By Wilton Brownlow
“Machete, do it.”
Wilton was used to Tarsis’ comments by then. He would order animals (snakes, little climbing things, spiders, centipedes) out of the way or order them to die by knife or foot. Most of his commands to inanimate objects were to ‘Machete’ but at appropriate times ‘Tent’, ‘Stove’ and ‘Cook pan’ all received instructions.
In Uganda it was relatively easy to find someone who spoke ‘English’ but it never turned out to be anything but Pidgin. That suited Wilton just fine. He could communicate that way. ‘Big Medicine’ was the way he would start the conversation. ‘Bush Doctor’ would usually follow. He could mime the parts of the body to advance the conversation. The translator on his phone could speak out phrases in Rutooro, Luganda and Karamojong. Wilton knew its limitation and proceeded accordingly. A lot of times the phone would languidly say something and the listeners would laugh a slap each other.
“That’s how they talk around Lake Kyoga!” would be translated back. It was a translation he had heard over and over again with substitutions for whoever was considered them as opposed to us.
Tarsis was efficient. He used the fewest number of strokes to clear their way. They were on trail from Kitanyata to a place in Murchison Falls National Park. At a bar in Kitanyata Wilton had heard about a healer deep in the forest who had an uncannily effective way with herbs, body manipulation (from the description, like reflexology) and some kind of mental projection.
“Projection?” he had asked his informant, who spoke quite passable King’s English.
“Turn on your translator”, he had said.
“Luganda?” Wilton asked.
He knew that almost everyone he met would speak between three and five languages.
“Yes”, said Omwony.
Omwony then spoke a long sequence of syllables.
“Outlook”, the phone said.
“Related”, said Wilton.
“Conjecture, expectation, prediction, hope.”
“How does this heal people?” asked Wilton.
“You’ll have to ask Namazzi yourself. I’ve only met her once or twice. She isolates herself to keep her Chi pure.”
“We’re not so ignorant as you might suppose.”
Omwony pulled out his phone and showed its home screen – a reflexology chart.
“So sorry old chap.”
Wilton paid their tab and gave Omwony the price they had agreed upon.
Tarsis had cleared the way and the path ahead was clear. It was a long way off before Tarsis would need Machete.
They walked in silence for several hours.
Wilton started to feel dizzy. He attributed it to the heat. He’d been in Uganda for a few weeks, and his vocation led him to the tropics a lot. He’d written half a dozen books, mostly about nature-based healing, with his most popular being an anti-vaccination polemic. He’d written it twenty years ago. It had just gone out of print and none of his other books had sold as well. He hoped the one he was working on now would get him back on the talk show circuit.
As he felt sicker, none of that mattered. Finally he vomited and lost control of his bowels at the same time.
“Ugh, you got (string of syllables in Rutooro)”
“No… I’m Okay”, said Wilton as he fell down.
His body was convulsed with a succession of aches. They traveled from ankles and elbows outward as each part released from the tremor and another took it on. His stomach was cold and clenched. He vomited up a tiny bit of saliva. He could see the sky through the tops of the bushes on either side of the trail. Tarsis’ face came into view.
“You need Namazzi.”
Wilton couldn’t manage a yes or a no. He grabbed his stomach and tried not to throw up on himself again.
When he could track something visually he saw a face. If he would have been capable of it he might have thought “How can someone get that wrinkled?” Her face had canyons and river basins of creases, puckers and grooves. Furrows. Okay enough of that. Her eyes had veins that stood out form the light blue that had once been white. Wilton turned to one side and saw arms so thin and muscular they might as well have been an anatomy chart. Hands as furrowed as an Iowa cornfield.
She was lifting him!
“Tarsis (string of syllables).”
“Namazzi…”, said Wilton.
“(string of syllables)”, was what he heard before he passed out again.
A hut. He was in a hut, How cliched. He felt a little better but his insides still clenched up in an agonizing spasm from time to time. He was not well. Sweat dripped down from his forehead. His muscles still stretched involuntarily from pangs.
Namazzi was attending him. Tarsis was not in sight. She swabbed his head with a rag. It was dirty. He wasn’t going anywhere for quite a while.
There were herbs drying from the ceiling just as promised. Namazzi started to knead his arms and legs. It hurt like hell. He was too weak to do more than moan. She rolled him on his back and he was looking at another part of the hut. There were two and only two books visible.
“How You Get Quantum Healing All Wrong” and “Why Self-Care Will Make You Question Everything”
By Wilton Brownlow. He never went anywhere else again.