Kerry borrowed Graham’s Land Rover and drove to Nelspruit, which was about one hundred and sixty kilometres south, on the R40. She had delayed her departure until after lunch so she could watch Graham perform surgery on the wild dog.
Graham had acceded to Kerry’s wish to name the dog, which she’d christened Bubba, as Graham had said it was still quite young, probably less than two years old.
‘It’s alive,’ was the best Graham could say about the animal’s prognosis. ‘You should go see your father; there’s nothing more you can do to help me here now.’
Graham had told her that if he received a callout he would use one of the Ukuphila Wildlife Orphanage vehicles, which he usually did when his old Land Rover was at one of its regular visits to the mechanic.
Kerry found her way through the sprawling settlement of Bushbuckridge, then down through Hazyview, White River and on to Nelspruit. Graham had a satellite navigation device so she located the Mediclinic hospital without a problem. Her biggest concern was the speed at which many other drivers travelled and he frequent stop-starts of minibus taxis that pulled out in front her several times without indicating.
In the hospital, a nurse gave her directions to her father’s ward.
‘Knock, knock,’ she said.
A very handsome man in pyjamas with a broad chest and a mop of dark curls stood up when she entered her father’s private room. A hand of cards lay face down on the table and her father sat on the other side on a chair. He started to stand.
‘It’s OK, Dad.’ She went around and kissed her father.
How do you do, ma’am,’ the other man said in an American accent, ‘we haven’t officially met, but I feel like I know you already. I’m-‘
‘Eli Johnston. Lovely to meet you.’ Her hand felt tiny in his, but he was gentle with her as he looked her in the eye.
‘You were truly a warrior out there in the bush, ma’am. I can see that the apple didn’t fall too far from this old tree over here.’
‘Watch who you’re calling “old”, Yank,’ her father said.
‘Can me Kerry, please,’ she said.
‘I’ll just get another seat.’
Eli walked out and Kerry’s eyes followed him.
‘Like what you see?’ Brue~ asked her.
‘Dad! Don’t be embarrassing.’ She sat down where Eli had been.
Bruce snuck a lookout through the door then started to lift Eli’s hand of cards. Kerry slapped his fingers. ‘Stop that.’. ‘Just like your mum, bloody goody-two-shoes. That crooked SEAL is fleecing me. I won’t have a brass razoo left to my name if his winning streak keeps up.’
‘How are you, Dad?’ ·
‘Me? I’m fine. Can’t wait to get out of this bloody place. the doctor’s given me some medication that l have to keep taking but he says I’ll live and don’t need surgery, thankfully. He asked if I suffered any unusual stress lately.’ Bruce laughed.
‘Well, take it easy,’ Kerry said.
‘I didn’t expect a holiday in South Africa, but being cooped up in a hospital is driving me crazy. If it wasn’t for young Eli I would have broken out by now.’
‘He seems nice,’ Kerry said.
‘You only just met him, but he has that effect on women.’
‘I don’t mean it that way, and stop being creepy.’
‘You should see the way the nurses check him out, all queuing up to change his bandages and give him his sponge bath.’
With that, a nurse walked in. She had short spiky blonde hair and was probably in her late forties or early fifties, Kerry thought, with a buxom. figure that her rather severe old-style uniform couldn’t hide. Bruce smiled broadly.
‘Shower time, Tamara?’ Bruce said.
‘Ag, Mr Maxwell, I’m getting tired of that one.’ She consulted the chart at the end of his bed.
‘Tamara; this is my daughter, Kerry.’
She lowered the chart. ‘Hello. I feel your pain.’
Kerry rolled her eyes. ‘You should try living with his jokes for twenty-five years of your life.’
‘I would have run away from home,’ Tamara said.
‘I’m her favourite patient, really, aren’t I, Nurse Shepherd?’ Bruce said.
Tamara looked at the chart again. ‘I see you haven’t had a movement for two days I’m going to recommend an enema.’
‘Hang on! Wait, I went …’
Tamara let out a laugh that was more like a snort. She turned to Kerry. ‘Was he always so easy to trick?’
‘Always. Dad, behave yourself, at least while I’m here.’.
‘Oh, he’s not that bad, really,’ Tamara said. From inside the pocket of her tunic, she pulled a brown paper bag. She looked around and passed it to Bruce, who put it under his pillow. ‘Don’t take all your medicine at once, Bruce.’
‘Thanks, Tammy.’ He winked at her and Kerry thought she saw the nurse’s cheeks blush as she nodded to Kerry then walked out.
‘Jeez, Dad, you’re here to get better. What is that, Scotch?’
‘Nope, some local rotgut brandy they call Klip drift. Tamara swears by it.’
Eli came back into the room. In one hand he carried an armchair that looked like a feather in his grip and in the other he had a bouquet of flowers.
‘Steal those from room 35 where that bloke died last night?’ Bruce asked.
‘Very funny. I went to the gift shop; that’s what took me so long.’
‘Well flowers or not, you still can’t top and tail with me tonight,’ Brue said. ‘I know what you navy types are like.’
Eli ignored it and turned to Kerry. ‘These are for you, with my apologies.’.
‘Oh, Eli, you didn’t have to do that. You’ve got nothing to be sorry for.’
‘Yes, I do. I was back-up and fire support in Mozambique and I couldn’t be there for you. I feel bad that you had to go through what you did after Bruce found you. It must have been terrible enough being locked up, but then to have to …’
Kerry took the flowers and sniffed them. .’They’re lovely. Thank you, but you really don’t have to apologise. And after all, if you hadn’t had that drone of yours overhead I might have been a goner. You actually saved my life, after all.’
‘This is all very touching,’ Bruce said as he reached under his pillow and slid the small flask of brandy from the bag. ‘Fetch some glasses, Yank, and let’s have a drink.’ ·
Follow for more