"Whenever I finally see it or feel
it or touch it or hear it or smell it, I just know it, that
before my physical discovery of it, my love for it was here, it's
the déjà vu of our godliness."
Ubuntu (You see me therefore I
Boetman wiped the oil from his hands onto an over greased sticky
and dirty piece of mutton cloth that at some time had within it
the ability to absorb the dirt and grease that lay on the hands
of its owner. That was a long time ago, now the mutton cloth was
past its glory days. Today as everyday it remained tied to his
belt and was a permanent feature of the only available mechanic
within two hundred miles. Boetmans history and that of his piece
of mutton cloth were linked.
When he first moved here he had renovated, well perhaps renovated
is to suburban a term. Out here I expect they don't renovate,
regenerate, reconstitute or reconstruct they simply fix things
that need fixing and that is what Boetman did, he fixed the old
service garage, repainted it and recast the concrete forecourt in
anticipation of the rush of tourists who would flock to his
created Oasis in the middle of nowhere. He had been excited then,
excited by the energy he found in his dreams. His fortitude,
purity of purpose and belief in his god was what had driven him.
He was at that time a religious man, these days he was far more
spiritual. The remnants of his dreams flapping in the greasy
mutton cloth tied to the side of his pants filled with the sweat,
grease and broken promises of a man religiously serving a self
imposed life sentence for failing to attain his fantasy.
The signs of all his original entrepreneurship were faded, rusted
and weather beaten but they were still hanging, clanging and
creaking in the wind on the side of the dust road where so many
years ago he had meticulously placed them with pride. I suppose
they served the purpose of reminding him at the magnitude of his
folly. There was no escaping them even when the sun receded over
the western horizon and the darkness hid the sight of the broken
buildings and billboards, the metallic laughter of the loose and
sun bleached signs would carry on long into the night reminding
him of the man he once was.
"Put a Tiger in your tank", "Next stop 200km's and "Refresh in
our restrooms", "Kudu Biltong sold here", so many signs still
partially visible of his once grandiose ideas, of the belief in
his fantasy of the time. I could almost feel how excited he must
have been to finally have his own place, his own business, to
truly be a master of his own destiny. How macabre and cruel life
can be. It seems that in time life makes fools of us all.
I could smell the stench of the toilets from where I stood, and
my previous inclination to answer Mother Nature's call and
squeeze a kidney retreated to the safety of the bladder, my
manhood sulked and followed.
"Ja yous is going to need a nuwe fan belt",
Boetman shouted at me over the noise of the engine he was
I knew I didn't need a new fan belt but Boetman needed me to
confirm that he was still a good mechanic. To reject or challenge
his diagnostic would make a fellow human being more miserable
than the sentence he had already cast on himself, so I nodded, it
wasn't an expensive nod the fan belt would set me back no more
than a couple of hundred Rands.
"Thank god you were here Boetman I don't know what I would have
done, I would have been totally snookered man", I replied.
My words seem to wash away his earlier bent posture I watched in
amazement as my confirmation in his ability magically filled and
smoothed the crevice of his furrowed brow. Thus with a few kind
words and recognition Boetman's stature grew. He wiped his hands
with new found authority and deliberation on the rotting mutton
cloth and looked at me as he dragged deeply on his Texan plain.
The smoke he exhaled from his nose held its shape for longer than
ever, it held its shape and then as the ground heat reached it,
it lifted and swirled and cascaded and twisted as it finally
escaped its gravity and the evil Texan from whence it was born.
"He he, hell I tell yous the number of fan belts and
bande ek het regemaak op hierdie pad, Ja jong there are
many a traferllers who owes me a lot more than the price
of a fan belt or a tyre change dit kan ek vir jou se", he
said with a soft smile shaping his mouth.
