The Old Dairy

The Old Dairy

By Johannes Adriaan Snyman
“He is coming undone,” Barry said, taking a sip of his tea from the plastic cup.

“You what, mate?” John asked who just entered the leisure room at The Old Dairy.

“Steve over there,” Barry indicated with both his eyes and the cup in his hand to a middle-aged man dressed in a white overall, sitting in the corner of the room with his head hanging forward. “He is coming undone.”

“What are you on about?” John asked while pouring himself a cup of tea from his metal flask.

“Tell him Steve,” Barry mocked with a grin on his face. “Tell old John, what does the doctor say?”

Feeling sorry for himself, Steve didn’t move.

John raised his eyebrows, looking at Barry, whom in turn whispered that Steve had left his cigarettes at home. John, twice the size of either two companions, walked the four steps to where Steve was sitting, and held his own packet out with one cigarette drawn.

“Do you want a fag mate?”

Without looking up, Steve just shook his head, declining the offer.

“It’s no use, John,” Barry said with a hint of amusement in his voice. “I’ve offered him one, he doesn’t want it. He is coming undone.”

“Goodness me!” John lashed out at Barry in irritation. “Honestly mate, what are you on about?”

“Ask him,” Barry replied laughing. “He is the one all grumpy and moody.”

John looked at Steve but realized he will not be getting any explanation from him within the fifteen-minute tea break.

Even though Barry and John’s blue overalls indicated that they work in a different section of the dairy, the three of them have been processing milk for over a decade, and has consequently grown to be more than mere colleagues. Drinks after work in the pub came as natural as the British tradition itself, and they all knew Steve’s stubborn nature.

“All right then,” John said when he saw the situation was bordering on hopeless. “Let’s have it then!”
Barry who was waiting for the moment, enjoyed every second of it. “First it was ADHD. Then that got sorted with some pills. Then it was Bipolar disorder. Then that was under control. Although the man could hardly stay awake with that medication. And now it is coming undone. Steve got some new pills.”

Barry gave John a broad smile.

“Are you serious?” John retorted. “Coming undone is not even a psychiatric disorder!”

“It is now!” Barry said still filled with amusement.

“Says who?”

“Steve’s doctor of course! Is it not so Steve? Tell him Steve. Did your Doctor not tell you that you are coming undone and that you need some more pills?”

Steve still didn’t lift his head, but mumbled, “Not exactly.”

“What is it then Steve, what did the doctor say then?” Barry asked surprised.

The self-pity could not have been more audible when Steve finally spoke up and said; “He asked me what was wrong, so I didn’t know what to say, and so the only word coming out of me mouth was that I was coming undone.”

“And then?” Barry pressed him.

“Then he said it’s no problem and gave me some meds.”

The two men in blue overalls were not sure of how to respond.

“Who would have known,” John said wide-eyed, struggling to believe what he was hearing. “In this day and age, medication for coming undone.”

They sat in a moment of silence, thoughtfully drinking their tea.

John, the more sensible of the three, found the situation equally amusing but did not venture to make fun of Steve. He knew full well how irritated Steve must be by now, not having smoked a single cigarette since they started their shift at six that morning. He then decided to take a cigarette out of the packet for himself, and place the packet on the bench next to Steve, where he knew it was within Steve’s sight.

“Why are you coming undone, mate? What happened?” John asked in a respectful tone.

Steve didn’t answer.

“It’s his cousin,” Barry answered for him.

“You stay out of it!” Steve snapped at Barry, evidently having received new life.

“What is it Steve?” John kept prompting, while he noticed Steve’s eyes, fixed on the box of cigarettes.

Steve took a moment before he mumbled; “My cousin got married this weekend. ‘Wasn’t even invited.”

“It happens mate,” John said sympathetically. “I suppose it happens to all of us, isn’t that right Barry?”

Barry, who did not have the least sympathy for Steve’s pathetic condition, concurred with a low tone that he to suppose that it happens to everyone, at least once in a lifetime. Just then, he took out of his shirt pocket, his own soft pouch of cigarettes and lit one.

“It’s ridiculous!” Steve cried out startling his audience of two. His determined face looked straight on to the tiled floor somewhere in the middle of the room, and he had his tensed right hand open in front of him, as if to make a point. Holding the exact position, eyebrows raised and not looking at either of his friends, he continued; “The family is here. All the friends are here, but no, they have to get married up on’t bloody Yorkshire!”

“Oh!” John tried to be friendly by sounding interested. “Where in Yorkshire?”

“Up on’t Barnsley!” came the reply ever so quick and snappy.

John and Barry looked at each other before Barry asked; “But Steve, isn’t Barnsley your home town then?”

“Yes it is!” Steve blurted out in anger.

“And do you not still have most of you family there? Uncles and aunts and such?”

“Yes I do,” Steve replied, not very happy.

John and Barry looked at each other utterly perplexed, and without a word agreed that there would be no more sense in pursuing the logic of this conversation, as Steve’s reasoning just didn’t make sense. They both thought that it might perhaps be the new medication that seriously intervened with Steve’s thought processes, but having known him for such a long time, also realized that he didn’t need much medication for his thought patterns not to make sense.

Conversations in the leisure room has in times past varied greatly between topics such as historical British wars, to disputed geographical subjects.

Thus, Barry decided to put an end to the nonsense. “Is the meds working?”

“Don’t know” Steve mumbled.

“Sure as hell doesn’t look like it.” John remarked.

