Kallie Koetze's prodigious tastes occasioned a goodly number of post-rugger brawls, the Birkenhead stout and close-quarters causing more than one patron to take umbrage at his cheek; the Springbok flanker suffered as many knocks on the pitch as off. His brus in the maul would come to his defense for certain—"Howzit doos? Donner bliktom!"—the lads everhappy to bash and dop another. Merriment invariably followed the blood soaked sawdust: songs sung, horse played. But after a particularly poor result versus the All-Blacks—he'd taken a dastardly ball chopping—he was drinking lonesome and sore about the privates to boot. Foolish of his safety and angling a winsome masseuse, there was an eruption of Kiwi fervor and the damn gesuip fools even tried to stick him (in tandem!). The pub's location and particulars leading to accusations greater than his hiccupping guts—Holnaii in the showers! Fudgenudging in the pub!—the brus decidedly disapproving of such extracurriculars. Protesting his innocence—"I choon ye China, a vloek!"—but disbelieved, Kallie Koetze beat the bosbefok to piss and pomped many-a-slet; his efforts at redemption culminating with a run down a Johannesburg street in the rainy dawn swinging his Springbok jersey over head, spitting froth, blood and beer. To no avail. Moffie Hooker! read the Sunday tabloids. Kallie Koetze was chucked off the squad in disgrace.
Brouhaha complete, Kallie Koetze fell into it, his 15 stone blooming to 18, ill-suited to his 1.7 meters and manner of accoutrement. He waddled Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, contemplated throwing himself off Victoria Falls. On the precipice, thunder around him, his balance skewed, ripe and primed for a slip from the green mossy floor, Yesus or some such messianic figure spoke to Kallie Koetze in wet wild clouds of steam and chugging and Kallie Koetze remembered an un-Moffie boy precused and delightful. From this spry tot's visage, he remembered his da and summer Sundays in the park, trips to the bergie, the gam domestic they pomped (in tandem!) in the laundry. But most of all he remembered Chickie Choo Choo, the catapulting steam as the train moved across his horizon; at her sweet inward whistle Kallie Koetze pulled his fat arse back off the falls and set about redemption.
He worked up through the platteland, gathering strength and regaining presence, before he found full measure on the Jambo Kenya Express, his corpulent bulk worked once again to sinew—even more so—shoveling coal and miscellany. The engine room his home now, as much as the rugger pitch or even slooped over on a stool and brookie. Kallie Koetze transformed his manifold zeal to make might and motion with his engineer's cap and zinc-plated spade, Missy. (He do the zincing himself, save up and scrap that she be ever-pretty, ever-ready with the piles of coal and nonplussed by wet or tears.) Fastidious in his work if no longer his personal appearance, he kept the engine shiny, the shovel shiny, no matter the soot and sweat that coloured his A-shirt, body dripping heavy as he shoveled fuel into furnace, his cap turned round and pistons burning. Into it he grew hard as bone, the benevolent governor of pace. His constituents: the cabin gams, meis, and servants; the rooinek and skaapfokker come down for a zebra and a toot; his rep grown far up as the dining car. Leaning on Missy, staring out into Tsomba Park and the elephants and whatnot cavorting, was Kallie Koetze, killer Springbok, shoveler and daddy of speed.
Word spread of the steel bad Charlie stoking the fires of the Jambo Kenya Express. Myriad Tots and Chickies come back for a peep and, if luck held, a jollie patrollie. Marketing folks took his picture, Kallie Koetze mugging on billboards from Nairobi to Dar es Salaam: Jambo Kenya Means Speed! A full page advert for Sportsmen Cigarettes in the Kenya Times: Kallie Koetze, fag drooping from his lips, hand-pumping an engine that could match times with any locomotive on the continent. The resultant crowds massing so far outside the engine room the company had to splash for a bruiser with a clipboard and a monkey suit. Kallie Koetze bearing into the coal with Missy and, now, a fluffer in company. But, as Kallie Koetze knew, given the chance, all good things go fuck all given the chance. Diesel came to the continent, electric, talk in Japon of 200 kph! Despite his best efforts, he simply couldn't keep up, a gray streak appearing about his temples. The crowds absented, he picked it up again, briefly, much because the once again uniform direction of his vital juices, but it wasn't enough. Kallie Koetze was dropped by Sportsmen and would've been sacked by the company too, but for the embezzlement of the increased profits during his tenure: the dofs couldn't afford the engine upgrade that had brought on his obsolescence.
