Robert stormed into the recreation room cursing at the top of his voice knowing his hoarse voice would catch my attention. It was the night before he reported for his bank job interview, on a Sunday. He hadn’t had time between shooting hoops at the basket ball pitch and doing his laundry to finish typing his portfolio. It was the kind of thing he would normally choose to pick fights about.
“Great job Sam! Do you think you can find something else to destroy so you completely ruin my one chance to get into a good career?” he had yelled before grabbing his notebook PC right from my lap, not caring to know if I had the audio headset strapped around my head. He set the wire chord swinging with an elastic motion catching my ear. I felt a sharp ring in my ear upon impact. I had only taken the PC to check my email, and to chat with a cousin all the way from Mombasa. He had talked of how hot the weather was in Africa, especially during the hot tropical season. It was summer over there. I would soon be taking that trip to see that wild side of life in the “Maasai Mara” planes.
The “Mara” hadn’t always been safe. We had only recently seen a reporter on the news capturing the horrible attacks at the reserves in the wild grassy plains. Yet we were going to the same wild sunny plains. I often imagined the atmosphere would ring with humming bird tunes and cool summer breeze blowing over the long dry grass in the moorland in wave like movement. It would only be a week in this cold winter weather along the Scottish beach. Bobby had failed his interview and would come with us.
Bobby and I made our way to the cargo section at the airport arrivals section and hauled all three of our bags. My dad’s bag was labeled Andrew. It had all the travel accessories for both him and mom. They always travelled like this. My sister, Anna, would trust her effects to me seeing as she and I were closer age-wise than she and Bobby. We were only five, and the car we had booked was just right. An older version of a Toyota Land cruiser, marked with green and beige color patches that matched military uniform, only this was a game ranger’s vehicle.
We loaded the three hefty bags onto the back and headed into the forest reserve where we would spend the night. One could feel the thick forest air, heavy with fog and riddled with spores from fungi that cropped out of the almost-dead tree stumps that stood tall on either side of the forest path. The fog fell into the lower forest flora as dark came upon us. The cruiser roared angrily over the dead foliage on the moist forest floor as it sped into the reserve’s gate trying to avoid any run-ins with the wilderness-dwellers. Morning would bring promise of a grim realization in the midst of lion roars and hog grunts.
Morning filled the air with the smell of burning oak over the cabin stoves. The attendant served hot chocolate and lamb cutlets, with slices of cheese bread to my father’s placed request. The ranger signaled that it was well within reason to leave the cabin early so we could catch a glimpse of the fauna at the watering hole beyond the creek bordering our camp. Here the animals frequented in the wee hours of morning, both lion and giraffe, content with the safe nigh under the dimly moon-lit moor. Each came to quench their thirst before starting off the day in the hot sunny plains. We would have the pleasure of hovering in the treetops above the watering hole, above the lionesses, and beyond the reach of the elephant trunks. Watching amid horror and intimacy with the lively scene, one could feel the trickling of sweat beads despite the chill, down the spine each time a lion stole a peek at us.
Our tour guide, Steve, hesitated between stares to steal our attention and direct it towards an on-coming pride of rivals to the ruling pride in these plains. I could sense the egotism in Steve’s tone as he whispered under his deep husky voice as if to assure us he was in charge of the animals in these plains. It is this level of confidence that made me think he was out of touch with reality. He would later prove me right that evening with a foolish gesture to a hungry lion that would lender him armless.
As we followed the pride that had brought us all the way to these African plains, the guide reminisced of interesting events that he had overseen in his time as a guide, narrating the scenes as if he was reliving them right there with us. Robert seemed to startle with fright each time Danny mentioned the pride leader, “Mufasa.” Danny had seen “Mufasa” launch an attack at a hunter during a local tribe ritual, killing one hunter and amputating the other hunter’s arm before Danny and his guys could rescue them. This was the kind of thing my heart raced for.
Anna could not handle it. She left the passenger seat behind Danny, and in front of mine and leaped mom’s arms.
“Don’t be scared sweetie, I am right here and nothing will touch you. Okay?” mom comforted.
“But I am afraid it might comes for us in my sleep,” Anna complained.
Robert suddenly found comfort in savoring the moment when he could scare us both since he was more advanced in age than we were. Danny slowed as the pride came to a halt before a grazing herd of antelope. The sun was now hanging above us, scorching our bare skin as though aggravated by our presence here this summer. It felt wiser to stick our arms and heads out the open windows, but self-love strongly advised against risking the wrath of a hungry pack. Danny parked right behind the scrubby bush that concealed the pride from the grazing herd. It was the level of stealth the pride employed that would guarantee its success in hunting prey. Years of primal predation had taught them this.
Danny cared none-the-less, as he advised against leaving the safety of their cruiser. He, however, reached for a baton behind his driver’s seat and leapt off the car much to our astonishment. Now trotting in the dry savannah grass, we could sense he was getting dangerously close to the peeking lionesses, but we thought he knew what he was doing. “Mufasa” turned slightly from her posture to stare at us, as if glaring at Anna. He had taken position on the left side of our truck, but Danny was confident he could handle the heat. When Anna caught a glimpse of the frothing gum, she screamed at the thought of falling prey to such a wild carnivore. It was at this point that the pack turned attention to Danny in his Khaki shorts and loose shirt. “Mufasa” made one large leap onto the hood and pounced upon Danny like a cat to a mouse. Three more lionesses started towards us at staggering speed. No one thought of a better outcome from this predicament but death. We saw the grim face of wild vengeance come alive in our midst as Danny struggled to wrestle off a five-hundred-pounds beast mauling off his right arm such that he couldn’t lift off the ground or scream under the petrifying roar in his face.
Anna screamed on as my mother clutched her tightly in her arms, never to let go. Robert shook terribly in his seat as my father struggled off the passenger seat, and onto the driver’s seat.
The engine came alive as we turned in a thrifty dash in Danny’s direction. “Mufasa” must have feared and jumped off Danny at the sound of the roaring engine. Danny wasn’t in a state of helping himself up, so that meant I had to look out and help him up as my father honked to scare the beasts. We rescued Danny within a split second, and sped in the direction of the resort. No one spoke the whole way to the cabins, only gasping and screaming was heard as we came to the realization that we had just saved a dying man.
Danny was patched up before being taken to a nearby hospital, and we were packed by the time Danny was arriving at the hospital. A night in the wild wasn’t worth the trouble. We were grateful to have survived this far. It would take years to heal what had just embedded itself in Anna’s mind, and the lions would soon be taken down for repeating an attack on a human being. We cared for Danny’s sake at the time, more than we did for ours.
We were back in the chilly winter wind by the next day, without anyone mentioning what had transpired. All I heard from my cousin from was that the lion had been transferred from that park with no mention of where it was taken. At least we knew we were not going for another tour in Africa.