WILD GRASS

BOB CURBY

Author, Editor & Publisher

AFTER LET SLEEPING LIONS LIE CAME "WILD GRASS"

These are anecdotal stories of a colonial boy growing up in Central Africa. Each chapter is a separate story, except chapters 7, 8, & 9. There is no chronological order so you can open this book anywhere and read a story without 'losing the plot'. Be warned some chapters contain graphic details from road traffic accidents and there may be some adult content. This book is NOT for the squeamish, it might give you nightmares. The book should not be read by anyone with a nervous disposition, alone at night.

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

To whet your apetite - here is an excerpt....

WILD GRASS - by Bob Curby...

Chapter 1

 

I stood in my leathers watching the sun rise over the distant city of Lusaka. The air was heavy with the morning dew and the smell of the charcoal burners that had filled the air with wispy smoke all night. I sniffed it; it always was a pleasure to breathe in the early morning air out in the 'wetlands' of Makeni, seventeen kilometres west of the capital city Lusaka. I glanced down at my watch, it was 6:45. I had to be at work by 8:00, there was plenty of time.

Before I could sit down at that desk I had to get to the main road, and, even though only six kilometres away, the journey was never an easy one. Our own road, 780 metres long, was not even a gravel track; it was a mess of deep tyre tracks, ruts from the Landrover in the rainy season. Having to ride a motorcycle down that track was like trying to hop along a tightrope.

I rubbed my hands, remembering the bruises from the last ride, just twenty-four hours earlier. I fell down six times on that short stretch; the bike showed the signs, blobs of mud, strands of grass, a few leaves, and little scratches everywhere. It annoyed me every time I had to ride down it. A few weeks back my wheels caught in the ruts and deposited me with great force onto very hard, dirty black earth, I had stormed into my father's place of work and exploded in his face.

"Look at my hands; look at my clothes, that road has taken me down again! My bike's a mess, another bent footrest, I am sick of it!"

My father had not helped when told me simply to ride either side of the ruts.

"Look Rob, we're out in the sticks, the soil is very waxy, we're in the wetlands, and you know it is impossible to do anything about the road without a lot of cash being paid to some contractor. Why don't you ride one side or the other, next to the field?"

I had angrily responded, "That would be fine if you and your men at least drove in a straight line instead of weaving about like you'd been on the piss!"

I had stormed out again spitting words of dissent over my shoulder. I was suitably chastised later in the day, back at home, and warned not to embarrass my dad in front of colleagues again.

Taking his advice, I tried once to ride between the outermost left hand rut and the two-metre tall savannah grass, or 'elephant grass' as the locals called it. That was a disaster.

I could not see the tree stump in the long grass and when my left footrest hit it at about thirty kilometres per hour, the bike's weight combined with mine was too much for the pedal strut. It was bent backwards. My foot was driven hard into the iron-like dry stump of the old Mopani tree. Three toes suffered fractures and the bike was forced into a ninety degree left turn, depositing me onto the hard ruts before careering forty metres through the tall grass, finally coming to rest in the middle of the remains of an old corrugated hut that had fallen down years before. I was so angry that day, I set fire to the field on the opposite side and watched the fire rage through the long grass, whipped by the ever blowing East wind that gives Lusaka its name (in the Nyanja language Lusaka means 'Valley of the Winds'). That was not such a brilliant idea, that fire went twenty-eight kilometres through the Savannah and a few of our neighbours' crops went with it. It was just fortunate that no properties were damaged and no livestock died. I had to get a neighbour to take me to hospital to have the toes attended to and I lost a couple of days' work.

I looked down once again at the rutted road, rubbed the painful bits on my hands and knees as if I could still feel the bruises, and found the fresh ones from the previous day, when I had been unceremoniously dumped on the earth three times before I escaped from that apology for a roadway. These memories fresh in my mind, I pulled on my helmet and stepped up to the big bike, inserted the key and watched as the instruments lit up. One kick was all that the well-serviced engine needed to burst into life. I muttered to myself once again just how ridiculous the first five kilometres of my journey would be, at an average speed of forty kilometres per hour on a bike built to cruise at a hundred and thirty kph. Getting out of our road was not the end of the matter. I felt my stomach tighten with dread at the thought of traversing the stretch of road that passed by Kanjombe Stores, about half way to the main road. There, the two dogs, part German Shepherd and part Rhodesian Ridgeback, would try to puncture my front tyre with their teeth, and if that didn't work, one of them would try a leg while the other went for the seat and my fleshy backside sat upon it. I stood astride the bike, sighed, pulled down the visor, and eased up the stand as I flicked first gear into the box. As the clutch bit and the throttle raised the revs to just over 1000, I had a sense of foreboding. Something did not seem quite right. I pulled the clutch back in, placed my feet on the ground and blipped the throttle. The engine seemed fine. I checked out the tyres, the brakes and flicked through each one of the six gears. Everything was sweet and responsive in the way it always had been.

Still I had a strange feeling about the bike. I could not put my finger on it or guess why. Once again, I selected first gear and released the clutch. In a few moments, I was negotiating the ruts, going down twice and grazing one sleeve of my leather jacket in the process. A few more near misses and then I was out on the gravel track that lead past The Cross Cow dairy farm on the way to the road from Makeni Quarry to the tarred main road.

I was thinking about the dogs at Kanjombe Stores as I gently opened the throttle, accelerating up to around thirty-five kph. The moment I was about to drop into 2nd gear, the very event I was having bad feelings about decide to manifest itself.........

 

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