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Av Jo & the Mag 7: Ch 17

by  mafunyane

Posted: Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Word Count: 1757
Summary: Jo is on her own in the bush waiting for Kenny. Some of this may be familiar as it has been rehashed from an earlier chapter. All comments appreciated. Particularly wonder if too many different things are going on in this one chapter.
Related Works: Av Jo & the Mag 7: Ch16 • Av Jo & the Magnificent 7: Ch 13 • Av Jo & the Magnificent 7: Ch14 • Av Jo & the Magnificent 7: Ch15 • Av Jo & the Magnificent Seven - CH9 • Av Jo & the Magnificent Seven ch10 • Av Jo & the Magnificent Seven: Ch11 • Av Jo & the Magnificent Seven:Ch 12 • Average Jo Chapter 1 • Average Jo CHAPTER 2 • Average Jo Chapter 4 • Average Jo CHAPTER 5 • Average Jo CHAPTER 6 • Average Jo CHAPTER 7 • Average Jo CHAPTER EIGHT • Average Jo synopsis V2 • 


The lionesses didn’t seem that interested in Jo. But she wasn’t fooled. Her head flashed back to an image of the lioness clamping its jaws around the neck of that unsuspecting kudu last week. And she knew they preyed on the weakest, lamest animals around. Her ankle made her the lame one now.

At least she was sat by a giant tree. Maybe she could climb out of their way. She didn’t think lions could climb trees, but wasn’t really sure. She stood up, turned her back on her audience, gritted her teeth and pushed off with her sore ankle. Ouch. She managed to get her good foot into a hollow that looked like the result of ellie vandalism, and pulled herself up about half a metre. She looked around for another foothold but there were none above her. And the sprawling stunted branches were too high for her to reach. She tried forcing herself up the trunk but the bark was too smooth. She ended up sliding back down to the ground and rolling over towards the half-excavated trench. Maybe she should try the whole buried alive thing again.

She pushed herself back onto her knees and looked around to check on the lions. They had separated a little. One was still lounging almost opposite, across the empty earthy basin; the other prowled slowly around the edge, before settling down to her right. It laid its giant paws out in front of its body, tilted its head to one side and gave a giant yawn. Jo winced when the setting sun glinted off the huge pointed teeth in its top jaw. She checked to see if there were any others, and spotted something moving high up in the clump of mopane trees to her left. Maybe lions could climb trees after all.

But this lion looked pretty thin. And pretty grey. And then it flicked its long, thin, grey body into the air and twisted back on itself. Jo had been seeing things. The thin grey ‘body’ was actually the trunk of an elephant. She shielded her eyes from the deep red sun with her hand and squinted at it. Concentrating hard, she could make the spindly branches dissolve, revealing the wrinkly skin of a large ellie behind. She watched as it paced onto the edge of the waterhole by a clump of date palms. It curled its dexterous trunk around a giant floppy palm leaf and yanked it off from the tree. Pushing the feathery snack under its gleaming tusks, it chewed for a moment before pulling the mangled branch out again and casting it onto the ground.

Jo had been so busy trying to identify the rare thin grey lion, that she’d failed to spot the dozen or more ellies now standing the other side of the waterhole. Her head jerked back in surprise. Wow. Despite their size and number, they’d passed silently through the bush. They stood behind the tooth-baring lion, ears the size of blankets gently flapping against their shoulders.

A minute later and their ears were out – like flags heralding a war manoeuvre. Not again, thought Jo. After everything with Duke this morning, surely she wasn’t going to be trampled now. Not when they were so close to getting the tusk back. She didn’t have time to think much more. They pulled their ears in and set off, racing towards her en masse. There was no way she could get away. And there wasn’t enough space in the trench for her to try and sink below their trampling feet. She sat and waited, wishing she hadn’t let Kenny go. Wishing Chris and Ky were there. Wishing her mum and dad were there. I love you, she whispered to no-one in particular, as she covered her eyes with her hands.

The noise from the ellie army rang in her ears. Thundering thuds from the hard ground and piercing trumpeting trills. She felt them almost upon her. She could smell them, hear their breathing, sense their bodies close to hers. But nothing had hit her. She spread her fingers out to get a view of them. It was dark. She looked up. All she could see was a saggy piece of wrinkly grey skin. She looked to the side. She was so close to two thick tree trunk legs she could have hugged them. The other side was the same. She was under the tummy of one of the ellies! She craned her neck to one side to look further. She was in the middle of the herd, who were no longer charging. She looked through the legs to her right. Between swishes of a long hairy tail she spotted two huge ellies, throwing their heads from side to side and chasing off one of the lionesses. They had saved her. The herd had saved her.

