Copyright 2001-2008, James J. Belcher. All rights reserved.
Never Bound Books
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Copyright 2004, 2005 James J. Belcher. All Rights Reserved.
Daryl Harding and the Quest for Dhwee
Drugs! As Charlie roused him, Daryl realized he had been very
soundly asleep, but a trace of the tingle remained.
He knew he wasn’t high – his two closest mates, a pub and an after-18
spree educated him to “high”, hung over and hang-it-up.
Still, Charlie was forever ranting [Why don’t you just talk to me,
instead of always talking or yelling at me?] about drugs, athletes, drugs,
crime, drugs, troubles and drugs.
Daryl was half-asleep; he was mildly aware he’d been dreaming something
else. Now he was worrying, big
time, fast-forward speed. Had he
just taken an illegal drug? Was he
now transporting an illegal substance? Did
that make him a drug trafficker? They
had drug-sniffing dogs back at Melbourne International Airport.
Would he be caught and arrested? Ernie
and Lou would never believe it! [Oh
shit, neither of them can keep a secret. I’d better not tell them.
Where will you hide the stuff?]
Daryl hadn’t moved and Charlie was shaking him.
“Damnit, Daryl, wake up. This
is the second time I’ve asked. Don’t
make it three.”
While Daryl’s mind was sorting out his latest worry, he felt the tingle
on his face, so he instinctively touched his pimples.
Daryl really didn’t have that many, and Charlie hardly noticed them
anymore, but Daryl felt he had a horrible case (and knew the girls all said
“Ugh!”). One had just started
that morning. It was a red dot with
a tiny yellow centre, a blossom that would be large and ready by nightfall,
something that would pop with a pinch of his fingers.
It spelled pain and pleasure of a kind he had known a few hundred or more
The pimple wasn’t there, not even a tiny lump!
In fact, his whole face felt smoother.
This wasn’t the same as the smooth-but-dead sense he had felt when he
woke up with a hangover after too many bottles of beer, it was just different.
His fingers seemed more sensitive and his skin was - - - - normal!
He had this incredible urge to find a mirror and take a good hard look.
Daryl excused himself to the toilet down the hall, running much of the
way. The mirror confirmed the
miracle – not only a pimple-that-was but also a face that said all his pimples
were going away, even the few zit-blotches that doctors said would be with him
for a lifetime. He could tell, down
to the last little bit, because he never lacked imagination. No, maybe it wasn’t going to happen all at once, but if
things changed this much in an hour or two, he’d lose his acne for sure, and
sooner rather than later.
he was considering the possibilities and smiling at the down-the-line potential,
Charlie entered the loo.
“C’mon. We’ve gotta
Daryl nodded. He rarely said
much to Charlie. They left
In their rented car, Charlie looked over at Daryl.
“They’ve promised top-flight security.
They promised a hotel cordoned off for our team.
They promised a police car entourage to and from the airport and the
field. They promised to work with
international sportswriters and telecasters and have them in the same hotel
where we’d be staying. They gave
us all we could ask for. Isn’t
Daryl just nodded. He looked
out the side window at the sights of the city.
There were few points of interest. As
Daryl saw it, Zimbabwe’s capital was a reflection of poverty and neglect,
decaying concrete and cracked sidewalks with only the occasional new structure.
Most of the “new” was ten years or more old, and much of that was
governmental buildings. Even the
signs on the offices and shops needed a cleaning and repair.
Zimbabwe was a country where people long ago lost their pride.
He remembered his Internet overview prior to leaving Melbourne – there
was a western area of the country that was the Africa of the movies, with
Victoria Falls, jungle, high savannah and herds of antelope, lions and all the
other creatures. He’d rather be
glanced back at the clock on the dashboard; it said 1:30.
Charlie was so excited he had forgotten about lunch, for either of them.
Daryl was the kind of kid who picked with his food, never very hungry,
never very thirsty, and never very interested in much of anything at all.
Now he felt hungry, but it was no use mentioning it to Charlie.
Charlie looked at Daryl. “Hey,
your skin looks better. Doesn’t
this tropical climate do wonders, mate?”
Daryl just smiled and nodded [So much for the ride back to the hotel].
Daryl complained of needed sleep and Charlie left him alone in his room.
Charlie had the adjoining one. Charlie
needed to call Melbourne and make enquiries as to follow-ons from that initial
meeting. With the time difference,
he’d have to write everything out and fax it from the machine at the front
desk. In addition, he’d compile a written report of the day’s activities.
