35 – The Book of Gideon (Luck)

35:         Luck:

Leaving the semi slumbering scouts swaddled in their blankets, I strode towards the pot of golden ink with which the dawn was gradually conveying definition to the upper branches of the trees,.

No longer needing to follow the scouts tracks, I could pick the easier, more open spaces  between the trees  and thickets.  There was no need to slow down to search for tracks sign. I walked fast. It was invigorating. The leaves of the  Masasa trees were all out in emerald effrontery, their leaves fluttering  everywhere, like miniature flags waving in a gigantic bush parade. The quartering breeze animating the leaves also dried the sweat off my cheeks, but not the dampness between my shirt and backpack. This herbaceous rejuvenation was refreshing with its abundance. The shortness of the grass made walking even easier. Thus by early afternoon I was standing outside the lodge’s kitchen, drinking a cool thirst quenching glass of orange juice, handed to me by Precious. It had taken nine hours to walk the remaining thirty kilometers to the lodge.

From across the straw fence, I could hear the sound of heated conversation from the chitenge. A higher pitched male voice, Mustafa’s probably, interjected and interspersed itself between deeper sounding Latin accents. It wasn’t loud enough to follow, but the undertone of disagreement was clear in the way their remonstrations cut in, and clambered over each other.

My silent gesture of ‘what’s going on?’, was answered by Precious saying, “They’ve been arguing for over two hours. They chase us away anytime we go over there, even Morse.”

Taking my glass precious asked if I wanted more.  “Madame Lauren said to tell you when you got back, that she has the keys to your vehicle at her chalet, and for you to stop by.”

I barely managed to thank her, before she twirled away into the kitchen. I mean genuinely twirled, executing happy little circles like a spinning top with little hops edging her closer to the door, until she skipped up the steps and disappeared inside.

Wierd.. was the only word that came to mind.

Gulping down the last mouthfuls of juice I followed her in, where I set the glass down in the sink.

She was humming a tune to herself. We were alone. She moved about hhappily.

“What has got into you?” I asked.

“I am happy.” she replied.

“Why?”

Because I got the present I have been waiting for..”

I narrowed my eyes.

“Hmmm,” I hummed. “Since Christmas has come early, what about me? Do you have a spare sockfor me?”

“What do you want put in it?”

“I am sure you can guess,” i hinted with a wink.

She gazed at me intently for a second.  “Ok, because I got mine early, I will give you yours.

Taking my stubble scratchy cheeks in both her hands, then raising on her toes to  reach me, I felt the wide full sensuousness of her lips.  There was a momentary hesitation of their slight parting before the tip of her tongue press between my own startled  pair. I couldn’t help myself, my arms encirvled and pulled her against me. It felt so utterly good. Then as I woke from the dream she wriggled free and scampered away with a giggle.

“That is enough for now.” she murmured. “Remember you are too old for me.” From the door way she turned and said impishly , “But Lauren isn’t”. And added, “She is waiting for you.”

I was still off-balance. Did I detect a hint of jealousy in her voice, or was that wishful imagination.

I walked the long way around to Lauren’s chalet, giving time to get my composure back and better to avoid the growling dogs in the chitenge.

She was lounging  in a chair on the chalet’s deck. As usual her long legs were extended hooked one over the other, resting on the coffee table. With her arms extended like her legs, elbows drooped on the armrests, the rim of a tall glass dangled between a thumb and middle finger of a hand.

“Well, well, look what the cat dragged back!” She exclaimed. “How was your adventure?”

“Not so good.” I replied. “I found the scouts. But not Moses. He had gone off on his own.”

“What’s bad about that?”

“It is never good to be alone in the Bush when hunting an adversary, but I have grown accustomed to that with Moses, because I’ve seen him go out on his own and come back safely so many times. There was a group of them, and one track left the others. According to the scouts, Moses went off after this one, leaving them to follow up on the others.”

“So what could go wrong with that??”

“Well if the group they are tracking get together again, and Moses stumbles upon them before the scouts, there will be five of them he has to deal with instead of only one. Those are not favorable odds in the Bush.”

I rubbed the stubble on my chin. “But most importantly I still need to speak to him

about how to deal with the Musekela witch thing.”

“Is the patrol going to check with you when they get done?” she asked.

“Yes, I told Musekela that he absolutely has to give me a report in person before he heads back to the village. It will buy me time. Hopefully Moses will return before Musekela tires of waiting.”

I could detect a change in her demeanor. She was smiling more readily, and generally exuded a relaxed attitude.

“And you? I asked. “What’s made you so happy all of a sudden?”

“There are big changes around here.” She stated.

It seems that everybody is heading out of here in the next day or two. I’m not quite sure what the details are. The two Latin men will be chartering an aircraft to pick them up at the hippo camp airfield, down river. But they don’t want their fancy ladies along with them. They have told Mustafa he needs to transport them back to Lusaka., together with all the baggage. Whereever it is they are going, the men will be travelling light.”

Lauren took a sip from her glass.

“Of course Mustafa isn’t happy with this. It seems the Latin partners don’t regard him on an equal footing with themselves. He is resentful of their attitude. They are treating himlike a servant, the same way he has always treated others.”

She smiled happily. “What makes it even more of a bun fight it seems that the  latin ladies are not happy either. They resent being sent back alone.”

