To tide you over until you get your copy, here's a piece from Chapter 9 in Part Three: Cameroon Tales. The action takes place in the little beach town of Kribi. While a special work assignment kept Fred glued to the emergency radio network in Yaounde, the kids and I flew to Kribi with the Simmerson brothers and the Rowan family to share a beach cottage for a week.
Two Little English Girls
Our rented cottage in the town of Kribi had the beach for a front yard. The three bedrooms held six mosquito-netted bunks each. We made our bed choices, unpacked our bags and stripped for beach action. A fisherman approached and Earl negotiated a good price for his catch of the day. I didn't know if all my companions spoke the truth, but every one of them professed ignorance of the time-honored art of fish cleaning. So the task fell to bigmouth me. Dakota helped, as much as a four year old can.
Next day, Kathy said she didn't mind watching the four kids so I could play tennis with the guys -- Ritchie and I against the Simmerson brothers (or The Blues Brothers, as I called them). Doug and Earl beat us beginners with their repertoire of drop shots, lobs, and backspin trickiness. We laughed as we replayed the match during our mile-long walk back to the beach house. We joked about whether the winners or the losers should pop the first ice-cold beers.
Kathy put her book down and slid her reading glasses to the top of her head. "Hi, how was tennis?"
"Terrific," I said. "How did the kids do?"
"No trouble at all. They paired off as usual. Dakota and Richard have been working on their sand fort the whole time." Kathy pointed at our two boys digging and tamping in the shade of a nearby coconut palm. "Justin and Tina are playing dress-up in the house."
I dropped my racquet and backpack on the porch and went inside to find the little ones. My voice echoed in the empty house. "Tina? Justin? Are you hiding? Come out, come out, wherever you are."
I expected to hear telltale giggles from under a bed or behind a closet door. Cold silence drove me outside to call for help. As the other adults did a thorough search of the house and yard, I questioned Dakota and Richard. They swore they hadn't seen the younger pair since breakfast.
Doug volunteered to stay with the boys while the rest of us split into two teams. Ritchie and Kathy went south on the main road, and Earl and I headed north. Earl spotted a woman at the front door of a house, sweeping the steps. He asked if she had seen two small white children.
"Oh, yes," she said, in French. "Two little white girls passed this way half an hour ago."
My heart flip-flopped with hope. Three-year-old Justin seemed all boy to me, but perhaps his golden curls made him more feminine in the eyes of a stranger. Or perhaps all whites looked the same to Africans. Earl and I forged on.
Around the next corner we saw a vendor selling fruits and vegetables from a wooden wheelbarrow. "Yes, I saw the English girls. The older one told me that they were going to meet their parents at the tennis courts. Are you the parents? Don't worry, all the neighborhood is watching out for them."
I realized we must have just missed them when we took a shortcut on the way back from the courts.
I ran the last quarter mile. Earl couldn't keep up. Granted, he had a bad knee, but still….
I found the "English girls" sitting in the shade beside the road, oblivious to the rest of the world, deep in their imagination game. Tina wore her favorite ankle-length muumuu, and curly-haired Justin portrayed delicate femininity in Tina's paisley sundress. Tina admitted that she instigated the whole plot, intending to surprise us. I forced myself to concentrate on the happy ending and avoided pondering on the grisly alternatives. ###
Voluntary Nomads is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble as well as Smashwords and Outskirts Press