Jon T. Peterson
Two Tales, One Lion
James rolled over on his side across the expansive bed. His mind was still emerging from the fog of a dream and his hands clutched the soft sheets. In the distance he was aware of a sound. An undulating UUUnnnHHH, uhhh, uhhh, uhhh came to him from somewhere in the darkness. He knew the sound. The roar of a lion. As a child he came to know this majestic animal from watching countless shows on television. That is why he was here now. He wanted to see a lion, in the flesh, in Africa. Now fully awake he tilted his head slightly trying to fix its position. There was only silence now and wondered if he would hear it again. He waited for a few minutes and was starting to loll back to sleep when he heard it a second time. He tried to imagine the lion with its head up, mouth open and tongue laid bare against its teeth. He thought about the approaching dawn and whether the guide could find it on the morning game drive. James imagined capturing this magnificent animal in a still frame. He wanted something to show the other bankers in the firm. He wanted bragging rights. The noise came again but this time quieter and less pronounced. "It is headed away" he thought. Disappointment started to creep into his mind. Would he be able to get that shot, so close that he could see individual hairs in its mane? Or would he be cheated of the chance to finally see a lion? After several minutes he heard it for the last time. It was even further away and seemed to be headed in a different direction. "Damn", he cursed out loud.
Tinashe awoke at the sound of the lion. It was some distance away but closer than he liked. Shifting slightly on the thin sleeping mat, he thought about what others in the village had told him. An older male had been crossing over from the park in to the communal lands more and more frequently. This had people on edge. No one liked the thought of a lion around the village. Uhh....uhh...uhh. The lion was closer now and Tinashe started to worry. His mind flashed quickly to the first time he had seen a lion. As a young boy it was his responsibility to check on the goats each day. One morning, before dawn, he saw a dark silhouette with eyes that shone yellow. A spasm of fear shot through him as he recognized the shape of a predator. He was still frozen in place when the cat turned and disappeared silently. Bringing his mind back to the present he thought about his own goats. He prayed that the lion wouldn't try to pluck one from the kraal. He couldn't afford to lose a single goat. He thought about the axe and the dented metal cooking pot he had. He knew he couldn't fight the lion but maybe he could make enough noise to drive it away. He reached for the axe. He needed to feel it in his hands. The worn handle gave him the little comfort it could. He sat as still as possible, feeling as fragile as an eggshell. For several agonizing minutes he strained hear any indication of the lion. Finally, he heard a short roar but the sound had carried from further away. "He has moved south", he thought. "Good", he whispered.