Sly as a Crocodile – Part 3
It was lonely and quiet in the house without his mother, and all the people who had seemed to constantly follow her around, seeking her attention, food or clothing. Rachel had also retired back to her village, leaving the kitchen sterile and empty. As a child, Eddie had wished the house would be empty, and had run from all the people in it, preferring rather to seek refuge in the quiet bushveld that held few people and was filled with only the noise of insects and animals, and the occasional crack of his rifle as he shot whatever he deemed worthy of death.
Now there was no real reason to run to the bush for quiet – it was quiet here; in the house he had been left. His mother, Mrs Morgan-White had left it all to him, their home and a small amount of money she had saved for him. That was it, that was all.
He’d used the money for drink, and over the past few months since his mother had passed on, the money she had scraped together, has almost disappeared. As Eddie sat on the stoep of the house that looked through the branches of the baobab tree, down the thick green grassy slope, all the way to the racing Zambezi river, he realised, in a rare sober moment that he was about to find himself in a pickle. He could no longer wander into the bush nearby and shoot whatever he wanted. The Rhodesian Government had recently proclaimed Victoria Falls a national park and as a result, hunting was no longer allowed. To hunt for a living, Eddie would have to travel further north, which he had no desire to do. Furthermore, as a result of poor attendance at school, Eddie noted that there wasn’t much he could ‘do’.
Eddie contemplated his options. The sale of his home for money, that he would probably drink away, or else imminent starvation. He continued to stare at the Zambezi, wishing the great waters to help him. As he stared, a large crocodile slithered out of the river and made it’s way to a sand bank on the other side of the river. The creature was sunning itself in the warm morning sun. Eddie shivered, he hated crocodiles – the way they silently crept upon their prey, until they could grab them in their jaws and drag the unsuspecting victim under the brown waters of the river, never to be seen again.
Eddie grabbed his rifle, which was never far from his side, and aimed it at the crocodile. He should shoot it. No one would care. Everyone else also hated them. He aimed and then put the rifle back down. How would he fetch the damn thing if he shot it? He needed a boat. The thought struck him like a cold slap – yes, that’s exactly what he needed – a boat. He could fish from a boat, hunt from a boat. A boat was the answer.
Jumping up, Eddie ran into the house and went straight to his mother’s room. The bedroom cupboards stood wide open, empty, as they had been left weeks ago, when the women had come to collect her clothes and share them amongst the women of the congregation – as his mother had requested. He walked past the cupboards and closed them. How could he have forgotten – mother’s dowry box. He hoped it was still filled with all her trinkets, and that she hadn’t given those to Rachel. Bending over the trunk he pulled the lip up and opened the chest. He ruffled through crumbling linen until he found the silver teapot and china teacups. These would definitely be worth something. Carefully he packed them into the remaining linen and then placed them in his leather hunting satchel. He was going to town.
Eddie had heard all about the new sergeant that had arrived in town recently. The man had brought a boat, from Johannesburg with him – transported it to the falls via train. Unfortunately, on it’s maiden voyage in the Zambezi river, the sergeant’s boat had been hit from underneath by a hippo – it had ripped the hull of the boat and the sergeant had never again used it nor gone back on the water.
With wide, purposeful steps, Eddie made his way to the sergeants house. Once he explained the reason for his uninvited appearance at the man’s opulent home, the sergeant quickly invited Eddie in and asked to see the goods. A man of fine breeding, the sergeant quickly calculated the value of Eddie’s goods and agreed to swap the broken boat for the silver tea set and china. The sergeant couldn’t believe his luck and smiled at Eddie as if he were a half-wit. Eddie on the other hand couldn’t quite believe that the sergeant was really as small minded as everyone had said.
The boat was easily repaired with a few extra planks of wood and bitumen, and in a few short days, Eddie was able to row his boat into the waters of the Zambezi as the last rays of the day streaked purple and orange across the sky. He smiled as he made his way upstream to a crocodile nest he knew well, his rifle next to him, a torch strapped to the front of his boat, a plan forming in his head
This was first published in the Billboard Magazine in April 2020
Part 1 of Sly as a crocodile (short story) can be found here
Part 2 of Sly as a crocodile (short story) can be found here
Part 4 will be released in May 2020.