(A Short Story. A fiction. Written by me.)

I was channel surfing and I caught the tail end of one of those ‘How I Survived’ shows. Normally I would be very fast in changing the channel, but the juice of a baby Rosa tomato from my salad that I was eating had burst through my teeth and the seeds had splashed onto the front of my T-shirt. I was balancing the salad bowl on my knees and holding onto it with one hand and I had to use my other hand to grip my T-shirt and bring it to my mouth to suck up the seeds, one by one. I had let go of the remote control on Discovery or Reality Zone or National Geographic; channels I usually sail past without stopping.

This baby faced young American chap was doing one of those hideous re-enactments about how he had been lost on a mountain with a broken ankle and 150 ml of water. His friend had left him to search for help but hadn’t returned after something like four days. He was speaking straight into the jerky camera, as if he was recording himself, and sending a message to his family. “Mom, dad, if you ever see this I’ll probably be dead. I just wanted to let you know how much I love you and how sorry I am that I never told you how much I appreciated you guys.” He teared up and became quite incoherent, while his healthy, recovered voice faded in to do the voice over.

I found myself thinking about Barry, the uncle of my long time friend Luke. I had only heard of Barry; he was dead by the time I got to know Luke’s family, but the stories about him were legendary. Apparently he was a son-of-a-bitch with a nasty temper in direct proportion to his alcohol consumption.  He had no friends, had never been with a woman he hadn’t paid for, and his family barely tolerated him but didn’t have the heart to sever ties completely. In the case of Luke’s mom, Barry’s only and older sister, she heaved under a mountain of family guilt that he had no qualms about exploiting. This made her his submissive but resentful slave. Luke and his sister were terrified of him.

Anyway, Barry was also a hunter, but he was a sloppy shot. The things he blasted could never be stuffed because of the mess he made of them. His family thought he just liked inflicting pain and that his bad aim was a result of alcohol and meanness.  Because he had no friends he would go out on his own, with two half jacks of rum in each side pocket. He would drive to a dodgy game farm outside Cape Town and pay huge sums to shoot one or other of the canned animals that ‘roamed’ a couple of hundred square meters of fake savannah.

The recreation. This is how everybody drew the picture of what happened. One day, on the game farm, Barry was following a Kudu up a tiny koppie. He had driven in his 4×4 to the bottom of the hill, but he had to concede that the noisy vehicle was going to make stalking the beast impossible. He clamoured to about three quarters of the way up before lining up the scope of the rifle and balancing the barrel on a rock. He must have felt something cold and creepy on his shin. He jumped back, away from the rock, and his foot came down hard behind him, pushing his whole leg into a thin crack between two other rocks. He was pinned in and absolutely unable to free himself.

The first thing Barry did was start screaming like a girl.  The Kudu, or whatever it was that he was hunting, was frightened out of its mind and made a complete about turn, then hurtled down the koppie, but in the direction of the trapped Barry. One of its hooves made contact with the trigger of Barry’s fallen rifle and a shot rang out, which made the Kudu flee faster, and Barry scream louder. The bullet had penetrated his left shoulder.  And that’s how he died, with his whole leg trapped between two rocks, and a gunshot wound that bled him out.

The thing is, everybody knew where he was, and nobody went to look for him, for a whole week. The owner of the dodgy game farm must have heard the shot, or heard his screams on the wind; the koppie was visible from the farmhouse’s kitchen window. The family must have known something was wrong when he didn’t come back with another bloody mess in the back of his 4×4.  But no one did anything, until they were sure.