Title: Boating Down the Ulanga
Fandom: The African Queen
Pairing: Charlie Allnutt/Roddy Sayer
Disclaimer: C.S. Forester wrote the book, and James
Agee and John Huston adapted it for the screen. I’m just toying with the
Summary: The world is at war (first time around), and
even in Darkest Africa, the forces of the Hun are being felt!
Warnings: m/m, spoilers for the movie
Notes: Just so everyone is up to speed on this,
I’ve changed Katherine Hepburn’s character Rose, to a young man, Roddy.
Well, at least their names start with the same two letters. This is for Gail,
who does such a marvelous job beta-ing, and as always, for Silk.
Boating down the Ulanga
“Mr. Allnutt should be coming to Kungdu later today.”
My head shot up at that pronouncement. I glanced uneasily
at my brother, but he was fastidiously examining the platter of food the native
servant had placed on the table and didn’t see my interest.
His lip was curled in disdain, and I wasn’t sure if it
was because the grizzled boat captain would be required to take tea with us, or
because he was unhappy with the choice of meats set before him.
“Well, it will be nice to see another white man, don’t
you think, Brother?”
“All men, no matter what their skin color, are God’s
creatures,” he intoned piously. He sniffed disapprovingly as a native woman
set the teapot at his elbow and silently left the dining room. What Brother did
not say was that some men were more God’s creatures than others.
His rigid beliefs were the reason his parish had sent him
to this forsaken corner of German East Africa. The archbishop was dismayed to
see the number of people Brother’s abrasive comments drove from his church.
And because our parents were gone, and there was no one to
look after me, willy nilly I found myself in Africa with him, his unpaid
Because I wasn’t smart, as Samuel was, I was relegated to
playing the organ, and fixing it when the damp of the climate got to it, and
helping our native converts plant and harvest the crops that kept us fed.
I couldn’t tell Brother how intrigued I was by the
riverboat captain. Every few weeks, Mr. Allnutt would steam the African Queen
down from the mines and bring us our mail and news of what was happening in the
wide world beyond the boundaries of our little village.
The first time I had seen the captain of the African Queen,
I had been frightened by his gruff exterior and loud, booming laugh. I had hung
behind Brother and peeked cautiously around his shoulder, watching in awe as the
boat captain ate a week’s supply of bread and butter. He had sipped the tea it
was my task to brew, but when Brother stepped out to reprimand one of the
natives, Mr. Allnutt slipped a flask from his back pocket and took a long gulp.
I watched in fascination as the muscles in his throat
rippled as he swallowed. He caught my eyes on him and grinned, his teeth
amazingly white. “Want a sip, boy?”
“N…no, thank you, sir.”
“Aw, hell, boy, I’m not a ‘sir’!” he said as he
tilted the flask to his lips.
“You’re a ship’s captain, sir!”
“Why, so I am!” He got out of his chair and walked
casually toward me. I made myself stand still. “How old are you, boy?”
Nervously, I moistened my lips. “I’m…I’m nine, sir.
Almost!” His hand was reaching to ruffle my hair.
“Is the brat pestering you, Mr. Allnutt? I’ll send him
to his room!”
I flinched at Brother’s harsh tone of voice. Mr. Allnutt
dropped his hand.
“Not at all, Reverend. We was just passing the time of
day!” He winked at me, the flask suddenly nowhere to be seen. “Well, time
for me to be shovin’ off. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with the mail.
Can I bring anything else back for you? Maybe some sweets for the boy?”
Brother’s lips twisted in disapproval. “Rodney does not
eat sweets. They rot the soul, as well as the teeth!”
I gazed forlornly at the bluff man who stood before us. I
would have liked a piece of rock candy, but didn’t dare contradict Samuel.
captain shrugged. “All right, then. See you in two weeks. S’long, Reverend.
“Good day, er, Mr. Allnutt!” Brother stood at the top
of the steps and watched, his mouth tight with disapproval, as the captain
strode jauntily down to the dock. “Godless heathen!” he hissed under his
The years slowly passed, and I grew to young manhood.
Brother shielded me from the carnal aspects of life in
German East Africa, but occasionally I would come across a couple entwined under
the canopy of the lush foliage that surrounded the village. The sight of a man
and woman thus occupied left me mildly curious, but not at all eager to explore
the realm of the senses.
This pleased Brother very much. He, himself, never visited
the women in their huts, because he felt that having sexual congress with a
woman, and a woman of color, would have put him beyond the pale.
I never questioned his beliefs; I never questioned the fact
that I had no desire to lie with a woman.
And then one day, I happened upon two of the young men of
the tribe. They were so involved with each other, that they didn’t even
realize they had an audience. Their moans filled me with confusion at first,
until it occurred to me that they were coupled together. The one beneath was
tightly embracing the larger man, offering his back passage for his plundering.
I watched in awe as the huge, dark member vanished again
and again into the willing ass. My own prick was hard and leaking fluid, and I
was ashamed, but not ashamed enough to abandon the wondrous sight before me. I
couldn’t resist rubbing the bulge at the front of my trousers, and as the two
natives came with muted cries of completion, I bit down hard on my lip and
erupted as well.
Silently, I faded back into the undergrowth, and they never
knew they had been observed. I stared down at my trousers in dismay. How could I
explain that wet stain to Brother? I began to shake as I envisioned the beating
that awaited me.
A fly buzzed around my face, and nervously I brushed at it.
My hand came away wet, and I started at the blood on it. Only then did I realize
that I had bitten my lip so hard that I had broken the skin. And that gave me an
I scooped up some of the rotted vegetation and smeared the
front of my trousers with it, and my knees as well. And I knew that it was a
shameful thing to pray for, but I prayed that just this once, the Lord God would
see fit to have Brother believe the lie I was about to tell him. I returned to
our cottage on the outskirts of the village.
I shivered. “Yes, Samuel?”
“Good God, boy! What’s happened to you?”
“I thought I heard something in the jungle and was
frightened. I ran. I must have stumbled over a vine, and I fell.”
“Into the cottage!” His voice was shaking with anger.
I ducked my head and hurried into the cool shadows of the
room ahead of him.
“You’ve ruined your trousers! How many times have I
warned you about going out into the jungle?” He bent me over and began
spanking me. I should have been too old to be spanked, but I didn’t dare
Finally, he released me, and I turned to face him, rubbing
surreptitiously at my rump. Brother’s face was flushed, and his eyes had a
strange glitter. “Evil boy!” His hand rose, and I closed my eyes. The blow
knocked me backwards. “Now see that you repair that damage!”
Gingerly, I touched my cheek and winced. “Yes,
Brother,” I whispered. “I’m very sorry!”
Of course I could never get the stain out, and for some
months afterwards, Brother would bring up the subject of my foolish disregard
for his instructions. I bowed my head and accepted his reprimands gratefully. If
he discovered what had really transpired, he would have taken a cane to me.
We had been in German East Africa for ten years.
My skin was as pale as when we had first come to the Dark
Continent, although there was some color in my face. Brother did not approve of
going without a jacket, even in the oppressive heat of midday, but because I
often forgot my hat, my brown hair had been bleached until it was almost ash
brown by the sun. I was as tall as Brother now and no longer needed to look up
to meet his eye when he chastised me for some transgression.
I was no longer afraid of Mr. Allnutt, either. He treated
me with good-humored disinterest. Over the years he had often brought me treats,
making sure that Brother was nowhere around when he gave them to me. Other than
an occasional absent-minded ruffle of my hair, he never touched me.
Of late, however, I had become wary of him. My body reacted
so strongly when he was near that I made sure I always carried a hymnal when I
knew he was coming to Kungdu. And I made sure it was always positioned in front
of my trousers.
It was Sunday, September 14, and the congregation sang in a
monotone as I pumped the organ and struggled to get the notes of the hymn out.
My clothing was too warm for that time of year, but Brother had insisted, as
usual. Patches of damp bloomed under my arms and down my back, and sweat pooled
at my waist.