Steve, staring at the cigarettes next to him, couldn’t hold it longer and took one from the packet. Not having a lighter, he was too proud to ask, and waited until Barry lit a match and held it out to him. He pulled hard and deep, and with a shaking hand, blew the smoke out in an uncontrolled manner.

The door opened and a man in an untidy, grey suit came in.

“G‘morning,” he greeted them.

“Morning Dave,” John and Barry greeted their supervisor instantaneously.

He, while pouring his tea, looked at Steve, who resumed his despondent, head-hanging position in the corner of the room.

“What’s with him?” Dave asked the two.

“He is coming undone,” they replied in chorus.

“I beg your pardon?”


Assassinating royalty

Assassinating royalty

By Johannes Adriaan Snyman

“Are you alright Sister?” Sister Elizabeth asked the young nun whom she pulled out of the water in total darkness.

“I’m alright, sister thank you,” Sister Varvara said gasping for air after having been thrown down the twenty-meter deep, abandoned mine-shaft. She looked up, but the dark of night revealed only the blackest of pits, filled with voices of hatred from above.

Elizabeth knew, the moment the Bolsheviks pushed her over the ledge on the summer’s night, their intention was murder.

“Be careful,” she said when she heard harsh voices and another person falling into the water. And another…and another. They were all men from the company of prisoners.

“Who are you?” one of the men asked.

“Sssh!” another male voice hushed him.

“I’m just curious,” he replied.

Elizabeth couldn’t see them but knew their echoing voices was not a good thing when she asked them very discreetly to be quiet. It did not have the desired effect as many other inquisitive voices rose in a soft hum. So much so, they did not even hear the small object drop into the water.

The blast of the grenade was enough to make everyone’s ears ring, and complete silence followed. After about two or three minutes, (or was it perhaps five?) some men asked if there were any hurt.

“Quiet please,” Elizabeth begged the men. “I don’t think they have gone yet…”

Just then, the second grenade fell in the midst of them, but one of the men hopped it into the water. Again, the ears rang high-pitched, but this time there was a sufficient light of flash, which lit up the shaft, in a quick sharp, bright light.

Growling sounded from close by and Elizabeth knew that at least one man was severely injured.

“God saved us this far,” she whispered softly into Sister Varvara’s ear while holding her hand. “But the painful noises from these men will surly encourage the soldiers in their deed.”

“What do you propose, Sister?” her companion asked.

“These soldiers can’t kill us directly, as they still have a conscience. So they do it in a cowardly manner,” Elizabeth continued. “We will use that, and make it more difficult for them.”

“But how?” the female voice sounded with fear.

Elizabeth’s unexpected singing sounded as delightful as a crisp, snow filled winter’s morning. As more and more voices joined in the singing of the Orthodox hymn, the fear and anxiety seemed to have vanished from every heart, being at peace with going to a Heavenly home.

The singing was with such intensity, that they failed to notice the large brushwood filling the entrance from the top. The soldiers set it alight, but the flames and smoke went up in the air, along with the fragrance of their pleasant song, not harming a single person trapped beneath.

The light of the flames was ample enough for one of the men to recognize the face of Elizabeth. He immediately knew her as the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna Romanova.


Cookies and scented soap

Cookies and scented soap

By Johannes Adriaan Snyman

Hurrying past the duty-free shops on the airport, Amalia started to feel nauseous. The nausea actually started when she had to check in, but forcing herself to remain calm, she didn’t pay attention to the state of her body. She knew for a fact that her name couldn’t possibly have appeared on the police screens as a suspect, but still, her mind couldn’t help but to think of the “what ifs.” There was no turning back now. A brand new life will begin as soon as the plane takes off.

Her eyes glided over the expensive brand names in the aisle, but it all went unnoticed. Her attention was with Barry. The loving Barry. The Barry she once knew. The perfect husband Barry. The Barry everyone liked, and whom she loved with all her heart.

How is it possible that a person can become so controlling and so ridiculously jealous? Everyone has friends. Male and female friends. True, there were things that she couldn’t discuss with Barry, however hard she tried, but she realized his lack of understanding triumphed her efforts. She was so desperately hungry for conversations about the deeper meaning of life. About faith and relationship, creativity and the abundance of life itself. But he wouldn’t hear of it. He limited his means of verbal communication to rugby, braai and politics. The racial side of politics as he would get so worked up by the government’s incompetence.

It was inevitable that she would eventually find someone who shared her interests and her passion for spiritual and personal growth. It didn’t really matter if this someone was a male or female friend. What mattered was that she, Amália found a friend with whom she could share ideas and a part of her life that she greatly valued. She didn’t even spend a dedicated time with this guy. Their chats were limited to half an hour or an hour after church, never alone and always in the company of other church members. A church Barry attended once and refused to go ever again.

“They are living under the law,” he said. “They focus too much on the old testament,” he complained.

Amalia quickly glanced at her watch, then fixed her eyes on the numbers above each boarding gate. The nausea wouldn’t go away. Could they halt the plane while taxiing to the runway? Do the Russians have the power to arrest her in Moscow on behalf of the South African police? On what charges? She would be a suspect but of what? No, she didn’t think so. It’s always like that in the movies. Once that plane takes off, you are home free baby! But not yet, she must still get through the boarding gate. The gate where there are security officers. They have computers and phones and walkie-talkies and goodness knows what other means of communication.

Amalia thought of praying but quickly realized that it wouldn’t help a bit. Not after what she had done. She’ll ask for forgiveness. But now is not the time. She read somewhere in the scriptures that there is a time for everything and now was the time to get on a plane with as few incidents as possible.

