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Elephants

By Jill Frances Johnson

Uganda 1972
“Who’s got matches, anyone? Come on.”
My brother and I look at each other then at Dad crouching over a meager pile of sticks.

I shake my head, imaginary heat emanating from the flattened book of Hilton matches in my pocket.

The week before, I’d snatched the matches from the lobby after we’d landed in Entebbe from Lagos. When Mom and Dad disappeared into their room to freshen up for dinner, Eric and I had bounded up stairs ignoring an “Employees Only” sign to the hotel’s rooftop, seizing an opportunity to sneak a smoke. Lightning forked from a dark furl of clouds while we puffed and chattered about leaving at daybreak for Murchison Falls, the starting point of a three-week safari, our last family vacation before I left our expat home in Nigeria for another stab at college, this time in the States.

“Now Ralph,” Mom says. “Why would they have matches?”

Denial comes easy to Mom.

Our packed lunches eaten before noon, the afternoon snack of biscuits and oranges devoured. We’d seen enough birds. Other living things slip around on the periphery. The sun’s ferocity subsides and shadows lengthen. Our retrieval from the island by the boat guy is way overdue.

About the Author

Jill Frances Johnson grew up overseas, in Jordan, Nepal, and Nigeria with a sprinkling of American culture from her Quaker family’s roots in South Jersey. She has an MFA in Creative Nonfiction and is currently working on a memoir called Water Skiing in Kashmir about expat life during the sixties. Jill writes, reads, and cooks good food on a hill in Vermont, and avoids the cold months in the creative city of St. Petersburg, Florida. She tweets @jillvtbrat.

 

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