It was winter and it was raining. With his large frame Crispi squeezed himself through a short, narrow alley way and through the door of the laundromat. With some difficulty he heaved the heavy canvas bag onto the counter. In it was an entire month’s dirty laundry. It was also all the clothes he owned.
“I need these by four o’clock. Can you do it?”
She nodded confirmation, wrote him a pink slip and called someone from the back to fetch the bag.
“We close at five, please do not be late. Tomorrow we are closed. It is a public holiday, and then it is weekend.”
It was only a short walk to the pub. He was not dressed for this weather. With only a purple jersey, shorts and fingerless cloves, the cold and wet weather was invasive. Penetrated right to be bone. He cursed himself – he should have kept at least some dirty jeans.
He sat down close to the warmth of the hearth. Turned around so that he could see the window and ordered some red wine. It is still a few hours from 3 o’clock – the arranged time for meeting friend and travel companion, Loffie – but at least he was warm and comfortable with wine.
In his mind he went through the details of their planning.
Purpose: The annual arts festival.
More wine arrived and the day continued to get better. Familiar faces peaked around the corner to salute the trip with wine and shooters. Conversations grew more intense and dealt with the role of art in an abnormal society. In that fuzzy, haphazard, student kind of way.
A few minutes after 3 o’clock, the yellow Fleetline Combi pulled up outside the window, and in no time at all Loffie inserted himself with a vengeance and a few toasts. The trip of a lifetime is only an hour away.
It was well past 5 o’clock when our two happy friends left the pub and headed for the highway to the north, over the mountains and all along the coast. Celebrations continued all the way past Houw Hoek and Swellendam. It was here, in Swellendam that Chrispy ordered a steak sandwich and left the waitress a large tip and a marriage proposal. By the looks of it, she must have been keen for she promptly arranged for an entire squad of uniformed policemen and two yellow squad cars to see our happy friends off.
They expressed their own gratitude for being invited to such an important event, in such a small town, by escorting our happy friends for a long distance, well beyond the town limits and their call of duty. All the while encouraging our friends to drive faster and further.
“I think I’ll rather have my bachelors party back home, these guys are too friendly” and with that Crispi leaned forward to bump his head on the dashboard and turn-up the volume. It was a song about a man and his boat and the Southern Cross.
“How cool is that?” said Loffie and pointed to the left to where the exact constellation sits, imprinted on the night sky for all to see.
It was close to midnight when our two weary friends parked their yellow Fleetline under a tree near Gourits Bridge. The day’s excess and energy was taking its toll.
As always was the case when our friends took the road in the Fleetline, Loffie slept in the hammock under the expandable roof, and Crispi took the bunk bolted to the floor. Which he shared with a bewildering array of road trip necessities: a fishing rod or two, a surfboard that has not been used once, but is always packed for just in case, books and hundreds of cassette tapes with music.
As our friends made their final preparations for getting into bed, it was if the cosmos started broadcasting. At first, the voice was quite soft and somewhat fuzzy, as if the radio transmitter was not tuned properly. Then the voice spoke loud and clear: “We close at five, please do not be late.”
Dammit! Dammit! Dammit! Try as he may, Crispi could not convince his already over-stimulated mind to quiet down. Time to panic, big time. Oh, the agitated disappointment.
“They are not going to let you into the shows with shorts”. And with that profound statement, Loffie went to straight into a stage of slow-wave sleep.
Crispi, on the other hand, achieved only insufficient somnolence, accumulating sleep debt at a rate that made his head spin and toes palpitate.
“We close at five, please do not be late”. “We close at five, please do not be late”.
Near the point of total insanity, Crispi got up to get distance from the voice. Far in the distant east the horizon glowed atomic tangerine and Indian red.
“Perhaps I should make some coffee”, he thought by himself. With sunrise in the making and the coming of a new day he felt better equipped to deal with his crisis. He decided against the coffee – too dark to see and search. Better just wait.
He took no notice of the strange electronic beeps that seems to come from somewhere near the vicinity of the hammock. He dozed off until the same sound woke him. It beeped fthree times, but he took no notice. The sun kept its distance from the horizon glowing with the same intense atomic tangerine and Indian red. It seems stuck, but how can it be?
The same state of mild panic returned, only this time his mind was sober. Everything seems clearer, yet so much more muddled. How can the sun be stuck? By now he was staring at something as magnificent and beautiful as it was impossible. For some inexplicable reason the sun got stuck as it breached the horizon, and since those first beeps, it has not moved an inch. There are those beeps again. This time he counted. Four clear beeps. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Then he spun around to face the sun. It has not moved an inch. As if the beeps would have told it to hurry up and stop delaying the sunrise. Yet, everything remained the same, for another two sets of beeps.
And then the day broke, from an unexpected angle to Crispi’s left, but this time it broke properly and with full glory – more beautiful than ever before. Calmness expelled the panic in our large-framed friend, leaving no trace of turmoil, only genuine perplexity.
A short distance from the turn-off to Mossel Bay, Loffie pulled over and brought their journey to a temporary halt.
“Look! One of this country’s engineering wonders”. He pointed to an elongated object. It was tall and magnificent, reaching high up, piecing the bright blue sky. “That is the chimney of the Mossgas project”. Loffie lifted his hand even higher. “Check it out! It has a huge flame on top. Even at night, you can see it for miles around”.
At that moment it felt to our large-framed friend as if the world has been lifted off his shoulders. The sheer relief of realizing that there is nothing wrong with the world as he knew it, was almost to much to bear. The smile that spread across his face could do little to stop the tears of relief.
“What is wrong with you?” Loffie asked.
“Oh, nothing. I am just so happy”, Crispi replied and headed for the car. “Let’s get out of here”.
“Wait, before we continue I have something I want to show you.” And with that Loffie waved a brand new electronic wristwatch under his friend’s nose.
“My Dad brought it for me from overseas. They say it is the first of its kind in this country. It even has a clock build-in. One that beeps to tell you what time it is -every hour, on the hour”.
“Never mind, I know. Now hurry up”.
Loffie’s perplexed face aside; the friends continued their journey.
One with clothes and the other without.