I Heard The Bang by Nick Gerrard

Untitled, (post no bills)

Untitled, (post no bills)

Photo by Laura Kiselevach

 

‘I Heard The Bang’ by Nick Gerrard

 
I pushed my way from the plane and took a taxi to Long Street.

Big Mamma’s bar was empty in the early afternoon; I sat on a high stool at the wooden bar and savored a long one.

Si bounced in with a tan, shades and a wide grin.

We hugged, for a long time, we needed to.

‘’Too long man.’’

I kissed his check, whispered in his ear.

‘’Yeah man.’’

We let loose, dusted ourselves off, and wiped our eyes.

‘’Beer?’’

We drank long

It felt right, everything was alright again. The world was in its correct state again.

As if 15 years had been a divergence, an interference between us being together, in this bar, with long ones on the go.

We caught up…

‘’So, why we in Cape Town?’’

‘’I have the old place here still, I need to come here to do business, but I’ve got a new beach place down the coast from Maputo.’’

‘’And we’re gonna drive all the way there? Fuck of a long way man?’’

‘’Yeah, but I know how much you love the travel man, so I thought we’d have a bit of a road trip, Jack and Hunter style.’’

‘’You know I don’t have a license though right?’’

‘’Man, I am still using that fake one off that woman we knew in Lisbon, the one from London…’’

‘’Shit, what was her name’’

‘’Shit, I forgot myself…Tia…that’s it…shite, how can you forget a woman you lived with’s name?’’

‘’What happened to her?’’

‘’No idea, you saw her last I think in London.’’

‘’Yeah, that’s right I got wrecked with her for about five days, I fucked her friend, lost touch after that.’’

‘’There you go, so anyway, look man, let’s have one more then dump your bag over at mine, get a shower and shit then I’ve got a bit of business to take care of…’’

‘’Oh yeah, what kinda business?’’

‘’SA are playing a friendly tonight.’’

‘’Who with?’’

‘’Namibia.’’

‘’We going?’’

‘’No mate, it’ll be shite but I am selling the beer and Vuvuzelas.’’

‘’Fucking vuvuzelas’? You?’’

‘’Who do you think introduced them here in the first place man?’’

‘’I smiled. Of course, who else?’’

 

When we lived in Spain he had got me selling all sorts of crap; florescent necklaces’ at rock gigs. Photographs of tourist spots for tourists and home breathelizers, which weren’t a big hit, the Police never bothered to stop drunk drivers anyway.

We dumped and showered and hit the street. We scowered the stadium area looking for his boys.

Si, jumped out at various wheeled fridges and vovozaler hawkers, and gave from the boot.

‘’Wanna beer?’’

‘’Sure.’’

Cash and banter was exchanged.

I leant on the window and supped and watched the theatre, smiling.

Si shouted, sometimes grabbing a guy round the throat muffled his hair in a rough but friendly way, and left the guys always with a smile.

A man in his element.

A night of the same and some stop overs for quick food, more drink, a quick dance.

 

We spent the next day nursing our hangovers; in the shopping mall for beers and juice and coffee and full breakfasts, then a lunch down the waterfront, shellfish grilled, a white wine dry.

The sun downing across the bay started off lightly, our hangovers growing into a feel good buzz; few beers, couple of shots of tequilas, some cocktails.

Between 6 and 7 we were up again, feeling fine, banter and beers flying. The big boars were crowded round the TV for rugby and made getting to the bar difficult what with their huge frames and presence blocking all exits and entrances.

We pushed and elbowed our way through. Simon stood next to this bear of a guy who had on a jacket of stitched together skins of various wild beasts.

“Did you buy that jacket or did you shoot it?”

There was a little delay, I coughed a screaming orgasm up my nose and splattered it on the floor, and then a huge hammer of a fist lifted Si off the floor and onto his back.

I jumped in late, laughing so much, I slapped one hand over Simon’s mouth and tried to hold the guy back with the other.

“He’s had enough mate, shit he’s out cold.”

Laughing my head off.

Anyway, the night carried on in much the same way, Simon naked on the bar of Mama’s, me slapping some guy who wouldn’t leave this chick alone.

 

We woke better than the day before and got our shit together for the long haul.

We stocked the Land Rover up with all sorts of shit; sleeping bags, tents, blow up kayaks, cases of god-knows what crap Simon was taking to god-knows where, crates of beer bottles, of spirits, basic food stuffs and weed.

