Friday, June 17, 2011

The Spice of Life

My palms were sweating, my breathing was rapid and shallow, my imagination was running amok. The warning had been explicit: Do not walk around the compound at night without an armed guard.  I looked ahead. Twenty more yards to the chalet.

Granted, my husband did have certain skills ( he was a police officer and big game hunter), but those skills didn't mean much since he wasn’t carrying a gun. The man with the gun was back at the lighted (safe) enclave with the rest of our group, enjoying his glass of sherry. Bill had drained his in one gulp, and hurried me with mine. He wanted to go back to the chalet to “wash up” before dinner and did not want to wait for the rest.

Five more yards.

The reason behind the warning was valid. Two weeks prior to our stay, two people were mauled and killed by lions - inside the electrified, fifteen foot fence. The older gentleman was attacked just a few feet from his chalet (probably just about where we were), and his wife was killed when she came searching for him.

With no moon or outdoor lights it was dark, really dark. I could see only a few feet in front of me and almost nothing behind. What was that? I distinctly heard something behind me. I turned and squinted. Couldn't see anything, but that didn't mean something wasn't there...

At last we reached our chalet. I looked at the inky black space behind the staircase.  Anything could be hiding there. I envisioned huge, clawed paws reaching out and grabbing my ankles.

Ten steps. Five steps. The deck. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly.

Bill made a beeline for the restroom. Then I understood his urgent retreat from the group. All the rich food had finally tipped the sensitive balance of his digestive system, poor guy.

Our room was opulent, and it wasn't even one of the Presidential suites. The bed was huge, draped in mosquito netting, and piled high with comforters and pillows. The rest of the room glowed with rich wood, elegant drapery and cushions. We had our own mini-bar stocked with assorted cold drinks - and something new, a basket.

Tied to the handle by a tiny, blue ribbon was a card. It announced the basket was a wedding gift from the lodge staff. Nestled inside amid colorful tissue were two bananas, a couple packages of nuts, some individually wrapped chocolates and two bottles of sparkling water.

Bill exited the restroom. “Okay, let’s go eat.”

I looked at him, and then the door. The dinning room was across the compound, through another vortex of heart pounding, palm sweating, dark. 

"Sweetheart, it'll be fine. No lion is going to eat us."

"Right. You heard what the manager said."

"They've reinforced the fencing since then. We'll be fine."

"Yeah, just like all those people in that book you gave me to read before we came."

"Death in the Long Grass is a hunting classic."

"Uh huh. All about man-eating lions."

"A little fear adds spice to life."

"I don't need any spice, thank you."

Bill held the door open. "No lion is going to eat us on the way to the dinning room."

Against my better judgement, I stepped out the door and into The Gauntlet.

We we made it to the dinning room without sight, and thank you, Lord, no sound of any lions. Even the pride milling around at the entrance gate were silent. Had one roared I am not sure if I would have become the fastest woman alive (alive being the key word here), or if I would have remained frozen, rooted to the ground, unable to move, and become a statistic.

Our brave dash across the dark compound was for nothing. The dinning room was locked and dark. It seemed everything was dark that night, especially my mood. 

Bill peered through huge window.  “I know dinner is usually served earlier, but I was sure they'd offer something to us after the game drive."

I agreed. "At least sandwhiches."

As usual Bill handled the situation with grace and immaculate aplomb. “Oh well, one missed meal won’t ruin our trip. I’ll be okay until breakfast, how about you, Sweetheart?”

“Well,” I replied, “There is a gift basket with snacks in the chalet....”

I looked back toward the chalet. It lay past a long, long stretch of black, inky compound. I prayed the old adage “three times is a charm” didn't include lions.

Five heart pounding minutes later we were back inside the chalet, sitting opposite each other in the plush wicker chairs, staring down at our evening repast. We each had a banana, a small package of nuts and a few  chocolates pieces. Oh, and a bottle of sparkling water.

I offered Bill a bit of sage advice. “If you chew slowly it fills you up quicker.”

Bill stared at his portion, entirely cupped in one hand. “Right.”

We crawled into bed, tired, cold, and hungry, but I am sure I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

The dinning room was packed during breakfast. We were greeted with smiles and nods. 

I whispered to Bill, “What's going on?”

He shrugged and headed for the buffet table. I followed, still wondering why we seemed to be the center of every one's attention.

The lodge manager walked over. “Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. Pulliam.”

“Good morning.”

“How are you?”

“Fine.” Bill replied.

“Everything okay?”

“Yes.”

He hovered, obviously something on his mind. “We missed you at dinner last night.”

“Well,” Bill answered, “we came down to the dinning room, but the doors were locked, all the lights were off and we didn’t see anyone around. Figuring we somehow missed dinner we went back to our chalet.”

The manager sighed. “We waited for a half hour and then realized you had left the group before I  announced dinner was to be served in the Boma, not the dinning room.”