She swivelled around to look behind her and found a baby elephant, only a metre or so tall, sheltering under another adult, just like Jo. It had Dumbo-like ears and a spiky-looking crew cut. When it saw Jo, it stepped out from the safety of its mother’s tummy and coiled its trunk around the tail of another large elephant, who led the pair towards the dirt road. When the big elephant paused to yank a hunk of grass from the roadside ditch, a small bunch of blades fell down by its feet. The baby elephant rocked forward and, after a couple of failed attempts, picked up the scraps with its thin floppy trunk.

Having secured a tasty bunch of grass it didn’t seem sure what to do next. It put the grass in its mouth, then pulled it out again, dropped it to the ground, then picked it up again, put it in an ear, then went back to its mouth again. It repeated this routine a couple of times before realizing it might be a good idea to actually chew its snack. When it was bored of this game it started running madly around charging at imaginary monsters. When it headed straight at Jo, it kicked up so much dust that she could barely make out the over-sized ears flapping from side to side with every step. But it was definitely a mock charge. It stopped before it reached her, and ducked under another elephant stomach. Jo had watched herds of female and baby elephants before. But she’d never been inside one. It was like living inside your very own wildlife documentary. If only she had her camera.

After the excitement of watching the baby, Jo started to worry that her very own ellie-house might move suddenly and accidentally knock her over, but – apart from a slight heave every time she took a breath – her ellie-protector didn’t seem to want to move at all. Jo peered out across the waterhole again, and spotted two older females kicking at the edge of the hollow. As she watched, they used their feet, trunks and tusks to dig into the earth. It wasn’t long before their trunks disappeared below the surface. And when they pulled them out they blew wet mud across their backs. They were digging for water. Making their very own ellie well.

Jo’s personal wildlife experience came to a sudden end when she heard a deep mechanical rumble from the other side of the herd. The noise made Jo’s insides flutter, and all at once the elephants moved off, including Jo’s own elephant guard, who stepped to the side to avoid crushing her. Jo watched the whole group stride towards the sun, their rhythmically shaking heads silhouetted against the dusky pink glow. At the rear, one of the older ellies steered a wayward youngster along with its trunk.

Jo barely had time to wonder whether the lionesses would come back, when she heard Julius’s bakkie bombing down the dirt road. She should have known. The ellies wouldn’t leave her; not in the dark; not until they knew she was safe. She glanced back towards them and smiled. She wondered if they knew she was trying to save Shawu’s tusk? Maybe Duke had sent them a message. She knew that elephant rumbles could travel over really long distances. So maybe it was possible.

With Sergeant and Julius both armed with spades, they managed to get the tusk out before the last rays of sun disappeared. Jo and Kenny settled in the open trunk with Shawu’s ivory and they headed back to Camp staring at the stars. After Jo’s second illegal border crossing of the day – the official border was closed for the night so Julius took them via a firebreak instead – she finally felt she could relax. She leant her head on Kenny’s shoulder and looked up at his face.

Nkomu,’ she whispered. ‘Thank you’. She brushed her nose against his chin and reached up to give him a little peck on the cheek, before closing her weary eyes. Kenny slid his arm around her back and gave her a little cuddle.

‘You’re welcome,’ he said. Then she felt his lips on hers, giving her a gentle kiss back. She couldn’t believe it. Her stomach was flipping with excitement.

‘Hmmm... I didn’t think you were interested,’ she said with a smile. She kept her eyes closed in case this was all just some kind of dream.

‘What?’ asked Kenny, physically jolting with surprise.

‘The other day,’ said Jo. ‘When we were at the viewpoint. I thought you liked me but you just pushed me away.’ She didn’t want to say but she still felt a little bit hurt and embarrassed about it.

‘I’m sorry, Joanna,’ said Kenny, giving her another squeeze. ‘It wasn’t you.’ Jo gritted her teeth. She’d heard the popular gang at school talking about the Its not you, its me line that boys sometimes used. ‘It was the tourists. Some of them wouldn’t approve. You know. A black boy and a white girl.’ It all made sense now. Why those grumpy grannies had scowled at her and why Kenny had kept his distance.

‘Well, I approve,’ she said, opening her eyes just in time to see a shooting star cross the thick band of white speckles painted across the sky. She’d miss the milky way and all the other constellations when she got home. And she’d miss Kenny. It wasn’t fair. The only boy who had ever really liked the real her. And he lived 5000 miles away.