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Open Features: Petronella - The Hiker

...“Good Heavens,” said Terry to Petronella. "I didn’t realize you had such big feet.”...

Marianne Hall tells what happened when Petronella decides to go hiking.

“Good Heavens,” said Terry to Petronella. "I didn’t realize you had such big feet.”

Petronella had been invited to join Terry, her sister, on a hike at the Mateke Trail near Thabazimbi. She wasn’t too enthusiastic as she believed in the motto “why stand when you can sit, why sit when you can lie down” and, to her, spending the day walking was just a waste of time.

“You’ll enjoy the scenery, if nothing else,” continued her sister persuasively.

Once Petronella commited herself, there was no way out. She did not want to go to the expense of buying hiking boots, so she scrounged around in her wardrobe and found a pair of takkies which had belonged to her late husband Bob, who had been gone near on fifteen years. These would have to do. No sense in wasting money.

The takkies were a size 9 and far too big. Her feet flopped in and out. This is what Charlie Chaplin must have felt like with those flappers of his, thought Petronella, looking at her feet in the mirror. Then she had a brilliant idea. She stuffed big wads of cotton wool into the toes of the shoes – this would prevent her feet from slipping out – but she still felt like a waddling duck as she paraded up and down the passage.

The hike started at Mateke. The path consisted of small round cobblestones and Petronella found herself weaving from side to side, terrified that she would slip and fall. Bugger the scenery, thought Petronella angrily. Terry, in the meantime, had streaked off with the front-runners in the pack. Petronella finally caught up with them. They had all settled down beside a small stream and were enjoying their sandwiches.

“Ah, here you are,” said Terry. “We wondered what had happened to you.”

As if you would care, thought Petronella, glaring at her as she lowered the rucksack off her back to take out her lunch. She had hardly taken her first bite when Terry got up.

“I hope you are not going to disgrace me,” she hissed.

“What do you mean?” snarled back Petronella.

“I just hope you won’t fall in the water”. With that Terry joined the others.

Petronella looked at the stream. It was a low-lying, gentle little stream, not more than a meter wide. Most of the hikers had jumped over it. There were a few stepping stones, so Petronella opted to ease her way over these. She stepped gingerly on one of the round rocks in the centre. Perhaps she was too careful because she suddenly lost her balance. She hung on like a tightrope walker, moving this way then that, her arms flailing in the air, but the takkies were her Moses, and the next thing she found one of her feet in the water.

She looked around. No one had witnessed the incident.

She breathed a sigh of relief. However, the cottonwool which she had wedged into the takkie was wet and had shrunk to half it’s size. Now she really had a problem. Squelch! Squelch! One shoe on, one shoe off. She thought of the crooked man with the crooked house as she lopsidedly made her way up the trail, her hips protesting in agony. She straightened out when she finally joined the group of hikers.

“Where the hell have you been?” screamed Terry.

“Enjoying the scenery,” replied Petronella as nonchalantly as she could.

“We have been waiting nearly an hour for you to pitch up,” said Terry crossly, obviously regretting that she had asked Petronella in the first place.

There was a lot of drinking around the braai that evening. One man in particular made a real pig of himself. His name was Bert.

Petronella retired early as her hip was giving her hell. She picked a bottom bunk. It was an extremely chilly night. The hot water bottle was soon cold so she pulled it out from under the sleeping bag and lay it on the floor next to her. As she lifted her head she could feel the towel and her jacket slipping out backwards from under her pillow. She grabbed the jacket but decided to forsake the towel.

She then sensed movement next to her. This was followed by the sound of dripping water. Damn, Petronella thought, someone’s hot water bottle is leaking from the top bunk. She fumbled for her torch.

The light shone on someone zipping up his trousers.

It turned out to be Bert, the heaviest drinker at the braai.

“Sies,” she screamed, waking up everyone in the hut. “You’ve pissed on me!”

No amount of apologies could mollify Petronella, who then and there decided never to go hiking again.


©Marianne Hall 2008

** Acknowledgements: The events in the last paragraph actually happened to Terry Banks, my sister, who has walked most of the trails in South Africa. We both laughed so when she told me of this that I wove this story around it.

**

To read more of Marianne's delicious Petronell stories please click on http://www.openwriting.com/cgi-bin/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&search=marianne+hall

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