The first rule of the jungle when you get lost is that you should stop and take in all the details of your surroundings. Seem like I had forgotten that. I paced around confidently as I summoned all my navigator knowledge from the boy-scout expeditions I had undertaken as a child to be of help. I had decided to take a sanitary detour into the bushes and had been determined to go as deep into the forest as I possibly could to avoid any funny coincidences with that locals. It was only after finishing my business when I stood up to go back that I realized I could not tell left from right of this thick forest. To be in hot soup is better than what I found myself in. What if I fell prey to hungry beasts of the jungle, thieves and murderers included? So many questions without answers filled my dull head.
The slow confident walk had now turned into a desperate and confused walk. All the navigation skills that I thought I possessed had bailed out on me. The only sane voice in my head was telling me to keep walking and I so I followed its advice. All the other voices were now cussing out derogatory insults at me.
I was now getting even more weary and I seemed getting deeper and deeper into the dark forest. The tall trees were beginning to shade off any sunshine that seemed eager to reach my skin and eventually my soul. I was losing all hope now and was about to start screaming for help when I saw a smartly dressed man sitting under a Musasa tree. He seemed as if he was hiding from something. I beckoned to him and he was shocked to see me. He reached under his jacket as if in a notion to produce a weapon at me. His eyes portrayed a sense of hopelessness and the courage of a mouse backed into a corner by a cat. I quickly raised up my hands.
“Are you from around here?” he asked me.
“No, I’m afraid I have lost my way around here, sir. I was on my way to Harare by foot. My name is Cassy.” I replied as my eyes searched, vainly, for the thing wanted to produce at me. Hearing this, his face lightened up.
“Well, you are in luck, I am going to Harare and stopped to attend to the call of nature when the natives attacked me and I had to flee for my dear life.” He said as he showed me a scratched hand and bruised palms. “My car is over there. I hope you can drive. The name’s John, by the way.”
I just nodded my head as I helped him to his feet and made way to where his car was.
When we got there, I was elated to find the latest Mercedes Benz. To be able to drive a Merc was a thing I could only dream of. John tossed me the keys and offered to sit in the backseat as he wanted some rest. I started the car and headed straight for Harare. We hadn’t even travelled thirty kilometers when a police car sounded its siren at us. Naturally I was to stop but John edged me on as he said that there would be no fun if there was no chase. To top it all off, he called me a chicken and thus provoked my usually senseless sense of pride in driving. I stepped on the gas pedal and felt the front of the car nudge forward as the engine experienced a sudden increase in torque. By a glance of the windshield rear view mirror, I saw John enthusiastically scribbling something down. I could see the speedometer needle rise up as if it was being controlled by a magnet. I glanced back again at John’s paper and made out the words “HELP ME!” I now realized the game that John was playing at me. He wasn’t hiding from the natives but the police. This car wasn’t his but it was a stolen vehicle. I knew if I stopped, I could be shot at the scene so I kept pressing down the gas pedal. The car made two dangerous swerves as I negotiated curves but it was still fine. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a group of children crossing the main tarred road with their granny. I made a sudden heavy thud on the brakes and the car screeched to a halt. The police soon caught up and bundled me out of the car. One policeman read me my Miranda rights and arrested me for theft and kidnapping. I tried to explain myself but I was handed a slap that gave my brain a shake. Meanwhile, I saw John making a witness’ statement and he was given a blanket by the paramedics. The people who had gathered seemed to feel pity towards John and unrepentant hatred for me. I was quickly taken to the police station and all I received in response to my innocence pleas were sneers and hatred. As soon as I arrived the detective-in-charge took one look at me and gave the other policeman one strong slap on the cheek.
“This is why I told you to study the case and not gamble all day! We want John Zhaka not some greedy youth who fell into one of his numerous tricks. Now re-take his statement and see how we can catch this bastard!”
The detective did as he was told and after repeating my story I was let go. The detective caught up with me as I exited the station. Tired and hungry, I was now walking lackadaisically.
“Son, just how did you know John that you had to drive for him?” he asked me.
“Just a stranger I met on the way, sir. Just a stranger I met on the way.”
All he could do was to sneer at me. How could he not, when I had almost died due to a stranger. Life can be very funny at times.