Chapter Eleven (Children ... before the Cello!)
Katherine feared the arrival
of dessert. She loved her puddings,
but she was ready to burst, and she had barely begun with the main course. She
was sure it was going to be weeks before she could eat again, possibly even
months. It had been absolutely worth it so far though. Every single morsel, of
Ewyn caught her eye and smiled. He really was a good friend. My gorgeous monkeys just love him. They do always hang from him when he is in the vicinity. He never tires of them or their questions. He has an insane amount of patience for a man.
Blake was a wonderful father, but he was away as often as he was home. As a result, ‘Uncle Huey’ was the stand-in to play the male role. He never over-stepped his boundaries, but he also never stood down either. If Blake was away, he filled in. He was a natural father. He just had the personality.
He was their godfather and he took responsibility seriously, even though he habitually joked and groaned. Juliet and Harry took no notice of his grumbling. They routinely draped themselves over him as children do, vying for his attention.
When they were toddlers, Ewyn would say to them sternly that he only had two knees. One for each of them and best they get along or it was the floor for them. Nothing more would be said. They would sit and relay all the events of their day to him.
When Harry first learnt to write his own name, it was quite an event. He had insisted on sitting on Ewyn’s knee at the table and proceeded to show just him how. Ewyn with all seriousness asked him if he could repeat the exercise. Harry needed no further encouragement.
They were older now, of course, but it was a regular sight to see Ewyn walking around with a child tossed over a shoulder, squealing with excitement.
“Penny, or two hundred with inflation, for your thoughts,” he said and smiled.
“Nothing much,” she started. “Just thinking about the monkeys.”
“Now, now,” he said with mock severity, narrowing his eyes. “What monkeys? There are monkeys? Where? We’ll have them caught, toasted lightly, and served.”
“It’s no longer legal to eat your offspring in most countries, you know,” she replied. “Besides, I’m fattening them up first, but don’t tell anyone.”
“Yes, more for us! So seriously, why are you so quiet? Are you worrying about Blake?”
“A little, but mostly I was thinking how good you are with the monkeys. You will make a great father one day.”
“Me? Oh, hell no!” said Ewyn. “I like children I can give back when they begin to irritate me. Like yours, they are cute from afar, but far from a-cute, complete monkeys upclose. Plus, they are so darn clingy. They are always wrinkling my clothes with their grubby paws. Euw ... no thanks!”
“Perhaps we should revisit the whole godfather thing?”
“Nah, by the time you start kicking the bucket they will have learnt to wash their hands — I hope! Oh, best you start being strict with their ablutions now.”
They both laughed. They always laughed a lot when together. The grubby monkeys loved him. He had always been part of the extended family. Ewyn loves it, he gets to be the good guy all the time. They always idolise him no matter what he says and does. Parents have to be the bad guys too often. Not fair! He gets to be Saint Huey and we get to play the Grinch.
Uncle Huey was so named because when the two were little they could not get their tongues around pronouncing his name. When they got going, and Ewyn teased them, Juliet became Lully, and Harry was Lally. Lully and Lally would protest loudly. Huey, Lully, and Lally. All they needed was a duck.
“Don’t worry about Lully and Lally,” he grinned. “Before you know it, your temporary pass will be revoked, and you will be back to complete your sentence with the little terrors! Just enjoy the evening out alone — with adult company.”
“Yessir, Doctor Ruthless, sir!”
“There you go, no more lulling and lalling around tonight! Dinner is great, isn’t it? I’m glad you dragged me along.”
“I needed the company. I was not facing this lot alone! Can you imagine? I might have accidentally become a Zionist tonight if you were not here to protect me from myself — and the Reverend of course,” joked Katherine out of earshot of Letaba.
“Shh! You may have dragged me here, but I ain’t followin’ ya ta hell! I’m stayin’ away from there, ya hear? I ain’t heard nuthin’ good about that there establishment.”
“We could decorate and reopen for trade with a new business model? We could call it ‘Le Hell’, make quite a stir.”
“You are twisted Mrs Franken,” he chortled. “I’m expecting lightning bolts shortly. Please sit further away from me, thanks. A little bit further ... little more ....”
“What are you two giggling about?” asked Rachel, smiling at their obvious mirth.
“Oh just how Katherine has decided to apply for a government grant. She wants to pop down and fire Hell’s current management, redecorate, and resurrect the place,” sniggered Ewyn. “I’m having none of that, of course. She is on her own just past the city limits, on the M2. The highway to Hell!”
“Yes, it is a good idea to revitalise the area downtown,” said Mary, laughing too. “It is had a bad reputation for the longest time now.”
“Real estate prices will soar in the neighbourhood,” giggled Kathy.
“Poor souls will just be dying to get in,” sniggered Leticia.
“All hell will break loose,” added Katherine.
“Katherine and I have already reserved our spots before the rush!”
Reverend Letaba just looked on with a glare. He was not the type to laugh about the seriousness of Lucifer and his residential address. He chose to ignore them.
