Rough Diamonds

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Chapter 12

Anton Retief

Anton had continued gambling in secret for years while the children were growing up. He had won some and lost some.

As he arrived home, Anton spotted the Austin with the Durban number plates. He recognised his parents-in-law’s car.

“Hi, I’m home, everyone.”

He was in a particularly cheerful mood that day. He’d had a good win on the horses.

“How’re my children?”

He looked to the three little ones, but they were listening to the Bush radio. They couldn’t yet afford a television set, but it would come after the horse races that Saturday. He was certain of it.

“Hello Dad, hello Mum,” he said to his in-laws, Judith and Arthur Jones. He lazily sauntered to his favourite chair next to the elaborate radio with its many valves. He had bought it in the 50s for a little over £27 - a very reasonable price. Still, the thought occurred to him: Why did I buy a radio I couldn’t afford? He put that thought out of his head.

Anton settled in and accepted the beer that Shirley offered him from the fridge. “Cheers, everyone!”

He said to the children: “Listen here, all of you, my big people.” All of the children turned to face Anton, except Jako.

“Jako,” Anton called. The boy turned. He was entering his teens and his voice was breaking. Mike was nearly 10 and Kate-Emily was seven. “You’ve got an uncle who lives in Gaborone.”

“What’s his name?” Jako asked.

“Uncle Kobus Retief.” Anton responded. “We’ve got to visit him.”

Kate-Emily asked: “What does he do in Gaborone?”

Anton smiled. He was proud of his three children. “He runs a garage and prepares cars for roadworthy tests.”

“That’s where they repair vehicles,” Kate-Emily said. Anton nodded in agreement, and the three children smiled.

Shirley got up. “I wonder if dinner is ready. I’m going to check whether Gladys has finished preparing it.”

He could hear the commotion in his sleep. Wild-eyed demons were trying to take his precious money. He wrestled the demons, to little avail. He slipped into a bottomless hole, but they followed him, threatening him.

“Son... ”

There it was again. Like a higher being calling him.

“Shirley, Anton, are you awake?”

He battled to wake up. Then he saw his father-in-law standing over the bed, barely distinguishable in the dark.

“Uh, what’s the matter?” he asked, struggling to wake from his horrific dream.

“Judith has had something big... it’s a heart attack or a stroke... Could you call a doctor please?”

Anton switched on the light. Shirley had heard her father and quickly leapt up and rushed down the passage to her mother’s room.

“Aaaww!” A blood-curdling scream came from the room. The two men entered to find Shirley clinging to her mum.

Arthur rushed to his wife’s bedside and immediately broke down. Anton could see that his mother-in-law had stopped breathing. He held Shirley.

Her mother was dead.

“Where must the... funeral take place?”, the ageing man stuttered. Anton could see that Arthur was taking inconceivable strain.

Arthur added: “I think it must be close by so that I can join her when my time comes.”

They settled on the nearby town of Dundee.

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