It’s easier than castrating cats

2011-01-21 00:00

PETE is my good friend and colleague. He shares an infectious enthusiasm for all things and the veterinary profession in particular. But even the batteries of the most committed professional occasionally need recharging and after a hard year of busy practice, he and his wife decide to take a break at the Eastern Cape coast just before Christmas. After a couple of days of relaxation, they need provisions and a trip to the huge new East London Mall is planned.

While his wife finds a trolley and embarks on finding a supermarket for the routine provisions, Pete enters a delicatessan at the end of the mall and buys some oysters and patés and things. He pays cash — R350 and some change — and is delighted to be given a casino voucher for R50 by the cashier.

The only problem is, the casino is at the other end of the mall and Pete’s knees are not what they used to be after sixty years of wear and tear, the result of an overindulgence of sport in his formative years, the hard yards in farm practice in his working life and possibly a touch of gout due to his frequent celebration of life throughout the process of living.

Pete looks at his watch. The lure of the chase and the realisation that he has time to kill overides his concern for his health, however, and he ambles down the winding corridors with a tune on his breath. He might not be approaching the journey with the vigour of Pocket Power down the home straight at Greyville, but he is on holiday and there is a spring in his step.

Eventually he enters the casino, redeems the voucher and mingles with the early-morning patrons, trying to look inconspicuous among the lazy, the bored, the desperate and the purple-haired old ladies trying their best to whittle away their inheritances that their husbands worked so hard to accrue. It’s too early for the tables so he settles himself at a machine.

Twenty minutes later he makes his final pull on the lever. Lights flash and silver splashes out of the machine, overflowing the tray and onto the floor.

Seven-hundred-and-fifty rand in R1 coins. Pete is delighted. He beats off the carpet sweepers trying to help themselves to his winnings, fills his pockets and hobbles back down the rambling passages. His wobbly knees are further burdened by the added weight in his pocket and his gait now resembles that of the three-legged nag that he used to own.

The Dylan tune in his throat has been replaced by an upbeat Abba number that complements the sparkle in his eyes and the vestige of a smile festoons his countenance. “Money, money, money, ain’t it funny …”slips out of his lips and is lost in the background buzz from the shops he passes. He reaches the delicatessan eventually. His wife is not yet back. He fills a basket with a multitude of delicacies and approaches the cashier — R750 in silver is disgorged from his pocket on- to the counter.

“Here is a R50 casino voucher for shopping with us, sir,” the cashiervolunteers.

Pete looks at his watch.

• The author is a practising vet with a passion for his profession and a giggle in his heart.

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