[He’ll actually write all that stuff out with pen and paper!
Why doesn’t he learn to use a computer?]
He’d see Daryl at seven, for dinner.
When Daryl closed the door, he listened for the gentle sounds of Charlie
walking past, the click of the adjacent door unlocking and opening and the sound
of it shutting as Charlie went inside. Then
Daryl got up and locked his door and pulled out his laptop and connected it.
Universal phone adapters and computers with dual voltages are normal for
laptops nowadays – they can plug in anywhere and still function.
The only difference is the wall plug, but hotels generally have universal
plug adapters just to cater to international travellers.
Daryl’s ISP was AOL.com, a US company that had local connections all
over the world, and Daryl had checked. There
was a number for Harare, so a local call was all Daryl needed to be connected to
the Net. He plugged in his trusty
Toshiba and in less than ninety seconds, he was visiting the World Wide Web.
First he looked up Zimbabwe. He
found a map of Zimbabwe, courtesy of the US Central Intelligence Agency (yes,
even spy data is available, since much of it isn’t classified, much less top
secret) and began to orientate himself. Then
he pulled the agar dish out of his pocket and looked at the small label on the
side of the container, the one with the handwriting.
It was three lines of data:
As it turned out, Chirundu was a border town on the Zambesi River,
located in the Mashonaland West District, in north-western Zimbabwe, something
over 350 km from Harare and even further from Victoria Falls.
The falls were located further upriver (south, since the Zambesi flows
north) from Chirundu. Technically,
the name applied to the Zambian town on the other side of the bridge, but there
were at least a few shacks and natives on the Zimbabwe end, enough to cause Dr.
Penrith’s people to label the sample with a Zimbabwe town name, or so Daryl
thought at the time. Besides, if
the epidemic didn’t take place on the Zimbabwe side, then Penrith’s
department wouldn’t have been involved. There
was some kind of rail service to Chinhoyi, towards Chirundu from Harare, but
only halfway there. There was a
paved road of sorts, but without a driver’s licence, Daryl was worried if he
could travel by road. Apparently it
was mostly used for caravans of trucks ferrying materials between Zambia and
Zimbabwe. Was a bus service
available? Where Zimlaoti was or
what constituted the location of the “camel dung chief” and his “special
food”, he really didn’t have a clue.
It was all a big
puzzle, what with more and more unanswered questions, questions that might
provoke action from some but not him. Daryl
was tired, unusually so; at home, he’d sleep in, mostly from boredom, but he
never took a nap. Here, he needed a
nap, so he’d sleep on it, even if it were just mid-afternoon.
Life’s funny you know, because Daryl was Daryl, not stupid, not lazy,
not silly and not foolish. Daryl
was all this to a world of grownups, including his parents, who would say that
every one of those labels attached itself firmly to Daryl.
As Daryl dreamed, still aware of the tingle, he was awakening to powers
within him that were greater than any his parents could have imagined.
Even his teachers would only have said, “He’s got potential”.
That’s not the same.
Daryl really liked science and he liked learning.
Secondary school and the labs and the teachers had been fun and he
enjoyed them. That didn’t mean
Daryl was anxious to turn himself into another Dr. Penrith in sixty years or so.
Daryl, if alerted, would act on stimulating things with skill, judgment,
concern and speed. Most of the time, nothing gets our attention or keeps it very
long. Nothing seems worth the
bother. That’s not the same as
nothing being worth the bother or nothing worthy of real effort.
All of these things were doubly true for Daryl.
Daryl didn’t like asthma, allergies or acne, but those were the three
A’s that troubled him most every day of his life.
No, none of them was life threatening, and even his asthma was just a
pain that bothered him and his parents. His
allergies were things that made him break out in rashes and have watery eyes and
the occasional sneeze. No one ever
died of acne, not that he knew, but acne made him feel like he could die of
embarrassment, especially at age nineteen, when the other kids had outgrown it,
most all of them.
nineteen, his parents treated him like a kid, but Daryl knew better.
Technically, Daryl was already an adult, so he could enter the casinos,
buy liquor or smokes, vote and do everything else an adult was entitled to do.
And if his pimples disappeared, that didn’t mean he would be suddenly
transformed into another Arnold Schwarzenegger.
But if his pimples disappeared, it meant a lot of things, to him and to
all those other Daryls out there who wanted their pimples to disappear, and
maybe a lot more to a lot of others, even without pimples.
