Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Magpie 4 - Mbaya Hatari


Ceiling fans stirred the sullen heat of a Kenyan midday, setting awhirl  golden motes of the inescapable African dust. It rose in a shimmering haze and then settled back on the heads and shoulders of the three men gathered on the veranda of  the Colonial Club. Humming insects and the barking of baboons in the bush vied with the Victrola's tinny jangle -- the Quintet of the Hot Club of Paris. Unnoticed, the hot animal smell of the jungle prowled and sniffed at the edge of the clearing

A silent native attendant in crisp white garments brought yet another round of gin and tonics to the men engrossed in examining the curious ivory carving that Nigel Cholmondelay, fourth Baron Delamere, had just produced from the capacious pocket of his dusty jodhpurs.

"Ever seen one of these, you chaps?" he asked, setting the little thing in the center of the round table.


Dickie Pembrocke screwed in his monocle and leaned over for a closer look. "It's a bloody elephant -- Of course, we've all seen elephants!  What are you playin' at-"

"Steady on, Dickie, old boy."  The third man laid a restraining hand on his irascible neighbor. "I think what Delamere is asking  pertains to the function, rather than the form, of this object.  Am I correct?"


The taciturn fourth baron nodded and quaffed the rest of his drink.  The native attendant silently materialized with another round.

"Mtu huyu atalipia kila kitu,"* said the third man to the native, pointing to the baron. 

"Yes, Bwana. As you wish." The native grinned at the noted white hunter,  a man known to be as at home in the savannahs and forests of East Africa as the natives who had given him the name Bwana Nguruwe for his great strength and messy eating habits. 

Reaching for the strangely elongated carved elephant, the white hunter ran a reflective finger along the upraised trunk.  "Where did you come by this, Delamere? If I'm not mistaken, it's one of only three in the world -- used in the traditional wedding rituals of the Samburu tribe."

Shaking his head very slightly, the white hunter set the thing back on the table and drained his glass. "Bad show, Delamere.  Old Ijumaa, a witch doctor up near Lake Naivasha, swore that Kubwa Tembo, the  king of all the elephants, would track down anyone who dared to steal the sacred-"

"I say, what's that beastly sound?" Dickie Pembroke's monocle fell from his eye and shattered on the table. Beneath the tan, his foolish, rabbity face was deathly pale.

An angry trumpeting rang out in the clearing around the club house and heavy footfalls thundered toward the veranda where the three white men sat beneath the slowly turning fan.

The golden dust of Africa danced in the air.

This is a magpie tale, written for the prompt of the first picture. For more Magpie Tales, or to join in next week, go HERE.

Swahili Guide*

Mbaya Hatari = big danger
Mtu huyu atalipia kila kitu.  = This gentleman will pay for everything.
Nguruwe = giant forest hog
Ijumaa  = Friday
Kubwa Tembo = big elephant
Gari langu linaloangamu na mikunga. = My hovercraft is full of eels.




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45 comments:

spacedlaw said...

Nice tale. I had not seen anyone making use of the hovercraft translator for ages!

Martin H. said...

Brilliant! Period English perfect. I really enjoyed this...oh, and thanks for the Swahili Guide!

SUN DANCE HILL said...

Wonderful - I was there on that verandah feeling the heat and dust - imagery/tone was excellent; the dialog was great. I love the tale, well done!

Margie said...

Oh my Vicki, I was so drawn in to the story. I love well written period mysteries, and I love the name "Magpie Tale". When I was a young girl we had CB radios and my name was "Magpie". Thank you for the memories.Hugs, Margie.

Vicki Lane said...

Thanks, spacedlaw -- It seemed important to include the eels.

Thanks, Martin -- a lifetime of reading P.G. Wodehouse prepared me for this one. I wonder if others will get the spoof aspect...

Thanks, Sundance!

Margie -- I love the name magpie too. Such fine looking birds!

Lyn said...