Sunk again, Kallie Koetze found no reprieve in gwat, tipple or even tots, but merely in quiet contemplation. Not unlike some ballie charou in the Upanishads—a book he'd once chanced to peruse amidst claps with a Durban hoer—he saw that the periphery had grown weedily over the matters of his intent, but that he could take the new station to once again untie himself into the coal and spade, uninterrupted by fruits or their pitchmen. And he did, resuming to polish Missy daily and keep his engine chugging along, not as fast as many of the others newly arrived, sure, but fast enough to make the Nairobi-Mombassa leg without great inconvenience and wasn't train travel about a certain amount of leisure anyhow, most boardmembers agreed, the steppes outside covered, as they were, with myriad wildlife an eyesfull enough to pass the time most pleasantly.
The seasons past still on, as they do, and Kallie Koetze slowed further, his physiology simply unable to reach the pace he was accustomed. There was talk of an apprentice perhaps, or even two, but Kallie Koetze gave gruff response when the manner arose—"Eish! Me beater ell flik soon enuff ye fokker! Leemeebee!"—and the matter dropped, till one day his luck again took the circuitous turnabouts it had so often before when some gent from frontside decked in topcoat and breeches with an interest in the operation of antiquated trains came back for a peep. This moffie sod, a Springbok supporter of some years past, took the meeting to instruct Kallie Koetze on the movement of the pistons of the Firing Gnu locomotive of the Trans-Siberia company, which Kallie Koetze humoured so long without a visitor, until the bastard chanced to recognize Kallie Koetze from the pitch, or at least cog a resemblance between former he and he-now, calling out, "Eh, you strike a real shine to Kallie Koetze, Kallie Koetze, yaknow?" Kallie Koetze shrugged and the man, lost in his own youthful reveries, kept on, a greedy smile on his lips, "That boy was a dream in rugger, a flash on the pitch and a bull in the scrum. Shame he couldn't keep his pickle in his breeches, knowwhatimean?" Recollected visions of young Kallie Koetze shiny off the geezer's eyeballs. "Oh yesindeedy! Ye've gone a bit hoary sure, but a spitting image I say..." with what Kallie Koetze brought down Missy sharpwise on his bean, splitting it in twain, momentarily displaced to days before train and unhappily so: the pub, brus and groping.
Kallie Koetze stared down at the red-faced Missy and floor both, took a deep breath, imagining his final scuppering in the hands of the coppers at the next stop and the forever interruption of his and Missy's elaborate 1-2-3's. He leaned on his babe and scuffed his boot to the grimy floor. "What awful chance that dim bastard," he chooned aloud in mournful tones. "A nasty trick of a spiteful Yesus to be sure, sending this sod back." But remembering Victoria Falls and the weighted dumdum perched atop, he cooled hisself and awaited word, ever certain that his life to this point had been driven by something beyond whatelse there was to see, something beyond that reach at least. And word came, though to Kallie Koetze's amazement not from Yesus but from Missy! Or some apparated Missy, long his sweet in hand, she came alive before him, gore dripping still off her cheeks. She kissed his grizzled face deep, and stood back, hands on hips, her dark curls and batting lashes nodding towards the furnace. Without cognition, but regained of his senses, Kallie Koetze began to shovel the dead pederast into the awaiting maw of the Jambo Kenya Express, oozy scraps and all, his sweat mixing with the doos's blood on his face and curling over his lips. Then, like some kind of divine infusion, the train made a harrumph and began to move her engine at a pace that Kallie Koetze even in his best days could've never mustered, so much so the spiny butlers in the front room almost spilled themselves the acceleration came so great!
Henceforth, the engine took blood and the blood took heat and the train moved rapid. The higher-ups were thrilled and, upon their discovery of the new fuel, even provided Kallie Koetze with a choice number of flagellates to his alchemical pulpit of motion. The signposts and billboards reappeared: Kallie Koetze with zinc-plated Missy smiling up at the African night. The dizzy ingénues returned too, though one or another for the last time. Jambo Kenya Express, engine manned by Kallie Koetze, known now and forever as the fastest train hereabouts or anywhere else, the jackals and orangutan cry shrill when she passes, heated by the tainted air.
is a writer living in Chicago. Kallie Koetze
, part of Erik's collection-in-progress Evil Men
, was written in an attempt to pick up a gauntlet thrown down by railway aficionado Michael Martone. The story is dedicated to him.