“Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same.”
I knew I had to visit my darling friend, Gerald Giraffe. He had first come out to Bertram and me, his hard-to-believe neck hanging over our balcony where I live now. I found him in his usual muumuu, sloshed to the gills. His long tongue rolled out and he gave me a sloppy kiss. He began to weep and I had the impression that he had been doing that for longer than just my visit. He still lived in the enormous home that he had built on land Charlotte Elephanti had given him.
“Maurish,” he slurred. “I’ve been longing for the day you returned.”
He gave another huge sob and I took a hankie from my shirt pocket and mopped the profuse tears dripping from the large heavily lashed eyes.
“Why aren’t you at the gym, Gerald? I am accustomed to you working very late there. I was surprised to find you home.”
“Oooooh, Maurish,” he sobbed. “Cynthia Cheetah died and I sold my half of the gym to Dorian.”
Now I was in shock. No one had told me that the elegant and awe-inspiring Cynthia had died. I was in such shock; I merely sat there, fighting back tears of my own.
“She had breast cancer, Maury,” He moaned. “Cyn had it in all six teats.”
“I didn’t want to ask but I did.
“Is Charlotte Elephanti still with us?”
At that question,
Gerald seemed to revive slightly.
Another freshet of tears rolled down the dappled cheeks.
Gerald had an idea. His face actually brightened.
“Let’s go see her, Maurice. She would love that.”
“How will I get you in my car, Gerald?”
“I can walk the distance in a very few minutes. You can hop on my back, Maury.”
“Me ride on your back? Are you fucking serious?” I asked with real alarm.
He seemed hurt. “Why not, Maurice?”
He began to weep again.
“Oh, alright, Gerald, stop crying.”
I mounted his tall form in the front yard. I had to scurry up his tale to make his back. He was miles tall and I was a very petite macaque so one can envision the scene we produced as he loped along with me clinging to the neck of his muumuu. A truck filled with Kikuyu workers laughed their asses off. A green mamba crossing our path wanted no part of us and slithered away into the tall grass. A bushbuck, grazing near, dropped his clump of grass as he took in our uncanny parade.
Charlotte was in her custom made chaise lounge when we entered her flamboyantly decorated barn.
“Stars and garters,” she chortled as she saw us enter.
She lifted me in her trunk and held me for a kiss on her wrinkled cheek.
“Maurice, my adorable lamb, tell me where you have been and why.”
This was Charlotte Elephanti, the great elephant matron of the Mara plains, one of my first friends, and so I told all for the first time since my return. It felt good.
Imani Lyon was waiting for Dickey Simba as he arrived from a pesky work day. He was not in the best of moods, not unusual for Dickey. He unlocked his front door. She followed him inside.
“Dickey, I have a confession to make,” she said, as she attempted to stroke his back but he pulled away. He didn’t reply but removed his tie and filled a bong.
“Did you hear me, Dickey?”
“Yes, I did. Make
yourself a drink and while you’re at it, pour me three fingers neat.”
“Pot calling kettle black is not one of your most appealing characteristics, Imani.”
“I lied to you about who got me pregnant. It wasn’t Solly Simba. It was Sean Simba,” she said, lighting a cigarette.
“Both sons of Shane, one being an attorney, the other a dumb jock; either way, the gene pool sucks,” he snarled.
“Sean is a star soccer player, Dickey.”
“He’s an air headed, dumb fucking jock. You should have picked the lawyer. However, it matters not since you gave the cub away.”
“You are being as mean as shit to me,” said Imani, breaking out in tears.
“Imani, one of your finer qualities is your conceit and loutish behavior. Don’t go all soft on me.”
Nevertheless, being mellowed on his hashish and several drinks of the strong whiskey, he pulled her to him and kissed her.
“I love you, Dickey,” she declared, unbuckling his belt.
“Don’t love me, Imani. You will find me a very troubling male to plunge your affections into.”
“Do you love me back?”
“No. I like you a great deal.”
“Shit, I want you to love me.”
She stamped her foot.
“Now that’s the Imani that I like – all pissy temperament,” he laughed.
She giggled and unzipped his pants.
“I am going to let you undress me. I will so the same to you. We will screw our brains out and then go to the Pub. How does that sound?” he asked.
Ralph Lyon’s eruption on his flank had finally healed and he was allowed to return to his home in the Lyon Pride Compound. Mildred phoned me.
“Maurice, dear, Ralph is home. He is very grouchy and we want to see you so I am giving a party in honor of your return next Friday evening.”
“Wonderful, Millie, I’ll be there with bells on,” I told her.
“The whole gang will be invited,” she assured me.
