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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Africa (03/05/09)

TITLE: Her Safari
By
03/11/09


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We drove through the tall grasses in our rented Land Rover, my straw-colored hair lashing at my cheeks. Each time my brother, Brian, hit a dip in the terrain he’d laugh as my backside lifted off the worn leather and dropped back down hard. Diriku, our Botswanan tracker, braced himself behind us, but said nothing. The Great White Hunter was in charge even if he was a rat of a sixteen-year-old boy.

I wished again that my father hadn’t remained at camp. I wondered if he’d deliberately taken his malaria tablet on my brother’s big day. Maybe he was passing the baton to someone he thought worthy. My father had the kind of mind that developed theories the scientific community mulled over, but that mind was absent when it came to judging Brian.

Judgment, for me, though was becoming ever clearer.

Two weeks on the savannah had expanded my five senses to the place where I felt more human—more primal—than I could ever remember feeling. The musk of the blue wildebeest, the woosh of an impala, the throaty rumble of a leopard in the cacophony of the night, had all contributed. A sixth sense had even appeared—emotional in nature. It helped me know that this safari—this journey— was not mine. It was Brian’s.

If I had any doubt, I could look down at my clothing. I was wearing the maroon bell-bottoms and Thom McAnns I usually wore to school. It was Brian, younger by a year, who my father had outfitted with utility pants, vest, hat, and boots.

“There—” said Diriku, as we crested a rise with too much speed.

I looked to our left where the black, tapered finger pointed. Brian yanked the steering wheel, adding to our turbulent ride. Fifty yards east of a copse of acacia trees, a dark anomaly appeared in the landscape. It was the circle we’d burned four days earlier in the butter yellow grasses. The resulting new growth was supposed to attract attention. I was adjusting my binoculars when the jeep came to an abrupt stop, well short of the trees.

“What are you doing!” I yelled, righting myself back onto the seat.

“We’re here, aren’t we?” Brian held his palm up over his shoulder, waiting for Diriku to hand over the 350 Weatherby Magnum. I got out, kicked the door shut, and grabbed my rifle from the back, angry that I’d settled for a twenty-gauge shot gun and bird license.

That’s when Diriku hushed us, nodding at a wave of movement alongside the green ring. A wart hog appeared at the edge. It must have been among the acacia at the watering hole. It stood frozen, having spotted us, and my neck stiffened in response. Then out from the trees a lion flew and within seconds tumbled onto the wart hog. They rolled out of sight before twisting back into the ring.

“Shoot, Mr. Brian,” said Diriku, his voice ever even, and my brother obeyed. The report of the enormous rifle pierced my left ear—my plug must have fallen out. An instant ringing sounded. It took a minute to see that both the wart hog and lion lay unmoving. I couldn’t believe it; my brother had hit them both.

The three of us climbed back into the vehicle. Brian crept to within fifteen feet of the slain creatures before cutting the engine. We got out slowly, rifles in hand, Diriku just behind us. Three steps forward and the lion reared its head and shoulders. The roar expressed from his inflated lungs blew past us. He might as well have been an elephant in our faces—the force so incredibly strong.

Bile coated my throat.

“His hind quarters are paralyzed, Mr. Brian. Shoot.” Diriku’s words warbled in the vacuum, but Brian wasn’t moving.

I raised my rifle. Small as it was, I had seen what it could do. I imagined my father’s arms encircling me, telling me how proud he was. How sorry he was that he’d always overlooked me by putting his love in someone less deserving.

I was following the procedures he’d taught—pausing mid-breath—butt into the shoulder pocket—second joint squeezing the trigger—when I felt my determination exhaust itself.

Why?

Was it pity? Acceptance?

“Brian!” I called, “he’s yours—shoot.”


For twenty-five years I’ve relived that moment. The moment I realized I couldn’t make my father see me, anymore than my father could make Brian into something he was not.


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Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 03/12/09
Incredible twist. Well done.
Beth LaBuff 03/12/09
This description is great (saying so much…with few words) , "My father had the kind of mind that developed theories the scientific community mulled over, but that mind was absent when it came to judging Brian." Wow… youR ending caught me totally by surprse... Such wisdom! Your title, in retrospect, is PERFECT!
Sonya Leigh03/13/09
Such an excellent story, full of humor and adventure and, whammo! some amazing stuff of life in between it all. How did you do that? I was at the edge of my seat...this was a terrific read. Very well done.
Gregory Kane03/13/09
It's interesting how the passing of time affects society's views on a subject. Hemingway wrote 70 years ago about big game hunting and his prose was celebrated. Here we have a teenager slaughtering a lion and my immediate reaction is one of 'what a waste!'
Yet I can't fault the writing. It truly is excellent and the twist at the end was wonderfully done. I do have to ask however what that dad was doing letting his kids go off on their own - what if the vehicle had broken down, leaving them vulnerable to predators?!!
Jan Ackerson 03/13/09
Superb writing, truly edge-of-the-seat suspense, and vivid psychological insights...I didn't see any waste, as I'm certain that the lion would be taken back to Diriku's village and every part of it used, much as our native Americans were resourseful with bison. The story isn't the lion, at any rate, it's the lyrically rendered story of the relationships within a family. Excellent!
Sheri Gordon03/13/09
Wow, so much is packed into this. The way you presented the family dynamics is amazing...without the father even really being in the picture. And the whole tracking/hunting suspense was written very well. Very good job with the topic.
Catrina Bradley 03/13/09
Wow! What an adventure! I was so afraid the lion was going to get them! I'm sad for your MC who will always seem less to her father because she is just a girl, even tho she's a better person than her brother.
Chely Roach03/13/09
This was phenomenal...and the last two lines were amazing. Loved it!
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/14/09
Wonderful story--all the way through--ready to be published. Did I hear someone say "Hemingway"?
Joanne Sher 03/16/09
This definitely felt Hemingwayish - great descriptions and characterizations. Excellent.
Mona Purvis03/16/09
I felt the struggle. It was real and still raw after many years. Her journey continued, I see that. Strong writing. Alot between the lines, food for thought.
Mona
Karlene Jacobsen 03/16/09
Incredible. I liked the twist at the end. Her realization that situation with her dad would not change and her relinquishing the kill to her brother. Admirable, though tough to do.
Norma-Anne Hough 03/17/09
Well done. Excellent writing.
Connie Dixon03/17/09
I love this story. (I could just picture your mc riding along in maroon bell-bottoms and Thom McChans....so teeno-ish) Amazing descriptions and wonderful writing. My favorite: :o)
Christina Banks 03/18/09
I love the twist at the end. Great writing all around. I thought they were gonners when the lion roared at them!
Benjamin Graber03/18/09
Great story! I really like your plot line, and the parellel story of what was happening physcially and emotionally for the MC.
Loren T. Lowery03/18/09
"when I felt my determination exhaust itself." This phrase cinched it for me, that this writer knew what they were saying and I was in the hands of a master story teller!
Pamela Kliewer03/18/09
Excellent. What a twist at the end. Good job!
Gary J. Borgstede03/18/09
Excellent writing! I like how the ending depicts the way people can try to prove themselves through works and competition until they come to a place of total surrender and grace.
Diana Dart 03/20/09
Wow, wow, wow. This was chock full of plot, twisting my emotions and raising my blood pressure. Adventurous and fast paced. I wish I knew how to describe scenes like you do... the part about the five senses was fantastic. My only comment is a slap to my own head - I didn't catch the "Her Safari" inference and so didn't know the whole male/female dynamic until the end (and yet the tension and resentment was there and I was involved with it). My own bad. Fantastic story.