Friday fictioneers – After the hunt

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PHOTO PROMPT © Jan Wayne Fields

Perdy had triumphed on the hunt. She sat outside her tent, arms around the corkscrew horns of an enormous kudu bull. Its blood-clotted nose rested in her lap.

‘What a trophy,’ someone said.

Perdy smirked and looked across at Violet.

‘Jolly well done, darling,’ Violet said. ‘Do you have the right wall for it? Back home?’

‘Home?’

‘You’ve not moved in with me, have you!’

Perdy’s mouth twitched in a sort-of smile.

Violet took the smile and turned it into her own. Her fingers caught at mine. ‘Goodness, if everyone who came to one of my parties moved in, there’d be no room for me.’

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The sun-drenched elsewhere: Serengeti blues

 

The Serengeti was blue. Not only the sky but also the acacias; squares of vivid indigo material crowded out the leaves.

‘Tsetse fly traps,’ our guide explained.

I checked my trousers (dual purpose khaki: camouflage for game viewing and, supposedly, an unappealing colour to tsetse flies) were pulled down over my ankles and my shirt buttoned to the neck.

Tsetse flies and the parasitic disease they transmit – sleeping sickness – is something of a mixed blessing for the Serengeti. European colonisers avoided the area, sparing the wildlife the worst of the ravages it was subjected to elsewhere. However sleeping sickness still troubles the inhabitants of the villages hemming the park edges. Easy to treat if caught early, it is difficult to diagnose and impossible without appropriate healthcare. Hence the traps in this remote eastern corner of the park.

Perhaps the migrating herds are as big an attraction for the flies as for the tourists. Silent in our open-top jeep, we watched as wildebeest kettled themselves on a broad lip of earth overhanging a chocolate-brown river. The biggest and boldest tarried hardly at all, crashing through the group to hurtle into the water below, where they kept to the centre of the crowd of swimmers. Meanwhile, the current was bearing smaller animals sideways, dragging them closer to flotillas of log-like crocodiles and further from dry land. The hot air was thick with the cow-like calls of separated mothers and calves.

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In the long, yellowed grass on our side of the riverbank, a lioness swivelled her head left, right and left again as wildebeest after wildebeest, streaming water, charged past her. Here and there, uneaten corpses showed it is not only foxes that get carried away in the presence of such plenty.

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When the sun was half-gone below the horizon, we started the engine to drive past the stragglers – young calves, mostly, still calling with hollow desperation for their mothers. I tried not to think of the lioness on the riverbank. The road took us away from the great herd, which was heading north towards the greenness of the Maasai Mara, but not from all of their hangers-on.

I heard the buzzing first, beside my left ear, and flapped a hand at the sound. Silence. And then I looked down and saw the fly settling on my trousers, somewhere below my hipbone. When it scissor-closed its wings, I knew what it was. I raised my hand again to swat at it but the creature dipped its head as if in prayer, and bit through my trousers and underwear in one quick lunge.

There was blood – a surprising amount – and the bite hurt out of all proportion to the size of the fly but, as the evening deepened into the same indigo-blue as those tsetse fly traps, I counted myself lucky. I’d be watching for the symptoms, I had no fears about the quality of the medical care available to me – and I was not alone with lions on a riverbank.

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[These events happened almost ten years ago so I’m guessing I’m safe from sleeping sickness. The piece was inspired by a sort out of my photographs on a cold day, when the heat, dust and indigo blues of the Serengeti seemed like a lifetime and another world away. Sadly, sleeping sickness continues to be a threat in much of sub-Saharan Africa and, to my knowledge, the campaign against tsetse flies is ongoing.]

Friday fictioneers – Over the chain

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PHOTO PROMPT © CEayr

‘Step over it,’ he said, when his daughter hesitated before the chain. ‘No-one must know we’re here.’

‘But Mama-’

Her mother, leaning over her swollen belly like it was the bed she’d been longing for, said, ‘I’ll manage. Do as he says.’

The door gave way with a shove and, with another, gentler this time, the girl was inside the grey space, her nose wrinkling against some smell she couldn’t identify.
‘Bats,’ Mama said, over the chain and already on her knees in a pile of ancient straw that squeaked and rustled. ‘Pull the door closed.’ Her voice came in pants. ‘It’s almost time.’

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If you’d like to write your own 100 word story inspired by the picture, click here, or  here to read other people’s.

Friday fictioneers -Playing the Palais

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PHOTO PROMPT © Björn Rudberg

Jim played the Palais that last evening. He pressed his cheek to the neck of his double bass, the strings plotting out where his beard might one day grow, and called to the girl in the green dress who was pretending not to cry, ‘They say it’s only ’til Christmas. We’ll play again then!’

Two months later, as the damp English countryside unrolled outside a train carriage, Jim took the whisky the nurse offered. ‘Come dancing tomorrow night,’ he said. ‘I’ll be back with my bass.’

He didn’t ask her what was underneath the huge white paws at the ends of his arms.

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Friday fictioneers: Overheard

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Image © Sandra Crook

Nodding at the old lady at the next table, the woman said, in a voice that wasn’t enough of a whisper, ‘She must have been lovely when she was younger.’

The subject of her remark looked up. ‘People said similar when I was a child,’ she said. ‘Isn’t she going to be a beauty?’ She smiled, as if the memory amused her. ‘Although it never happened, thank goodness.’

The woman clutched her orange juice like it was a life preserver. ‘I’m sorry. I-‘

Over her champagne glass, the old lady shook her head. ‘Why be sorry? One stands out so much more if one looks unconventional.’

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If you’d like to write your own 100 word story inspired by the picture, click here, or here to read other people’s.

Friday fictioneers – Off route

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Image © Jean L. Hays

‘Has she been through here? Yesterday? In a station wagon?’ Nina flipped open her wallet and pointed at the photo of the white-haired lady. ‘She’s got Alzheimers. She shouldn’t be driving. But-’

The mechanic bent over and squinted. ‘No, but I’ve seen this dame.’ He tapped a finger, its nail rimmed with black grease, over another photo. ‘The car, too. Couldn’t forget a car like that. Yesterday, like you said.’

Nina stepped back. In the snapshot, the same woman, forty years younger, her hair still red, leaned against a Model T Ford parked under an acacia tree somewhere very far from Route 66.

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If you’d like to write your own 100 word story inspired by the picture, click here, or here to read other people’s.