A cyclone? Rudd stares at the moth-eaten tar, at the emptiness, at the sun-faded bush. Here? No. Surely not? Mozambique? Sometimes. But not here. And not this weekend. No. She must have heard that wrong. She’s tired. Confused. Getting old. Never even been here before.
Simi sighs. She shakes her head.
“I should’ve gone to Victoria Falls. If I’d had the money I would’ve. Elephants. Infinity pools. Luxury. Perfect.”
Rudd knows she’s not talking to him, but he thinks he should say something. He rubs a hand through his hair.
“Everyone loves the lodge,” he tries.
“Hmm. Maybe. I hope it’s worth it. How much longer?”
“Half an hour. Max.”
She sighs again.
Rudd wonders what his assistant manager, Tonderai, will think. He knows he’ll be expecting the lady from London to be white. The thought cheers him up.
“Not much chance of sleep is there, with roads like these?”
“Not really. I’ll take it steady. That might help.”
Rudd likes this bit of the journey – the small villages, the signs of life.
There is a roadside store ahead. An old car, pulls out from the bus-stop beside it. The vehicle is crammed with passengers. Rudd slows down. There is a juggle of heads above the back seat, and the car’s suspension is sagging, which pushes its bonnet higher than its back. He can hear a loud rattling coming from the exhaust, which he sees is swinging loose.
Rudd is about to put his foot down to overtake the car when its rear door suddenly flies open, and a child drops out. In a fraction of a fraction of a second, he brakes, Simi shrieks, and the child hangs suspended, legs flailing, as shouting adults drag it back. Then the car door slams shut, and the driver puffs on, unaware of the drama.
“What?” Simi, snapped upright in her seat, has her hands rigid on the dashboard.
Rudd whistles, his heart thumping. He accelerates to pass wide of the car.
Simi spins round to follow the lopsided vehicle
“Did a … did a … did a child just fall out?”
“Looked like it to me. But they saved it.”
“What? How many in that car? Seven?”
Rudd checks the rearview mirror. Through its small rectangle he tries to count.
“Maybe eight or nine? At least two kids in the front by the adults. The same, maybe more, in the back.” He sees the driver is an old man, with a pork pie hat on head.
Simi turns, eyes hot with horror.
“Eight or nine? No seatbelts?”
“I don’t think my heart can take this.”
He glances sideways and sees her, head high, like a startled kudu, her hand over her kaftaned chest. He wants to laugh, but doesn’t.
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2023
I’m enjoying your story! xoxo
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Kate thanks so much for reading. It’s a work in progress and I really appreciate the company. Thank you!