James Woods

The Safari Park Adventure

“Ok kids, stop larking around and get in the car.“ The children, a boy, Edward and his elder sister Janet, were playing with a rather oversized stuffed monkey, each one pulling and tugging to gain possession.
“You´ll see enough of those today so lets get moving.“ He opened the door to the garden and called to their two Alsations, “Be good dogs, we won´t be long.“ These two dogs were his pride and joy. He loved and talked to them as if they understood every word in actual fact, he was sure they did.
He locked the door, turned to Helen, his wife and smiling, asked, “Are we all ready then?“ Helen grinned back as she picked up her bag and draped it over her shoulder, “Come on Janet, Edward, let´s go before daddy changes his mind.“
The smile spread across her face as she heard Edward, who had finally lost possession of the toy “It´s not fair mummy, Janet always wins.“
They all went outside, climbed into the car and set off on their day´s outing.
They drove for a few miles whilst listening to the constant chatter of the children on the rear seat, who, with much exuberance were trying to identify oncoming vehicles.
This was their day out with the kids and they were heading for the Safari Park.
They stopped at the little café just before the park and sat down to ice creams. Peter looked at the owner “It seems very quiet today, where is everybody?“
The owner of the café walked across to their table. “Haven´t you heard,“ he replied, “There´s an industrial dispute at the park…I don´t know if it is open today as there was talk of a strike.“
“Oh No!“ said Peter, “ I didn´t know that I hope they are open!“ the kids have been looking forward to this all week. We´ll drive round and see what is happening.“
They arrived at the safari park and pulled up at the entrance bar, which was in the down position. Peter got out of the car and spoke to the young attendant, “ What is happening?“ he asked, “ I hope you are not closed as we have travelled miles to get here.“
The man was quite pleasant “Don´t worry,“ he said, “I think they have called it off, I am just waiting for confirmation,“ he looked past Peter at the two children. “Wouldn´t want to upset those two little darlings would we.“
He moved back into his ticket booth.
“ Can we go in then?“ asked Pete. “Don´t see why not,“ the attendant replied and punched out the tickets. “You know the rules, you’re not to get out of your car in the park, “ he stated, grinning at Helen and added jokingly “ for goodness sake, don´t break down in case they do stop work! We wouldn´t want you to be in there all night, would we?“

Peter climbed back into the car and the chap raised the barrier to let them in, waving to the two children as they passed.
He drove quite slowly through the park pointing out various items of interest to the two excited children, while Helen sat beside him, her face radiant with contentment.
The children watched, wide-eyed with excitement, the antics of elephants as they bathed themselves and their young in a nearby waterhole. Then they came to an area occupied mainly by monkeys.
Peter stopped the car and in no time, they were surrounded by monkeys of various shapes and sizes, young and old, who found great pleasure clambering all over the car. “Don´t open the windows,“ Peter warned, “we don´t want them coming into the car. No, Eddy, don´t give them any food or anything we won´t be able to get rid of them.“
Eventually the monkeys tired of their new abode and in two’s and three’s, abandoned the car to return to their habitat in the trees.
Peter gave Helen´s hand a little squeeze and smiled. They were really enjoying the pleasure of their children´s excitement.
“Was that all right,“ he asked jovially, as he turned his head to the youngsters. “Let´s go round again daddy, let´s go round again,“ chanted Edward, “ I want to see the Elephants again.“
“I think that is enough for today,“ Peter answered, “what do you think Mummy?“
Helen acknowledged with a smile and Peter turned the key in the ignition.
The engine was silent nothing happened, Peter turned it again and a look of concern crossed his face as he looked at Helen. “The darned thing won´t start.“
Helen looked at Peter “Stop fooling around Pete,“ she smiled. “Let´s get going.“
She then saw the serious look on his face, which had taken over from his normal smile.
“ I am not fooling around dear,“ Peter said, the car will not start.“ For a minute, there was a shocked silence and he gazed at the dashboard. “I don´t understand it,“ he said, “there is
no power at all, not even the horn will work.“
“Don´t worry,“ Helen reassured him, trying to look on the bright side. “When they find us missing, they will send someone out to tow us back in, it says so on the sign. It says if you break down, stay in your car and wait until someone comes to get you.“
It was more a question than a statement.
They waited as the minutes ticked by. “What if they did go on strike after all?“ questioned Peter. “If they went on strike and that attendant forgot to tell them about us, we could be waiting until morning when the animal keepers arrive.“
The kids began to whimper and Helen tried to pacify them.The boy appeared tired and started to doze but Janet must have recognised the mood of her parents and began to show some anxiety.
“I don´t like to be in here all night daddy,” she whined, “I´m frightened.“
Peter sat silently for a few minutes, his brain searching for solutions and finally he whispered to his wife, “I will have to go for help, otherwise, we will be here all night and I don´t fancy that. God knows what wanders round here in the dark. I must go now while I have some daylight left.“
He looked at her earnestly, “Look, I have to go Just stay in the car and keep your windows closed and I will be back before you know it.“