A perfect commuppance to come! Will order this movie immediately..black and white, huh?
Thanks for this...

Peter Goulding said...

Yes, yes, yes!
A well-woven story from a true artist. Dust to dust, eh?
I think you should have included the hovercraft line in the narrative!

Pat transplanted to MN said...

Wow an African setting and language....lots of thought into this brief work. Tell me about that translator? I loved the names too. Swahili guide! I learned a lot here on my brief return visit!

Tipper said...

Wonderful-even better after I read the translations : )

The Muse said...

Ah Sir Pelham, oh, I mean Ms Vickie :) What a trail we have wandered upon...and your words flowed like a stream...!!!

Krunal Palande said...

oh, i loved the african setting, excellent narrative, great story...

Vicki Lane said...

Yes, Lyn, probably black and white . . .

You're probably right, Peter. But the piece was getting too long as it was.

Pat, Mr. Google led me to a Swahili phrasebook.

Silly stuff today, Tipper! A little far afield from the mountains.

Thank you, Madame Muse!

And you too, Krunal Palande!

Jennifer said...

Oh Vicki you're good. Love your language, and the dialogue terrific. And almost at the end: "An angry trumpeting rang out in the clearing around the club house and heavy footfalls thundered toward the veranda where the three white men sat beneath the slowly turning fan." What an image! Bravo

Poetikat said...

You've given Blixen and Wodehouse a run for their money (with a bit of Christie thrown in for good measure).
Nice one.

Queenmothermamaw said...

Vickie your professionalism is showing. I loved it. Reminded me of a movie where the elephants got revenge by tramping over the range and I cannot remember the name. Maybe it was "Out of Africa." Great job.
QMM

Queenmothermamaw said...

BTW, I signed up as a follower, but due to a Google glitch I can't seem to figure out I only have a profile on the followers list. What ever, I just go with the flow, but love your blog.
QMM

Mama Zen said...

Excellent!

Vicki Lane said...

Thank you, Jennifer! I love doing dialogue.

Recognize the Wodehouse, do you, Poetikat? And every cliched safari tale that ever existed...

Thanks, QMMM! -- Could it be Elephant Walk you're thinking of? Or maybe Hatari?

Vicki Lane said...

Thank you, Jennifer! I love doing dialogue.

Recognize the Wodehouse, do you, Poetikat? And every cliched safari tale that ever existed...

Thanks, QMMM! -- Could it be Elephant Walk you're thinking of? Or maybe Hatari?

steviewren said...

I say, jolly good story old girl...Jolly good!

Really, I loved it. The first sentence placed me squarely in the midst of the action.

Reader Wil said...

Great story I feel the mystery surrounding the carved elephant. Very beautiful but mysterious and a bit sinister with a feeling of pending danger.

Rob said...

Very engaging, and smart touch with the language -- gave it a nice sense of place...

...rob
Image & Vere

Catalyst said...

Vicki! What a perfect touch for the colonial African ambience. Beautiful and horribly funny story!

christine said...

Fantastic scene setting I was there in Africa, in the dust and heat and hearing the sounds.

Christine

Friko said...

a great ale! Amusing and so unexpected.

I also scrolled down to 'bitch wings', splendid use of the phrase and you described the character perfectly.

Jessie said...

very vivid and well written -- a joy to read.

warm smiles,

Pamela said...

Can't stop reading you! There is magic in your pen. I really enjoyed this tale!

rel said...

Vicki,
Totally believable, but then it is a true story right?
rel

Vicki Lane said...

Ta, steviewren!

Great silliness is what is is, Reader Wil, a pastiche of many movies and books. But fun to do with the help of Mr. Google for the details.

Isn't Google wonderful, Rob, for lending verisimilitude to an otherwise unconvincing narrative?

Horribly funny about sums it up, Catalyst!

Thank you, Christine! I owe it all to Google.