The idea of returning to teaching simmered in the back burner of her mind. She still had hopes, but not at the children’s expense. In her mind, there was simply no question of doing that while she felt her time was better spent at home with them.
“Ewyn, I’ve been thinking of teaching again. What do you think of the idea?”
“I think that is a terrific idea! I just don’t know why it is still an idea and not a reality.”
“Blake and I discussed that I would stay home when we were more financially stable. I could return to teaching when the children were a little older. We have needed my half-day salary thus far. Teaching the cello isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme you know.”
“Yes, it’s about as financially rewarding as writing books no one wants to read,” he grinned voicing his own financial concerns.
“Still, it would give me more freedom and time to get things done in the mornings — in between the hordes of people awaiting cello tutorship, naturally. I’d have to beat them all off my stoep with a large conductor’s baton!”
“Especially the talentless ones.”
“Especially those — my poor ears.”
“I strongly recommend ear muffs for those short on flair.”
“How would I know the hour of torture was over then? I wouldn’t hear a thing.”
“You have a point. Perhaps a large wall clock behind them? Okay, shut up now ... get out! Only come back to leave a large cheque behind.”
“That could work ....”
“Of course it will work, you’ll rake in the millions, and I’ll be able to retire and write sordid novels at leisure from your seaside cottage.”
“I see you have this all planned out already,” she laughed.
“A man must have a plan! Even if it involves an easy get-rich-quick-through-friends scheme.”
“Yes, let it never be said that Ewyn Greer never planned for his retirement.”
“There you go! Now stop being stubborn and go make me a wealthy retiree — before I get old.”
“Yes, understandably, I have nothing better to do, no further purpose in life ... just authors and clinging children.”
“I knew you would see it my way ultimately!”
He will make it, she thought. He will become a massive breakout author sooner than he expects. How can so much talent go unnoticed? He needs to have more faith in the universe. It will come through with a surprise.
“You really need to stop zoning out, dear,” snickered Ewyn. “It’s like talking to a little old lady. Need a nap, dearest?”
“Oh bugger off! See if I ever drift off into good thoughts about your future. It’s all incessant stoning from now on. Large ones too — not the pebble variety.”
“Oh dear! I can’t get stoned. Not again!”
“Are you making it a habit? There are gentler hobbies you could take up, you know.”
“Nah, I like getting stoned. It’s like being between a rock and a hard stone. Incredible stony fun.”
“So, as I was saying, the teaching thing. Stay focussed now!”
“Yes, Ma’am! Here is an apple,” he said, grabbing a banana from the fruit bowl on the table. “Juicy too.”
“You know that is not an apple, don’t you?”
“Of course I do! It’s a prickly pear ... best I could do on such short notice from the teacher.”
“Ewyn, best you never become a grocer,” laughed Katherine.
“I thought I might become a bus driver, actually,” said Ewyn with a straight face. “They all drive so fast. What other profession allows you to drive large, dangerous vehicles in a reckless fashion, and at high speed ... and they pay you! You get a company car, well, a bus, but let us not nit-pick. I like those old square buses from Busco. They are built to run over every pedestrian that dares to cross their path without acquiring so much as a scratch.”
“Yes, and if you keep the doors closed it’s more aerodynamic and there is less drag. You can really hurtle along,” joked Katherine. “Slow‑moving old ladies score low on the chart.”
“Seriously though,” said Mervin, “they are a menace. Once they get going, they don’t stop. I’ve seen them come zooming over the Parktown hills like airborne rally drivers! The bus company is just a law unto itself. Like the Black Taxis Union, and the South African Police, and ... oh wait, they fit right in with the government’s stance on bribery and corruption.”
“Indeed!” sniggered Ewyn. “Laws are for fools. Those weak of mind and lacking the audacity.”
“Talking about the traffic,” added Mary, “has anyone been downtown recently? I mean really downtown, not Sandton City during home-time rush‑hour traffic?”
“I’ve heard it is like any other African city now,” said Mervin. “I avoid going down south of Commissioner Street these days.”
“Well, Tom and I work in town, very close to Commissioner Street, in fact. It’s quite an experience nowadays, especially during rush-hour. Cars can be found as much as triple parked, police vehicles included. People drive on the wrong side of the road as a result. Turning only lanes mean nothing when people are driving on the wrong side of the road and cut you off when you are trying to turn.”
“No one obeys the traffic lights,” added Tom. “The odd thing is that the traffic actually just merges like a slow lava flow, oozing through the buildings. It is not for the faint of heart. You just go and take any centimetre of a gap where you can. It is like the traffic jam merges and becomes a lethargic reptile slowly creeping in every direction.”
“I prefer to send in the driver when needed,” laughed Mervin. “Poor man, he should get danger pay and over-time for his troubles. He knows all the places to park and all the ins and outs of the city today. It’s a totally different beast to what I was used to when I worked in town as a young man.”
“I remember,” said Rachel. “I always tease my kugel friends that a spot of last minute rush-hour retail therapy in the Sandton City Shopping Centre is not shopping downtown!”
Rachel got up. “... and on that note, I think I shall go check in on the kitchen again.”