Alongside the rugby, braai and politics, Barry developed a new line of thinking. A married woman, apart from work related issues, ought not to have any social conversations with other men, regardless of their relationship status. Naturally, this new line of thinking quickly escalated to more than a few intense arguments. She then, good wife as she is, sacrificed the conversations with her dear friend at church, but Barry thought he needed to make a point and posted the whole affair as a question on Facebook.

It came as no surprise that a few of Barry’s friends, through a long line of comments, fully agreed with him. Those Facebook friends, who didn’t agree, conveniently neglected to publically give
their opinion. He wanted to make a point and so he did. He was right. She read it all. One notification after another, as he thought it only right to tag her in the question he posted. Until one man, wherever he came from, sarcastically commented that if Barry felt that way, he might consider locking his wife up in the house, buying her a leash and taking her for walks every afternoon.

That comment did not sit well with Barry, and he eventually took it out on her. He restricted her movements in every possible way. He monitored her every move. It became an obsession with him, so much so that she was the one who ended up seeing the psychiatrist. “Bipolar,” he said, but she knew better. She knew where the depression came from. She took the pills nevertheless.

Until about two weeks ago. It was nothing serious, she just neglected to renew her prescription. The effect however was more serious. It was dark. She didn’t know how to get rid of the awful feeling in her head. She wanted to run away from herself. He came barging into the kitchen with his ranting over where she was the previous day. She didn’t think, but at the same time she knew exactly what she was doing. She took the biggest steak knife, turned around and forced it into his neck. Not once, not twice, but repeatedly.

It was messy.

The two ladies and security guard at the boarding gate were professional and friendly. Pre-flight procedures took a while but no longer than usual. The airplane started moving toward the runway with the airhostesses performing their safety demonstrations. The armrests underneath Amalia’s arms vibrated a little as the flying capsule lifted itself into the air.

A new life just started with newfound freedom.

Maybe Barry was right after all. Maybe married woman shouldn’t speak to other men. Men were not as creative as woman when it came to making cookies from the drained blood, and bars of scented soap from the remaining parts of a corpse.


Photo by
Olia Gozha

Sunday Afternoon

Sunday afternoon

By Johannes Adriaan Snyman

“This is absolute nonsense, I’m taking her to the doctor. There is nothing more to say. End of discussion.”

It was the words of Rassie Koch, fearsomely echoing against the walls of the quiet living room on a Sunday afternoon, where only the ticking of the grandfather’s clock could be heard. Marina, sitting on a chair against the wall in the opposite side of the room, wanted to run away from her husband, who occupied himself by staring through the window at Klaradyn, their adopted daughter, having his back turned to his wife.

Tick tock, tick tock, the sound of the clock grew louder, amplifying the loneliness inside of her, and the thought of running away from him, from the house, from the farm, just seemed like an idea to die for. Her feet however did not move and from where she sat, she could also, over the broad window sill, make out the figure of Klaradyn on the swing outside the house.

Rassie,” Marina said in a low tone, not wanting their daughter to hear, who was at the time taking an afternoon nap in the adjoining room. “We’ve taken Lisa to the doctor. We’ve taken her to the reverent. The only advice they could come up with was to get her a friend. A sister, someone for company. That’s why we adopted Klaradyn. Now, because she’s not speaking for a couple of days, you want to run to the doctor with her as well? I mean, people will start thinking there is something wrong with us!”

“A couple of days, Marina? It’s been two weeks! Not a word! For two bloody long weeks!”

Marina saw her efforts of keeping the volume of the conversation down was fruitless, and without intention, spoke somewhat louder as well.

“So she is not talking. Can’t you just give it a couple more days?”

“She is not talking… she is not talking,” Rassie laughed sarcastically shaking his head, before shouting,

“She drove a pair of scissors through a student’s hand! She burned down the headmaster’s house!”

Rassie, please…”

“That’s not normal!” Rassie hollered at the top of his voice. “I want the best for my daughter, and this is the company we get? A Hungarian girl who seems to have brought the evils of her town with her! How long before she burns down our house as well?”

“We don’t know her Rassie,” Marina said trying to save the state of affairs. “She fled the war. We don’t know what happened to her… or her parents, or what she has been through. You know she never talks about what happened there. What is the doctor going to say anyway? ”

Rassie didn’t respond, and kept staring at Klaradyn swinging ever so slightly. She was reading a novel, bare feet hanging from the swing, making her appearance quite innocently, childlike. The bright light of the sun shining on the green grass and trees outside were in stark contrast with the strenuous tension in the house, and for a moment Marina thought it ironic that Klaradyn, even though not talking, were perhaps more content and fulfilled under the old oak tree, then all of them in the house put together.

Tick tock, tick tock the clock kept going. Marina knew loneliness, and also knew that it would all be over once she was married. Once married she would be so happy, content and a constant stream of joy would, in abundance spring forth from her heart. How wrong she was. A Sunday afternoon such as this one, it seems, especially in recent years, amplified the realization that there is no loneliness so cruel as a loneliness within a marriage. Not even their own fourteen year old daughter provided any form of consolation for the deep grey hole inside Marina.

Tick tock, tick tock, the deafening sound of clock hammered in her ears.

Rassie?” Marina said while looking at a framed photo of a younger Lisa on the side table in front of her, the depression and darkness so relentless that she spoke without thoroughly thinking, almost in a manner of confusion. “Why is this happening to us?”

Rassie didn’t answer, and kept his eyes on the mesmerizing motion of the swing going back and forth.