He had talked with his dermatologist, Dr. Sullivan, and he knew that
Doctor Sullivan spent most of his life worrying about pimples and how to manage
them, not control or eradicate them, just minimise their bad effects.
He knew that drug companies were investing many millions into, and
earning many more millions from, maybe billions, pimple creams, ointments, pills
and the like. After all, his Mum
had taken him to Dr. Sullivan enough times, and she had bought and paid for all
the stuff that didn’t work but he had to take it anyway.
He knew there was a possibility and he wanted to do something very big,
like eliminate pimples from the face of the earth.
If eating antelope dung was the way to go, he needed an education on
eating antelope dung, and that wouldn’t happen back home.
The thought just jumped up from nowhere.
[This is it! My ticket to
In his dream, he was walking up to the podium on the stage. There was applause, a lot of hands clapping.
He was about to say something and he knew he would get more applause.
He suddenly knew he had to say words that really meant something, but his
mind went -- blank. He looked out
at the audience and no words came out of his lips, but he was supposed to say
He woke up in a sweat, wondering what to say.
He realised where he was and he reached over and picked up a piece of
stationery and a biro from the desk drawer and began to write: (1.)
What is this stuff? Is it
illegal? Is it already known? He
crossed out the last question – he assumed the answer was no. (2.)
What are its effects? What
are its side effects? How does it
work? He crossed out the last question – it didn’t matter.
(3.) Where is it? How do I get it? (4.)
Can it be reproduced in a lab or a factory?
He underlined that last one, because a supply for a dozen or even a dozen
hundred kids like Daryl wasn’t a good answer. (5.) How do I find out the answers? He underlined that one also.
remembered the words of Mr. Wilson and the experimental course called The
Scientific Method: “A discovery is just one person’s description of
something that’s been around for ages, but it’s telling the world in a way
so they listen.”
had an idea. It was the
“simplistic” one, the “unimaginable” idea.
What if the villager was 140 years old and the antelope dung contributed
to that longevity? What if Dr.
Penrith was so prejudiced that he overlooked real data?
Daryl tried to recollect what Dr. Penrith had said.
He found he could remember things almost word for word.
was Stanley? He turned to the
computer. He typed in Stanley. Life’s like
that, just a guess. Stanley became Stanley Cup and Stanley Tools and Stanley Falls and
everything but - - - -. Guess what?
Sir Henry Morton Stanley. An
Englishman turned American turned explorer and African adventurer, turned big
figure in Africa’s history, returned Englishman given a peerage (along with
the title “Sir”). 1870’s,
that’s when, 130 years ago. Sir
Henry Stanley had “discovered” a medical missionary named Dr. Livingstone
(who had last been seen seven years earlier and given up for dead).
The first meeting of the two, deep in the African jungle, had been
initiated with the famous phrase, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume!”
Internet alerted Daryl to several African expeditions of Stanley’s, beginning
with the Livingstone quest and that famous greeting and continuing throughout
the decade and one to follow. If
that Stanley - - - ?
that’s a neat theory. Daryl
wasn’t immature or some sort of idiot, unable or unwilling to connect the many
dots between “Dr. Livingstone, I presume” and an agar dish stolen that
afternoon. Daryl was smart, he had a computer and he had data and he had
an excellent-if-underused brain. There
was a linear path, a way to play connect-the-dots that he wished to traverse.
Unbeknownst to his teachers and his parents, Daryl could figure this one
out, and he was determined, a quality no one else saw in Daryl.
had recently died, perhaps someone who had survived from the 1870’s until
recently. Where in Africa did Sir
Stanley go? Where did he meet the
villager that supposedly live until he was 140 years old?
Where exactly in Zimbabwe was the village where that guy had maybe lived
for so long? The antelope dung in
the petri dish was probably from nearby, but that wasn’t certain.
What were the yellow specks and did they play a part?
Why was the villager insistent on the word “camel”?
was willing to spend the time. Daryl
would look at the evidence. Daryl
would use the Internet to find out the data that was available.
Could he locate the guy’s writing, the Englishman-American-Englishman?
He selected Yahoo, [so called because its inventors fancied it as “Yet
Another Heuristic Organising Operator”] and he asked it about Stanley’s
books. Daryl found a name, a book
name from long time ago. The title
was Through the Dark Continent (1878).
He wrote it down. Books first published long ago aren’t easy to find.
