by Marijke Hillmann
Johannesburg – 2009
He is a gentle, erudite septuagenarian whose ideas of casual attire means removing his jacket and tie on a hot and humid summer day. He spends the day of the move from a smallholding to a secured housing complex in Johannesburg wandering about aimlessly until his book collection is housed in the bookcase next to his scuffed leather recliner. The hustle and bustle of his wife, children and grandchildren is met with slightly raised eyebrows when the noise level penetrates his comfort zone.
At times he greets us, his neighbours, on other days he seems lost for words and simply nods, his eyes focused on the snap-crackle-and-pop electric fencing on top of the wall at the bottom of the handkerchief garden.
Later that summer…….
A fierce thunder storm is abating whilst the lightning has once again struck the alarm system.
Sudden, loud noises – thuds followed by piercing screams….. Two hooded figures scale the high wall next door, disappearing into the field beyond.
Outside, people gather in the street, a cacophony of voices: angry, confused and fearful. “Backdoor…..attacked and beat up Stoffel in his bed……Elsabe in the bathroom …..Robbers fled when she screamed…….the bastards…….has anyone phoned the police? …..were they armed?…..”
Inside the house Stoffel tightens the cord of his dressing gown and stares at the furry animal slippers sticking out from beneath his striped pyjama pants. He nods in acknowledgement when offered a cup of tea.
A sigh – a slight shudder – “No need for this. I would have given them my cell phone….it was six years old”. Then -”does anyone have a cigarette, please?”
A few days later an ambulance stops in front of the house. Stoffel has suffered a stroke. That summer, his last, he never quite recovers.
Marijke Hillmann writes a monthly story about Africa for our site. You can find out more about her and the time in her life she is writing about here: African in Short. https://www.everywritersresource.com/shortstories/africa-in-short-by-marijke-hillmann/2013/