Friko, Glad you enjoyed the 'bitch wings' post. I'm trying to start a trend here -- helping women everywhere get in touch with their inner bitch -- when the situation demands it.

Thanks, Jessie!

Pamela - good to hear from you! I'm hoping all is well with you and yours in Chile.

Rel - how could you doubt? I would have written more but my hovercraft was fell of eels.

Vagabonde said...

I really loved this tale. I had not heard about old Delamere in a while. (That’s not Tom Delamere, who had a manslaughter charge in 2009?) It felt as you were in Kenya listening to all this old colonials. Years ago I had a correspondence (that was before emails) with an English writer who had lived many years in Kenya. Her name was Elspeth Huxley. She wrote tales like that and was a charming lady of the old school.

joanny said...

I love the originality of this piece-- from the names of your character's through to the native dialog, and of course sipping gin and tonic on a hot day -- You better watch out for Hollywood would do well to snap up this story as a sequel to the movie starring Robin Wiliams "Jumanji" based on the 1981 children's illustrated short story.

Joanny

C.M. Jackson said...

perfecto! great dialogue and setting--I was right there and felt the earth shake as the elephant stampeded!

Vicki Lane said...

Vagabonde - I think I read Huxley's FLAME TREES OF THIKA years ago. How wonderful that you had a correspondence with her.

Re which Delamere -- I just made up the Nigel -- but I was thinking of the famous Delameres of Happy Valley.

Thanks, Joany -- I haven't seen JUMANJI - I remember it sounded intriguing.

And many thanks, CMJ!

Uma Gowrishankar said...

Vicki, wow! nicely written - raised African dust effectively.

Bachelor said...

Ah, yes, a nice African hunt turned the other way. Very creative! Right there with movies as the Mummy and Indiana Jones.
:) The Bach

violet cadburry said...

So quickly you turned a pleasant African afternoon for three old white male colonials on its head! Ha.. I can just see their wives saying "I told you to leave it alone!"

Callie said...

I love carvings!
I'm lost. Eel?I feel so dumb when I miss the reference to things. I enjoyed the visit to Africa and the feeling of being in the jungle.

The Hausfrau said...

Wow, you've even managed to include Swahili! Fantastic!

Vicki Lane said...

Thank you, Uma -- I do love virtual travel -- as when I visit your blog and India.

Ah, Bach, there was so much backstory -- the taking of the sacred whatsits, the wrath of the tribe -- but I was trying not to be too wordy.

Too true, Violet!

Callie, The eels reference is pure silliness. The phrase was included on the site I visited to plunder some Swahili and I couldn't resist throwing it in at the bottom.

You can find Anything on the Internet, Hausfrau! Even how to say in Swahili that your hovercraft is full of eels.

chiccoreal said...

Feels like I've just been on safari! Thanks for the astute observations on the Kenyan culture! Love the fertility reference! Now that's a wide "berth"! Excellent volley in the dialogue!

Jen Chandler said...

Wonderful tale! And I love the hover craft translation :) Haven't seen it in a while!

Thanks for the kind comments on my magpie.

Happy Wednesday,
Jen

little hat said...

a lovely and lively old Bwana tale. I was sure i was in a Raiders of the ... movie script. or an english version of Haitari. What a great movie. Lovely story. Laughing all the way down her in Oz where we still speak like that--NOT.

Vicki Lane said...

Ah, take a seat on the veranda,Chicoreal and have a nice G and T.

But there were EELS, Jen!

You DO say G'day, don't you, Little Hat?

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Vicki, I missed this, thanks to the journey back to NC and various other complications on return. It's great, not that i'M surprised in the least. The swahili guide is a touch of genius! And the elephant, like so many these days, just damn sick of those intruders with their gin and tonics. All of it coming to dust, shining dust.
Pretty good looking elephant, too. You done him proud!

Vicki Lane said...

Your Ganesh poem was so amazing, Kay -- gave me writer's block for a bit. Then I just had to go silly.