by Paul du Preez
DARREN – UP CLOSE
While Leandré and Saloni were being amused by rapper, Marcus’ attempts to introduce himself, Darren had jumped the gate into the Arderne Gardens, looking for a place to unwind. There, unexpectedly (but, he admits, inevitably) he met Arno who commanded him, “Walk with me.”
Tall and gangly (almost as tall as me) he’s got this slow, bobbing gait – like he’s a boat on a river, floating.
“You lost your temper,” he says.
“Beg your pardon?” I hurry to catch up.
“You heard,” he replies, not looking back.
“I didn’t lose my temper.”
“Giving that boy a mouthful of your guitar: in my book, that’s losing your temper.”
You don’t mess with Arno.
“Every time you lose your temper you place your sister at risk.”
“It was an accident,” I say, playing for time. Sharpen up, Darren, I tell myself. Sharpen the Zap Up!
Arno turns: “O my Magtig [Lord Almighty]! Who do you think you’re fooling? Confess and be forgiven.”
“What?” I bat back. And then, “Like you care.”
“But I do. Let me give you some advice…”
“Like you always do.”
Arno draws his lips into an ‘O’, pantomiming hurt. Tilts back his head, like he’s catching moonlight in his mouth. “…This aggression of yours gets you nowhere. Rules are rules.”
I don’t want to reply; won’t reply.
But, “If you want to look after your sister…” he says.
Arno blanks me.
Turns and bobs along. And I follow. He reaches the gate to the garden, passes it, starts crossing the road. Looking neither left nor right. There’s no traffic, except for a solitary car whining in the distance.
It’s a virus ghost-town…
“Let’s talk somewhere comfortable,” he says, words trailing behind him.
There’s a multi-story office block on the other side, all shop fronts at street-level. One’s a delicatessen. Dark. Looks locked down, but Arno tries the handle and the door swings open, soundlessly. He flicks a hand and lights come on.
Unreality finally kicks in – even though logic is still trying to tell me that the switches should be behind the counter.
But…this is Arno.
We push past aluminium tables, chairs stacked by the door – pavement furniture – and work our way along the quietly humming display counter. He claims a bar table at the far end, eases onto a chair, and snugs up against the window. “Take a seat,” he says. “We are friends, you know.”
I pull out a chair – reluctantly. What else can I do?
And, pausing, stare at him.
Ordinary. Everything about him. Except, somehow…from another era. His face is only fifty-ish, but his clothes look like something from an Eighties cultural-history exhibit. Dark blue polyester track-suite jacket, brown-striped shirt with open collar, fawn trousers – worn, but scrupulously clean. His trouser legs show knife-edge creases. I can’t see his belt, but it’s black leather I remember, silver-buckled. Blocky black shoes, gleaming.
“That’s better.” Arno nods approvingly. “Now, let’s order something to eat.” He snaps his fingers and a waitress scurries up. White cotton blouse and black pleated mini. Tennis shoes and white socks. She’s blond, and mechanically brushing wisps of hair from her eyes.
Where did she come from? I can’t help wondering – logic dies hard.
The smell of coffee and frying bacon floods the deli. The clatter of cups, plates. “What can I get you?” she chirps, her accent thick with Afrikaner flavour. She holds out laminated menus.
Is she even real?
I take the offered menu, flip it open, scan blankly. …After an embarrassing pause, fumble it right way up.
“What are you having?” asks Arno.
“I’m not hungry.”
He gives me a look that mimes compassion: “Let me order for you.”
The waitress jots it down, goes, and after a moment Arno says, quietly, “There are rules.” Lifts a palm to stop me from interrupting. Continues, reasonably, “No matter how many times I have to explain, there are rules.”
“Yeah,” I sigh.
“Uh huh,” he grunts, pleased. “Every time you lose your temper you place your sister at risk.”
Arno: Don’t Give Me Kak by Paul du Preez
Angel Wings by Sergei Tomakov on Pixabay https://pixabay.com/illustrations/angel-wings-fairy-isolated-4870050/
Intro Music (on Podcast)
Excerpt from Black, White and Blue by Paul du Preez
Disclaimer, Copyright and Permissions
Syblings the Syrial is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, events, and incidents are the product of Paul du Preez’ imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
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