One Day, When The Sun Was Hot

by Duncan Jones

One day, when the sun was hot, and the ground was dry, when the grass had all turned to gold and the only signs of life could be found near the water, a lone gazelle limped out into the open and onto the trail that led down to one of the last parts of the dying river.

Immediately all eyes turned to watch, as all knew what lay ahead. For the vicious claws guarded the water, and the giant teeth lived in it, and only the very desperate would even dare. The horns and stripes all watched, half wishing her to turn around, half thankful that it wasn’t them. And at the same time of course the lions all looked her way, and the crocodiles floated silently, invisibly, closer to the shore.

Now let it be known that the lions are not normally interested in the quick gazelle, but a slow gazelle, an injured gazelle … well, this is another matter. They watched her approach and pass, and they circled behind, trapping her down by the shore. Then slowly, she lowered her head to the water. And in the silent beating heat of the day, with her eyes on the water and ears watching behind, she caught the light sound of imperfect footing in the mud …
Quick as lightning she was turned around, back to the water, and darted to the side. Out of the water rushed the teeth (for they had been right in front of her the whole time). Just missing her slashed the claws (for even in the mud the cats were absolute masters on their feet). Instantly a chase was on. With their claws the lions held their own in the mud, and unlike the other cats there were two of them, five of them, twelve of them. It was a very different game. And she slipped more than once, but so did they. And she got lucky more than once, but so did they.

In the end though, limping or not, the lions were just no match for her speed, and when she had made it out of the mud and back to the trail she remembered to limp again, letting them stay close enough, but never close enough. “We’ll see you soon enough!” they roared as she sped away finally. “You’ll be back.”

Later that day, when the sun was even hotter, and the ground was even dryer, when the grass seemed to have turned an even deeper shade of gold, and signs of life were not even found near the water, a lone gazelle limped out into the open and onto the trail that led down to the one of the last parts of the dying river.

Once again all eyes turned to watch, but soon most turned away. The lions were now off the shore and up under the shade, and the crocodiles had sunk back to the where the water was deepest. Though a bit angry, none of them were too enthusiastic about a repeat performance, for on days like this no one spends energy needlessly. So this time they all just watched as the gazelle approached the water unbothered, took a long drink, and limping, passed by, back onto the trail, out into the safety of the herd and the hiding of the long grass.

The crocodiles couldn’t place it, but something felt odd. And the lions couldn’t place it, but they all twitched their tails in the shade, irritated, for something felt odd.

Just then a voice asked, “Well what happened this time? Not even gonna try?”

They all looked up to see a large vulture sitting in the tree. Quickly one of the irritated lions snapped back, “I’d like to see you try, it turns out she wasn’t that hurt.”

“Oh I know …” laughed the vulture. “She wasn’t hurt at all … but he was!”

Out in the tall grass, lying down far from the water, two gazelles were hiding. And both were ok.