As I listened to Boetman and watched the cigarette smoke
disappear into heaven I realised that his last statement had said
it all, "There are many travellers who owe me a lot more than the
price of a fan belt or a tyre change…." Yes I thought, yes
Boetman I guess you feel they owe you your dreams and their
Over against the cracked peeling plaster grey wall I saw a
movement, I squinted and brought my hand up to shield my eyes
from the 45 degree Celsius heat and the sharp blue ultra violet
light that created an unsteady and wavering mirage that was
typical of the midday suns presence in this area.
There through the shaky heat waves playing with a mangy dog was a
young boy, he couldn't have been more than seven years old. The
dog looked old and unkempt, like it had fought too many fights
and not won many. He was sitting with his back against the broken
plaster wall of the Garage and the dog had its head in his lap.
The young boy seemed to be dressed in left over mans clothes of a
past era when bow ties and hats were still in fashion.
Boetman caught my stare and grunted, "It's my seun Pieter,
his mufver left fife years ago so now it's net
ek en hy", he said with the small smile now widening to
reveal his Texan stained teeth.
looking kid just like his daddy", I said in the most convincing
tone I could muster as I carried on staring transfixed by the
wise face of this young boy and the scene of him sitting against
the wall just gently patting and stroking the dogs head whilst he
gazed at Boetman, his eyes never leaving his fathers figure.
"He doesn't talk much, but he is a good boy, does what he is told
and nefer komplains, yust wish I could affort to
sent him to school next jear." Boetman said quietly
scratching the side of his head, the grin now a grimace as if
irritated by this realization.
" It's going to have to be a koshuis, ah whats you call it
in English again, ja that's it, boarding school, but wragtig
wif the price of fings I can't bekostig it and
anyway he doesn't wants to go. He worries to much about me,
nefer lets me out of his sight, ja my Pieter sometimes
maak my wakker in die middel of the night to make sure I'm
still here", Boetman continued but now proudly, as if to show me
he was still loved, still worth more than those broken down
tourists whose lives he had saved, thought he was.
"Ja kinders they doesn't need much you know, just someone
to listen to them, just someone who tells them they is great", he
said with conviction just before he took another drag of his
Texan squinting slightly as he sucked the smoke through clenched
I caught myself thinking about the two of them, no wife no mother
but they had each other, just the love of a father and the love
of a son. It was perfect.
Who would have thought that my original assumption of this mans
condition could be so superficial and misleading. Is it my own
conditioning that over the years has trained me to look for the
shiny and the new in recognition of success of a life's purpose?
Had those who deemed themselves successful always been known to
me by their bright neon and well maintained surfaces? Why if I
believe in the depth of a being, in the spirit and beauty of
purpose do I do so only on my terms, what am I so afraid of
I wondered how many of those who, like me, Boetman had helped
over the years realised that this seemingly loser of a man was
richer and more successful than they, than I? That through this
relic of what was his original purpose he continued in his daily
striving to make something out of nothing and in so doing god had
rewarded Boetman with not just a son but with the ability to
love. That the object of his affection was perfect and its
perfection reflected his soul.
It is not often that we find absolute perfection, in most cases I
am ashamed to say that I cannot recognise it and when I do I am
extremely cautious to accept it, even though it is here
enveloping us in life in day and night with an absolute disregard
for our tainted and cynical point of view.
"You are a lucky man Boetman", I said quietly as I surveyed the
scene, with a new eye, that lay before me.
"Ja we are bofe lucky today meneer, I think
I has a fan belt that will fix this, but first kom drink
kowfie", he said and then laughed.
I looked once again at the son of Boetman and saw that he was
staring at me and he like his father was laughing.
Later the next day as I drove away from that place I watched as
the two of them, my two new found soul teachers who had waited
for me for seven years in a garage in the middle of nowhere,
started repainting the signs and the walls of the "Boetman and
Seun" Garage. I watched as the two figures, now brighter with
their re energised purpose faded into specs in my rear view
mirror and as their presence in my being grew I realised with a
great sense of relief that all the perfection I seek for my
future lies waiting to be recognised in my past. I laughed out
aloud as I drove on and left this place, a rare Oasis in a
soulless desert that threatened to destroy my humanity.