The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill

The image Bill saw- the last flicker his mind made offer as his finger curled round the trigger of his Enfield rifle-musket, as he smelled the hot promise of death in his nostrils, as he waited for the moment to arrive- the last image Bill saw was of Elena: her pale body nude upon the white sheet beneath her, her pubescent body writhe in the overload of sensation he was give her with his member, the pink of her breast bright and liquid in the moonlight. He could hear her gurgle as she spasm, the soft and lazy smile come over her face, the words she cooed as her cheeks went rouge in guilt and she made wild honey between her legs, soaking him thorough as he emptied violent within her.

Elena had looked up at him, grinning, and said: “Thank you.”

Bill had thought: “Poor bitch.”

And with that William Masterson pulled back on the trigger, blowing pepper-scented gunpowder into the air, boring a hole to the belly of the zebra that had once stood before him proud and unaware: striped, convicted and oblivious to its emblazoned presence upon the tundra.

There was the moment of equus indecision and then the beautiful inevitable: the fall- as the beast, shot in the leg- took a false step, his body collapse in a pile of unanswered question and untraveled gallop.

Bill's five Punjabi servants applauded and cheered, Ravi and Beas most vocal, in syncopated rhythms:

“Well done, old man!”

“Good show, Master William!”

“A fine trophy!”

And Bill, smiling behind his smoking gun, did not care one bit that their praise was hollow.

“You’re welcome,” he said, and holding his hand up toward the beast, “Help yourself.”

He did his best work when the sun was up, no argument, but it was only at nightfall, in the midnight, around the tea steeping in the pot that Bill's best talent come out: his storytelling. He would speak of wonderful adventures, recounted with wisdom and humor, and it was only then that the man did shine like the full moon.

He crafted stories bold and unforgettable, a mixture of absolute fact and outrageous falsehoods blended so subtle, so sweet, that even the most discerning pair of ears was forced to fall beneath his spell.

When dusk come over the homestead, when the mosquito veils had been dropped and the men fed, when the skins had been cleaned, when the fight for survival was ended for the day… only then did Bill's crew get to claim the real prize that kept them upon the hunt.

Tonight Bill's lead servant Chenab, ever obedient, had set out a foot bath for Bill’s aching heels, and he soaked them bare in the warmth of the salt water- flame borrow from the camp fire- as he crafted his narrative for a captive audience.

He took a sniff of fine cocaine powder, the white dust filling his nose and fertilizing his brain, handlebar moustache twitch in rich appreciation, his mind aligned on memories of the kill, thoughts of absolute conquer.

Through a cloud of rich tobacco smoke Masterson set aside his quandary and qualm. And he began to speak.

“Long, long... long ago- nine years this November- I met a tiger upon Gujarat of the Jewel. But this was no ordinary beast- he put up the most fierce attack I have ever seen. Tiger sensed us in the clearing, pounce on us before we knew he was coming- the fury of Mother Nature let loose! The beast razed upon our party with the senseless anger of a man insane… he took this assassination as personal, and all but promised aloud to chew my bones.”

Everyone in the hunting party leaned forward to better hear every detail of Bill's great escape.

Later that evening, the cuffs of his khaki pants rolled up, his manner sweetened by tangerine brandy, his instinct finally softened to a dull, William decided to tell a classic.

“I was there for the seven gazelles in Kenya… Sutlej can confirm it…”

And with the rush of liqueur in their veins and the confirmation nod of Bill's faithful servant, with the soft sweet ache of their leg muscles finally come to rest after endless flat miles upon the plain, the party did take fork and knife in hand to feast on Bill’s words: joyous, flavorful, ripened in retrospect and by the opium bush burning bright in his pipe.

"We had been tracking a wildebeest, gone off the road so he wouldn't see us, and when we did we came upon a field of grass. What do we find there but seven gazelle- adults, prize-winners- having their supper without a care in the world. Do you know what's that worth? I raise up my rifle, had the animals in my sights, aligned and ready for the kill, and I thought 'What does thou fear? Strike, man, strike!'"

“And as the animals fed and nourished, so convinced were they of their ability to survive that it gave me pause. They had not an inkling unto their actual fate- they leapt before us and swept... they found sustenance in the green of the grass..."

