Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A rumble in the jungle part 2

For Part 1

But first he needed to pee. He never said the word piss. "I gotta take a piss." That kind of language was reserved for his buddies. He ought to thank his mother for that. He'd never forget the first time he told her he needed to take a piss. He might have been ten. She had her hands in the sink, scrubbing feverishly at some caked on food bit when she asked him to take out the recycling. He answered by forcefully proclaiming his desire to urinate. There were only a few times in his life that he could remember his mother making that face. She didn't have to say a word for him to banish that word from his vocabulary forever.

While looking around for a suitable tree, he realized it was his weak bladder that had saved him those days ago. He could never hold it in. When he had to go, he had to go now. He was like a pregnant woman, or at least the way Aunt Amy was on the family trip to Albuquerque. His Dad had to stop the car every half hour so she could pee. Daniel was the only one not rolling his eyes in annoyance because half the time, his bladder was in step with hers.

They had to stop the jeep. He had to go. Rufus politely obliged while the others tried to mask their eye rolling under sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats.

"Go ovah deer, behind that tree. And you keep yo’ eyes open man. Rufus be watchin' afta you." Rufus was the driver slash bush guide, employed by the Mapungubwe Game Reserve for over 20 years. He was what Daniel's mother would have termed, "salt of the earth". He entertained the group with the kinds of stories one would expect a bush guide to tell: Disappearing tourists, close encounters with jungle cats, a host of near-death experiences. They always culminated with his unwavering devotion to his employer, the man who had saved him and his family from a life of poverty in Botswana.

Rufus was possibly the darkest man Daniel had ever seen up close. With the exception of the blob of loose tobacco hanging down from beneath his upper lip, his teeth actually glowed in the dark. He was a tongue acrobat, somehow managing to keep that packet of dung-colored goo from dribbling down his chin as he spoke, laughed, smoked cigarettes and even ate.

The human Google Map, he had every inch of the Madagascar jungle and the expanse of the reserve memorized. They felt safe with Rufus. Lovable, devoted, reliable, forty-something Rufus with four kids, a wife and a grandbaby on the way. Daniel winced. Rufus would never get to see that look of amazement on his first grandchild's face. It would have been the same awe-struck expression Daniel wore when Rufus told the story about facing down that lion on the plain.

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