Salty perspiration stung my eyes, and I blotted my face on
my shoulder, missing a key and producing a sour note. That earned me a glare
from Brother, and I knew I had stained my copybook once again. I wondered how he
intended to punish me this time. I sighed and blinked rapidly, hoping to keep
the sweat out of my eyes.
The raucous screech of a boat’s whistle cut through the
drone of the natives and the gasps of the organ. Some of the men bounced on
their seats, and then, unable to contain themselves, raced down the aisle to see
what the Queen had brought this day.
It was unusual for Mr. Allnutt to come downriver on a
Sunday. He knew how Brother objected to any kind of work on the Sabbath. Brother
objected to everything on the Sabbath, except praying. I sighed and resigned
myself to continue playing.
The natives had no qualms about doing anything on a Sunday.
I often felt they humored my brother, but only gave his God lip service,
secretly praying to the gods that had served their people since long before
Europeans had ever come to their land.
The African Queen’s whistle sounded once more, and the
native men who remained beneath the thatch that shielded our heads from the
African sun could bear it no longer. They ran to see if they could beg a
cigarillo from the boat captain. Even the women were curious to see what
supplies Mr. Allnutt had brought down from the mine.
Brother and I continued the hymn alone, until it was
finally done. I breathed a silent sigh of relief and closed the organ.
With measured step, he trod toward the path that led up
from the river.
“Come along, Rodney. Let us see what Mr. Allnutt has brought us!”
“Hi, Reverend! Hi, little Rev!” Mr. Allnutt, the
captain of the river steamer the African Queen, came striding up the path from
the landing. “I’ve got your mail!” He pulled it from the pouch and waved
it above his head.
Brother’s lips became pinched as he observed the state
the captain was in. Badly in need of a shave, and a bath, a cheroot hanging from
his mouth, Mr. Allnutt had clearly spent the night on the tiles.
“You know the Sabbath is the day of rest, Mr. Allnutt! I
highly disapprove of you traveling down river on this day!”
“Sorry, Reverend. I has to take advantage of the river
when I can.”
“Oh, you’ve got my rose trees! That’s splendid!” I
hastened to interrupt. I took the plants from him. The roots were starting to
dry out. “I’ll just soak these in water. You’ll stay for tea, Mr.
He grinned at me. “That would be lovely, young Mr. Sayer.
Thank you!” He tossed his cigar over his shoulder, and the villagers who had
followed him up from the dock dived for it.
“Yes, of course, please do stay,” Brother said sourly,
and I knew he was displeased with my offer of a repast for the captain.
I sighed and hurried to the back of the cottage, where I
found a large bucket to hold the delicate plants.
The native women who worked in the kitchen were aware that
the African Queen had arrived and were eager to see what delights had come
downriver this trip. They were throwing together a slipshod tea, and Brother
would be exceedingly angry with such a poor showing. Even though he had no use
for the man who delivered our supplies, he did not want to be thought negligent
in any of the niceties.
I shooed the women out and took over the task myself. I
poured the boiling water into the teapot over our carefully hoarded supply of
tealeaves, and set it aside to steep while I began laying out a tray.
I knew Mr. Allnutt was almost as fond of sweets as I, but
of course we had none, beyond a few cubes of sugar. Brother had taken to
searching my room and had discovered the little pot of honey I had traded the
natives for. The only thing that had saved me from a caning was the fact that he
had found it on a Sunday.
“Rodney!” Brother bellowed, and I jumped. “Bring the
tea tray immediately!”
“Yes, Brother,” I called. “I was just preparing the
I brought it out into the dining room and set the table
with the cups and saucers. Then I placed the bread and butter before Brother and
hurried back to the kitchen to fetch the tea.
As I poured, Mr. Allnutt’s stomach began to rumble.
“Just listen to that!” he grinned sheepishly. “Why, you’d think I had a
hyena rollin’ around in there, the way it’s carrying on!”
“Two sugars and a little cream, correct, sir?” I asked,
as I hovered at his side.
“That’s right, little Rev. Fancy you remembering
“Of course, he’d remember, Mr. Allnutt!” Brother
huffed. “He’s not as backwards as he appears, you know!”
The smile the boat captain’s words had put on my face
died. I sat abruptly and looked down at my own plate. Brother had not forgiven
me for that sour note: it was empty. I was not to have any bread or butter. I
moistened my lips and took a sip of my tea.
“No sugar, young Mr. Sayer?”
I looked at him briefly and then tore my eyes away. “Oh,
no sir. I’ve…er, given it up. For Lent.”
“Do you remember Herbie Morton, Rodney?” Brother
interjected, glossing over the fact that Methodists did not observe Lent. He
glanced up from the newspaper he was perusing, a faraway look in his eye. “I
believe he sang Holy, Holy at the Commemoration Concert. Blond chap, a
bit younger than I.”
I stared at Brother blankly. He expected me to remember
someone with whom he went to school? Cautiously, I turned my attention back
toward our guest. “Would you care for more bread and butter, Mr. Allnutt?” I
asked, trying to keep my voice low.
“Thanks, little Rev. I believe I would.”
“He’s a bishop, now! Only fancy! He was never much of a
student, only had a modicum of the social graces!” Brother sniffed. “Of
course, he married well. A manufacturer’s widow.”
Mr. Allnutt’s stomach growled even more violently than
before, and he shot my brother a grin. “Ain’t a thing I can do about it,
Brother looked down his nose at the captain and steadfastly
ignored the rude noises.
“Tell me, Mr. Allnutt, why did you find it necessary to
travel on the Sabbath?”
He grinned and shrugged. “One thing and another kept me
in Limbasi. You know how it is, Reverend.” He saw the way Brother was
observing him. “No, maybe you don’t know how it is.” He popped the
last bite of bread into his mouth. “I’d best be heading back upriver. There
are going to be problems up at the mine. The Belgians will give me a royal going
over, but I don’t mind. It’s one of those froggie tongues. I don’t much
mind being cussed out in a foreign language. And they can’t fire me, they need
me!” Mr. Allnutt grinned cheekily. “No one but me can get up a good head of
steam on the old African Queen.”
“Please stay for dinner, Mr. Allnutt!” I begged. The
only time lately when I felt really happy was when he visited.
Brother gave me a glare that promised retribution later,
and I swallowed hard.
“Sorry, little Rev. Not this time.” He got up from his
seat, taking a last gulp of his tea. “Oh, and I won’t be back this way for a
couple of months.”
“What? Well, what about our mail?”
“Won’t be any mail. The Germans will hold it up.”
“Why, in heaven’s name?” It was almost a whine.
“Well, there’s the war…”
“*War*? What war?”
“The war in Europe, the one between Germany and
“And you only thought now to tell us?” Brother was
livid, something he rarely let others see. “What’s happened?”
Mr. Allnutt shrugged, disinterested. “Each side claims
the other started it. France and a whole bunch of them little countries are in
it to, Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Spain… Can’t rightly tell you who’s on
“You really mean war?”
“It might be a good idea for you and the little Rev to
get to Limbasi, you being enemy aliens!”
“No!” Brother exclaimed. “The good shepherd does not
abandon his flock when the wolves are prowling! Is that all you can tell us, Mr.
“That’s all I know. I’ll try to find out more when I
get to Limbasi. You take care of yourselves. Especially you, little Rev,” he
said softly. “Thanks for the tea.” He waved and strode to the river where
the African Queen was docked.
“Goodbye, Mr. Allnutt!” I watched until the Queen
chugged around the bend and was no longer in sight.
“Wretched little man! Who does he think he is? He’s
Canadian; doesn’t he realize he’s involved in this as much as any of us?”
I knew better than to respond to that. “Mightn’t it be
a good idea to go to Limbasi, Brother?”
His mouth tightened. “Clean up the dishes and then go
practice that song on the organ until you can play it without making a stupid
My shoulders slumped and I turned to obey him. I was
stacking the dishes on the tray, when an uproar exploded in the village, and I
bolted onto what Brother liked to call the veranda.