Lauren went on. “Apart from him feeling like a taxi driver, you probably have not seen it, but  their two lovely ladies have a lot of luggage. As I said, to add insult to injury, the men want all their own junk taken back and sent on the commercial flight to where ever with the woman. They are still arguing about all this.”

Lauren reached down and scratched her calff.  “The bloody mosquitoes got me good last night.”

“Anyway,: she went on , “I have left them to poke each others eyes out. Actually I think I contributed to there bad moods to some degree. For a while I also let Mustafa know that I was not happy with being squeezed between loads of  luggage. The Latins couldn’t understand why Mustafa wasn’t able to shut me up.”

She leaned back lazily. “Ggiving them all an earfull has done me the world of good.”

“Too bad I didn’t see that catfight. ” I said quietly.

“Now that things have changed I’m starting to enjoy myself here.” She took out a cigarette from a pack on the table, lit it, and inhaled deeply as if to underline her new found enjoyment. Looking pointedly at me she said,” It is specially pleasurable since I discovered the ‘practical’ aspect of your morality.”

I felt a twinge of guilt.

“But, If I have to I will squeeze in between the luggage, the humanity and Mustafa’s scintillating personality.” She mmade no effort to hide the sarcasm. ” But if you’re going into Mumbwa soon, I would prefer to wait, then head in with you and catch a bus into the city.”

“That’s fine,” I said. “I still plan on going into the Mumbwa HQ to ask for an extra patrol up the Westside of the Lunga.”

“Great.” Lauren beamed at me. “By the way, there is another major development that you probably haven’t heard of yet.”

“What is that?” I queried suspiciously after I noted her raised eyebrows and the rolling of her eyes.

“As you probably know precious has a fascination with fashion.”

“Yes” I replied, “I’ve seen some of her designs. Damn good stuff,” I said emphatically. “She told me how she wants to get out of the Bush, and that this place was going to be the catalyst for making it happen.

“Well.” Said Lauren.” She has been granted her wish.”

“What?” I exclaimed.. “What are you talking about?”

Lauren took a long swig of her gin and tonic, and switch the glass to dangle between the fingers of her other hand.

“One of the Latin men has also noticed her talent. He said for her to come along on their air charter.”

“Really! You must be kidding” I said disbelievingly.

“He told her that he will be meeting a contact up in the Congo who produces clothing for Europe. If this guy likes what he sees, maybe she can do some designs for him, claimed our Latin hero.”

“That is incredible!” I stated. “Almost too good to be true.”

“Knowing that they are involved with Mustafa, it probably is. But there’s no telling that to Precious,

 She is beside herself with excitement. Even Morse has been swept along in the jubilation. He is sending her with his driver up to the village to fetch her passport.

“As far as I know, the three of them are booked into Hippo Lodge tomorrow night. They will catch an air charter out at daybreak, the day after tomorrow.”

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Precious was wearing her uniform in the same rakish fashion as I remembered, what now seemed like ages ago when the crocodile attack occurred.

Even her long coil of hair was woven and drooped down her back in the same fashion.

She appeared unannounced at the edge of my campfire’s umbra as I sat staring at its embers.

“Gidi, I’ve come to tell you my good news.” She pulled up a camp chair and sat opposite me, leaning forward with pent-up excitement.

“I’m going with Luigi and Alex to Lubumbashi in the Congo.”

There was no point telling her I’d heard this already from Lauren. Why spoil her excitement in telling me.

“So what is it Precious? It must be something big, if it makes you dance when you give me a glass of orange juice.”

Precious laughed, “I’m so happy I can hardly believe my luck.. Luigi has a contact in the Congo who has a factory making clothing for a big department store chain in Brussels. He says he will make an introduction for  me with this man. According to Luigi this man is always looking for new designs. I may even go to Brussels if all goes well.”

Hearing the names of the Latin men for the first time I said. “It is good to know that you are on a first name footing with those two.”

I don’t think she caught my sarcasm.

“What do you know about Alex and Luigi? Do you trust them?” I hesitantly queried. “Have you asked Luigi for the name of the company, maybe we can check it out on the Internet later tonight, when we have enough bandwidth when everyone is asleep?”

Precious regarded me indignantly, “Alex and Luigi are Mustafa’s business partners. If he trusts them I think I can do the same.”

I held my tongue. Better to say nothing about what I thought of Mustafa, or his reputation. There was no need to point out that with all the angry arguing they didn’t seem to be very close business partners.

“No, I have not had enough time for that. But Morse has been very good. I thought he would be upset. But he even offered to send his vehicle with me to fetch my passport. I’m so glad that I applied for it two years ago.”

Who was I to put a damper on her enthusiasm?

“So when are you leaving?”.

“As soon as I get back tomorrow afternoon, Luigi says we will move across to Hippo Lodge downriver and spend the night there. Morse contacted them, and booked us into their chalets. Luckily it being late in the season they were empty.”

“And when are you coming back?”

“I’m not sure.” Precious said.  I think it won’t be more than a week. Luigi said that they only needed a few days in the Congo to wrap up what they are doing. But it may also be longer if I make an impression and go on to Europe..”

To distract my unease, I said, “well Precious, let’s celebrate your luck with a great cup of coffee.”

“OK.” She laughed, adding, “Maybe I will also meet Father Christmas up there, and I will bring you back another present.”

Her jesting words again tickle the distant dormant pleasure in my mind.

“You coming back safely will be my gift.” I said quietly..