“I mean, you are right. This is not normal. I look at other people’s children… Take Helen for instance… and Sarah. Their children are doing fine. I know we are perhaps not the perfect parents, but I can’t see how it can come to this,” Marina sobbed. “It is just too strange.”

“Speak for yourself,” Rassie sighed.

“What do you mean?” Marina said in a forceful cry, immediately expressing the hurt.

“How much time do you spent with Lisa? Huh? Tell me? When was the last time you did something for her? Go on! Tell me!”

“That’s not fair, Rassie,” Marina started crying, with the first tear running over her cheek. “She shut herself in that room and never come out. She locks herself in there, night and day, she doesn’t answer when I call. Is it my fault?”

“Don’t blame her now! You are a damn excuse for a mother, you! And typically, just as I expected, you blame her for everything! No! It’s never you! Always someone else’s fault!” He shouted then said in a plain voice; “But maybe she is as bad as you are. Maybe it is a good thing if you two stay away from each other. At least then will your ghastly influence on each other be kept to a minimum.”

Rassie… please,” Marina kept on crying.

“I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve this. Two women, good for nothing in my house, and now, to top it all we have a third one, high and mighty, thinking she doesn’t have to speak,” he forced the words through his lips. “I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you the choice. Mm?” He said in a sarcastic, manipulative voice.

“Please, don’t, I beg you…” she said as she knew what was coming.

“No, no. you want to make the decisions here, now let’s hear what you have to say. Either I take her to the doctor first thing tomorrow morning, or,” He raised his eyebrows, facing her, “I take my belt, go over there right this minute and give her a hiding, so much so that she will start speaking until you go deaf of it! Go on! Tell me! What do you make of that?”

Marina was so teary and Rassie so busy with his discourse that he was quite startled when he suddenly noticed Lisa standing in the door.

“Lisa darling…” He started saying but saw her wide eyes looking at the window, upon which he turned around to see what it was that caught her attention.

Rassie turned around, then tensed up, seeing Klaradyn standing right outside the window. She had an axe in her hand, and gave the window three gentle taps with it, before looking right into Rassie’s eyes, tilting her head to the left.

To Rassie, the smile she had was most frightening, as her unmoving grey eyes and every other line in her face, expressed the total opposite.


The Headmaster

The headmaster

By Johannes Adriaan Snyman

“Klaradyn?” the headmaster of the school said as he saw the total lack of emotion on the face of the sixteen-year-old teenager sitting across from his desk. “Are you more comfortable in German or English?”

She was staring at the newly planted trees through the windows of the large office, but slowly turned her head toward the authoritative figure, so full of himself that she deemed him more pathetic than anyone she has ever met. She looked straight into his eyes, and without so much of a blink, proclaimed;

“My name is Mira.”

“You are no longer in Bulgaria, you are in South Africa now, and you would recall that we, together with your foster parents, who by the grace of God, were so kind to adopt you, decided to go by your second name of Klaradyn. Now I know that you have not been able to adapt to the Afrikaans language in such a short period of time so I am not going to ask you again, do you prefer to speak German or English?”

“Hungary,” the little brunette said staring out the window again.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Hungary. I am from Hungary. Not Bulgaria. These two countries are worlds apart.”

”I’ll take your preference as English then,” he said, with a hint of annoyance in his voice, yet still exercising the absolute self control required from a man of his profession.

The baldheaded schoolmaster sat back in his chair, pushed his glasses further up his nose, and continued with his probing.

“Now after what you have done, I am by the constitution of this school compelled to give you the necessary punishment, and I assure you, for what you have done, it will be of the most severe kind.”

He paused to see if the words had the desired effect, but after seeing no change in her expressionless face, and not having any more words to frighten her, he continued with his planned action.

“Now because I find myself to be very reasonable man, I would, in the instance of you telling me exactly what happened, and why it happened, be willing to make the punishment less severe, and by that I mean, you might even get away with a light flick on your backside… that of course upon you telling the truth, and nothing but the truth.”

The latter statement of the truth and nothing but the truth sounded so good in his own ears that he almost repeated it, but Klaradyn penetrated him with eyes so cold and blue, he decided against it.

“So? Are we in accord?” he asked.

She waited for a couple of seconds before she started to speak in the strongest of Hungarian accents.

“The boy sitting behind me was pestering me. I took my scissors out of my briefcase and while taking it out, the boy’s hand was in the way and he accidently received a cut.”

“Klaradyn,” the headmaster said calm. “The name of the boy sitting behind you, it is Dieter is it not?”

“I wouldn’t know,” she said in a firm tone.

“I think you do know. I also think that you are well aware that poor Dieter, whose hand you butchered, is of German decent. His father is a well respected German farmer and a very good friend of mine. Now I sympathize with you being sent to South Africa as a result of your Jewish background, but you have to realize Klaradyn, the war is in Europe, not in South Africa, and certainly not in this school!”

The schoolmaster’s voice rose to such a level that even the secretary stationed in the adjacent office, stopped her work on the Remington typewriter for a moment.

Klaradyn remained calm as ever, and for the first time ever, she appreciated her natural pale skin, in the unlikely event that the schoolmaster might see her face turning pale.

“I don’t see how this has anything to do with me.”

“Klaradyn,” the headmaster said slowly. “You drove a blade of a pair of scissors right through a student’s hand, and you don’t see how this is relevant?”

Klaradyn didn’t move, and just looked at him.

“Dieter was looking for something, wasn’t he?”

