pushed on bravely in the corner, the new rosemary bush had been severely beaten but was still fighting. He shook his shaggy old head; “What the hell is a man to do?” he mumbled, in a show of solidarity he limped over to the rosemary and emptied his bladder as a gift to the dying plant. As he stood he pondered- as men do in during this activity – what would this summer bring? Not yet January and already record temperatures had cracked the mercury.
His sighed deeply and walked back into the house. Both the dogs bounced after him, occasionally prodding his naked backside with wet noses to encourage him on. “Bugger off! Both of you!” he growled, he slid open the back door and dug into their food bin for a serving of biscuits for each of them. After his furry children were fed, he filled the kettle and put it on for a brew. So began his morning ritual, toast on, eggs out, water on for poaching. He opened the door into the back yard and stood still – letting the gentle dawn breeze play across his naked body. The back yard was a picture of death, gone was the beautiful clipped kikuyu lawn, killed by fats and chemicals in the ‘grey’ water he had used for watering. Planters which had groaned with excess of green veg and herbs last year now stood empty and abandoned. The old bath tub in the corner had a shrub of feral tomatoes and the chili looked good. Parsley struggled bravely in a planter near the door – it was a travesty really.
The kettle whistled behind him, in due course a pot of tea sat importantly on the tray, puffing out chubby cheeks while drawing. He buttered the golden brown toast and smeared a delicate layer of Marmite across the glowing butter.
The eggs had been poaching gently in the pre- boiled water for two minutes- with deceiving gentleness for such a large man he raised two eggs from the pan, letting each drip dry before setting them down on their toasty beds. He carried the tray into the bed-room and set it down next to Becky –reaching over he kissed her gently on her forehead. Her eyes opened slowly: “Good morning my love’” he murmured, she smiled at him: “What!” she exclaimed laughingly; “breakfast in bed, and so early!” She mocked. He chortled sipping his tea,” What are your plans today, darling?” he asked. She yawned and scrunched up her face rolling her stiff shoulders, “I would have suggested a nice day in the garden, but there is nothing there…” He laughed sadly: “Yeah, I have just checked.” she smiled”… as you say, an exercise in futility. Let’s take the doggies for a walk in the forest.” He grunted assent and they both settled into their tea.
The sun, now free from the shackles of night, burnt with childlike glee. Even though it was barely seven in the morning, the promise of searing temperatures touched bare skin and sweat began to gather in sulky crowds threatening armpit, back and forehead with running swarms in protest. The two dogs ran through the man-made forest seeking always the dastardly squirrels who taunted and teased, running in slow motion until just within reach – and then accelerating away in a furry flash to the safety of a convenient tree. The pine forest was very quiet as if it was subdued by the white hot sun, no birds sang, even dogs barked quietly in fact even children were not to be heard. The couple walked on in companionable silence, Robbie occasionally whistling a command and the dogs ignoring him dutifully.
They came out of the dark shade of the pine forest, the heat leapt at them like a ravening leopard, burning the nose, squinting the eyes and shrinking the skin, ripping breath from burdened lung. It was like walking near a large fire. The dogs jogged down to the stream seeking the cool of water and the shelter of shade. This stream was the center of every walk in the forest. All the dogs loved it, there were a series of pools formed in the bends where the stream meandered through the hills and dunes of the ancient sea bed. Each of these pools had been named by the humans after some dog or activity or even some important local. The banks were overgrown with ferns, bracken and Cape Willow, forming tunnels and caves, beckoning exploration and adventure. It was to this stream that the dogs would gallop, it was in its clear mountain waters that they would swim. Toddlers would follow their furry charges and fall into the water, or get knocked over willy-nilly, or get covered in rich stinking mud – it was a place where snobbish dog owners could show off their dogs, the superior breeding, the matchless training and of course – the ever expanding collection of accessories.
Robbie and Bex followed the two furry children at a leisurely pace, then Robbie frowned, towards them ran two dogs – dry dogs, faces held in rigid disappointment. Savanah was clearly very upset, she whined, her tail down and she kept looking back. Robbie stopped and looked around warily, his old instincts from his bush days kicking in, ”Are there a gang of bloody murderers out there?” he wondered, he turned his head a little to listen, nothing, for a moment he didn’t react, then it slowly dawned on him; “It’s too quiet, I can’t hear the stream!” He looked over at Becky; “What is it love?” she asked quietly. “I can’t hear the water,” he said, shaking his head. She walked over to the steam bank pushing through the scented Erica and looked down: ”Rob!” she called, “come take a gander, there is no water!” The two distraught dogs were now running a large sandy bowl, which was known as The Labbie Pool, sniffing and digging – obviously trying to find their water.
Robbie felt a cold drop of fear trickle down his spine, this stream hadn’t stopped running in all the years he had lived here – this was very bad news. The drought had now become a very personal and intrusive tragedy. “Well!” he snorted: “this is bad love – very bad!” with that he turned and headed back to the shade of the forest. She found him sitting on an old tree trunk talking gently to the dogs; ”At least their tales a wagging, ”she commented,” I thought they would be down in the dumps the whole day.” He nodded, stroking Savanah’s silky soft ears, “Well I know I am,” he said quietly,”I am really worried love, this drought is starting to strangle everything dear to us. The pool is buggered, no veggies, no herbs, lawn gone, queues for water, army standing guard everywhere, it’s scary.”
They called the dogs to the pick-up, settling them in the back,”Come on Bex, let’s get them home.”
The radio self-tuned to Magic radio as he started the little Chev UTE, as he drove off John Fogerty and CCR started belting one of his old favorites:”…and I wonder, still I wonder, who’ll stop the rain?..” cried Fogerty. “More like who stole the bloody rain!” Robbie grunted.