Life’s often like that, with data that’s somewhere being the key to
an answer for an important question. In
this case, it might be somewhere in that book, in a library somewhere, but what
library and where? A book like that
might be in London or New York, but it probably wouldn’t be in Melbourne, more
made the biggest decision of his 19 years right then and there.
Charlie could go back home without him, because Daryl would stay in
Zimbabwe until he solved the mystery. Daryl
couldn’t and wouldn’t mention the agar dish, the old geezer who lay on the
lab floor or the tingle the “camel dung” gave him.
He needed a cover story. He
returned to the Internet and found one. He
found himself dozing off, so he decided he could use a nap.
He had some ideas, part of the answer; the rest could wait a few hours.
His body craved sleep.
knocked on his door a few minutes before seven and was surprised to find Daryl
awake, dressed and ready for dinner. To
tell the truth, Daryl had just woken from another bad dream five or ten minutes
earlier. He’d been sleeping
soundly, something he’d not often done in mid-afternoon.
The two went down to the hotel dining room together, where Daryl actually
said something before Charlie brought up the topic.
was ravenous, not a word that would normally apply to him.
He wolfed down a couple of dinner rolls with butter, along with some
celery and carrot sticks before he said anything.
His father was surprised at this sudden increased appetite, but didn’t
mention it. It was Daryl who first
why don’t we order some of the local food?”
I haven’t a clue what the locals eat, whether we’d like it, and by the way,
since when have you been experimental? You
seem funny. What’s going on,
it, Dad, nothing’s going on. I
spent a lot of money to come a long way. We’ve
been here since last night and so far I’ve checked into a hotel, eaten a
brekkie that I could’ve eaten back home, sat in a waiting room of an old
office building and fallen asleep in the hotel room after falling asleep in the
office building. That’s not a lot
of value, considering the air fare.”
paused before responding. “Fair
dinkum. What’d ya have in
I brought my laptop and checked out things on the Internet.
Victoria Falls is maybe the prettiest spot on earth and it’s on the
Zimbabwe-Zambia border, just an hour and a half away by air, and there are
several flights every day, not too expensive.”
you and I aren’t honeymooners, I’ve got business here, not several hundred
kilometres away. And how do I
explain to your Mum that you decided to take off for a sightseeing adventure two
days after you arrived?”
let me have my return ticket and my passport.
We brought our mobiles from Melbourne.
I’ll see about SIMM chips so they’re useable here.
That way, we can keep in contact. And
besides, you promised me, as a condition of my paying for my airfare, that I
could go my own way.” Daryl knew
that Charlie really didn’t have a schedule with any entries where Daryl was
hesitated. “But your Mum - - -”
closed the deal. “Mum never has
to know. We’ll fly back together
and the phones will let us know where we are.
If Mum calls and wants to speak to me, make an excuse, call me and I’ll
call her back.”
down, Charlie couldn’t have been happier.
After all, when he had been Daryl’s age, Charlie had been a nationally
recognized athlete. By age
nineteen, Charlie had not been living with his parents for over a year.
Perhaps a little time by himself and Daryl would show some pluck.
Besides, Daryl had a VISA card, and the phones were the next best things
to being there. So long as Emily
wouldn’t worry, this gave Charlie ten days of free time to talk soccer, meet
members of the Zimbabwean squad, and generally be rid of a whinging teenager
that he often thought was God’s punishment to him for not being tougher ten
said those words that Daryl longed to hear.
“Mate, we’ll get the phones set up tomorrow.
Now, what’s for dinner?”
asked the waiter, only to be told the beef was pretty good.
They ended up sticking the ACB for two steaks priced like something
special but tasting like something pretty ordinary.
Charlie didn’t want his jacket potato, so Daryl ate it as well as his
own, along with a gooey sweet for dessert.
went to bed on Monday night, knowing Tuesday would be like no other in his life. Before he did, he stripped naked and examined himself with
the aid of a full-length mirror on the back of the toilet door.
His morning pimple-to-be was definitely gone.
The others were definitely going, with a dozen already off the map of his
once-cratered face. He thought
about a second dose of the antelope dung, but decided against it, at least not
tonight. After all, he didn’t
want to unduly arouse Charlie, and if things worked out, the two would part
company the next day or so anyway.
slept soundly that night, and his lack of wheezing would have surprised Charlie,
but the general noise of the hotel and the insulation between the two rooms
prevented Charlie from finding out. Besides,
Charlie always slept like a log. Charlie
was supremely happy about Daryl’s adventure, even if he didn’t have a clue
as to what it would really be.