Klaradyn still didn’t move an inch.

“Tell me, what was he looking for?” the schoolmaster continued hoping that he might get a reaction from her.

“You aren’t too popular with the students in your class, and yet no incidents whatsoever. Your school work is outstanding, you ignore boys teasing you, yet a boy reaches for something, and he gets a stab in the hand which will probably effect him the rest of his life.” The schoolmaster’s voice changed to a low, manipulative tone, presumably giving him the feeling that he is in control. “He was reaching for a note, wasn’t he?”

Klaradyn with a shock realized that the schoolmaster knew a lot more than she originally thought, and she could feel a sudden, uneasy tightness in her throat.

“You can tell me Klaradyn, your secret is safe with me, dear. What are the contents of the note?”

Klaradyn, amidst thoughts racing, managed to remain calm but knew that someone in the class, perhaps a student or a teacher, must have seen what happened that afternoon, and somehow, made their way to the office in which she found herself sitting.

Having last had a father some nine years ago, she so longed for someone, anyone who could stand up for her. But there was no one. Her foster parents lived on a farm in an entirely different town, and the guardian at the boarding house was as old as the boarding house itself.

“Klaradyn, you still have the note with you, haven’t you?” The school master persisted.
She just stared at him.

“Right! That’s it!” he proclaimed while getting up and with rapid movement swung around the table whilst simultaneously grabbing a cane leaning against the wall with his right hand, and got hold of her left wrist with his other hand. He pulled her so hard out of the chair that it fell on its backside, and forced her to bend over with her two hands on the table. Klaradyn knew what was coming but saw it as absolutely necessary for the preservation of the note she had.

The cane whistled through the air and the first blow landed neatly on her backside, instantly creating a lump in her throat, yet she refused to make a sound. The next one connected with the same intensity, upon which she closed her eyes, before feeling the burning sensation of the third blow.

The hiding promptly came to a halt, as the schoolmaster saw a little piece of white paper sticking out on the outside of her right foot, tucked in between her ankle and her black shoe. He bent down, reached for the paper, and slowly pulled it out.

She felt his hand pulling out the paper but then, totally unexpected, felt his fingers gently running up her leg. Before his hand reached her knee, and without thinking, she lifted her left heel with a forceful backward kick, and in the process of connecting the back end of her sole with his face, broke his glasses and fractured his nose.

While quickly turning around, Klaradyn contemplated the grabbing of the note the disorientated schoolmaster so viciously clutched in his left hand, while trying to prevent the bleeding of the nose with his other hand. With his vision nonexistent, both as a result of his broken glasses and his eyes being involuntary filled with tears, she decided to calmly walk out of the office, as if nothing happened.

Klaradyn didn’t want to burn down the house of the schoolmaster that night. She wouldn’t have, if only he had not locked the note in the top drawer of the big desk in his study room. That night, she stood, some distance from the house, looking at the flames, reaching high into the sky, consuming the sandstone building. She had to be there, watching how the schoolmaster and his wife stood outside in their nightgowns, devastated at their home being destroyed. She knew that the contents of that note would never be revealed, as she deliberately started the fire in his office, ensuring the desk with everything in it is thoroughly destroyed.

Many of the Hungarian Jews who were saved, found safety in Sweden. Klaradyn, because of her mother being locked up in an asylum for the mentally in sane, was not as fortunate as to obtain a Swedish passport, and ended up making her way to South Africa. If ever she wanted to make contact with the residents of her town again, she needed their new names according to the passports they received. Their new names, being encrypted in a list, written down on a piece of paper, she saw filling the dark night in the form of smoke and ashes.
A hint of satisfaction could almost be spotted in her eyes.




By Johannes Adriaan Snyman

If a young gentleman found himself to be a passenger in the front seat of a dark green government truck, slowly driving from Pretoria in a westward direction, he would have come to a small town by the name of Duikersdrift. The young gentleman would notice the distinctive green government lorry coming to a halt in front of what seems to be the only shop in the town, also serving as the post office on a Tuesday morning. The driver of the lorry would then tell the young gentleman that he indeed arrived at his destination, and would, before delivering the few parcels of mail, greet the farmers on the veranda of the shop, making himself comfortable with a tin cup filled with the strongest of freshly brewed coffees.

The young gentleman on the other hand, would upon his departing from the vehicle, notice that the town of Duikersdrift has the sum total of one shop, in front of which he finds himself standing, a small church, a building which seems to be serving as some sort of magistrates office, and a couple of houses rather far apart from each other. He would, after his observation of his immediate surroundings, embrace the overwhelming characteristics of the town, such as the broad gravel road serving as the only street, the intense and dry heat reflecting on the corrugated iron roofs, and the quietness of the wide open spaces. The quietness of the surrounding being noteworthy, after the hours of exposure to the uncomfortable roaring sound of the government lorry’s loud diesel engine.

It was then in a town such as this, that this young gentleman, found himself as the newly appointed Reverent for the Dutch Reformed Church.

The residents of Duikersdrift, like most farming communities in South Africa, presented themselves in the most decent manner, with a hospitality that was often absent in the larger cities. As was custom, milk tarts and cookies made their way to the residence of the newly appointed reverent, as a token of reverence and respect for a man of such a profession, equaled in hierarchy only by the doctor. As was custom, he was expected to go from house to house, introducing himself, whist through the process acquiring peace of mind that his first Sunday on the pulpit, will not be greeted with empty pews.

It was through these preliminary house visits then, that the newly appointed reverent of Duikersdrift, found himself in the simple living room of one Marina Koch, together with her daughter, Klaradyn.

