Miss Mary, who
meets her lion under less than ideal conditions, to the considerable hazard of
G.C., the head
Game Ranger for the area, who takes Miss Mary to her moment of
Hairy Steele, a
Kenya police official with grave concerns who is on hand as the shooting
gunbearer, who is more of a comrade in arms when the time comes to
Charo, Miss Mary's
gunbearer, who tries to convince her that what has happened has happened.
I sat by the fire
in an old pair of pajamas from Idaho, tucked into a pair of worn mosquito boots
made in Hong Kong and wearing a warm wool robe from Pendleton, Oregon and drank
a whisky and soda made from a bottle of whisky Mr. Singh had given me as a
present and boiled water from the stream that ran down from the mountain
animated by a syphon cartridge made in Nairobi.
stranger here." I thought. But the whisky said no and it was the time of
day for the whisky to be right. Whisky can be as right as it can be wrong and
it said I was not a stranger and I knew it was correct at this time of night.
Anyway my boots had come home because they were made of ostrich hide and I
remembered the place where I had found the leather in the bootmaker's in Hong
Kong. No it was not me who found the leather. It was someone else and then I
thought about who had found the leather and about those days and then I thought
about different women and how they would be in Africa and how lucky I had been
to have known fine women that loved Africa. I had known some really terrible
ones who had only gone there to have been there and I had known some true
bitches and several alcoholics to whom Africa had just been another place for
more ample bitchery or fuller drunkenness. The bitches only hunted men although
they shot other animals and the alcoholics blamed their rummyhood on the
altitude. But they were just as drunk at sea level.
always had some great tragedy which had caused them to drink beyond reason but
all of those I had known before their great tragedies had been rummies then
too. The white male rummies in Africa were about as boring as the ex-rummies.
With one exception I know no greater bore than the former alcoholic. Beside him
the impotent man, the former forger, the retired panderer, the reformed card
cheat, the ex-chief of police, the former Labor Government minister, a former
noncareer ambassador to a Central American country, an aging official of Moral
Re-Armament, an interim French Premier, ex-royalty, a former radio political
commentator, a retired evangelist, a dedicated big game angler complete with
statistics, an unfrocked priest or a professional ex-Communist are figures of
blinding interest and charm.
I thought of that
last former alcoholic I had met in Nairobi. He was very hearty and at once
asked me to have a drink. They hang about bars at crowded hours taking up the
place that might be occupied by an honest drinker and while they sip their
tomato juice or barley water and nutmeg they look at the drinkers with that
look of the ex-alcoholic which is compounded of Moral Re-Armament, crossed with
one third marabou stork and a third of the curiosity of the fashionable
undertaker who is a little overdrawn at his bank.