Editors' Choice

Scared Shitless on Safari

by Lori Mayfield

Heavy sighs filled with terrorized angst woke me from a dead sleep. Wrung out at the edge of her cot was the silhouette of my best friend and worst-matched travel companion, Beth. "Do you hear the lions?" she quivered.

Yes, off in the distance, I could hear throaty growls punctuated with a yawn-like roar, but I'd dismissed it as hairball clearings.

"They're probably just marking their territory, Beth. Go back to sleep."
"I have to go to the bathroom so bad," she pleaded.

Unlike Abercrombie & Fitch, which strung electric fencing around their camps, Wilderness Travel simply hired a local night watchman armed with a spear.

"Shine your flashlight outside the tent opening so the Masai guard will come over and walk you to the toilet tent," I suggested.

"And have the lion rip my arm off!" Beth snapped. She'd been afraid of everything on our African adventure to date, including fear of the airplane crash-landing in Johannesburg, someone breaking into our hotel room in Nairobi, and being swallowed by the river, camping along the Ewaso-Ngiro in the Sambura National Reserve. Tonight only marked the next item up for neurotic meltdown.

"Do you want me to walk over there with you?" I offered.
"No." Beth began to sob.
"What do you want to me to do?" I said, annoyed.
"Would you mind if I peed in the tent?" she begged.
"Are you serious? Where?"
"I'll go in my water bottle."
"How are you going to whiz in a half-inch opening?" I asked, trying to drum some sense into her.

Relieved that I was open to even discussing the idea, Beth explained. "I can dump the water out, cut the top off with my Swiss army knife, pee, then toss the bottle out of the tent." Clearly she'd been awake longer than I thought devising such a scheme.

Interpreting my stunned silence as a green light, I could already hear the sound of plastic being cut with tiny scissors, a rustling around at the edge of Beth's cot and a stream of urine hitting the empty plastic bottle that seemed to flow and flow and flow. I rolled over in my cot to try and go back to sleep.

"God, dammit!" Beth announced.
"Did you miss?" I asked.
"No, I have diarrhea."
My eyes opened wide.
"Would you mind if I..."

Bolting upright I said, "You are not diarrheaing in this tent!" I marched over and unzipped the front of the tent. "If you stink in here, you'll lure one of those lions over here to eat us both."

Pajama pants at her ankles, holding a half liter of pee, Beth was sacrificed to the lions. Crawling back into my sunken cot, I tried to get back to sleep only to be roused a few minutes later by the zip of the tent opening.

"Did the Masai guy walk you to the toilet tent?" I asked, astonished at how quickly she'd returned.

"No," Beth said sheepishly. "I went in front of our tent."

"You think a lion's not going catch a whiff of that and come kill whatever left that god-awful stench?"

Beth chuckled and went right to sleep.

Listening to her snore, I lay wide-awake wondering how far away the lions really were.

The next hour I wondered what might provoke a lion to become man-eating. If say, a lion accidentally stepped in a pile of human dung, could that be enough to set it off?

The hour after that I wondered if Beth even bothered to kick any dust over her territory-marking given that she was in her bare feet.

And the hour after that I didn't have to wonder anymore as it was now morning and I heard the six-year old from the family camping next to us scream, "Mom, look! Grrr- oss!"

About Editors' Choice:
Every week we choose one of the great stories we've received from travelers around the world and present it here as our "Editors' Choice." For an archive of these stories go to the Editors' Choice link on The Flying Carpet; for more about the editors, see About Travelers' Tales Staff.

Read more from Editors' Choice, Lori Mayfield

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