‘’Why don’t we just take a fucking plane man?’’

‘’Cus this is gonna be a wild trip of a lifetime man, half way across Africa, by road, with Jack and Hunter.’’

‘’Yeah, like on the road with arse-ache and jaw-ache.’’

‘’Look man, I have some cool places lined up to visit on the way.’’

‘’You mean drinking stop overs?’’

‘’Well, yeah.’’

‘’And a bit of business on the way?’’

‘’Bit of business.’’

He rubbed his hands, I huffed and grinned, it was gonna be an adventure.

 

Mile after mile of straight roads and mountains in the distance, and bush and dust.

Little hovels of ramshackled villages, with black guys drinking outside the one store in town or just walking from one nothing happening day to another. From farms of work, down dusty roads. to sit outside the store to drink to fill the emptiness.

We were not much better.

We drove, we drank, we chatted, we stopped, we gazed. We listened to classic tunes and sang, we sat in silence, and drank, and drove.

We stopped every few hours or so for fuel for the car and us. Whatever they had going, in a blue tin shack with tea pots and no tea, only dust.

We got nsima and a sauce of something green with a lump of gristle that may once have been attached to an animal.

We drove on to the light of the night that came down to push the sun.

We drove and smiled and sang the words perfectly to Down in a tube station at midnight.

Then the black came down and left glows in the distance and we drove towards glows and passed them through.

We got our heads down as best we could, we picked up hikers on their way from farms to shacks in two bit towns that sold alcohol, any alcohol.

We piled them up in the back and dropped them every couple of miles.

This was the nightlife of Africa. Crickets, darkness, staggering black guys on a dirt track. We put our foot down when the road was flat and mountains seemed a far way off.

 

Then…

‘’Fuck!’’

Bang! Thud, smash, jerk, thwack, whack, fuck, p-panic, blood, bump, roll, glass

‘’Fuck!’’

‘’What the fuck!’’

‘’Jesus fucking Christ! What the….’’

Bang! Roll, body, adrenaline, panic, blackout, buzz, head, roll, noise, lights, body, blood…

Bang!…

Blackout

I heard the bang…I was alive

Out.

Staggering.

‘’Is he fucking dead?’’

‘’I should fucking think so…’’

‘’Fu…ck!’’

I limped, Simon staggered, and held the blood coming from his head….I felt the bumps…I looked for bits missing.

The car lay in a ditch, upside down.

A black guy lay through the front window

Blood covered the splinters of glass.

The lights from the car flashed out a beacon search into the bush.

‘’Anything?’’

‘’Nope, he’s fucking dead.’’

‘’Fuck!’’

‘’Shit, man are you OK?’’

‘’Just cuts, bruises and a bit woozy, you?’’

‘’Same, blacked out but came round pretty quick.’’

‘’Shit man, did you not see the guy?’’

‘’Course I didn’t see the guy, I wouldn’t have fucking hit him if I had would I?’’

‘’Man, he just kind of leapt through the glass.’’

 

We sat on the side of the road, chugging beer and rum to stop the shaking in our hands as we smoked fag after fag.

We called the cops. They arrived half an hour later.

Two burly Afrikaans cops got out of the car.

‘’Beautiful night for it fellas.’’

He shone his torch all-round the scene.

‘’What the fuck have we got here then?’’

We didn’t speak.

They shone their torches at the figure through the glass

“Well, you guys was fucking lucky there.”

We looked at each other.

Lucky?

“What do you mean, lucky?”

He beckoned us over and shone his torch at the corpse where the right hand was extended down by the dashboard.

“Yeah, lucky. The black bastard nearly got your mobile phone!”

He laffed, his partner doubled over and laffed his fat racist are off too.

We didn’t laugh. We just looked at each other eyebrows raised high, looked at each other and shrugged.

Did he really just say what I think he said?

 

After a night of paperwork and more racist shit from the new progressive post-revolution police force, we were let go.

No charges, nothing but a warning.

‘’Your biggest worry, when driving in the Vild in this country, not hitting animals, we shot most of them; hitting the old Kaffirs, coming back to the farm, pissed as farts, staggering in the road. Happens all the time.’’

We spent a day drinking and nursing our bangs and bruises in shit bars in a dirty dead town, waiting for the motor to get fixed.

We got propositioned by hookers, but declined, we weren’t in the mood. We just drank.

