An attempt to produce a poem or story from now until the end of April (except Sundays).
The theme for the 2022 A to Z Challenge is the human condition.
We watched the hippos or river horses (as Swinging Cindy from Vermont insisted we call them) lolling in the shallows of the Zambezi. But our boat steamed past without so much as a waggle of their ears. How cool those beasts looked compared to us, bobbing along in our floating tin hotpot, crammed with what appeared to be a representative from each of America’s states. And like you, our fellow tourists gazed at the scenery with bucolic indifference.
Except for grumpy Ohio Edgar who, dabbing his face with a crumpled handkerchief, declared hippopotamuses about as interesting as earthworms. This prompted Leonard the Arizona Kid, he of the thick-lensed glasses, to wax lyrical over the endless fun he had with his wormery. Never did such a harmless-sounding hobby sound so abnormal. His furtive leer and the hitching laugh told me of long pink strings dropped down the fronts of pretty gingham dresses.
You whispered something in my ear, but I didn’t catch it. And we descended into the call-and-response routine that passes for conversation these days. After the fourth or fifth round of what? followed by it doesn’t matter! I realised you were saying something rude about Edgar. If I were the target, you’d have bellowed it out at the top of your voice.
My giggles started when I realised how ridiculous we had become. And as your face morphed into its customary moue of disappointment, my laughter became unstoppable. When I began choking, you flapped your hands and made tutting noises, a picture of outraged embarrassment. In the end, the old lady from Hawaii came to my rescue. She gave me a carton of warm orange juice, which, like her breath, hands and clothes, stank of onions.
You ushered me to the back of the boat. Stern I heard your correction in my head. There you ignored me and pretended to be fascinated by Kendra from Kentucky and her theories about the true parentage of Jim Carrey. And gender. According to Kendra, Jemima Carrey was the love child of Marilyn and JFK. Or maybe it was Elvis.
I didn’t care, and I’d had enough. Were there no ordinary people on this trip? People who didn’t sweat constantly or smell of food they hadn’t eaten?
Our second honeymoon was turning into a disagreeable nightmare. I’m glad I can say, hand on heart, that I enjoyed our first. And I had high hopes for this one. Until I overheard you telling the Kentuckian Klutz that this trip was your idea and you had to bully me into going.
How bloody dare you? You were the one disappointed in life. The one with next to no interest in the concept of togetherness. You were the one who didn’t want to come.
I was on the wrong continent, but all I wanted was to grab a tiger by the tail and beat the old farts, the little tykes and, most of all, you to death with it.