I was on the edge of the desert in Northern Nigeria, when my car broke down. It was midday, and the sun was beating down at its hottest. This was pre-Boko Haram country where people now get slaughtered for doing nothing. The fan belt had snapped and was still circling around as if to show me, as I lifted the hood. I knew I was in trouble. I had not seen a human being since leaving Kano two hours ago and, looking about me, I saw nothing but sand. Seeing the sand was new to me. We don't have sand back in London which I had left a month ago. I stuck my foot in the ground hoping for inspiration. My foot dislodged more sand.
I sat in the car checking through the car's manual. What the hell for? Even if I had, by some miracle, a spare fan belt, I had no tools to put it on. I exited the car and sat on a roadside rock. Swiftly I leaped to my feet. The sun had scorched the rock to boiling point.
I saw a tree, a solitary tree a few feet away, on the other side of the road. It had two thin branches on it and three or four leaves. The road itself, deserted as it was, comprised of not much more than a sandy path about as wide as the car. The sand was piled up on the edges, reminding me of snow in the Alps.
To get a better view, I decided to climb onto the roof of the car. I could feel the heat burning through to my feet. To stay up there I had to jump up and down. I did a 360-degree circling peek around and saw nothing but sand, a few scrub bushes, and a bunch of large anthills. The sun was doing a number on my head. Like the tools, I had come without headgear. So, I jumped to the ground. Luckily I found a towel on the back seat of the car, folded it in fours, and adjourned to the rock.
Almost without noticing it, I spotted a vulture sitting on one of the branches of the tree. It must have slipped in while I was on top of the car looking elsewhere. I'd never seen a vulture before. Something told me that vultures sense the smell of blood. This put me in the mood to consider more in-depth my current situation. Was this not lion country? I did not know much, if anything, about this part of Africa, except that it was the early 50s and I had heard that there might still be some lions around. A vulture was not there for a look-see. It clearly expected action. Actually, while I was contemplating lions, a second vulture had joined its mate and was occupying the other Branch. I ventured to speak to them, but they turned their backs to me.
As I sat on the rock, my heart fluttered. I saw more signs of life; an army of ants was busily crossing the road. Like the vultures, they ignored me. By this time I was getting quite concerned. I had no food with me and nothing to drink. I began to have visions of my going raving mad. After all, how long can one last without water? Since my arrival, I had called home every day to assure my folks I was still in one piece. Today they would get no such call. By the time the police came, they would find just the car and some clothes. The rest......?
I climbed back onto the car. Another look perhaps, and something would surface. I thought I saw some movement but it turned out to be the haze being blown by a stray puff of a breeze. I turned back once more to look to the north. Still no sign of life. I had the towel on my head. Tonight, I thought, I would need it to fend off the cold.
Before jumping back down, I took one more look. I looked so hard I thought my eyeballs were going to pop out. I had seen a hint of something in the distant haze. Yes. Somebody, in the far distance, was making tracks through the sand in my direction!
Was this friend or foe? To be on the safe side I jumped down from the car and took a seat inside. I promptly fell asleep. When I woke, I was surprised to see a man standing on top of the sand dune on the other side of the road. He looked like the other Nigerians I had seen in Kano; dressed all in white with a white turban on his head. I waved to him. He stepped down from where he had been watching me and came toward me. I observed he had a bow and arrow on his shoulders.
We met at the front of the car and I showed him the fan belt hanging as if it had had too stressful a day. My African friend, he was not a young man, briefly took in the scenario, tilted his head into the sky, and carefully placed the arrow he was carrying on the ground. Then taking the bow, he carefully loosened the string from each end of it. Once he had just the string in his hand he equally carefully began wrapping the string around the sprockets formerly home to the fanbelt. While he was engaged in his work I took a glance at his hands; these were not the hands of a mechanic. These were smooth delicate hands, without any sign of a blemish. His fingernails, moreover, were well-manicured and smooth as stainless glass.
I saw him tighten the ends, and then give one more turn. When he had finished he signaled to me to start the car. Looking at him in disbelief, I sat in the car and gingerly inserted the key, almost expecting the car to explode once I started it. The engine roared to life and I laughed with delight. I got out of the car and we both peered into the engine to see that the fan belt was still doing its job.
We both nodded our heads with satisfaction. I turned to get my wallet out in order to pay him for possibly saving my life.
But he was gone! I jumped onto the car one last time. There was no sign of him anywhere. Was this God?
If It was; Thank you, God. Thanks an awful lot