We booked into a droopy motel with a fan and a double bed, and after enough booze we managed to drop off.

 

Back on the road.

Miles left behind. Hangovers stretching on.

‘’Well, I feel like shit man. I think we should get some road behind us, then layover for a few days, somewhere chilled like.’’

‘’Sounds good, know anywhere? Relaxing? And I mean relaxing.”

‘’Heidi’s Hideaway. My mate Gav has a cool lodge man, on the coast, remote, just past Durban. On the beach, good food too.”

‘’So, not a mad drinking place full of ex-pats?’’

“No, no truckers or backpackers, but you know there’s always a chance of a party or two.’’

‘’So, we’ve just gotta hope for a quiet time.’’

‘’Here’s hoping.’’

 

We drove all day, same old stuff. I mean it is beautiful and all that but you can get bored of anything.

As night came we turned off the tarmac and onto dirt and sand, we had to get a few times to dig our tires out. We twisted and turned passed mud huts and tin shacks, swerved chickens and chasing little kids.

Then, an oasis! A little bit of picture postcard African village amongst the squalid reality.

Thatched roved cottages, lawns, toilet blocks, a huge restaurant and bar with spears and shields on the walls. Animals and ducks littered the lakeshore and a decking with a horizon for dreams.

 

I met Greg, a mad Aussie pioneer, with a ponytail, a skinny tanned body, a cheeky smile, a drinking habit and a bed post full of notches.

A cool guy.

We drank slowly, chatted long, and didn’t party hard, we relaxed and then parted as best friends to beds with springs and sheets crisp, to sleep soundly.

We spent the next day just chilling, drinking cold slow ones, eating all the healthy stuff on the menu, and lazed and let the world go by.

After three days we were ready for the off.

We were driving again.

 

‘’So, I’m gonna read Fear & Loathing and you’re gonna read On the Road.’’

‘’Do I have to?’’

‘’One of us has to start with Jack!’’

‘’But why do we have to read him at all?’’

‘’Look, the two greatest ‘Road trip on drugs and booze’ ever written need to be read whilst taking a drug, drink filled road trip.’’

‘’But we don’t have any drugs, well, only dope and who the fuck cares anyway?’’

‘’Jesus, you have no imagination, and the drugs will come my friend, open your mind brother and the drugs will come.’’

‘’You talk a lot of shite, you know that?’’

So, we each took turns in the back with each said book, with joints and cans, and every so often there would be a

‘’Hey, listen to this bit…or a Fucking Kerouac man, he does my fucking head in….’’ Kinda thing.

 

‘’I have to catch up with a guy down Mandela way.’’

‘’Sure, bit of business?’’

‘’Sure.’’

‘’OK.’’

So, we went down Mandela Bay way. A backpacker’s gathering watering hole, full of Rastas selling dope and dope-heads flogging dead horses.

We hopped from one lodge to the next, full of cool guys, wrecked by booze and beautiful girls laid low from malaria and sex.

Sex was on the menu at every lodge, along with burgers and shots.

Guys drinking their faces off. Impressionable beauties, travelling round Africa, hung onto every tale, every adventure.

Every lodge owner and over-land truck driver was a hero.

They and we plied the girls with booze and tall ones and took one or two to bed.

We snogged, we fought, we shouted, we danced, we stripped, we told tales, we fucked, we forgot.

 

We went to a Lodge called Big Blue, and met Kev, he and Si did a bit of Business out back, I wasn’t interested in what, but cash was exchanged for small packages and larger ones from the boot. We crowded round the bar on tall stools, and bantered. After a while he took us over to a table where three coloured girls were enjoying a jug of Margaritas. After a little discussion a small trip was organized. We piled into Kev’s yellow Merc and hit the Townships. We whizzed in and out of dim-lit alleys, labyrinths of seediness and life. We stopped off at outside bars, where music blared out from tinny cassette players, and a few locals shook their booty. We snorted openly at the tables, no-one minded. Some places were just a wooden shack, with a freezer full of beers, a couple of bottles of spirit on a shelf next to a lonely out of date football calendar. We danced, we drove, we drank, we grinned widely.

 

The girls made us park up the car, and took us on a mini walkabout, through derelict buildings and flattened wasteland. In the middle of the rubbled ground stood a once majestic building. It looked empty but once past the faded façade it came to life. It was bopping to gay dance music, reeking of poppers and sex and sweaty built up muscles.

