Peter had first heard the word “safari” as a young boy and the exotic glamour of the word breathed adventure into his brain. It was something rare, something that only adventurous, fabulously wealthy people did. Not for the likes of him. He would only get to see the Big Five by thumbing through National Geographic. As a boy his parents took him to countless stately homes and castles at the weekends and, while the other boys charged to the battlements and gun rooms, Peter was drawn to the brightly patterned skins laid out on study floors with their glassy-eyed heads attached.
Over the years, times changed. Peter got socially mobile and found himself managing a bank by the time he reached his forties. Low-cost airlines came in and, for the first time, air travel became possible for the likes of him. But safari was still a magical, impossible word, something his mind drifted to whenever there was a particularly hot day or he ate a Lion bar. Somehow, like so many things in his long life, he just hadn’t got round to it.
That’s what he always said when people asked if he’d ever been married or had children, ‘never got round to it’. Why, he thought, shifting his legs and getting a free wax as he lifted them away from the hot, sticky seats of the jeep, had he not got round to more things? Why had he let himself just drift along? He looked out of the window and saw nothing, not the dust rising from the tracks as the vehicle sped forwards, not the lake where a small tribe of elephants were cooling down; even his fellow passengers with their loud chatter and selfie sticks faded away.
He’d had opportunities, he’d supposed, but he’d let them go. Didn’t get round to seeing his parents more, didn’t get round to seeing old friends who gradually leaked out of his life over the years, didn’t get round to booking holidays, didn’t get round to moving with the times – not even when they repealed a law that meant that maybe, just maybe, he could have had a relationship.
It made him want to cry to think about the sheer waste of it all. Still, now at last in his seventies, he was finally getting round to something. Blowing part of his pension on a five-star safari was the best thing he’d ever done and he resolved there and then that he would cram in to his last years all the things he should have been sprinkling liberally through his life across the other decades. It would be exhausting, no doubt, but my god, what on earth had he been getting sixty years of early nights for anyway?
As they turned a corner, he looked out of the window and, in the middle distance, watched as a lion sprang from the shady undergrowth and took down an antelope by its hind legs.