Saturday, December 27, 2008

Old beginning

Here's an old beginning to my book which I've discarded. I've used the scenario in a later chapter as a flashback.


Hunched over his wooden cane, a prune-faced old man ambled up to the open spot at my counter. “So you’re going to be a banker,” he said.
It was my first week on the job, and his words felt like some invisible force slamming into me. “Err…” I swallowed, hard, and reached to loosen my tie. “I uh… I suppose so.”
With his head barely above the counter, the old man gave me an indifferent look, as though I was now a useful cog in society. He handed me his bankbook and I tapped numbers into the computer. Memories flooded back of the African travel life I’d recently left behind.
On my first visit to Africa, at twenty-three years of age, I was collected from Cape Town airport by family friends.
“Africa is dangerous,” they told me. “Perhaps you should just stay in Cape Town and keep in touch with us.”
A week later, I said my polite goodbyes, slung my heavy backpack on, and went out with the spirit and enthusiasm of a first-time traveller. I bussed up the coast, and later around the country. I climbed mountains, rode horses, and bunji jumped. I fished and surfed and kayaked. I joined tour groups and stuck my camera out of high truck windows trying to photograph Africa’s wildlife.
Three months of backpacking and group adventure was enough, and I moved from backpacker to intrepid traveller. A pair of Afrikaans-speaking brothers sold me a bright-yellow beach buggy, which I drove north into Zimbabwe and Zambia. There, I was greeted by smiling and waving Africans. The buggy needed constant repairs and I often camped in the wilderness tinkering at it with my toolkit.
The old man cleared his throat to grab my attention. His hand shook as he placed his cheque on the counter. “Being a banker is a respectable position in society,” he said.
Yeah respectable, I thought. But a respectable bank is no place for a dream-filled rogue.

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