“Bwana! Bwana!” The headman’s son ran up to us and
began pouring out a warning about approaching soldiers.
Brother stood watching in dismay as the thatched huts began
sprouting plumes of flame. The native women fled into the jungle, while their
men were rounded up by khaki-clad askaris, native soldiers who served under the
German officers of Kaiser Wilhelm.
“What is the meaning of this?” Brother demanded of the
hauptmann who was approaching up the path, stepping before him to block his way.
“How dare you?”
I saw the signal the German captain gave his man, although
I doubt that Brother did. The stock of the rifle slammed into his jaw before he
knew what was happening, and he crumpled to the ground.
“Samuel!” I cried, and threw myself down beside him.
There was a dazed look in his eyes. Never before had he been struck.
The captain nodded, and two of his men dragged Brother into
the house. When I scrambled to my feet to follow them, I was seized by a pair of
askaris and flung aside. My head collided with the side of the cottage, and I
sank down into oblivion.
It was almost dark when I regained consciousness. But…the
sun was still high over my shoulder. How could that be? And then I realized it
was the heavy pall of smoke dimming the light of day. The village was nothing
more than ash.
I got to my feet unsteadily and leaned against the cottage,
waiting until my stomach settled down and the landscape stopped dipping. I took
a deep breath and choked on the smoky air.
“Brother!” I staggered into the dim rooms and stumbled
over the remains of the dining room table, which had been shattered.
A quavering moan disturbed the unnatural silence of the
cottage. I followed the sound to his study, and found him crouched against the
His eyes were on some unseen horror. His mouth was swollen,
and the side of his face was deeply bruised. Something white and musky-smelling
stained his shirtfront. He flinched when I approached him.
“Samuel,” I said softly. “It’s Rodney. What did
they do to you, Brother?”
“Rodney? Rodney? I don’t feel at all well. Help me to
“Yes, of course. Here, Samuel, lean on me.” I slid my
shoulder under his arm and got him to his feet. Somehow I got him to his room
and onto his bed. “I’m going to get some water and cloths, and I’ll clean
you up, Samuel.”
He grabbed my sleeve. “Don’t leave me,” he slurred.
“Don’t let them do that to me again! Don’t let them put their members into
my mouth, and…and…” He leaned over and vomited onto the floor.
“They’re gone, Brother.” I eased him back onto his
bed and stroked his forehead. The porcelain pitcher of water was still on his
dresser. I found a handkerchief and dampened it, then gently wiped it over his
mouth and chin.
“They’re all gone.”
I sat at Brother’s bedside, trying to pray, but his words
distracted me. Since the German attack on him, he had been lost in another,
“Herbie…your blond hair…your soft blond hair…”
“Touch me, Herbie. Please touch me!”
A voluptuous sigh. “Kiss me, dear boy!” He grabbed my
arm and pulled me onto his chest, searching for my mouth. I managed to turn my
head, and the wet kiss landed on my cheek, his tongue warm against my skin.
“Herbie…don’t be coy! You know you want what I can give you, no matter how
much you deny it!”
Gently I disengaged myself from my brother’s grasp.
“Samuel, it’s Rodney. Herbie isn’t here.”
“Don’t tease me, Herbie.” His voice dropped to a
whisper. “I love you, you know! Please, love me back! You must…”
His mind seemed to wander elsewhere, somewhere dark and
frightening. “No, please! Don’t hurt me! Don’t make me…”
“Hush, Brother. It’s all right. No one is here to hurt
“Smite them, Lord! Oh, please! Kill them for what they
have done to me, what they made me do…” His meanderings took another turn,
and he began to weep. “The archbishop has learned of our feelings for each
other, and he is so displeased with me, Herbie. I do understand why I am
chastised, and not you as well. So fair, so vibrant. Who could not help but love
you, Herbie? We will volunteer to go to Africa together!”
I remembered that time. Brother had come home, white-faced
and shaken, and told me that we would be leaving for Africa as soon as our
affairs could be gotten in order. And we went one last time to the cemetery
where our parents lay primly together, side by side.
“I’ve disappointed you, Mother. I’m so sorry. But
I’ve no facility with the languages. That’s why I must become a
missionary.” His voice lowered, and I know he did not realize I could
distinguish his words. “Father, forgive me. My transgression is so great! I
must leave England! I cannot bear to stay here. But a dear friend will come to
Africa with me, and we will see to each other’s well-being, and do the
Only, the dear friend never arrived at the dock, and we
were forced to leave without him. Brother was never overly affectionate before
that time, but afterwards he became cold and harsh and determined to find error
in everything I did.
“I prayed, Herbie,” Brother was whispering. “Every
night I prayed that you would join me. And finally, when you never did, I
resigned myself to a life without you by my side. There was Rodney, though, and
I knew the Lord had a use for him. Never very bright among the lads, but he can
play the organ and till the soil. Even such a one as he will find grace doing
the Lord’s work here in this ungodly place!”
Slow tears slid down my cheeks. I rose and went to stand by
the window. As with everything else in the cottage, the woven shade had been
savagely destroyed. The view out the window was desolate, our little garden
raped as surely as my brother’s mouth had been.
What little breeze there was carried the cloying scent of
death. Livestock that couldn’t be taken with the soldiers had been wantonly
slaughtered, and scavengers fought over the remains. I no longer had the heart
to run out and chase them away.
A loud thud behind me jerked me away from the window, and I
whirled around to find Brother on the floor. I hurried to his side and wrestled
him back onto the bed.
“I must…I must see to the planting, Rodney! It’s so
late in the season! We’ll never get the crops harvested in time for winter!”
“Samuel, we’re in Africa. It doesn’t matter when we
plant.” I was relieved that once again he knew me. And then my heart sank as I
looked into his confused eyes. That brief, lucid moment was gone.
“I’m…I’m so tired, Herbie. I think I’ll try to
sleep for a little while.”
“Yes. Sleep, Samuel. When you awake, I’ll have a nice
bowl of soup ready for you.”
He smiled drowsily. “Yes, please. That would be so nice.
And a cup of tea, perhaps? I’m so cold. Why am I so cold, Herbie? Come lie
with me!” I bit my lip and drew the light blanket up to his shoulders, tucking
it securely around him.
“After you’ve rested, Samuel,” I murmured, my voice
“Yes…” He turned on his side and slipped into a light
A chicken that had escaped the Huns was scratching at a
barren patch of ground. I caught it easily and twisted its neck. It would take
some time to dress the carcass, but there was no rush. I prepared the fire in
the stove, filled a pot with water, and then sat and plucked the feathers. It
would have been easier to scald them off, but I didn’t have water to spare.
The Germans had tipped over our cistern, and I needed to use the water from the
Ulanga. Which meant it had to be boiled before it could be used.
When the scrawny bird was finally free of feathers and had
been gutted, I put it in the pot and let it begin to simmer. There was no salt
or herbs available, but I thought hunger would make the best seasoning.
Then I just sat down and waited.
The cottage was a shambles. When Brother was more himself,
he would be quite cross that I had not tried to repair the damage done by the
soldiers, but at that moment I couldn’t bring myself to do anything more.
“Little Rev! Little Rev!”
I looked up from where I sat on the cottage steps. What was
Mr. Allnutt doing back here in Kungdu? He had said it would be months before he
came this way again.
I stood up, rubbing my cheeks surreptitiously to make sure
they were dry. “Mr. Allnutt…”
“Dear God, boy, I thought I’d find you dead! Or gone!
Those goddamned vultures!” He glared up at the carrion-eaters, and then his
arms were around me in a bear hug that was just short of painful, but I didn’t
protest. If I could feel him, then I knew I had to be alive. Unlike Brother…
Abruptly he set me away from him. “Er…sorry, little
Rev. I was just so glad to see you.”
“It’s nice to see you too, Mr. Allnutt,” I said
politely. “Would you care for some soup? I made it for Brother but…”
“Where is the Reverend, little Rev? I thought sure he’d
be urging hellfire down on the Huns.”
“He…he’s dead, Mr. Allnutt.”
