If this were a movie we'd now have a flashback to me as a ten year old girl. Grubby, gangly, big kneed. Legs and face streaked with dirt. Feral creature that I was. My friend Luke and I are going to Caro's house in the cropping compound not far from camp. Luke is quite a few years younger than me but we are fast and firm friends. We walk along the bank of the ox-bow lagoon, the hippos grunting below munching past the nile cabbage. We pass the baobab tree where we munch on the fruit when it's in season; crack open the furry green shell and eat the pulpy white powder inside until our teeth go all furry. We pass the wildlife offices with the room filled with rhino skulls. And on to Caro's house.
Caro is Luke's nanny and we often go to her place and hang out, play with the other kids in the compound. The cropping compound is where the game scouts mostly live. Its a collection of small brick houses, red polished floors. That funny knobbled cement finish on the outside that seemed to be the trend in the '70s in that part of the world. There are a couple of small smokey grass cooking huts, dark and eye stingy when you go inside. On the far edge is a little makeshift veggie garden with a few scraggy greens pushing their way through the soil. Its surrounded by a grass fence to keep the elephants and baboons out...not that it does. In the middle of the compound is a water pump. The kind that you need to pump a handle up and down until the water comes gushing out.
Caro is not from here, I think she feels like a bit of an outsider. She's from town, she wears jeans. Looking back on it now I think she was probably quite lonely, I don't think she was very popular. But Luke and I adore her. Her house is like all the others but is special to us because it's hers. She has a couple of old rusty milk powder tins outside with elephant ears growing in them and a couple of hardy creepers clinging to her wall.
She keeps ducks. They hiss and waddle about the place chattering up bits of whatever they can find in the skanky water. Her ducks have babies. They are soft and downy and very very cute. She gives Luke and I one each that we keep at her place and visit when we're over. Mine is brown and yellow and fluffy and adorable.
One day we're playing by the water pump. Running around and around the cement base chasing each other. The game is fun and we're laughing that belly laugh that kids can do so well. I'm running away or maybe I'm chasing, I forget. Suddenly I tread on something and I slip. I skid for a good couple of metres (it seems) on my baby duck. Squashed. Red, raw and slippery. I can still feel that moment now, the absolute horror of what I'd just done. Slapstick and tragedy in one fell swoop.
If this were the movies there's be some profound reason for this flashback, cleverly linking in to the story as a whole. But it's not and it doesn't. Except maybe that its one other little experience that's made me me.
I'm glad Tom and Lara didn't repeat this little incident on EFC beloved little puppy.