Friday 5 February 2016
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An African Tale chapter 9 continued

The Hills were starting to become uncomfortable and he needed to move. There was hardly any water left and very little vegetation, so that his vast army of corn crickets and other strange creatures were slowly dying off. He was looking east at the lush Delta area, which would be a far better place to set up house. Bosula was so selfish and self-centered that he didn’t realise that the reason The Hills were becoming so uncomfortable was entirely his own fault. When he had first arrived there, there had been a deep well with beautiful, clear, fresh water. There had also been plenty of vegetation, and the people who lived in the area had grazed their cattle without any problem. Now, however, because of the corn crickets and Bosula’s disinterest in anything environmental he had created a huge dust bowl around The Hills. When the rain did come, because of the lack of vegetation, it didn’t sink into the ground, thus filling up the underground wells; it created huge gullies and wash ways, making it almost impossible for even the toughest plants to grow. When the corn crickets had eaten everything they could possibly eat, they became very disgruntled and Bosula had to bring grass in from far away to feed them. This was all becoming very tiresome, which was why he was looking east to the Delta to relocate his kingdom. Of course if he carried on in the same manner there he would create the same situation a few years down the line, but that was the least of his worries.

Lesedi was nervously mulling over all these stories in his head as they sped along above the river. The cart was making good progress towards Seronga and it looked as if they would be there as planned before the sun came up. Suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, it fell straight out of the sky and landed in the middle of the river. There was pandemonium. The donkeys were trying to swim, something they weren’t very good at, Lorato was trying to pull them up with the reins, and Kgatwe got such a fright he scrambled on top of Lesedi’s head babbling on about Bosula. Lesedi was frozen solid. He had his eyes fixed on the bank where an enormous crocodile was giving them the evil eye.

“Keep quiet, Kgatwe, I can’t concentrate,” shouted Lorato. “Now why did this happen? Oh, there’s the problem!” Ahead of them floated a motor boat seemingly with no driver.

“But there’s no one in it,” said Lesedi, taking his eyes off the crocodile for a minute to look at the boat. “I thought the only way we couldn’t fly was if someone looked at us?”

“There is someone in it,” said Lorato. “Obviously the sight of a flying donkey cart gave him such a shock he fainted and now he is lying at the bottom of the boat.”

As the boat passed them Lesedi could see a pair of feet sticking out. He wanted to laugh but then felt that maybe this wasn’t the right time, especially as the crocodile had now slid off the bank and he couldn’t see it.

“I think we had better get this cart in the air before whoever that was wakes up and realises he wasn’t dreaming,” yelled Kgatwe, still firmly lodged on Lesedi’s head.

“What do you think I’m trying to do?” replied Lorato irritably. This silly gecko did annoy him sometimes with his statements of the obvious. At this point they had managed to get into shallower water and the donkeys could stand. They were breathing heavily and Lorato was trying to calm them down. They, too, had seen the enormous crocodile.

“It’s okay. Lesedi gave you the Baobab seed water. The crocodile will stay away from you,” he said soothingly.

Lesedi froze. He had packed the seeds and taken some of the water for himself and Kgatwe but had completely forgotten about the donkeys. He scrambled for the tin box where he had put the seeds. As he did this the cart suddenly lifted into the air and he was thrown forward, knocking his head on the other side, causing Kgatwe to go flying off into the river.

“What on earth…!” exclaimed Lorato, trying to maintain his balance and peer over the edge of the cart. “Oh! A hippo!”

A hippo had somehow come up underneath them and they were now balancing precariously on its back. Kgatwe was swept away into the reeds, shouting furiously for help.

“Use your sizing powers,” yelled Lorato. “What’s wrong with everybody? I can’t keep this whole show together all by myself!”

“I can’t when I’m in a panic!” Kgatwe shouted back.

“For goodness sake! Take a deep breath or something.” The hippo was starting to move, causing the cart to rock. Lesedi was still trying to get the Baobab seeds out of the tin trunk.
“It’s too late for that now” shouted Lorato, realising what had happened. “Here comes the crocodile!”

The crocodile had surfaced next to the cart with its mouth wide open ready to snap at Mary’s bottom. She took one look at this and leapt into the air, dragging James and the cart with her. The crocodile’s jaw closed on thin air and rather disappointed that he had lost a tasty meal turned and snapped at the hippo. The hippo, which was in no mood for this after having come up underneath the cart, chased after him down the river.

Lesedi sat dejectedly at the bottom of the cart, rubbing the bump on his head. He felt guilty about forgetting to give the donkeys the Baobab seed water. Suddenly he jumped up, setting the cart into a wobble.

“What about Kgatwe?” he shouted, pulling at Lorato’s arm.

“Steady on there,” said Lorato, trying to keep things on course. “He’ll be fine. We’ll double back and get him. I just want to make sure that motor boat is far enough away. I don’t want to go tumbling down again; this time we may not be so lucky.”

Lesedi wouldn’t have called what happened lucky but then his grandfather had a strange way of looking at things.

They circled around carefully. The motor boat could be seen further down the river. Lorato brought the cart down low so that they were hidden by the trees. The occupant of the boat had started to come around and was trying to get his bearings. He was a tourist from America by the name of Paul, who was staying at one of the camps in the Delta. He had been told very clearly by the manager, Thabo, that he should not go out on the river at night as it was dangerous. Thabo had mentioned something about Bosula and Paul had laughed, saying he did not believe in such things. As Paul opened his eyes at the bottom of the boat he remembered seeing…? But, no, that was not possible… He glanced furtively up at the sky. An owl flew over, a bad omen according to Thabo. He felt a shiver go down his spine; maybe he should have listened to him. Then BANG! It hit him and that was the last he ever knew. The hippo, having been irritated by the cart and then by the crocodile, was now taking her frustrations out on the motor boat. With one big mighty crunch she bit it in half. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on who you were, Paul suffered the same fate and so was never able to relate his strange tale and Thabo could say “I told him so!”

As Lorato guided the cart down into the lagoon where they had been they saw Kgatwe. He had obviously got over his panic and used his sizing powers. He was now enormous, much bigger than the crocodile, and at that size would never fit in the cart.
“That gecko!” sighed Lorato. “Always has to overdo things. Resize!” he shouted down to Kgatwe as they flew over. Kgatwe suddenly disappeared. Lesedi looked around frantically for him. Had something even bigger than the enormous crocodile swallowed him? Then they saw him. He was down to normal size and floating on a lily pad, swishing his tail around trying to get their attention. Lesedi grabbed his fishing basket and as Lorato flew down low over the water he scooped him up and tipped him into the cart where he landed with a plop at the bottom.

“Knew I should have stayed at home,” he muttered, climbing wet and bedraggled into Lesedi’s pocket.

Lorato pulled the cart up high into the air and they sped off up the river in a northerly direction.

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