Moffie by Andre Carl van der Merwe Read Free Book Online Page B

Book: Moffie by Andre Carl van der Merwe Read Free Book Online
Authors: Andre Carl van der Merwe
box and it feels so wrong, so unworthy of what it’s holding, so far removed from the real Frankie.
    Hour after hour I look back at the face of the car behind us, the chrome grill smirking between two cold eye lights. Is he rolling around in there? Is he comfortable? Can he feel? Does he know? Where is he? The tar is like an elastic band stretching between us, never letting go.
    This is all there is: Frank and I and the vessels transporting us . . . How can one not want something so much, yet it still happens?
    At Laingsburg and at Three Sisters we stop for fuel, and so does the black car. My parents are arguing constantly about the funeral. My father does not want to offend his elder brother, who has arranged for a minister from the Dutch Reformed Church, while my mother, being Catholic, won’t hear of it—there has already been a service in the Catholic Church in Bellville. Uncle Hendrik will not allow the funeral to take place without a service and he doesn’t want a priest to do it.
    Every time they refer to my brother they use the past tense.
    When we get to the first farm gate, I get out to open it and close it after the hearse. Dust clings to the black mirror-duco of the car. I hear a hiss of heat through the teeth of the chrome face, then a blowing sound, and then the engine dies. After running without water for many miles, the head gasket has blown.
    At the first gate of the many that compartmentalise the road to uncle Hendrik’s farm, we move some of the bags to the back seat and put my brother in the boot of our car. The lid won’t close, so my father ties it to the bumper. We take the driver, in his weary grey suit that smells of stale cigarette smoke, to the only hotel in Richmond. Then we turn around and drive back to the farm. When we pass the hearse, I notice that it has been sucked closer to the ground, looking melted down and pathetic, close now to its own death.
    My father is quiet, my mother is crying, and I go down into the hollow of the seat and turn my face to the backrest to talk to my brother.
    There are no hugs between my father and my uncle, just a set way of acting—solemn, no display of emotion. Everybody, even Hanno and the staff, have taken on this ‘way’ as if from a manual. The warmth of enfold-me, it-will-be-all-right, talk-to-me, that I yearn for and got from Gran, Grandpa and my mother’s side of the family at the memorial service in Bellville, is missing here.
    All grieving has a structure and it is different for each person. The one I hate is the flimsily constructed sorrow, the temporary, overcrowded sadness with too many words. Here everything is different. I watch them walk and talk, and I don’t trust them. They constantly use the Afrikaans words for tragedy, great sadness and sorrow.
    I follow them when they remove my brother in his dusty box from the boot and carry him to a cool place. I go unnoticed in the gloom under the mantilla of night sinking over the homestead and outbuildings.
    My father and uncle Hendrik put the coffin down in front of a corrugated-iron sliding door. There is a grating sound as the wood connects with the gravel and they fumble with the lock. Inside the cold room a single light bulb casts meat-hook shadows on the wall and lights up the red and white sinew and fat on the carcasses under which they place the casket. The air smells of meat, blood and cold.
    I don’t cry, nor do I say anything as the sliding door is closed, slicing the view of the casket with the disembowelled animals above it until there is only a shaft of light, a knock and then nothing.
    I lie in the bed where Frankie held me when I cried for Sophie. I don’t cry; I speak to the hollow emptiness in me, and I learn to understand purgatory—limbo.
    The next day the minister comes from town, with an extravagant, patronising sympathy. Everyone is wearing black, and outside the wind is blowing. I meet relatives whom I don’t

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