Friends and clients

2014-01-16 00:00

IT must have been 25 years ago. I am not sure of the exact date, but it was one of those rare occasions when our new wives allowed us a little slack and we ended up on a boys-only fishing trip at Hluleka on the Wild Coast, south of Port St Johns and north of Coffee Bay.

Six or seven of us all told. To make things interesting, we split the party into two opposing fishing teams. I guess I must have had something to do with the team selection because I ended up in a team with some serious fishermen, including Trevor — pilot, intellectual, talented lateral thinker and connoisseur of the brewers’ finest.

One of the wonderful things about my profession is that over the years, clients become friends and friends become clients. Trevor was one of the best.

It was inevitable, I guess, that our transient freedom would be preceded by some sort of celebration, so that first night copious bottles of bright ideas were poured into receptive guts, resulting, as the evening progressed, in our team concocting a cunning plan to outwit/outfish our adversaries. I am finally willing to admit that I was the instigator of the idea which, with whispered messages and barely intelligible gestures behind the backs of our unsuspecting rivals, gradually evolved into an action plan. Simply put, when they had drunk themselves to sleep, we would tiptoe out and fish the rest of the night. In our tiny little minds, it was inevitable that the fish would line up to take our bait and then we would retire to bed before the drunkards awoke, bags full with the night-time catch, competition won, deed done and dusted.

I am not sure if we actually went to bed at all. I think we did. The bonhomie of the evening had barely receded, however, when we tip-toed out of the comfort of our shebeen and headed for the rocks. The contented snoring from the opposition rooms meant that subtlety and silence were entirely unnecessary. Outside, it was bitterly cold and drizzling. We did not talk much, having exhausted our repertoire of wisdom, wisecracks and song many hours earlier. The only sounds I recall, as we trudged along that desolate beach, waded the freezing river and scaled the slippery rocks, was the odd unintelligible curse emanating from the last of our little group, someone who put the sanctity of bed and home comforts far higher up his priority list than unnecessary nocturnal activity. Trevor was a singular figure, attired to the hilt in a bright yellow rain suit with only a rather purple nose protruding and the odd glint from a bloodshot eye, dragging his feet more slowly than a municipal grave digger. His conversation, if that is what it was, was monosyllabic, overwhelmingly in favour of words featuring only four letters.

I don’t remember him putting a line in the water that night. He squatted under a little overhang and stuffed his face with an unending procession of cigarettes, looking like a constipated car guard caught in a veldt fire and about as happy as one too. Needless to say, it was an entirely unproductive night. One undernourished sand shark, returned to the inhospitable briny, unloved and unwanted. I realised then that Trevor did not do discomfort well. His happy disposition was further put to the test when we trudged off the rocks at first light, cold, dispirited, fishless and hung-over, to be met by our opponents approaching the beach, well-rested, full of the joys of spring and very willing to share with us their opinions, which were characterised by abuse.

I remember glancing in Trevor’s direction. He was nodding his head every time they mentioned less-than-complimentary adjectives about the mindless soul who had conceived of the hair-brained scheme.

• The writer is a practising vet.

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