Boma was an African word meaning eating place. It was an open space surrounded by a fence, filled with dinning tables, an open fire and a long buffet table. My mouth watered as I pictured a whole lamb, pig or half a cow roasting on a huge spit - sizzling, savory; the buffet, covered with salads, breads, soups, potato dishes, pasta dishes, vegetables, and deserts.

The manger continued. “We sent a tracker to escort you to the Boma, but when he arrived at your chalet he couldn’t see any lights, and well, knowing you are newlyweds, he was unsure whether to knock or not.”

I could see the poor man shuffling his feet outside the door, debating on whether to disturb us or not, while Bill and I were busily inhaling our snacks.

Bill laughed. "Please don't worry about it. It was just an unfortunate misunderstanding. If missing one meal is the worse thing we encounter on this trip, we will be very lucky.”

Obviously relieved, the manager wished us a good day and moved on to other guests.

I elbowed Bill. “I told you to turn on more lights.”

“Well Sweetheart, I didn’t see any need to burn every light in the place in order to eat a handful of snacks.” With a wink he added, “And, it was sort of romantic, wasn’t it?”

Romantic? Standing in a darkened room, shivering from cold and shattered nerves, starving, and so tired my bones ached, was not my definition of the word.

I looked down at my ring. Now that was romantic. We bought the ring at a South African diamond emporium in Johannesburg. It was simple, elegant - perfect. Seven diamonds sparkling in a white-gold, scalloped band. Back to our room at the Bed and Breakfast, bill slipped it on my finger,  re-vowing to honor and cherish me for the rest of his life…

****
Bill raised his glass of sparkling wine. “Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart.”

“Happy Anniversary, Honey.”

“I can’t believe nine years ago today we were in Africa.”

“I know. The years have just flown by.”

“Nine of the happiest years of my life.”

I nodded and cuddled closer. “Mine too.”

“Sweetheart, I think it’s time we went back.”

“I’ll go in a heart beat, on one condition. Don't spice it up too much.” I put a finger to his lips. “Don’t say it. I don’t care what Winston Churchill said. I’m not an adrenalin junkie like you. I don’t want to feel the thrill of being shot at and missed – or stalked, but not eaten.”

Bill's eyes twinkled. “I have just the book for you to read.”

“What? Another Death in the Long Grass? Thanks, but no thanks.”

“This one is really good. I know you'll enjoy it.”

“Really? Where does this one take place? Zimbabwe, Botswana, Kenya? Is it a pride of man-eaters or just a single lion stalking and devouring anyone it comes across?”

“South Africa. Kruger National Park. Several prides...."

*****
All storytelling aside, today is our ninth wedding anniversary. There was a card standing on the top of the coffee maker this morning, addressed to me from Bill. The card states he wishes he could write a book with separate chapters for every reason why his life is warmer, brighter, better and a thousand times more fun because of me. Well, ditto, Honey. In truth, I will follow you anywhere. My home is wherever you are, whether it is in Argentina, South Africa, or Boise, Idaho. I love you with all of my heart. Happy Anniversary, Honey.

9 comments:

  1. Just the right balance between terror and romance. Happy anniversary, you two! Here's to a hundred more! :D

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  2. I loved this from beginning to end. I smiled and laughed, your Bill sounds just like my Bill, the words are the same and the attitude the same.
    What a wonderful story...God is faithful! Happy Anniversary...and yes wherever they go we will follow. Now I can say just like you...I could use some calmer situations, but my husband would say the same thing...that is the spice of life...change.

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  3. Thank you, Linda and Janette for stopping by and commenting. It was a fun story to write, and I must admit, I didn't have to invent a single piece of it. Change is as certain as death, and taxes - to quote a famous writer, William Goldman in The Princess Bride. Thanks, again.

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  4. Oh, what a roaring tail, er, tale! LOL I loved this! Happy anniversary, sweetie. Hope you two are having a wonderful day! Blessings to you!

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  5. Giggle. Yes, Lynn you are right. Thank God I didn't hear any roars at that exact moment. Thanks for stoppping and commenting. We are having a wonderful evening. Hope you have a great weekend.

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  6. What a great anniversary story! You two had quite the adventure! My husband was fortunate enough to go on a safari in South Africa and said the strangest thing was the darkness and noises from the animals at night - very unnerving! Nothing like a "little terror" to spice up your life... Be blessed,

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  7. Your husband is right, Debra. The darkness is something we can't experience here in North America. There is a reason historians call Africa the Dark Continent. And yes, night is incredibly active. More noise than daytime. After being in the bush for four weeks we had a terrible time adjusting to urban life again. The lights were too bright, traffic too loud. It was all very odd. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  8. What an entertaining piece, Cecilia! I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your honeymoon adventures, and I'm glad a missed dinner was your only loss. Happy anniversary!

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  9. Thank you, Jolina. We had a great time - in spite of the lions. And we had a wonderful celebration. Thank you for stopping and and commenting.

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