“Mildred, I have to ask you why you didn’t tell me that Cynthia Cheetah had died while I was away.”
There was a silence. I heard a suppressed moan.
“Maury, I can barely speak of this. It hit us so hard. We were best friends always.”
“I know, Millie. How is Sylvia Cougar?”
“She is splendid. She and Bernard never age. They will be at the party, Maury.”
“I love you, Mildred. And give your hubby a huge kiss from me. You know how much I love him too,” I directed, attempting to alleviate the atmosphere that I had darkened considerably with my question.
“We will have such fun, Maury. Be here at eight sharp.”
“I shall, Millie.”
Maude Hyena had left Shane Simba’s office in tears. He had shouted her out of his headquarters by reminding her that he was the president of Kenya and didn’t deal with parade restrictions in the Masai Mara of which Maude was the mayor. He had called her sanctimonious when she said she feared his kind, reminding her that hyenas had killed his litter mate. The exchange had not been pretty. Betty had tried to soothe the distraught hyena.
At home that evening, Betty had poured her husband a stiff drink and joined him on their balcony.
“Shane, you badly need a vacation,” she stated.
He lit a cigarette, his emerald eyes lit with fires of frustration.
“And how do you suppose I can take a vacation from this mess of a country, Betty? I have to go and see Obama before he forgets that Kenya is a real nation and not just part of the freaking uneasy horn of Africa,” he snarled. “The jails here are full of Somali pirates, the refugees are coming across our borders daily; our camps are full and tourism is in the shit bucket.”
“The more reason you need to take a break, darling. Maurice is coming back to work for you and you can take at least a week in Mombasa. You know we love that place.”
She massaged his shoulders to soothe the knotted muscles.
“Your nerves are on edge, Shane. You were awful to Maude Hyena today.”
This was not the right note to hit and Betty should have known. He began to roar.
“I am the leader of Kenya, Betty; I don’t deal with local bullshit. Every time Maude wants an Easter egg tree or a butternut parade she comes to my office. I am not in charge of rinky-dink local parades. Nairobi doesn’t come to my office and ask me for permission every time they light a Christmas tree in the square.”
“We are going to Mombasa, Shane. You are a nervous wreck. If you hate being the president so much why don’t you make this your last term?”
“And who would run it, Betty? More humans who managed to bring it down? There is no one in any of the lion prides that can handle it.”
“Oh, so Kenya can only be run by lions? Shane, there are other species of animals that are capable of governing.”
“Then find one of your fellow apes to take over the game and I will hand it over to him.”
I returned to the State House on a Monday. It was if I never left. I am not sure this is a good thing for me but time will tell if I made the right decision. I wore a suit with no tie. I took over my same desk in my former office that Betty cheerfully abandoned.
We have a new tenant in the Watering Hole Condos. I should say two but her unfortunate mate is barely worthy of a head count. Her name is Carrie Caracal and she controls her poor hubby as if he was a slave in the Ante Bellum South and she was the plantation overseer. They are former natives of the Serengeti in Tanzania. Carl Caracal came seeking work with Lewis Lyon Construction. He works with tools. Carrie is on disability. For what reason, one can only speculate. She seems perfectly fit to me. Fit enough to shout at her husband from the time the unfortunate male arrives home from his trade. Since their balcony is next to mine, I hear it all. Carrie also has a penchant for the Pub after hours. Once her gaunt husband is in bed, Carrie heads for the pub.
My first day at my old job, I ran into Sloane Simba, half brother to Shane. He was in his former post as minister of the interior and his suites were upstairs in the State House. Sloane and I had always had a very pleasant relationship. He greeted me cordially but omitted the bear hug for which I was appreciative. After work, we repaired to the Watering Hole Pub for libation. The bar was crowded but we bellied up. There, a few stools down sat my new neighbor, Carrie Caracal.
“Jesus, she looks like a feline version of Britney Spears, tacky and in need of some cool threads,” noted Sloane.
“She has a mate.”
“Not acting like it tonight, Maurice. She’s got Ashley Lyon in a squeeze.”
Sloane and I paid no more attention to my neighbor. We chatted amiably about work and things that had transpired in the Mara when I was gone. Sloane was single after an unfortunate marriage to Caroline Cheetah, the nude cooking show hostess. We barely noticed when Dickey Simba passed us. We did notice, however, that he had won the battle for Carrie Caracal.
After I had been asleep god knows how many hours, I was awakened from a subterranean slumber by screams, growls and roars. It was Imani Lyon. She had discovered Carrie Caracal in Dickey Simba’s bed. I covered my head with a pillow and returned to my sleep.