Having once been Bekkersdaal, in the East Rand, this story grabbed particular attention. I had, for days, mulled over the other half of the stories in the compilation of South Africa Short Stories from 1945 to 1994 by Dennis Hirson and Martin Trump. Having read all those by black writers, I was weary of going into those by Afrikaans writers, mainly because the latter were painful remnants of days we wish gone, days which hover over the present.
I read this in the morning, in the shuttle, on my way to work. Now, one must understand that these morning rides are serious affairs. We all file into the 22 seater and thumb over our phones, at times catching up on sleep we’ve missed. On this particular day I had missed my usual shuttle and was travelling on one with “complete strangers,” and unlike ours, this one had no conversation bouncing off the windows. At all.
This made reading this five-page masterpiece a real mission. The beginning was dull, giving attention to a drunkard who was skilled in playing the organ. Taking me back, as many other things do, to the skill that Nina Simone possessed, the passion she played with, the dreams she lost. As soon as this man, Billy Robertse, was appointed as organ player at the local church, things take a spin.
Never have I been in a position of such hysterics, yet was unable to laugh out loud. At every stanza I laughed. I’d stop reading and laugh again, over and over, wishing to remain in the seconds that were so rebelliously passing by. Every moment forgetting just how sombre the other stories had been, relevance aside.
For me, having grown up a fond study of the Psalms and Proverbs, this was nothing short of just what everyone needs to read on that very dull drive to work in the morning.