“I suppose this must be some adjustment for you, Reverent, coming to a town such as ours? I mean, the government has not even considered us for a telegraph line yet!” Marina said, sitting in the fashion of a lady, that is to say on the edge of the chair, before reaching for her tea.

“Please Ma’am, you may call me Chris,” as he specifically introduced himself to all he met as Chris Pieterse. “Yes you may say that, but for some reason I prefer the quiet life for the moment. I think this might be a season in my own life for some reflection, rather than the noise and influences of the masses out there.”

“Oh! Make no mistake, Reverent, make no mistake. This small town has much more activity then you might realize, much more I tell you! Tell me Reverent, do you have any influence in government? Like if we wanted a telegraph line prioritized?”

“Mom!” Klaradyn said in an embarrassing tone. “I’m sure the Reverent doesn’t need to be bothered with trivialities like that for the moment…”

“Oh Klaradyn! Really, what do you know?” Marina, snapped back at her, “Calling such important matters, trivial! The youth of today Reverent, you can’t imagine,” she said, once she turned her gaze to Chris again.

“It’s alright,” Chris smiled in a calming tone, changing his legs for comfort. “Of course I can’t promise anything but I’ll see if we can get someone’s attention back at home. By the looks of it, we might have to wait for the government lorry, only to arrive back here next Tuesday!”

“Don’t mind that Reverent,” Marina still not heeding for his request to call him on his first name. “Say Reverent, while we are on the subject, I take it you are not married yet?”

Chris tried to think what these two subjects had in common, yet answered ever politely that he had not been as fortunate yet. “It is not a matter of religion of course, as you know, I just haven’t seem to have managed to settle yet, so there is no rush…”

“Yes, yes,” Marina interrupted him thoughtfully, “You are still young, no need to rush these matters.”

Though Chris was barely out of university, he proofed himself as a keen observer of people, and his observations lead him to the conclusion that Marina might not have been the easiest person to live under one roof with. Whether it be because of the death of her husband a couple of months prior, or whether from the hardship of the rough country she was brought up in, he was not able to tell. This though was not as peculiar as the observation of her daughter’s smile, which did not reflect at all in the strikingly blue eyes of Klaradyn. The sadness and emptiness in her eyes was noticeable to such an extent, that Chris went to bed that night, wondering what the complexity of that girl’s life holds. She was only about twenty-two years of age, and by far not the most beautiful female Chris has seen in his lifetime, but really not bad looking either.

The Sunday morning church service went much better than Chris anticipated, as the little church was filled to the point that more chairs needed to be brought in and for the sake of ample supply of oxygen, all the windows were opened as wide as was possible. The temperature was uneasily high inside, and Chris, being dressed in his full clerical clothing, wondered why he didn’t rather choose to become a fireman, as it would have been equally throbbing to endure.

His message was simple, filled with humor, light hearted and one of giving hope, rather than the dull and slow sermons of his predecessor. To a community facing a wide range of challenges, it felt like heaven, with even the singing being raised in volume and vigor.

One unfortunate phenomenon in South African Dutch Reformed Churches is the fact that tradition often outweighs emotion and regularly, even common sense. This lead to the unspoken rule and the fact that, it was heavily frowned upon to clap hands or participate in any form or manner of applause in the solemn assembly, but somehow, on that first Sunday, the popularity of the newly appointed reverent, triumphed over tradition, with Chris, humbled as ever receiving a hearty ovation.

Standing full in his sacred duty as Holy man, he individually greeted each and every person by hand, outside the large church doors as the congregation slowly made their way to horse-cart and wagon. Something strange happened however, as Marina and Klaradyn was among the church members being whished a blessing and farewell.

Klaradyn, instead of the customary and appropriate handshake, took Chris’s hand with both her hands, combining it with a light shake. He immediately, without realizing felt a folded piece of paper in his hand, which he instinctively and without anyone noticing, put in the pocket of the right side of his trousers. Her hands then, let go of his hand, half a second longer then was appropriate, half stroking his hand with the letting go, but what troubled Chris the most, was the person he saw when he looked into her eyes. It was not Klaradyn looking at him. It was someone else, as if Klaradyn was not to be found. Chris felt the immense sensation of those eyes speaking to him. “I know who you are,” the look conversed. “You are not welcome here,” the person in her eyes seemed to have said.

Now Chris gathered himself to be a decent fellow. Never before has he experienced something as vivid as this, and he kept making it out to himself that he was imagining things which could easily be categorized as ridiculous and perhaps just his nerves getting the better of him. And in his mind, right he was, as the small note he opened, recited only one sentence, and that not of hostility but rather of a person with an innocent request.

‘I need to see you as a matter of urgency. Klaradyn’ the note read, in simple, clear handwriting.

Chris didn’t think much of it, but his mind kept going back to those eyes. And he surely didn’t imagine the extended holding of hands, and found the whole incident a little more than just strange. Chris’s thoughts were temporarily erupted by the pleasant town society who invited him to a Sunday lunch in the form of a picnic under the willow trees, next to the river some distance from town.

He was entertained with stories of a wedding that was held through a thunderstorm one afternoon, right there on the grass, small dash-hounds chasing cows, the disappearing of a famous peacock, and even the unexplained death of a cattle rancher who had a scar on his right cheek not too long ago. But Chis kept feeling the note in his pocket, and kept on thinking about the bizarre incident with Klaradyn. It was with those thoughts that Chris went to bed that night, firmly resolute to grant her, her wish by making an appointment with her the very next day.