“Ah, now that’s a shame! If the Germans would shoot a
man of God…”
“They didn’t shoot him, although it would have been
kinder. They…they did something unspeakable to him, Mr. Allnutt!”
“And you, boy? Did they hurt you too?” he demanded
harshly, his fingers reaching out to touch the darkened patch of hair just
behind my ear.
“Oh, no. I was knocked out when they threw me against the
wall, but…I’m all right.”
He rubbed the moisture on his fingers together. “This is
blood, little Rev. And if I’m not mistaken, it’s fresh: you’ve opened that
“I did?” I asked stupidly, and would have sought to
examine myself the spot that I only just realized was dully throbbing, but he
held my hand down.
“Come into the kitchen, I want to see to that.” Before
I could protest, he dragged me behind him into the cottage. He came to a sudden
halt as his eyes became accustomed to the subdued lighting. “What the fuck
I could feel a blush on my cheeks at his language.
“Brother tried to stop the Germans from taking our men, and they ransacked the
He paused in the doorway of Brother’s room. “How long
has he been dead?”
I rubbed my forehead, a headache starting to build there.
“Early this morning, I think.”
“We’re going to have to get him buried soon. It ain’t
healthy to leave him in this heat.”
“I know. I was going to look for a shovel in a little while…”
”When was the last time you ate?”
I couldn’t remember, and just looked at him blankly.
He poked in the pot with the chicken in it, and found a
bowl. “Here,” he said, filling the bowl to the brim. “Get this inside
The odor of the boiled chicken caused my stomach to roil,
but once I had taken a few sips, I began to feel better.
Mr. Allnutt found a clean rag and used some of the water I
had boiled. He hushed me when I would have objected and carefully blotted the
blood from my scalp. I thought his fingers lingered rather long in my hair, but
when I glanced up he seemed lost in thought.
“I’ll find that shovel, little Rev, and get started on digging a grave.” He frowned at my wince, but continued. “When you finish that soup, I want you to pack up whatever you want to take with you.”
“Take with me?” I repeated. “Where am I going?
“You’re going with me. The Queen has enough supplies to
last us until this war ends. You can’t stay here alone. The Germans are sure
to be back this way before too long, and a pretty boy like you… Well, let’s
just say you might not get off with just a scalp wound.”
I felt myself turn pale. I might not be very clever, but I
understood what he meant. When I had regained consciousness, my clothing had
been a trifle disheveled. I was in no physical distress, however, and I knew I
hadn’t been used in any manner.
Imagining the soldiers ripping off my trousers and burying
themselves, one after the other in my body, of them coming in my mouth as they
had with Brother, left me shuddering with revulsion.
I nodded to let Mr. Allnutt know I would obey his orders,
and he hurried out to the lean-to next to the cottage. As I drank the last of my
soup, I saw him striding across to the tiny cemetery behind the First Methodist
Church of Kungdu. Shortly after, I could hear the shovel slicing through the
I set the bowl down and went to my room. At the back of my
closet, hidden in the shadows, was the carpetbag that had held my belongings
when we first traveled to Africa, and I pulled it out.
There wasn’t much left that I could pack; the Germans had
taken whatever they could easily find. However, there were some shirts and
trousers and unmentionables, which had been overlooked somehow, and I folded
them neatly and put them in the carpetbag.
I found the brolly, Brother’s huge black umbrella, which
he had brought from England, and which we never really had much use for in East
Africa. I propped it next to the front door and went looking for the family
bible, with his notes in the margin, and the family tree carefully kept up to
date, right up to the last two entries, Samuel and myself.
It was in the table by his bed. Next to it was a small,
unfamiliar volume of poetry. Pressed between its pages was a lock of golden
hair. I stroked the cover thoughtfully, and then slipped it into Brother’s
coat pocket. I would see that it was buried with him.
Mr. Allnutt came in then, with a plank of wood. “I’m
sorry, little Rev, but I’m going to need your help getting the Reverend out to
“Of course, Mr. Allnutt.” I lay the coat over
Brother’s folded hands, and together the boat captain and I got him onto the
plank and carried him out into the humid African afternoon.
As Mr. Allnutt shoveled the soil onto the earthly remains
of my brother, I gazed down into the grave. “I am the Resurrection and the
Light, sayeth the Lord. He that believeth in me…shall dwell with me throughout
We placed stones on his grave to prevent the scavengers
from getting at him. Mr. Allnutt dusted off his hands and stepped back. “Do
you have everything, little Rev?”
“One last thing!” I remembered and ran back into the
cottage. It was under my pillow, where I always kept it, a scrap of worn, blue
wool. I stuffed it into my bag and hauled it to the front door.
Mr. Allnutt had the brolly, and I nodded at him. “I’m
He put his arm around my shoulder and we walked down to the African Queen.
happened to your crew, Mr. Allnutt?” I sat on the transom opposite him,
nervously pleating the scrap of blue wool into an accordion, and then smoothing
The boat captain swung his eyes from their constant
scanning of the riverbank. He leaned his arm on the tiller, and his lips
twisted. “The drums started talking about a day out from the mine.” He
caught my eyes, and I nodded, letting him know I understood his reference to
jungle communication. “The Germans was burning villages and taking the men to
make them soldiers.”
“I guess their plan is to take over all of Africa.”
“England will not permit that!”
He grinned and went back to examining the bank. “By the
time we got to the mine, the boys was sweating and moaning and rolling their
eyes. They took one look at the way the mine was all torn up, and they bolted
for the jungle. Take the tiller, Mr. Sayer.”
“I don’t know how to steer, Mr. Allnutt!”
“I reckon it’s time you leaned, little Rev.”
He held the tiller until I was able to slide across the
seat and grasp it. When he let it go, I could feel the tug of the current,
fighting to shift the rudder to another direction. Didn’t Mr. Allnutt realize
I had no idea how to do this? I’d never be able to control the African Queen,
not even for the barest of moments.
But he didn’t seem in the least concerned. He made his
way to the front of the boat and found what he was looking for. “A little to
starboard, Mr. Sayer.”
I froze. I didn’t know which way starboard was.
“Starboard, little Rev.”
I drew a deep breath and put my weight behind the tiller,
causing the boat to turn.
“No, the other way.” His tone was so calm. Brother
would have been tearing a stripe from me, never raising his voice that was true,
but slicing me to bits, never the less.
“Sorry, sir,” I whispered. He glanced at me sharply,
and I dropped my gaze, unable to meet the disgust that was sure to be in his.
Mr. Allnutt reached for a line and tied off on a stout tree
branch that hung low over the water. “Little Rev.” He waited until I looked
up at him. “It will take some time for you to get used to the terminology of
this boat, and the river. We ain’t going nowhere. You’ll learn.”
“I will?” I asked hopefully. He walked back to where I
was sitting. With a sigh, he dropped down onto a box that was stacked by the
“Sure thing, little Rev. Easy does it.” The captain
smiled warmly at me while he searched his pockets for a cigarette. He found one
and lit it. “Well, so far, so good.”
“Where do we go from here?” I asked.
He considered our situation thoughtfully. “We’ll just
find a nice little island to hide behind and take stock of our situation.
We’ve got lots of tinned grub, two thousand cigarettes, and two cases of gin,
so we’re all right that way.”
I curled my lip at the thought of the liquor. “It’s
horrible tasting stuff, Mr. Allnutt. Brother always said so!” I hastened to
He ruffled my hair. That was the first time in longer than
I could remember that he had touched me. “Well, Mr. Sayer, it’s mother’s
milk to me! Might I interest you in a sip or two?”
My mouth dropped open. “No thank you, sir!” Mr. Allnutt
leaned toward me, and for an instant I thought he was about to kiss me, but he
just reached past me and slid a noose over the tiller to hold it in place. I
shook my head. What a ridiculous idea! “Will the Germans come looking for
us?” I asked, feeling a trifle lost.