Helen looked like she was about to have an hysterical fit but managed to contain herself as Peter quietly opened the door. “ We have almost completed the circuit and I´m sure that the exit is only just round that bend ahead.“
He left the car and she watched as he walked briskly towards the bend. “Good Lord, I didn´t think I would end up going for a walk in the park.“
He was anxious and really felt like running but he knew that running would possibly attract unwanted attention. He had barely covered one hundred yards when suddenly, he froze, his body rigid with fear as he stared out before him.
There, less than fifty feet away, a fully-grown lion had appeared from the shrubbery. It didn´t appear to have seen him as it stretched its legs and sniffed the air.
Peter, without turning, calculated the distance back to the car. He was considering the possibility of racing back to it but realised that his chances of out running a fully-grown lion, back to the car were zero.
He could feel his legs tremble as he remained unmoving; observing the beast in front of him. It had now turned its head in his direction.
Its huge mane proudly encircling its face as the large yellow eyes locked onto him. Peter felt desperately like going to the toilet, but even in these circumstances he could not help but marvel at the magnificence of the creature as it now slowly padded towards him. His heart pounded, while he remained frozen to the spot. His brain became hyper active as the animal drew closer and he wondered if Helen could see what was happening and how she was reacting right now? About to watch her husband be torn to pieces.
The lion was ten feet away and Peter, in his nervous state, was fighting to prevent himself from fainting. Even in these terrifying moments, he found himself still marvelling at its beauty and could hear himself in his mind admiring its grandeur. `What a beautiful dignified creature`.
The lion stopped directly in front of him and he could feel the foul breath on his face. It moved its head from side to side as it peered directly into his eyes, only inches away.
Slowly and deliberately, Peter raised his arm and gently stroked the shaggy mane, at the same time, murmuring the words that were streaking around in his head. `What a beautiful creature` He could feel overwhelming love oozing out as it had done for years with his dogs.
He was now talking to the lion as though it was one of the dogs he had left behind at home. He felt his fear receding as he now used both hands to pet and cuddle this docile beast, this king of the jungle, and Peter could almost sense it to be enraptured by his attention.
He trembled now with excitement rather than fear.
In the fleeting moments as he stood there, his mind returned to his own dogs and how he was convinced that they understood even his thinking, and that telepathic contact did exist. He wondered if his strong love for animals had some bearing on this telepathy theory.
Suddenly, his fear returned tenfold as his gaze fell on another magnificence, in the form of a lioness, racing towards him.
His fear seemed to register with the male, which turned to face the oncoming female, that had obviously decided that Peter was on the menu. The male pounced when she was about ten feet away, bowling her over as if she had been a domestic cat. She hit the ground and rolled over in a submissive position with the male standing over her, snarling until her energy appeared to subside.
Another lioness appeared and for an instant, Peter envisaged being mauled by her while the male was preoccupied but she sensed the male antagonism and lay down beside him, her big eyes looking in Peter´s direction. All three animals were now calm and Peter took up the challenge to test his theory and his love.
Calmly and with a casual air, he seated himself in front and gently fussed over each of the animals. They all responded to his attention, just like his two canine friends at home.
A sudden the sound of a commotion coming from the direction of his car made Peter anxiously rise to his feet. The whole tribe of monkeys had returned to the car and were creating havoc as they bounced on and off the bonnet. He could feel the terror being experienced by his family, as they sat helplessly in the car, awaiting his return. His mind became agitated and he wanted to run to them.
It was then that another strange thing happened.
The lion had also risen to his feet and was watching the monkeys with interest and Peter could hear a strange rumbling sound issuing from its throat as it turned to face
the females; instantly, one of them sprang to its feet and bounded off in the direction of the noise.
Peter was convinced that a communication had taken place between the two animals.
The monkeys panicked at the sight of the approaching lioness and they disappeared just as quickly as they had arrived.
The lioness then padded round the vehicle sniffing in the direction of the retreated monkeys
and then, with equal enthusiasm, returned to its mates. Peter mused about this wonderful walk in the park.
The sound of an engine filtered through the still air and from round the corner appeared the black and white decorated safari vehicle.
It screamed to a stop about thirty yards away and the two occupants scrambled out. Each had a rifle to the ready and was taking aim at the lions; all three had now risen to their feet, facing the vehicle.
The male growled viciously, while the two lionesses quickly disappeared into the shrubbery. “Stand away from the lion mister. Try not to panic, everything will be all right, just move out of the way please.“
Adrenalin raced through Peter´s body as he realised the threat and he screamed “NO,“ and quickly moved in front of the lion. In the confusion of losing sight of his apparent enemies, the lion moved to his right.
A single shot echoed all around, deafening, as he pathetically screamed the words, “No!.“ The bullet was true to its mark and the magnificent creature slowly sank to the ground.
With a look of horror, Peter dropped to his knees beside the lion. Tears poured down his cheeks, his body convulsed in spasms of grief, as for a second, the eyes of the dying animal met his; helplessly placing his hands on the animal’sdying face.
He raised his head, looking appealingly at the two men, then back to the lion. His tears fell rapidly, as he watched the life of this wonderful animal drain away.
In the final seconds of its life, the lion tried to raise its head and once again, its eyes met his as he tried to support the huge head.
It´s tongue lolled from its mouth once more, as the creature passed into oblivion.
For several minutes Peter remained beside the dead beast, stroking it and fondling it’s ears like he had done just a few minutes before. The park men had the grace to wait patiently at one side while Peter regained his composure.
Finally, he rose to his feet and without a glance at the waiting duo, turned and made his way back to his car.

©Copyright B J Woods 2003


All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of James Woods.
Published on e-Stories.org on 29.06.2004.


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