I knew that it was foolhardy
the moment I swung past the kopje
and, serenaded by Jim Croce,
saw the two of them, armed,
waving me down, pretending
to be a police roadblock.
You were mad to travel that road
after three thirty and I knew it!
When I left Bulawayo
I was determined to reach Plumtree
in time to get to Botswana
for a sundowner by the Shashe.
Leave it too late, and you leave yourself
open to ambush—that’s for sure!
I knew that, but ignored it
like a smoker a worsening cough.
The two of them, drunk or high,
swaying at the side of the road
slapped me like a terminal diagnosis.
No time to go through the stages …
fear, anger, denial …
Their yellow, bloodshot eyes
and cocksure demeanour,
the AK and MAG flapping loosely
at their sides while they waved me down,
sent me straight to acceptance.
Unarmed, I knew I would have to
convince them that I was going to stop;
that their rag tag assortment of camo
had persuaded me that they were police.
With the presence of mind of a patient
being wheeled into an operating theatre
to stall a stuttering inevitability,
I slowed right down winding the window
and leaned forward, smiling, looking into their eyes.
Ten yards away, I plunged my foot down
and sped straight for them.
They leapt aside and time ground to a crawl.
I knew what was to come—
Looking in my rearview mirror
I saw the man with the AK open fire
and, as I had hoped, on automatic,
the barrel lifted too high
while his comrade fumbled his MAG
too late, and I was gone!
Just across the border where it still resembled Zim
I pulled over, the cloud of dust I left trailing
catching and caressing the car
stroking it on the back.
On the gentle breeze and in the dust
I sniffed African rain approaching, and my childhood
put its arm around me.
My eyes filled with tears
and my saliva tasted better
than any beer at Shashe could.
Shumba: lion, and a popular brand of beer
Shashe: river in Botswana