64. The first rule of the jungle when you get lost is…(C.Chikwenje)5 min read

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.