Tembo: A Story

Tembo the Elephant

 Tembo had been wandering in the savannah for hours.

 “How did I lose my way?” he wondered aloud.

 The sun rose higher in the sky.  Sweat ran down Tembo’s trunk and dripped onto the dry, dusty ground.  In the distance, Tembo saw a tree moving.

 “That can’t be right,” he said.  “Maybe thirst is making me see things.”

 As he got closer, Tembo realized the moving tree was not a tree at all.  It was a baby giraffe, reaching her long neck towards the green leaves in a clump of acacia trees.

 The giraffe turned toward Tembo and smiled.

 “Hi, I’m Twiga.  What are you doing out here all alone?”

 Tembo hung his head, letting his trunk sweep the grass.  “I ran away.  Now I’m lost and thirsty and tired.”

 “Try to stay out of the sun,” Twiga said, munching on a leaf.  “And find a watering hole.  It’s going to get even hotter.”

 “Asante,” Tembo said.  “Thanks.”

A larger giraffe poked her head around the clump of acacia.

“That’s my mom,” Twiga said.  “I have to go now.  Good luck out here, Tembo.”

Tembo lumbered away and found a watering hole and some shade.  He fell asleep.

When Tembo woke up, he felt cooler.  He yawned and stretched his legs and looked around.

“Oh!” Tembo gasped.  Three baby cheetahs shared his shade.

“Hi,” said one ball of orange fur with black spots.

“We’re just waiting for our mom,” said another.

“She’s out hunting for our dinner,” said the last.

“What are you doing out here all alone?” the three asked together.

Tembo said, “I lost my temper and ran away.  Now I don’t know how to get home.”

“It’ll be dark soon…” started one cheetah.

“…so be careful,” said another.

“There are hyenas, jackals and lions out here,” said the last.

“Look!” They shouted together. “There’s our mom.” And they padded off toward a streak of orange and black.

Tembo watched them go and put his trunk between his two front feet.  “What am I going to do now?”

He got up and looked around, and noticed black and white shapes in the distance.  “I must be close,” Tembo said, walking.  “I see a herd of zebra over there.”

Tembo approached the zebra and smiled.  Then his smile froze.

The zebra were all looking to Tembo’s left.  Tembo turned to his left and saw a lioness.

I must have interrupted her stalking of the zebra, Tembo thought.  She doesn’t look very happy.

Tembo lifted his trunk high and trumpeted loudly in the direction of the lioness.  Then he ran away as fast as he could.

When he glanced back, he couldn’t see the lioness anymore.  Then he smelled damp earth and hot rocks.  Tembo realized he was tramping beside a narrow river.  “I know this river.  It will lead me to my family.  Now I’d better hurry before it gets dark and I find more scary animals.”

Tembo followed the river for a long time.  He walked and walked and walked, head hanging lower as the sun lowered in the sky.

Just as Tembo thought he couldn’t lift another leg, he saw his mother, as if in a dream.

“Tembo!” a hazy figure trumpeted. “Are you okay?”

 Tembo was out of breath, but he smiled.

“I’m fine now,” he answered.  “I escaped the heat, a lion and found my family.”

He looked around at the snorting elephants of his herd.  “I’m sorry for getting so angry and running away.  I’ll never do it again.”

“The savannah can be a dangerous place for a baby animal all alone,” Tembo’s mama said.  “I’m glad you found us before dark.”

“Me too,” Tembo said.  He nuzzled against his mom and sighed.  “Can I please have some water?  It has been a long day.”

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