Bert and Lucas were enjoying the carefree abandon of a stomach clenching, side splitting LAUGH.
Neither of them had had a best buddy ever before and while it felt strange to have someone to go around with and choose to be with more than other people, it was a kind of a back-up support that they had dreamed of.
The facts of their meeting were ‘epic’ they agreed.
The strangeness of it and also the fact that it was quite rude, of course made it more appealing to these boys who were going to be 12 next birthday.
‘There I was gasping for breath, crawling up the bank, terrified that the people in the crashed, upside down coach would catch fire, trying my best to get someone to help me, and there you were, Bert, peeing on your own shoes!’ He clenched his fist over his mouth and burst out laughing again.
‘Well so would you have,’ exclaimed Bert. ‘I didn’t go to the toilet at school as my dad was super busy so we just left. Eventually I had to ask him to stop on the side of the road so I could get on with it.’
‘Well it was so strange!’ yelped Lucas. ‘All I l wanted was a grown up with a cel phone to get the police and ambulance there, and there you were, doing what you had to do!
'You gave me such a fright coming out of the sugar cane like a massive cane rat, red in the face and sweating! I started to run away, but the pee was still coming! YOU made me pee on my school shoes!’
They calmed down after they had slapped their sides again and then each other’s backs, even wiping tears of raucous laughter from their eyes.
‘I was so sick of being shy and lonely,’ muttered Bert ‘and when you invited me to go with you to play some soccer after school that day,’ he sniffed loudly and swiped his eyes with the sleeve of his blazer. ‘Ja, me too,’ agreed Lucas ‘Even with that red mop of hair on your head,’ he joked, ‘we’re going to have many adventures……..I just feel it.’
‘And your gran, your oumie,’ teased Lucas, ‘she makes the most lekker koeksusters* in the world.’ So on that alone we’re going to be friends forever’, and they high fived and slapped each other’s hands.
‘We have been invited to a picnic,’ said Lucas more seriously. ‘You and your mom and dad, Oumie and Oupa, me and my 2 other benefactors.’ he added. ‘Miss Vi is organising it and you and I are invited to drive in Wil’s ‘muscle’ car. He will open the sunroof and when we get onto the farm road we can stand up and put our heads through the top and feel the wind in our faces!’
My mom and dad don’t do picnics,’ said Bert sadly, ‘too many bugs and horrible smells and dogs that go racing through your stuff – we’ll never come.’
‘You don’t know Miss Vi,’ crowed Lucas ‘she phoned your mom already ‘bro’ and painted a picture of proper comfortable folding chairs, a table with a cloth, no dogs allowed area and her special low calorie wine in a cool box with ice. ……. She’s coming already mate,’ and the whole rigmarole of high fiving repeated itself and they laughed some more almost ‘drunk’ on the joys of friendship.
The day of the picnic dawned. One of those miracle days that was hazy early and cleared as the two cars headed beyond the ‘big smoke’ of the city.
Ecstatic, the boys hollered and yelled through the sunroof when they were on the long Game Farm road with crowned thorn trees and Zebra and Eland grazing along the way. Bert’s grandparents drove in the back with the two boys, Miss Vi in front next to Wil (touching hands now and then noticed a vigilant Bert) and Lila with Bert’s parents, Sue and Sidney de Soto in their 4x4.
The boys helped haul all the camping stuff out of the cars and they set up (Bert and Lucas thought and high fived each other in delight) a very beautiful site. Wil whose idea it had been all along was marinating steaks, (his speciality) and had braai wood for his culinary feast. Lucas hauled the wood out of its bag and made a proper boy scout fire.
Satisfied at last the two boys stripped down to their swimming shorts and headed to the river close by. The farmer had rigged up a ‘foofie slide’. ‘Beat you’ yelled Bert and they hauled themselves up the steep ladders to get to a sturdy platform high above the water. At least 50 metres of cable was anchored up top down to a tree trunk on the far side of the river.
Bert hung back a little nervously. He had not been a particularly physical boy and suddenly the reality of this ‘awesome’ slide was a bit overwhelming. He looked down to the picnic site. His mother’s face was pinched and anxious but the rest of them were on their feet shouting ‘go boys, GO!’
Bert saw how Luc (his first nick name from a mate, Lucas was calling Bert Red for his dark red hair) did it and with his heart threatening to pound out of his chest he gripped the handle secured round the cable leading down to the water and eyes tightly shut, leapt into oblivion.
‘AND I'm not going to die,’ he thought deliriously happy as he hit the water and it sprayed up all over Luc who was waiting for him where the water was shallower.
The adults went ballistic as though they had won a marathon or something.
Even Sue de Soto had gone pink with happiness to see her boy really enjoying himself. ‘Get a life,’ she said to herself and smiled hesitantly and sat back, put her elegant bare feet on the cooler box and sipped her low cal deliciously crisp white wine. Sam, her husband smiled an even broader smile and was grateful for the day that Bert had linked up with Lucas after that very strange day on the road a month before.
They had both been concerned that Bert had not really made friends at his new school. He had avoided all the extra murals but had gone to play soccer, a game he enjoyed but felt too shy to go to on his own, only when Lucas had invited him. He had come home with his face shining and said Lucas was ‘the best, and he doesn’t even have a mom and dad!’
The day progressed with excellent steaks grilled on the fire and eaten in a civilised manner at the table for 3 of the adults, the rest eating sitting on a picnic blanket. Mr de Soto brought out a soccer ball and he persuaded Wil as an ex English United player to kick the ball and give the boys a few pointers.
They packed up as dusk began to fall.
A giraffe gave them that perfect ending to the best day the boys could ever remember. As they drove away the graceful animal lowered itself to drink, a dark silhouette against the glowing sky.
*Koeksusters are deep fried dough and then put to soak up a syrup that when you bite into them they crack slightly and ooze sweetness…….absolutely delicious. It is a Dutch recipe originally and the Afrikaans people in South Africa cook them to perfection.