We downed rum and cokes and sniffed lines and little bottles with nice guys in the bogs. Then we all messed around on the dance floor.

A huge brick-shit-house-door of a guy towered in front of me and told me to dance with him. His torso was tightly squeezed into a country dancing flowery dress. His 12 0-clock shadow dimmed the lights, I hugged his thigh and danced. I caught a glimpse of a pistol tucked into a frilly garter on his other leg. If this guy wants to fuck me I can’t say no!

 

After a week, of Braais on beaches, sex in sweaty huts in the middle of the ocean, we nursed hangovers with slow food, and slow drinks and feel good movies, in out of the way chalets, we left.

After a week of bits of Business at various stop offs we made it to the border. After a night spent with the Customs guys snorting Charlie, we entered Mozambique.

We hit Maputo running with more of the same shit. With gyrating big-arsed girls and deep fried chicken, added to our supping and snorting.

After three days of partying, we headed to the coast, our last chapters of the trip.

‘’So what you are saying is that Thompson was more real to life even though his is a work of fiction?’’

‘’Yeah, for sure. Kerouac always bailed out man. Always went home to his Aunt for some TLC. That’s why he’s always philosophizing about bloody life so much. Too much time on his hands.’’

‘’Thompson was writing from experience. He lived it man, the good and the bad.’’

 

I could smell the sea as we drove over a vast expanse of low bushes and trees and up and down dunes.

‘’That’s it, over there.’’

I could see a low ranch house, palm trees surrounding it and other buildings and cottages nearby. It really was out the way.

‘’Beautiful place man.’’

‘’My savior, my escape.’’

‘’Anyone else living round here?’’

‘’There’s a couple of villages down the coast, not much to them really, just huts, a few bars. They have a football team though.’’

‘’Yeah, any good?’’

‘’Not bad. They play in the coast league. I sponsor them. Well, I buy them boots and pay for transport, it’s mad really, the league. They compete for a big money prize, and spend money on playing when the fucking villages don’t have toilets or clean water and the schools no books. I put money into the school and try to help the villages as much as I can, you know, buying pens, employing as many guys as I can on various projects, one way or another. Buy any shit off them, you know, putting money into the local economy man!’’

‘’Cool!’’

His place was a lodge.

He had travellers visit. And you had to be a good traveler to get far off the Track, so visitors were few but enough.

So, he settled into the life of being a Bwana. Gone were the big business deals replaced by little deals for charcoal, or eggs or even a few lemons off some scraggy arsed kids.

All deals were done on the selling log, you sat down on the log and waiting, SI, would get to you eventually, when he had time. And he bartered with joy and a large grin.

He was up at dawn yapping with the night watchmen over pots of coffee, explaining to them how the world worked.

 

He beamed. He was flying. All his being, all his life energy, if you like, was running at full throttle.

 

And after a few weeks I left him.

Alone, but alive.

Living but not losing.

He clearly lacked some companion, some partner to spend his time with. To share his love of living life.

He had sex if he needed it, but he needed someone to cuddle and I could only offer a deep hug and a tear as we separated at departures.

And as long as we can still hear the bangs, we are alright.

 

Did you like the story? Opinions? Praise? Please leave a comment below

 
Nick Gerrard

Bio:

Nick Gerrard – One time Chef, activist, union organiser, musician, punk rocker, teacher, traveller, Eco-lodge owner in Malawi. Lived and drank far too much in 6 countries; travelled to loads more. Loves trains, music, books, football, politics, languages, different cultures and food.

Written articles on politics, music, travel, culture and food for magazines and web sites. One son, one tractor, one Eco-lodge in Czech Mountains! Two books published.

Stories, poems and essays have appeared in various magazines and web sites including; Day12 travel magazine, Citizens for decent Literature, Outsider writers, Thieves Jargon, Bluehour magazine, Etherbooks.

www.nickgerrard.com
 

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3 Responses to I Heard The Bang by Nick Gerrard

  1. Great road trip – good use of characters and short, snappy paras. Memorable.

  2. Vickie

    Reunions, like road trips, can be memorable and triumphant. Thanks for giving us a snapshot of both in your story, Nick.

  3. Roland Petrov

    Memorable indeed! The accident provided the necessary excitement and a foreshadowing that something else even worse was going to happen; it’s a relief that it doesn’t. The sexuality, teetering between gay and straight, is intriguing. The writing is crisp, and even the mundane seems significant.

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