He regarded the glowing tip of his cigarette. “I’m
afraid so, Mr. Sayer.” He saw the confusion in my eyes. “Oh, not because
they want a gin-soaked river rat like me, or even a pretty boy like you.” His
calloused fingertips touched the curve of my cheek. “They’re going to want
the African Queen, and what she’s carrying.” Mr. Allnutt tapped his heel
against the box he sat on. “Blasting gelatin.” He pointed to torpedo-like
shapes scattered over the deck. “Cylinders of oxygen, hydrogen.”
“Blasting gelatin? Isn’t that dangerous?” I swallowed
hard, not so much from fear of being blown up as by his nearness, of his thigh
so close to mine. I shifted restlessly.
“Lord love you, little Rev, it’s not dangerous! You can
bang it with a hammer, drop it, and even heave it against a wall. It won’t do
anything without a detonator to set it off!”
“If you say so, Mr. Allnutt.” Exhaustion was starting
to creep over me. “Might I have a cup of tea? We do have tea, don’t we?”
How foolish to panic over something as inconsequential as a tin of dried leaves.
“Sure thing, Mr. Sayer. And it might be a good idea if I
fixed us something to eat as well. I don’t imagine that soup is going to hold
you for long.” He opened the
grate and banked the logs that fired the Queen’s engine.
“Would you mind if I freshened up a bit, Mr. Allnutt?”
“Huh? Oh sure, little Rev. This is a safe enough spot. No
crocodiles, no hippos. You can strip down and have a dip.”
Strip down? In front of another man? Brother always made
sure we had plenty of privacy when we bathed. I glanced uneasily at the captain,
but he was filling a small kettle with water and setting it on to boil.
I removed my jacket, folded it neatly and placed it on the
transom. I undid my collar and sighed in relief.
“That’s a nasty mark you’ve got there, little Rev.”
I jumped as Mr. Allnutt encircled my throat. When had he come up behind me?
“This is the only collar I have. It’s a little small,
and it leaves a red welt, but it really isn’t painful.”
“If it’s too small, why do you wear it?”
“Well…well…It’s the only one I have,” I repeated,
at a loss.
“Let me see that.” I handed it to him, and he turned it
over and over in his hands. Then he tossed it into the river. I gave a cry of
protest, and actually would have gone overboard after it. He wound his hands in
my shirtfront and pulled me close to him. His smoke-scented breath washed over
my face. “I don’t need you passing out from heat prostration, little Rev!”
His fingers flexed, and then he released me. “Now cool off, and I’ll have
your tea ready for you when you’re done.”
I stumbled backwards and sat down heavily. I stared in
dismay at my lap, where the bulge of my arousal was quite evident. I bounced up
and spun around so it wouldn’t be seen, then took off my shirt and trousers.
Without looking behind me, I slid over the side of the
Queen, still wearing my unmentionables. The coolness of the water was
refreshing, and I released the side of the boat and went completely under. A
lazy kick brought me back to the surface, and a flick of my head sent a shower
of water from my hair. I swam from one side of the boat to the other, tumbling
and rolling beneath the stern.
“Little Rev, time to come out. Your tea’s getting
“Yes, Mr. Allnutt.” I reached for the side of the boat,
but I had exhausted myself playing in the water and couldn’t pull myself up.
“I need some help, please, sir,” I called breathlessly.
He leaned over and extended a hand, which I took
gratefully, and he pulled me up. I got a leg over the side and stood dripping
before him. “Well, now,” he murmured as he examined me. “What was this in
aid of, young Mr. Sayer?”
“These clothes. If you kept them on for modesty’s sake,
they’re falling short of their purpose I’d say: they’re almost
I looked down and blushed as I saw the shadow at my groin,
and the outline of my shaft. “Oh…!”
Mr. Allnutt chuckled and threw me a towel. I scurried to
the back of the boat and stared at myself in dismay as I realized I’d have to
remove my under garments in order to get dry. I bit my lip and glanced anxiously
over my shoulder, but the captain was busy at the front of the boat.
I dropped the towel, and as quickly as I could, stripped
off my unmentionables. The sound of a throat being cleared drew my attention. I
snatched up the towel and whirled and held it in front of me like a shield.
“Is it safe to look, little Rev?”
My skin felt as if it was on fire, and I could have wept.
He thought me a child! I swallowed around the lump that had lodged itself in my
throat. “Just one more moment, please?” I scrambled into my trousers and did
up all the buttons save the top two. “All right, Mr. Allnutt. I’m decent.”
“I always did think you were decent, little Rev.” He
turned just as I was putting on my shirt, and his mouth dropped open.
“Is something wrong, sir?” I asked uncomfortably. My
fingers seemed to be all thumbs, and I couldn’t get the shirt buttoned.
“Here.” The captain closed my hand around the tin cup
that held my tea, and began the task of sliding the buttons into the
buttonholes. The backs of his fingers somehow brushed against the light
sprinkling of hair that dusted my chest. I trembled and grew hard. “Are you
getting cold, little Rev?”
“N…no, sir. I must just be tired.”
To my astonishment, he tucked the shirt into my trousers.
To my embarrassment, this time his fingers touched more
My face flaming, I tried to pull away from him, but he
refused to release me. “It’s all right, little Rev. Bodies is strange
And then he did let me go.
“Right now, I think I’d better get you fed.” And he led me to the front of the boat and pressed a plate into my hands.
The African night descended with its usual abruptness. One
minute we were eating dinner in the glaring sun, and the next we were surrounded
by pitch black. There was no twilight.
I sat there with the fork halfway to my mouth, frozen in
the darkness, observing the glittering specks of light on the black velvet
backdrop of the night sky.
“It’s huge, isn’t it?” I asked in a reverent tone.
“What’s huge, Mr. Sayer?” Mr. Allnutt asked as he
struck a match and lit a lantern.
“The sky. When you live in the city, you don’t realize
how very immense it is. Even in Kungdu, it didn’t look like this. It’s hard
to encompass its vastness.”
“Didn’t you ever spend the night in the open, little
not approve,” I hedged.
“And you always did as your brother ordered?”
I peeked at him through my lashes. “Well…”
He gave a bark of laughter and cuffed me lightly on my arm.
“You disobeyed him? You young puppy!”
“You won’t tell on me, will you?” And then
realization hit home. There was no one to tell. No one to care whether I stayed
or went. I was truly alone in the world!
“What’s wrong, little Rev?”
I set down my plate and fork. “Nothing, Mr. Allnutt. I
think I’d like to go to bed now, if it’s all right with you?”
“There’s some blankets in the storage compartment.
Spread them out on the deck and roll yourself up in them. Nights are cool on the
Mr. Allnutt gathered up the utensils and dropped them into
a basin he had filled with water.
I hurried to the back of the boat and found the blankets.
After I had them smoothed on the deck, I knelt down and folded my hands
together. “Heavenly Father, bless Brother, who this day has come to stand
before Your throne. He was a good and holy man, and if he was harsh with me, it
was only because I am so stupid, and he had to beat the knowledge of Your word
“Bless Nanny, who loved me. Bless Mama and Papa, who gave
me life. And bless Mr. Allnutt, who has saved me from the Germans. And forgive
me my wicked thoughts about him,” I added in a subdued whisper. I tried to
remember whom else I should mention in my prayers, but I was so tired I could
barely think, so I concluded with a hasty, “Guide England to her hour of
triumph in defeating the Huns. Amen.”
I lay down and pulled one of the blankets over my
shoulders, curling in on myself. I took the scrap of wool from my pocket and
rested my head on it. It brought me comfort, that last remnant of my childhood,
and I snuggled my cheek against it. Between one breath and another I was sound
I was so cold. I had never, ever been this cold
before in my life. Massive shudders wracked my body and I hugged my arms around
myself, but it didn’t help. I couldn’t get warm. My teeth began to chatter,
and I shivered so hard I thought my bones would shatter. I ached with the cold.
And then someone came to me and draped a comforter over me,
and tucked it snugly around my shoulders. “Nanny?” I murmured sleepily.
“Shhh,” a low voice said. Gradually, my body stopped
shuddering, and I was enveloped by a luxurious heat.