One can indulge oneself in the most pleasant of walks in the city, but it is not the same as having the freedom of a morning stroll in a small town like Duikersdrift. There is a quietness and freshness of air, that reminded Chris of the Garden of Eden, starkly in contrast with the Train station in Pretoria, which in his own words, reminded him of “Lucifer’s court.” Where Chris was being reprimanded for his crude and direct language, he argued that the smell of burning coal and people crying whilst saying goodbye to their loved ones, does not exactly remind him of heaven, which in his mind was a fairly valid point.

With these thoughts, his extended Monday morning stroll did not yet reach half a mile out of town, spontaneously in the direction of where they enjoyed the previous day’s picnic, when a sudden shout behind him almost made him jump from fright.

It was Klaradyn. As unexpected as the British troops invading Transvaal again.

“Klaradyn?” Chris asked perplexed.

“Good morning!” she said with the broadest of smiles, which turned into a sudden frown. “Aren’t you glad to see me?”

“Mmm… surprised would be a more accurate word,” Chris said raising his eyebrows.

“Did you read my note then?” she asked, very well knowing what the answer is.

“Yes I did.”

They stood there just looking at each other for a moment, before she decided to take the lead.

“And?” she said with a child-like smile.

“Listen Klaradyn, I’m having my morning stroll here and was planning on coming by to your place later today, so perhaps we could go our separate ways and meet up, say at tea time?”

“I didn’t want you to come to our place, there are too many ears listening there, you see?” She answered with a voice that clearly portrait her state of self-pity. “I want to show you something, come with me!”

“Klaradyn, how did you know I would be walking here so early in the morning?”

“Oh! I was taking a stroll to, you know?” not making much effort to proclaim her innocence.

“No I don’t know Klaradyn,” Chris’s voice becoming all the more firm, “You live on the other side of town.”

“Oh don’t exaggerate, the town is only so big… and in any case, my favorite place is just up ahead! You see? Over by them Willow trees.”

Chris stood looking at her, weighing up his options. She really did spoil his calm state of mind, yet on the other hand, he was planning to see her, so he might just as well get it over and done with.

“All right then,” he said in the most firm manner ever, “Tell me what is so urgent that you needed to discuss with me.”

Once they reached the brook, circling through the lush green willow trees, she fell down on the grass, starring at Chris, who in turn did not feel the particular need to place himself on the ground as well.

“Are you not going to join me?” she asked in the voice of a little child.

“I’m quite at my leisure standing, thank you. Now you said you wanted to see me, as an urgent matter,” him rising his right eyebrow while uttering the word ‘urgent.’

“I’ve never had a boyfriend you know…” she paused to see his reaction, but seeing no response, continued, “you know you can kiss me if you like?”


“Wait! I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” she said rapidly. “We don’t get many new people in town you know?”

“Klaradyn, I don’t know you and I’m sure you would figure it out, but you know that I cannot partake in any such conduct. You understand that right?” Chris said with a soft gentleness in his voice.

“Oh!” she said while standing up, reaching to place her arms around him, “you don’t know what it is like!”

He firmly pushed her away from him, “You are right. I don’t know what it is like, but I can assure you that what you are suggesting is not the answer.”

She skillfully turned herself out of his grip and reach, and with the quickest of actions kissed him on the mouth, with him stepping back as an equal quick reaction.

“I think,” Chris replied angrily, “It is time for you to go home now.”

“You think I’m ugly, don’t you!” She tried one last time.

Chris turned around and made his way back to town at twice the pace he came, hearing in the background a rather hateful voice as she screamed, “You can have me any time you want, you know!”

Chris knew that encountering some difficulties with the newly appointed post, was to be expected, yet not in ten lifetimes did he imagine himself to be facing such chanches of occurrence . He has through the ministry, seen lonely people, frustrated wives, rebellious children, even naughty couples, but this? This was different. Her mood changed in an instant and her motives, without doubt beyond sinister.

If Chris thought that his encounter with Miss Koch was the sum total of his entrance into the community, then he was gravely mistaken. That Monday night plagued him with nightmares of a severe kind, having him tossing and turning in his bed, only to be woken up several times, soaked in his sweat. The government lorry arrived again the next day, and the thought of that lorry seemed for a fracture of a moment like the ticket to his freedom. A freedom he more and more wanted, for he spotted Klaradyn at several intervals per day, under a big tree, behind the fence at the back of his house. She didn’t seem to hide and almost went out her way to make her presence known. He tried to ignore her, but her expression on her face clearly portrayed the message that he was not going to get rid of her. So much so that he was unwavering resolute on having a rather serious discussion with her mom the following day.

Fearful of bumping into her again, Chris decided to postpone his beloved walk the Wednesday morning, by rather have a decent breakfast at home before heading over to the Koch house. Whilst contemplating, over a bowl of porridge, the previous night’s ordeal with nightmares that just wouldn’t go away, he thought about the dilemma and what exactly he was going to say to Klaradyn’s mother. It is not the easiest of subjects to raise when trying to establish new relationships,  especially since barely a week has gone by since his arrival in the farming cummunity of Duikersdrift.

A knock on the door brought him back to his senses, and as the top half of the kitchen door was already open, he could see a stately dressed man in formal clothing asking him if he can have a word.

“Of course, of course, come in,” Chris said welcoming the man in with his hand. “I was just going to pour me some coffee, do you want some?”

“No thanks, I’m fine,” the man replied in a tone less friendly. His clothing looked impeccably neat, parallel tot he preciseness of his dark hair.

