On Tuesday, passing fisherman discovered the plump and sunburned body of a foreigner sprawled along a muddy shoreline embankment on the River Nile. Fearing the worst, they pulled him onto their boat, greatly relieved to find him alive. They gently revived him with water and a couple of grilled bananas they had on hand. Guessing he was simply a lost and fairly stupid member of one of the many organised safaris which passed through the area, they decided to take him back to one of the park guard stations, where he could be quickly sorted out.
Their minds changed, however, when Nigel awoke. His pitiful, begging eyes flitting from the first unfamiliar face to the second, he could only gasp out one word:
Huck Finn said that ‘you feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft’, but just at this moment, that wasn’t the case for Nigel on the little fishing boat. He felt that he was not out of the woods just yet; he reasoned in his brief stay in the land of consciousness that he was likely to expire at any moment from sheer exhaustion and, as he had skipped breakfast (and possibly brunch), sheer starvation. He fell into a fitful sleep, mumbling to himself about restaurant menus written on chalkboards, margaritas that were frozen, and express trains to the airport before dreaming of lands where coffee flowed in abundance and milk and sugar fell from the very skies.
The fishermen deliberated as he slept.
“What an idiot. Doesn’t he know how dumb it is to sleep next to the water? There are hippos here! And crocodiles! And the mosquitoes! Sleeping there with his mouth gaping open, like he’s some crocodile in the sun. It’s a wonder he wasn’t eaten by something!” the first fisherman said, animatedly.
“No kidding. But, you know what, you saying that, about the hippos, it just makes me think, I do love hippos. Seriously, man, they are cute, aren’t they?” mused the second. He lapsed into a bit of silence as he thought about how funny hippos can be. It never got old, seeing those big, fat-fat animals. They passed a family of hippos lounging in the morning sun, and he smiled. He had a great smile, actually, and his mom was always badgering him about why he hadn’t settled down yet. It’s just about timing, really, he would tell her, and you have to find the right person –
“Let’s take him back to town?” suggested the first, interrupting the river musing of his companion.
“I guess that’s the best thing to do. There’s that cafe where the other foreigners go. Where they eat the green paste on chips. They certainly have coffee. That’s as good a place as any to drop him off,” replied his companion. “I’ll call Simon – he can give us a ride.”
Nigel, still unconscious when they arrived, was curled in a fetal position in the backseat. The first fisherman picked him up and walked him into the cafe, laying him down gently on a seat made of a wood crate with an old coffee ad stamped onto it. He picked up a pillow, which was printed with a vintage tourism ad, and placed it under his head.
They’d grown quite fond of the hapless foreigner in the time they’d spent caring for him. “I think he’s going to like this place,” the first fisherman said to the second. Unfortunately, the second fisherman didn’t hear a word the first one said, because fond of the foreigner or not, he had just seen the waitress who was coming over to take their order, and she had stunned the very fire of life right out of him, down to its smallest, most infinitesimal spark, and it was all he could do just to remain standing. He gasped when she looked at him, and quickly averted his eyes.
Feeling a bit lightheaded herself upon seeing the sunlit smile of the second man who’d entered, the waitress said kindly to the first fisherman, “We’ll take good care of him. Don’t you worry.”
Nigel, for his part, slept through the whole exchange, unable to thank the angels of the river who had come to his rescue. He woke up just before lunch with a raging hunger. The kind waitress, who seemed to have a spring in her step, brought him a menu, and as soon as he saw ‘smoothies’ and ‘guacamole’, he knew he was in a safe place and nothing bad or scary could ever happen again.
NIGEL SERIES POSTS
find part one: former backpacker shocked by revelation that he is a complete yuppie now here
find part two: family super embarrassed of member killed by (baby) lions here