But how odd that the comforter should feel like arms
holding me tight, keeping me safe.
The early morning sun teased at my eyelids, and I stretched
hugely, feeling my joints give a satisfying pop. The blankets were tangled
around my legs, and I reached down to yank them over my shoulders again. Like
being doused with ice water, the realization came to me that I wasn’t in my
own bed, in my own room at the mission.
A gentle rocking under me recalled my circumstances. German
soldiers had destroyed the village, Brother was dead, and I was on the Ulanga,
on the African Queen with her captain, Mr. Allnutt.
Rasping breathing disturbed the silence of the dawn, and
then a quiet moan. Was Mr. Allnutt injured, in pain?
Cautiously, I raised my head and peered around, to see the
Queen’s captain standing by the side of the boat. His trousers were loose
around his hips and his body was bowed. He groaned again, and shifted slightly,
and I could see his hand wrapped firmly around his softening shaft. His eyes
were closed, and clenched in one fist were some articles of clothing.
I reached down surreptitiously to give my own hard prick a
quick rub. It would not do to pleasure myself. Brother had beaten me nearly
unconscious the one time he had caught me at that unholy act.
My head sank down onto the small piece of blanket that
acted as my pillow, and I held myself still. After what seemed like forever, I
heard the rustling of clothing.
“Awake yet, young Mr. Sayer?” Mr. Allnutt asked.
I risked a quick glance, to find his trousers snug around
his hips and his hands busy stringing a line between two of the supports of the
Queen’s canopy. “Shall I start the tea, sir?”
He grinned. Although his back was to me, I could hear it in
his voice. “You do love your tea, don’t you, little Rev? I’ve already got
the water boiling. I just wanted to hang up your unmentionables. Your bare skin
might not be able to tolerate the roughness of your shirt and trousers.”
My shaft quivered at his words, and the image of being
bare. It occurred to me that the clothing he held while he pleasured himself
were my undergarments, and I licked my lips nervously.
I got up, folding the blankets and storing them away for
the day. The little blue square disappeared into my pocket.
I opened a can of some kind of meat and beans with the big
knife that had been embedded on the boat’s railing, and poured its contents
into a pot. It looked revolting, but it smelled heavenly. While it heated, I put
some hardtack on our plates and poured boiling water over the tealeaves.
“What will we do, Mr. Allnutt?”
“Just sit here and catch our breaths for a bit, I reckon,
“No, I meant, what will England do? We can’t permit Germany to seize all of Africa.”
He scratched the stubble that covered his jaw and spooned
out a portion of the mixture onto my plate and handed it to me. “Well, little
Rev, if the British come from the sea, up by railway to Limbasi, the Germans
will be between them and us.” He filled his own plate and began to eat.
“They can’t come up from the Congo; they’d still be hacking through the
undergrowth when the war was ended. And even if they wanted to, they’d have to
cross the Lake. Which they can’t do.”
I took a cautious sip of the tea, not wanting to burn my
mouth. “Why can’t they do that, Mr. Allnutt?”
“The Louisa,” he repeated. “She’s the boss of that
Lake, a hundred tons of sheer nastiness!”
“A hundred tons? How did the Germans get her to an inland
lake in Africa?”
“They carried her overland in sections and put her
together on that Lake. Nothing can get past her!”
“Why? Most anything can be gotten around.” I broke off
a piece of hardtack and used it to scoop up some of the meat and beans.
“Ah, little Rev, the Louisa has a little something extra:
a six pounder!”
My eyes grew wide. “Oh my!” I chewed thoughtfully and
“What’s going on behind those blue eyes of yours, Mr.
I took a deep breath. “England will need all of her sons.
I have to do something. I can’t spend the war safe in some backwater! If I
skirt Limbasi and go further south, I can pick up the railway and meet up with
the troops where they come ashore.”
There was a clatter as Mr. Allnutt dropped his plate. “Of
all the damn fool ideas! You can’t do that! You’re just a boy! Those
Germans’ll catch you and eat you for breakfast!”
“Mr. Allnutt, those Germans pose a threat to my country.
And they killed my brother. You’re supposed to do something, when something
like that happens. It doesn’t matter that Brother didn’t care much for me.
He was still my blood, my kin.”
“And what are you going to do? Get a gun and kill them?
Have you ever fired a rifle? Have you ever seen anyone killed, up close? Blood
and flesh explode, and believe me, little Rev, it ain’t pretty. The man you
shot collapses like a rag doll, his muscles useless. His trousers will be
soiled, because he’ll piss and shit himself. If he’s eaten within the last
hour he’ll vomit it up!”
I felt myself go pale, and my stomach began to churn at the
graphic pictures Mr. Allnutt was painting. He reached across the space of deck
that separated us and hauled me close to him. I could smell the scent of his
semen, where some of it had gotten on his trousers. Distracted, I wanted to curl
into his body and lose myself into it. I wanted to lick a path from his jaw to
But I was an Englishman, and I pulled myself back to
reality. I would die defending my country if I must.
As if reading my mind, Mr. Allnutt gave me a shake and
growled, “War ain’t glory and honor, boy! It’s dying, hard and in pain,
and a long, long way from home!”
“I have to do something!” I cried, hating the way he
called me boy.
“Oh, yeah?” He got to his feet and strode to the front
of the boat. Next to the engine that powered the Queen, there was a metal box.
He reached into it and pulled out a sheaf of drawings, thumbing through them.
When he found what he was searching for, he thrust the page at me. “Here’s
us!” His finger stabbed at a spot on the map. “Here’s where the British
will be! And here’s where the Germans are! What do you suggest we do?”
I stared at the huge area that belonged to the Huns, and I
swallowed. And then I leaned forward and examined the map more carefully. I
glanced at the supplies scattered across the deck of the boat, and then back at the map. I looked at the Ulanga,
which flowed past us with the calm dignity of a grande dame, and looked one
final time at the map.
“What I suggest, Mr. Allnutt, is that we take this boat down to the Lake, and blow up the Louisa!”
When he realized I was dead serious about taking the Queen
down the Ulanga and finding some way to sink the Louisa, Mr. Allnutt turned
“We can’t do that!”
“Why not?” I asked reasonably.
“Because…because…Well, for one thing, it ain’t
never been done!”
“Beg pardon? I know I’m not bright, but someone had to
go down to that Lake from the Ulanga, or this map would never have been made.”
“Oh, sure, this German, name of Spengler. He did it in a
dugout canoe with half a dozen Swahili paddlers. But taking the African Queen is
out of the question!”
“Well…Well…” His eyes began to look desperate.
“Well, first off there’s Shona!”
I looked at him blankly.
“The German’s have a fort there overlooking the river.
They ain’t going to let us go cruising past without taking a shot at us! And
if they don’t succeed in blowing us out of the water, there’s the
rapids! A hundred miles of white water so violent there ain’t nothing I can
think of to compare it with. Your crack-brained scheme is going to see us dead,
I had been watching him the whole time he paced from the
bow of the Queen to the stern, and back again, mesmerized by the easy roll of
his gait that accommodated the shift and glide of the boat beneath his feet.
“So what you’re saying is that you won’t help your
country in her hour of need. I see.” I dragged my gaze to the bank of the
river, searching for a place to tie up.
“I wouldn’t put it that way, little Rev,” he said
“How would you put it then?” The cross currents slowed
the forward movement of the boat.
He looked from the bank to me, distracted. “ It’s
just…it can’t be done, and that’s all there is to it!”
“How do you know it can’t be done, if you’ve never
“I ain’t never tried shooting myself in the head,
neither! Why are you putting in to shore? We’ve got plenty of daylight
“There’s no point in going on, is there? I’ll get off
here and make my way back to Kungdu, and then head south until I reach
Limbasi.” I slipped the noose over the tiller and stood to gather my things.
“Perhaps I’ll see you when the war is over. Goodbye, Mr. Allnutt.”
