The Trials & Tribulations of a Small-Town Hack

Illustration by Jessica Käsner

By Linza de Jager

One can’t spread stoep stories if you live in a small town, which is hard. Let’s face it. Being honest is hard, especially if one is a hack, and has to make one’s living from writing.

It’s because of the smallness of the town, and the fact that people tend to know one’s address.  One can’t spread fake stoep stories here, even if one wanted to ever so badly, because one can be held accountable. It would be a different matter of course if one lived in, say, Bosnia, or the Highlands of Ethiopia, or next to a loch in emerald Scotland, and posting the stories online from there. In a small town it is simply out of the question.

Discretion is another virtue one learns when living in a small town. Again, one learns this reluctantly, perhaps. One would want to publish those juicy stoep stories, but one has been sworn to silence. On the Bible, too! And so one becomes a master of discretion, skirting stoep stories as if they are poisonous mushrooms.

Stoep stories (or gossip if you insist on calling them that) must have been the forerunner of the fake news everyone is going on about. Fake versus real. Illusion versus reality. I’ve never had a problem distinguishing between the two. I learnt that appearances can be deceiving as a child in the Southern Cape.

On a visit to a beautiful farm, one blessed with a historic farmstead and guardian cypress trees and a dam with cutesy ducks, disaster struck. I lie down on the emerald grass banks of the dam. Oh that green! It was the green that Tom Jones sang about in “Green green grass of home”.

And then trouble struck. When I got up my pretty dress was smeared with duck poop. I had been deceived by appearances. I had been taken in by fake news long before the term could be invented. The green green grass was the ducks’ latrine.



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