Give him a beer
Photo by Poojitha Prasad on Unsplash

We live in the country, away from the city and the relatively sophisticated entertainments it provides. Now and then country life is enlivened by a touring entertainer. Usually the singers perform Afrikaans country songs that sound like an imitation of American country and western songs. Let it be said up front, that I don’t like the original American songs of that type, but I like the imitations even less.

Normally I avoid these occasions, but sometimes avoiding them is very difficult. One such occasion was when an older singer, a guy who had been a star in communities like ours twenty years before, maybe fifty years before, was going to be entertaining older members of the community or as we are called here “the grey youth”.

“To hell with that,” I said to Miriam. “I don’t see myself as aged and I’m not going.”

“I’m going and you need to go,” she said. “You need to go because they are doing this for the community’s older people. It would be churlish not to go, ill-mannered and boorish.”

Shit. Ill-mannered, churlish and boorish? So I agreed to accompany my wife. “It may not be that terrible,” she said. “And if it is, we can leave at half time and tell them your ulcer is playing up.”

“I don’t have an ulcer,” I said.

“That’s not the point,” she said.

So we went. I don’t recall ever having heard of the entertainer before and I certainly had not heard him sing. He was accompanied by a band that consisted of two guitars, drums and a concertina. The concertina is a misery box. Once it starts up, it dominates every other sound from the band. It kills whatever melody was trying to emerge from the guitars and drives all but country music aficionado’s to distraction.

The concert was being held at Bierpens Piet’s (Beerbelly Pete’s) bar. We found seats near the back, as far from the source of the music as possible. Well, the featured entertainer came out and Bierpens Piet, so-called because he sports a large belly, caused by his love of beer, introduced him as “the wonderful, great and legendary singer we all love so well.”

The entertainer came, walking very slowly and wearing a shiny suit and a bow tie and managed with some difficulty to wheeze his way through a few numbers. “The poor old fucker needs an oxygen tank,” I whispered to Miriam.

“Shht,” she said, “someone might hear.”

Ill-mannered, churlish and boorish I might have been but I did not realise that I was dead accurate in my observation. I still feel ashamed when I think about it now.

The show started but after only a few numbers the singer left the stage and did not return. After ten or maybe fifteen minutes Bierpens Piet appeared without the star. He looked very solemn. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “I have terrible news. Our wonderful, great and legendary singer has had a fatal heart attack.”

After a few moments of silence Oom Jan, the cattle farmer, shouted from the back of the bar room, “Give him a beer.”

“And some pap and wors,” someone else suggested.

“Gentlemen, I am afraid the heart attack was fatal,” Bierpens Piet said.

“So give him a beer,” Oom Jan said.

“The heart attack was fatal,” Bierpens Piet snarled. “The man is stone dead. What the fuck good will a beer do?”

“It won’t do him any fucking harm either,” Oom Jan said.

Give him a Beer