I was a civilized Englishman. I would not let my
disappointment in the man I had thought such a giant among men prevent me from
observing proper etiquette. I extended my hand, intending to wish him good luck.
He slapped my hand away. “You’re going to hold that
over my head, aren’t you? Every time I do something you don’t approve of,
you’re going to threaten me with marching off to war. Well, I won’t fucking
I was so shocked by his deliberate crudity that I didn’t
realize his grammar had suddenly improved beyond recognizing. “I beg your
pardon?” I drew myself up to my full height. Mr. Allnutt and I were not quite
eye to eye.
“Don’t you give me that snippy tone of voice, you
skinny, psalm-singing little bugger!” I cringed at his anger, but before I
could be hurt by the vulgar epithet, he was barreling on, his finger stabbing at
my chest with each word. “I’m responsible for your miserable hide, and I’m
not going to let you march off to face the Huns! I did that once, went
off to go a-soldiering for God and country. I won’t let you do it! I won’t
let you make the same mistake I made!”
Stunned, I gave way before his furious approach. “I…I
His hands were wrapped in the front of my shirt, and he
hauled me up until I was on my toes. His breath fanned my face, and I blinked
and swallowed. “I know the kind of things a boy like you reads. The Charge of
the Light Brigade and ‘half a league onward rode the gallant six hundred!’
The Three Musketeers and ‘one for all and all for one!’ Gunga Din:
‘You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!’ Your head is so filled with
that glory bullshit that you don’t realize a dead hero is just as dead as an
“You’ve seen it, what a body looks like when it’s
been shot to pieces, to describe it so vividly.” My eyes were riveted to his
“Seen it, hell,” he spat out. “I’ve done it! I’ve
raised my rifle and…and shot the …the enemy through the heart.” He
released me and turned away, his hands scrubbing his face. “He was so
surprised. A little Afrikaner, not much older than you…”
I let my carpetbag drop to the deck and cautiously went to
him, my hand raised to touch him. It hovered just above his shoulder, and I
stood there, uncertain of how to offer him comfort, and then I let it fall and
backed away. “That wouldn’t happen to me, you know.”
He gave a bark of laughter that had no humor in it.
“Yeah, I’ll bet that boy thought the same thing. Right up until he drew his
very last breath in my arms. Ah, fuck it. Get us back into the current. We’ll
go on down the river, and if we make it past Shona in one piece, we’ll see
where we go from there.”
The tension between us seemed to grow like Jack’s
beanstalk. For the first time since he had taken me away from Kungdu, Mr.
Allnutt began to drink. He cracked open a bottle of gin and gulped such a large
mouthful that he coughed and his eyes teared up.
I sat in the stern of the boat, not saying anything. If it
had been Brother, I would have been beaten within an inch of my life. The
captain just kept tipping back that bottle.
“Er, you aren’t planning on getting drunk, are you, Mr.
“What’s it to you, boy? Afraid I won’t get you down
I was hurt by his tone of voice. I was used to it from
Brother, but Mr. Allnutt had always spoken kindly to me, and now that he no
longer was, I felt as if I had been abandoned. I sniffed and pointedly looked
And caught my breath. “I truly hope you aren’t drunk,
Mr. Allnutt. I think we may have a problem!”
“What…” he started to sneer, and then his eyes
followed mine. “Oh, goddammit to hell in a handbasket!”
“Sorry, little Rev. We’ve got bigger problems that
upsetting the Almighty.”
“There are no bigger problems!”
“Now you’re starting to sound like that brother of yours!”
“Oh!” I huffed.
“Shove over, little Rev! We got white water dead
I scooted out of the way, and Mr. Allnutt took over the
tiller. My mouth was dry with fear. Ahead of us I could see the Ulanga swirling
around rocks and terraces in the riverbed. It began as a low, persistent growl,
and rose to a thunderous roar. I closed my eyes.
Somehow that made it worse, and as we went over the first
of the rapids, my eyes flew open. The African Queen swung first to the left,
then to the right, and all the while, Mr. Allnutt struggled with the tiller,
trying to keep her from the worst of the rocks.
Nanny took me to a street fair once. I wanted to ride a
pony in the worst way, but she wouldn’t permit it. While she was distracted by
a vendor selling sweetmeats, I slipped away and went back to the deceptively
docile creature. I climbed onto the shaggy beast’s back and tapped his sides
with my heels.
What I didn’t know was that the pony was only
half-broken. He took exception to my weight on his back, and began to buck and
sunfish. I had held on with both hands, and my initial fear vanished. I was
laughing giddily when his master was finally able to get his hand on the
pony’s halter and yank me off. He swatted my seat, and Nanny beat him about
the head with her brolly for laying a hand on me.
Muttering under her breath about the nerve of some people
the entire way, she dragged me home. And once there she gave me a hiding I never
But I rode that pony.
I felt it now, the excitement of riding the uncontrolled
river as the Queen bucked and sunfished through the white water. She dipped low,
and shipped water, then rose high and skittered forward. Mr. Allnutt was
swearing steadily as he wrestled with the tiller and forced the boat to obey
One last, vicious twist, and then the African Queen
surrendered and slid into the quiet water, leaving the rapids behind.
“You all right, little Rev?”
“I’m…I never dreamed…!”
“Well, you won’t want to go ahead then, will you?”
“Oh no, I want to go on! It’s…” I stared down at my
lap, where my trousers had tented over an erection so hard it was painful.
“Mr…Mr. Allnutt, what’s wrong with me?”
watched as I rubbed myself. The sin of Onan, according to my brother, was almost
as unforgivable as the sin of Sodom, but I ached! The need to touch
myself was overpowering, and I ripped at the buttons of my trousers to get at my
weeping flesh, uncaring that this action put me beyond the pale, that the
captain would no longer have a jot of respect for me.
I was almost weeping myself, from the surge of adrenaline
that seethed through me. Mr. Allnutt’s hard, blunt fingers brushed my hands
out of the way, and I cried out in protest. And then his arm was around me,
drawing me into his embrace, and he was holding my prick, stroking it,
coating it with the fluid that oozed from the tip. The strokes were hard and
sure, and I shuddered and thrust mindlessly into his hand.
“More. Please, more!” I babbled as I struggled to get
closer to him. I licked and suckled at his throat as he drove me higher, not
easing me, making the desire worse. My hips rocked forward, demanding release.
He murmured in my ear, and thrust his tongue into it, and
with a silent gasp I began to spill myself into his hand. Long delicious minutes
passed, and I lay bonelessly in his arms, nuzzling against him.
“That was wonderful!” I sighed.
“Are you all right now, little Rev?” He was rubbing
soothing circles on my back.
“Yes, I’m…Oh, God. Oh, dear God. What have I done?”
I could feel my face flame with mortification. I backed away from him, watching
his face fearfully. “I’m sor—sorry, Mr. Allnutt. I don’t know what came
over me! Brother will…”
“Brother won’t do anything, little Rev. Not ever again.
What happened to you was a natural reaction to excitement. Running the rapids
for the first time has that effect on a body. It isn’t a sin.”
“It does? It’s not? But you didn’t react the same
way.” I gestured down to indicate my now flaccid prick, and blushed as I
realized it was still resting outside my trousers. Hastily I tucked myself away
and did up the buttons.
“You think not?” He took my hand and pressed it against
him. I traced the shape of his shaft beneath the material of his pants with
wonder. It was hard. And hot. “You’re a quiet lover, little Rev. Why did you
learn to be so quiet?” His fingers threaded through my hair, tugging it gently
until I was looking into his eyes. “Your brother?”
I nodded, my color running high again. “He caught me
once. After that, I made sure he never caught me again.”
“The next time, I want to hear how much you enjoy what I
do to you.”
“The next time? There’s going to be a next time?”
His mouth found mine and he was kissing me. “Count on it, little Rev!”
Night had fallen with its usual abruptness. I was rolled
into my blankets, while the captain of the African Queen made sure she was
secured for the night.
The spot he had selected was ideal. The bank dropped
sharply to the river, water was deep, and the current ran swift, not suitable at
all for the crocodiles that habituated this part of Africa.