“I’m truly sorry, I forgot your name…”

“It is Hans. Hans van der Heever.”

“Of course… Hans! Now I remember, have a seat! What do I owe the pleasure to?”


“Please call me Chris, everyone does,” Chris said, remaining as friendly as ever.

“No, I think I’ll call you Reverent.” He gave a pause and then continued, “I have something of grave importance to discuss with you.”

“Yes Hans, what can I help you with?”

“Grave importance,” Hans repeated as if Chris did not hear him the first time, and to somehow make his authority over the matter more prominent. “I am, as you know the magistrate in town, but I also see myself as a sort of guardian of the wonderful folks of this community.”

Hans paused once again to render some dramatic effect of some kind, and Chris for the moment thought that it might be a good thing he only preaches on Sundays, leaving him with all the time in the world to heed to the senseless power plays of various people.

“As I said, a guardian of sorts… And whenever a problem arises among the town folk, the people of this town, have absolute freedom to come and talk to me, about anything.”

Hans, looked at Chris, raising his eyebrows.

“About anything! You understand?”

Chris, neither smiling nor frowning, just nodded.

“They trust me. Trust has to be earned, he said in his pompous manner while Chris patiently waiting for him to come to the point.

“We received a complaint of the most serious kind, Reverent, the most serious kind.”

Chris now changed his gaze into a poker face, looking straight into the serious eyes of the ever so stately  Hans van der Heever.

“You,” Hans continued in his narrative, “have been conducting yourself toward Miss Koch, in a way inappropriate for a man of your stature. I would have thought that a man of your understanding would at least wait until he is settled in! But you? You throw yourself at the first opportunity that comes along, exploiting a young girl still grieving for her father she has lost!”

Chris’s blood started to boil and hoped that Hans didn’t notice the redness in his face.

“Now I wouldn’t elaborate on the specific details of the complaint, but I can tell you this Reverent, it is serious enough to have any man arrested, especially young reverends who think they can prey on the innocent young girls of a community like ours.”

For a moment, it looked like Mr Magistrate has lost his tongue, which helped Chris get the better of himself and calmed down extensively.

“So,” Hans came to his long thought conclusion. “I have decided, to give you a choice, and believe you me, you can thank me that you are in the fortunate position to be receiving a choice in the matter!” Another pause which lead to him looking very pleased with his choice of words, while all this time Chris possessing the wisdom to keep his mouth shut. “You either silently pack your bags, and with the next turn of the government lorry, without any fuss, make your way back to where you come from, with no questions asked and no answers given. Or, if you, against better judgement and in your impious folly decide to stay and remain in your shame, we will undoubtedly lodge a formal complaint with the Dutch Reformed Synod, resulting in your days as a respected Reverent numbered. I, myself will in that case have the personal satisfaction of detaining you by court of law, untill I see fit.”

With these words, Hans got up from the table, fastened his overcoat and as a closing statement said: “I’ll expect your answer by Monday.”

Chris, having taken the beating with not so much as raising an eyebrow, tried to keep his voice steady.

“May I ask, where this alleged inappropriate deed was supposed to have taken place?”

“Why!” Hans said in dismay, while turning around facing the door, “you mean to tell me that you didn’t force yourself onto Miss Koch outside town by the Willow trees next to the stream on Monday morning?”

“And I assume you have witnesses?”

Hans hesitated for a moment, and then mumbled a quick “yes” as he exited through the kitchen door.

Chris did not take long to realize that he was in the most difficult position in his life. He was new and such a matter would cripple his work in a town such as this. To come up with an excuse for his premature departure from this town would have its challenges, but to endure this kind of hostility was not part of the training. And hostility he did endure. News travels fast in such a community. His house visits was promptly met with people to busy, and even buying milk and bread in the shop became a battle of avoiding the deepest of unreceptive and judgmental looks. He had nothing to do but be a prisoner in his house, as the atmosphere in a town like this can quickly turn into a suffocating grip. A grip that will make you dread the task of giving a sermon the Sunday coming. But he had a job to do, and the Sunday morning’s sermon was delivered with no interruptions whatsover. The lack of interruptions as the result of a total attendance of only three people, sitting in the front row that morning. Chris knew there and then, why Hans, the stately Magistrate, gave him until Monday to answer on the limited options Hans gave him. Hans knew that the sight of an empty church would be a final stab in the heart.

Dark blue clouds were covering the sky that Tuesday morning, with slow, heavy drops hammering on the corrugated iron roof of the shop, where Chris sat on the veranda. Waiting for the green government lorry, and with packed suitcases on either side of him, he considered asking the shop owner for a coffee, but realized that with his current reputation, even that would be excessively heavy to bear.

Starring at the raindrops hitting the hard soil on the gravel road in front of him, kicking up dust from the ground, he felt an unexplained excitement and a sudden heaviness lifted from his shoulders. He hounestly did not know where the feeling of relief came from.  He was totally unaware that the recent events experienced, saved his life. He was unaware of the fact that the cattle farmer with the scar on his cheek, was, not far from the brook  outside town, murdered by his own daughter whom he molested for so many years. Chris did not know that after his departure, many more murders would follow, which served as punishment for a town who turned a blind eye, to such atrocities in their midst.

As the government lorry pulled away, it was almost as if Chris could see in the rearview mirror, a young lady by the name of Klaradyn Koch, standing in the middle of the road, her hair and dress, soaking wet from the rain, with a smile that looked like a special kind of wickedness.