8 Feb

Chapter 9

The African Queen is a triple deck seventy foot catamaran named after the Be Dyango of Mukuni. It is cruise boat made with Rhodesian teak, Beech wood and brass. A look at it in its royal majesty at sunrise or sunset would take your breath away.

That was exactly the sentiments of Illuminada and Sandy as they approached it early the next morning.

‘Each time I see the African Queen I am always filled with awe’, said Illuminada.

‘It sure is beautiful’, Sandy agreed. ‘Wow, to think of all these beautiful things in Africa…’

‘Do you still think my ancestors were monkeys and apes?’ asked Illuminada.

‘Well Darwin says we all came from apes…but no I don’t think that is true. I am sorry I made such assumptions.’

‘Don’t worry about it. Such notions did not start today, but I sure hope it would end someday soon.’

With that Illuminada took Sandy’s hand and the stepped into the Royal Landing. A uniformed waiter handed Illuminada a cold cocktail and a fruit cocktail to Sandy. The place was buzzing with people from different races. A live band was playing some jazz tunes and people moved around saying hello and getting to know each other.

Sandy took a sip of her cocktail. ‘Hmm this is delicious’.

‘It from freshly harvested fruit,’ Illuminada told her. ‘Nothing but the best is served on the African Queen.’

‘This is more than enough evidence’. Sandy conceded. ‘Would I get another one when I am through with this?’

Illuminada laughed and gave her a friendly nudge as they moved to the upper deck. They were shown to a table close to the railings and Sandy settled down gazing at the beautiful waters as she sipped her cocktail.

As they set sail Sandy enjoyed watching the elephants making their way across up ahead. She could also see some hippopotamuses with their mouths wide open.

‘I wonder if Tunya is out there,’ she wondered aloud.

‘Tunya?’ asked Illuminada.

Sandy nodded her head. ‘Yes, that was the hippo that gave me a ride to meet you.’

‘You surely are enjoying yourself on this trip’.

‘I am just pretending the time is standing still and later I would face the reality that awaits me’, Sandy said as her eyes clouded her eyes.

‘You are a good kid,’ Illuminada said kindly. ‘You would be alright.’

After a bit Illuminada said, ‘You know the Be Dyango actually told me about your hippo ride before I set off to meet you.’

‘Did she really?’ asked Sandy quite surprised.

‘Yep, and she said something quite remarkable…’

‘What’s that?’

Illuminada looked her square in the eye. ‘She said you were communicating with the hippo… you are not up to some Dolittle tricks now are you?’

Sandy looked away embarrassed. ‘Of course you know that is not possible…it isn’t normal…I couldn’t do that,’ she stammered.

‘Well I don’t go about calling hippos by name or going for rides on hippo backs,’ Illuminada said offhanded.

Sandy’s face flamed. ‘Actually, that…had never happened to me before…it was strange…a strange experience.’ She turned to face Illuminada. ‘I am sure it is over now.’

‘Hi friend, is that you Sandy?’

Sandy looked around her agitated. ‘Who said that?’

‘Who said what?’ Illuminada gave her a quizzical look.

‘I am out here.’

Sandy got off her chair and rushed to the railing. About ten feet away was Tunya. He was looking at her and she could have sworn that he was grinning.

‘Well hello, Tunya’, Sandy said excitedly oblivious of the stares she was getting.

‘I was wondering when I would get to see you again,’ Tunya told her.

‘Well I really am enjoying myself up here. This is indeed a beautiful place. I really must thank you for the help you gave me after I fell into the Boiling Pot.’

That declaration was greeted by a wild buzz which Sandy could not help but hear. Her embarrassment knew no bounds when she realized that everyone on the deck was listening to a conversation between her and a hippo!

Time stood still as she watched the various expressions on the faces of the onlookers. Some had the ‘Are you alright’ expression, while others wore the ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’ expression.

Sandy turned to Illuminada. Illuminada’s expression was simply unreadable.

Tunya intruded into her thoughts. ‘You are having a hard time with these people, aren’t you?’

She nodded, remembering now that Tunya and she could communicate without words.

‘Just climb over board, I have something very exciting to show you.’

‘Where is that?’ she asked.

‘Somewhere close to Lusaka, it’s the annual ceremony of the Lozi people. It is taking place right now; you don’t want to miss it. Just climb over board and get away from their prying eyes.’

That seemed to help her make up her mind. She had to get away from these eyes that were prying into her…judging her.

She held on to the rails as she passed one foot over it.

‘What do you think you are doing?’ yelled Illuminada in a panicked voice as she got up from her seat.

‘I am sorry,’ apologized Sandy as the other foot also went over the railing.

Someone shouted, ‘Somebody, stop that girl!’ as she took a plunge into the waters of the Zambezi.


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