I looked over the side, my fingers languidly unbuttoning my
shirt as I wondered how edible the fish in this part of the Ulanga might be. I
dropped my shirt to the deck and began to work on my trousers. “Care to join
me, Mr. Allnutt?” I asked, my trousers gaping just enough for him to see that
I wore no undergarments.
A flush mounted his cheeks. “Not just yet, young Mr.
Sayer. Why don’t you take the stern?”
“Won’t you be swimming?” I ran my tongue over my
lips, trying to hint at what I’d really like him to be doing.
“Er, I’ll swim up here by the bow!”
In spite of the late afternoon heat, I felt chilled. Had I
misinterpreted his words after he had helped me achieve release after that first
set of rapids?
This time I made sure I was able to get out of the water
without any assistance, and I quickly dried off and drew on my last set of clean
clothes. I’d need to do some laundry, but that would have to wait until we got
“Dinner’s ready, little Rev,” Mr. Allnutt called. He
looked up at the evening sky. “We’d better eat quickly. Looks like we may be
in for some rain.”
“I’m…I’ve no appetite tonight, sir. I’ll just
turn in now, if you have no objections?”
“Well…well, sure. Say, do you feel all right? You’re
not sickening for anything, are you, little Rev?” Did he sound concerned, or
was that just wishful thinking on my part?
“No, I’m quite fine, thank you, sir. Just a little
“Well…good night then.”
“Night, sir.” I laid the blankets out under the canopy.
If we did get rain, it would keep us a bit drier.
I was positive I’d never fall asleep. So much had
happened that day, culminating in that wild ride down the rapids which had left
me so painfully excited that I would have exploded if Mr. Allnutt had not
literally taken me in hand and brought me to climax.
And then that kiss, the first time I had ever been kissed
on the mouth. I was so certain that from now on I would belong to him. But I
must have misunderstood him, because he hadn’t touched me once since he had
given me back the tiller.
I settled myself into my makeshift bed, and tumbled
headlong into sleep.
The sound of rain pattering on the canopy brought me to the
edge of wakefulness. I shivered in the cool air and pulled the blanket over my
The next time I came fully awake, I was so violently
aroused that I moaned aloud. My nipples were stiffened and aching, the material
of my shirt replaced by calloused, teasing fingers that plucked and tormented.
A rain-laden breeze washed over my skin, and I realized I
was naked. I should have been shaking from the drop in temperature, but I was
deliciously warm. Something slick rocked between the cheeks of my ass, nudging
past my balls and gliding upward against my straining shaft.
“Sorry, little Rev. I wanted to give you some time to get
used to the idea of having me as your lover, but I just can’t wait! I won’t
hurt you, I promise, but I just have to have a taste of you tonight!”
“Yes!” I moaned.
His hair-roughened thigh rested over my hip, keeping my
legs from shifting restlessly, and he continued to slide though the passage he
had created. While one hand continued to toy with my nipples, the other smoothed
down past my torso to dip into my navel. Moving on, it tugged gently at the hair
that covered my groin. It touched me everywhere but where I needed most to be
“Please,” I begged.
Mr. Allnutt licked a path from my adam’s apple to the
skin just behind my ear and bit down. At the same time he finally took my
weeping shaft in his hand and caressed it with firm strokes. I shuddered and
writhed under him, reaching back to press his head firmly to my flesh.
He suckled and fondled and occasionally would rub the tip
of his prick against my opening, driving me to buck into his snug grasp. “Moan
for me, little Rev!” he whispered, his breath hot in my ear.
“I can’t…” I tried to wriggle closer and felt the
tantalizing tickle of hair against my ass.
“Let me hear you!”
“What?” His words distracted me, and he pulled away.
Before I could plead with him to touch me, stroke me, fuck me, the tip of his
slickened finger breached my hole and slid in, curving and crossing something
that made me howl.
“That’s it, little Rev! Sing for me!” And with a
muffled groan, he began to come, spattering the underside of my prick, my chest,
my chin with the hot essence of life, mingling with mine.
Humming with weary pleasure, he pulled the blanket over the
two of us, and the sound of the rain lulled us back to sleep.
I awoke, marveling over the graphic dream of the night
before. Instead of feeling ashamed, however, as had often happened at the
mission, I felt energized. Of course, it wouldn’t do to have Mr. Allnutt
discover what a principal part he had played in my fantasies, but if there was
one thing I had learned from Brother, it was that if you looked innocent, people
tended to think you were. I grinned and rolled over.
And found myself nose to chest, naked chest, with
the Queen’s captain.
My own chest was covered with the residue of the night’s
passion. It was uncomfortable, dry and itchy.
Mr. Allnutt mumbled in his sleep and settled his hand on my
hip, pulling me into his embrace.
“Um, Mr. Allnutt…” I wasn’t sure what I should call
him. I had made love with the man the night before. The slight ache in my back
passage told me I was not quite virgin any longer, although I remembered he
hadn’t actually put his prick inside me. “Dear?” I tentatively reached out
to shake his shoulder.
His hands slid lower, filling with the curves of my ass,
and he urged me closer to his erection. “It’s early, sweetheart. You don’t
need to leave yet.” His voice was gravely from sleep.
“If you say so…” I signed happily
Velvet brown eyes opened. They were first startled, and
then wary. “Little Rev! Er, care for some breakfast?”
I nodded and he rose to his feet, making sure he had a
blanket securely wrapped around himself. He fired the kettle, as he called the
steam engine, and then ducked around it to get dressed. That confused me a
little, as he had never seemed overly modest before, but I dismissed the thought
and went over the side for a quick wash before we sat down to eat.
This morning, I was famished.
My lover got the African Queen backed out onto the river, and the current tugged us forward. “Um… Mr. Allnutt?”
"Don’t you think you could call me by my first name,
little Rev?” he asked forlornly.
“But you’re older than I am, sir. It wouldn’t be
He scowled at me. “I’m also the man who was a hair’s
breadth away from fucking you blind last night!”
I blushed. “But…”
“I think you should call me something other than ‘Mr.
“Very well, but I’ve been trying to tell you, Mr.
Allnutt,” I stated a little crossly. “I don’t know your first
name!” I stated a little crossly.
He came back to where I sat at the tiller and pulled me up
into his arms. “Charlie,” he said as his lips wandered over my face. “My
name is Charlie.”
I sighed contentedly and offered him my mouth. “You can
call me Rodney,” I murmured.
He frowned. “No. That’s what your brother called
“Well, Nanny used to call me Roddy.”
“I kind of like little Rev,” he told me.
“So do I.” My fingertips explored the stubble that
covered his cheeks, and he grinned.
“Looks like I’ll need a shave. Later!” His head
dipped down to kiss me again.
A sudden, loud ratchety sound jerked Mr. Allnutt…Charlie
out of my arms. He scrambled to the bow where the engine of the African Queen
was starting to shudder. Leaning back against the railing, he raised his legs
and kicked out hard, raining a series of blows just below a valve.
The Queen was starting to drift too close to shore, and I
reached for the tiller and steered her back toward the middle of the river.
Charlie pulled his bandana out of his pocket and mopped his brow. “Well,
that’s getting dropped back to earth with a vengeance.” He sighed.
“What happened, sir?”
“That? Oh, that’s the speed pump; it’s full of scum
and rust. Kicking starts her to working again when she gets clogged up. I have
to work fast, though: one of my boys dropped a screwdriver down the safety
valve, and the whole boiler could blow up.”
“Why not take it apart and remove the screwdriver, er…
He grinned at me, his hand smoothed over the railing.
“One of these days I will, but I kind of like kicking her. She’s all I got.
All I had,” he corrected himself, and his hand caressed my knee. “You
sure you want to do this, little Rev?”
“You’re not going back on your word, are you,
“Nooo, but I wanted to give you one last chance.” He
nodded over his shoulder and my eyes shot up.
There, perched high on a hill overlooking the Ulanga, was Shona.
End Part A
On to Part B