Chenab bit into his apple.

"And these graceful dancers moved in strides slow and smooth… they made glide as they stepped, not even stirring up the dirt... and from their dance I understood not only how to survive but how to truly thrive… to be alive! A revolutionary thought- the knowledge of one's own existence! They never knew just how lucky they were... and until that moment neither had I... and in this warm cloud of epiphany I decided right then to spare the gazelles their lives!”

The group stirred, the hunting party sit up straight, voicing their awe, coming just short of a standing ovation- if this man could find the mercy not to slaughter one of God’s creatures must we all not-

“The gazelles run off when they heard you servant Sutlej sneeze.”

William’s mother, again, still undead, interjected.

Bill shot her a look that would have mounted her upon any trophy hunter’s wall.

Mrs. Masterson was over seventy years old- old enough to know better. She was riding along with William on his insistence. She had done nothing save complaining, and now she spoke out of turn again, against Bill, marking her immaculate conception with a red stain.

Bill found the thought of being contradicted as foul... a humiliation. He made polite smile… took a sip of the brandy in his flask and a long snort of the cocaine powder from the plate being passed round the group.

“Mother…” he spoke politely, “shut your mouth ‘fore I knock down your teeth.”

There was a mild laughter from the group but the understanding that Bill never made false promise.

"I believe it's time to say goodnight." He stood up and headed back toward his tent where Elena was waiting. Sutlej, brown skin and third eye, his turban wrap bright in symmetrical white, hang his head in disappointment.

The next day, beneath the bastard of African sun, Bill and his party came upon a rhinoceros drinking at a water hole, his horn glorious and long and ready for the mantel shelf.

Bill watched the beast lap at the water. "Well, this fellow has seen his last birthday," and the men laughed as they loaded their rifles.

Mrs. Masterson, from behind the lounge and beneath a parasol: "Are you really got to shoot that rhinoceros, Billy?"

Her boy bristled, looking back at his interruption, eyes loaded with buckshot, teeth tight in grit, "I will... if you'll stop talking and allow me to."

"Nevermind," the old crow whispered, reconciled. "It's none of mine then."

The hunting party eyed Bill patient and ready, their rifles trained, all ready to pull the trigger and fell the beast.

Elena, the girl-child Bill had brought along as his lover was sound asleep in the cool of the tent back at the campsite, out of the day's sunshine and sweltering heat. She stirred, aching, unaware that her Daddy had up and departed, was off on to-day’s first kill. Right now she dreamed of butter pie and kittens mewing.

Bill found himself growing fond of her, the way she had endured: the girl was silky but would travel well in the overland. He liked her face- soft shell eyes and an ambitious chin, long dark hair hung down to her shoulders.

He realized that he was again thinking of Elena, daydreaming in the moment of the kill, and he felt a trickle of sweat fall between his neck and shoulders. He had not made sweat since the Sepoy mutiny in '57. He tasted Elena’s mouth in his, and had the sudden urge to be back in her arms. He felt the world turning beneath his feet... and the sudden rush of illogical fear.

What was happening to him?

“For God and Her Majesty and the East India Company…” he declared, ever the brave, and then, with dramatic flourish: “Now then, boys… ready your aim… and fire!”

And in a smattering of leaden sprinkles, in the glory of senseless destruction, in the moment of magic mortality, in the 68 grams of gunpowder glorious, Bill and his supplicants did fell the great beast side-winding, did cause that pause in his slow step retreat, did bury the poison that inspire the animal to stagger-step, to reconsider before eventual surrender. Bill beneath his pith helmet grinning in the blue of African sky, "Right then..." and later "Such a joy."

“Did you have to kill such a poor helpless beast?” Bill’s Mum, out of turn once more.

He pointed his rifle at her lovingly.

That night when the moon rose over the plain there would be more spoken alchemy round the flame of camp: Bill would weave spiderwebs of adventure and intrigue, take off his sabre tooth necklace, lay it down for all to see. There would be more justification, more cocaine, and brandy by the glass, and his crew would tease him as ever, in musical sing-song:

“Hey Bungalow Bill, what did you kill… what did you kill?”

Poor fools. "No time for song," Bill would say: "Onto the hunt then."

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