Public Key (xLvii)

As I walked back downhill I saw lights in two of the rondavels. There was a car parked between them, the first I’d seen in this country without four-wheel drive. I skirted the houses as well as I could. My policy in regards Other People was still very much one of running and hiding. Perhaps I’d change that one day. That day was not today.

I put away my clothing as best as I could, by stacking it in piles according to its type. I drew more water from the well nearest me. I took a shower, scrubbed myself raw, and sat on the ground in front of my door and looked at the world.

It wasn’t more than sixty degrees outside. A breeze began to blow up from the river. I went inside and tried putting on my hoodie inside-out. I looked ridiculous. So I spent an hour with the two-inch knife on my multitool, scraping the logo off it. I did a fair job. Then it was just a nut-brown hoodie. Then I could wear it anywhere I wanted.

I took some cash and went up to the main lodge. I saw that there was another house off to the left of the main lodge. The guy Oakley was walking down from it. I waved. He waved back. I started walking so as to intercept him. A few hundred yards later, I did.

We exchanged pleasantries, said happy nothings. He asked me how I was finding things. I said, marvelous. A week more off my aching feet and I’d be a new man.

He smiled. Want to join me for a cup of tea? he asked.

Or coffee, he added, when he remembered my nationality. For to any English speaker, my accent was unmistakable.

Sure, I said. Tea, even. We went into the main lodge. He took an electric burner out of the cupboard, filled a kettle from a water-jug and put it on the heating coil. Five minutes, he said. Give or take.

I don’t see any power lines, I said.

Buried. They run along the length of the road. There are dams all over the country, but most of the power goes to S A. I’ve been here three years, only had powerlines for two of them.

And internet?

Nine months or so. Only uplink for five miles either way. Unless someone’s got a smartphone. And it gets signal.

I don’t even have a dumb phone, I said.

You should get one. Especially if, you know, when you get back on the road. Roads here aren’t always safe. Good to have a phone.

Not safe?

They’re not bad out here. Not much going on out here, not much to steal. Closer to Maseru, yeah, don’t go out hitching at night. If you catch a ride, tell them not to stop at red lights at night. Just drive right through, or someone’s gonna jump out and jack your car.

No shit, I said.

I wouldn’t hitchhike at all. But I’m a wimp.

Me too, I said. Glad I didn’t know that beforehand. The internet is lying down on the job.

It’s not quite so bad as all that, he said. But, yeah, glad you didn’t have any trouble. Where’d you come in from?

Ficksburg, I lied. Bloem before that.

Gap year? he asked.

Something like that.

The kettle started to rumble. He let it reach a full boil, and stay boiling for a while.

Sorry, he said. The wells are hospital-clean, I check the levels myself. But they weren’t when I got here. Force of habit, now.

Yeah, I said. My stomach had some trouble getting used to, uh, Africa.

I’ll bet.

He handed me a cup. Cheers, he said.

Cheers.

I drank. I was glad to know that crappy tea bags were still crappy tea bags, even under the rule of His Majesty Lestie III.

I actually can’t hang out too long, the Aussie said. I’ve got to go up to town before the store closes.

Town?

Mokhotlong. Not much else around here in the way of stores.

Sure, I said. No sweat. Thanks for the tea.

He tilted his head at me.

You want to come with? he asked.

Oh. Uhh. Sure, yeah. I’m pretty much out of food.

Then you better come with me.

Um.

Um?

No. Sure. I’m good. Let’s, let’s go.

He shot his tea down. I tried, and failed, to follow suit. We got into a jeep, it started eventually, and we were off.

 

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~ by davekov on 21 February 2011.

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