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Open Features: Petronella And The Petroport

Marianne Hall brings us the latest disaster experienced by Petronella.

To read more stories in the hugely entertaining Petronella series please click on http://www.openwriting.com/cgi-bin/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&search=marianne+hall

Petronella was feeling very tired. It had been a long day. Her son Willem had fetched her at the flat early that morning. In the rush she had burnt her right hand on the kettle. It was very painful and throbbing madly.

The visit to neef Pietie in Warmbaths had been very pleasant. It was good to sit again under the thornbush and watch the blue waxbills flitting in and out of their nests. It reminded her of the good old days when she and Andries had farmed with oranges those many years ago.

The doom-doom of music coming from the front of the loudspeaker in the car rumbled in her ears. Eight-year-old Fransie lay with his head on her lap, fast asleep.
In the distance she saw a string of lights across the road.
“What’s that?” she asked, tapping her daughter-in-law Stella on the shoulder.

Stella ignored her. She had been ignoring her for ten years.
Willem answered. “A petroport, ma.” He turned to his wife. “Might as well have a bite to eat here.”

He swung the car to the left and followed the road up to the restaurant.

Petronella battled to get out of the car. It was a two-door Mercedes Benz coupe. Her hip was giving her hell lately. By the time they had traversed the dozen or more steps she was well out of breath.

“What does your old girl want to graze?” asked Stella turning to her husband. Why were they always stuck with this old woman she thought, irritated.

Petronella opted for “enigiets”.

“Four ribs, please,” Willem ordered.

Petronella wandered down the restaurant looking for the restroom. Her bladder was giving an urgent SOS. It took a great deal of effort to get the door open. The toilet reminded her of the hospital where she had spent a few weeks with a hip replacement. It was tiled, white and grey. There was a strong smell of disinfectant.

”Thank goodness!” She collapsed on to the cold seat. It was quiet and peaceful here, away from the noisy restaurant. So peaceful in fact that she fell into a kind of reverie.

Someone was banging on the door.

“Petronella, are you in there?” She awoke with a start. She hated it when Stella called her Petronella.

“Ja, ja,” she anwered.

“We’re waiting for you.”

Petronella had a problem with the toilet paper. It stood upright in a toilet roll container. No matter how hard she yanked it would not tear off. As she pulled, it unrolled and unrolled. Finally she got up, her bloomers dropping down to her ankles, and gave it a jerk. By then there was a pile of paper on the floor. To her amazement another roll fell neatly in it’s place. She grabbed the pile and stuffed it into the toilet. She pulled up her bloomers and re-arranged her skirt.

The cistern was unfamiliar and she could not find the flush handle. Then she saw a knob on the wall and pressed it gingerly.

There was a tremendous noise and a surge of water gushed into the bowl. It whizzed around the paper like a whirlpool swallowing it up. She peered over, fascinated. Her glasses slid off her nose. She panicked – then immediately thrust her left hand into the water to retrieve them.

In place of a washbasin there was a flat granite top laid at an angle to a gulley at the bottom. Four taps with soap dispensers alongside were attached to the wall. She watched the woman next to her, who pressed the knob on the dispenser. Petronella did likewise. The green liquid squirted all over her bandaged hand. She unrolled the bandage and popped it into her bag. She then held her hand under the tap, lifted and turned the lever to the left and gasped as the hot water hit the burnt skin.

“No towel,” she murmured looking around. The same woman was turning her hands over and over again under a stainless steel hand dryer attached to the wall. She waited for her to leave.

Petronella peered up the dryer. A hot blast of air hit her in the face, misting up her glasses. She staggered back.

“Gonnas!” She then rapidly dried her hands on her jersey.
The ribbetjies smelt wonderful. A huge hunk of meat attached to numerous bones was spread over a layer of chips.

The others were already eating. Petronella took hold of the piece of meat at both ends.

“No, ma. You cut it up first. Let me do it for you.” Willem deftly parted the ribs.

Just like a braai, thought Petronella and then took a deep bite. The meat was succulent with a sweet sour coating. Maybe just a bit too sweet, for suddenly she felt that familiar tickling in her throat.

The sinus drip had been worrying her for years. All it needed was a little aggravation.

She felt it well up inside her like a pregnant volcano. She tried, she really tried, but nothing could stop the raucous hacking cough that followed. The ribbetjie shot out of her mouth across the table into Stella’s plate. Embedded in it were Petronella’s front false teeth!

The restaurant became very quiet. There were a few sniggers followed by laughter.

Stella was furious. Sauce dribbled down her white silk blouse. She grabbed her bag, gave her husband a dirty look and stormed off. Fransie just laughed and laughed. With his fork he prised out the teeth and handed them to Petronella. She popped them back into her mouth. Her appetite was gone. She sat crestfallen at the table.

Her hands were full of the sticky sauce. She indicated that she wanted to wash them then got up and walked towards the restroom.

At the end of the restaurant stood a serving hatch. The sign read “Condiments and Sauces” On either side was a tap, with a knob on the top. One side read “Barbeque” and the other, facing the front tables, “Peri-Peri”.

Petronella approached the hatch. She saw the first tap and moved towards it. Her left hand went up to the tap, her right hand was underneath it. She pushed down the knob.

“Yeouw!” she screamed. “Eina! Eina!”. She writhed on the floor with pain. Her hand was on fire!

Soon a small crowd milled around.

They carried her off to the first-aid room. The hand was cleaned and bandaged and she was given a sedative.
She was then lifted into the front seat of the car. Stella was forced to sit at the back with Fransie. Even though her mind was in a daze this gave her a great deal of satisfaction.

She heard Willem and his wife having a loud argument. She thought of the ribbetjie.

“It was darem lekker. I should have asked for a doggy bag.”


Neef – cousin ja, ja - yes, yes.
Enigiets – anything darem lekker - delicious
Gonnas – gosh

©Marianne Hall 2013


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