Dawn broke over the lowveld, the birds heralding its arrival with a chorus of song as fingers of hazy light drove out the darkness and
painted the bush in soft pastel browns and yellows. Another day had begun, and the African bush basked in the fresh coolness, a moment of
preparation before the sun rose fully and seared the earth.
Troy Baker sat outside his rented bungalow and sipped coffee, he loved dawn in the bush, he loved the unspoiled wildness off the Kruger
Park... he loved Africa, and all things African. British born, Troy had felt the wander lust at an early age, the fact that he had never
been able to sink lasting roots anywhere added to his need to journey, the only son of a corporate trouble-shooter he was never in one place
for very long. His father was an axe man, or so he had overheard as a child, the man that head office sent when they wanted a shake-up or
for heads to roll. The image had confused the young boy, axe man – heads rolling! His mind had raced. Travis, his father had lived out of a
suitcase, and Troy had inherited the same flexibility, he never worried that he was seldom in any school for long enough to make friends. He
always knew that another move would soon be on the cards, a new adventure, new home, new surroundings, new challenges.
The sum of his unstable childhood and scrambled education, snatches of different systems and syllabus, never held him back, “The early years
made me who I am today!” he often told detractors, it had given him confidence and resilience, unflappable, some called him, arrogant others
whispered well out of his earshot. Troy was a fighter, he never gave an inch, a natural intelligence had seen him through the multitude of
schools, and reaching the age when he could safely live alone he had grasped a place in University, it was the first time that he had not
travelled on with his father, Troy had settled and studied. He emerged with his degree and dived headlong into oil.
And oil had treated him well, oil had taken him to the Middle East and the fields of Kuwait, to the Latin metropolis of Rio de Janeiro, to
the offshore riches of Angola... and finally to exploration on Lake Albert in the west of Uganda.
Now that contract was behind him and Troy had time to relax. Grabbing the first available flight south he had headed to Johannesburg, he
loved South Africa, the wonderful mix of cultures, the Rainbow Nation as they called themselves, East and West met in the coastal cities. In
other areas First World and Third World rubbed shoulders, sometimes uncomfortably, for Troy, the country had everything, unspoiled Africa in
the vast National Parks and Reserves, authentic culture in the remote areas, holiday atmosphere on the east coast and when everything became
just a little too African, it was possible to escape to areas like Sandton and dive into largely European culture. Wanting relaxation
without distraction, he had hired a car and driven roughly north-east, his destination, the sprawling Kruger National Park, once the private
hunting reserve of the fledgling nations founder, President Paul Kruger, the untouched wedge of Africa amounted to a similar land area to
the country of Belgium, Troy always found it ironic that an area one reserved for the slaughter of wildlife now offered one of the few truly
safe places left on earth for many endangered species.
Now Troy sipped his coffee and stared out to the wild bush, and rolled the most pressing question in his life around, his contract had ended
and realistically he knew there wouldn't ever be another. His illness had been caught in time the specialist had told him to his relief, but
also, just a little too late! The statement had created confusion, the elation of caught in time dulled by the added too late!
The Indian specialist had adjusted his glasses, maybe a nervous reaction to giving less than positive news, maybe simply a habit.
“Basically, yes, we have caught the degradation before it threatens mobility, and with treatment there is absolutely no reason that the
joints should deteriorate any further.”
“But?” Troy had prompted, he didn't appreciate kid gloves, he much preferred the direct and blunt approach.
“Had we diagnosed this a year ago...” he began.
“Don't pussy-foot around Doc,” Troy interrupted, “Just give it to me straight.”
The doctor swallowed and nodded. “Being straight. Mr Baker, it is going to get worse before the medication can have any lasting effect.”
“Okay,” Troy nodded, “So I'm going to lose some mobility for a while.”
The doctor shook his head, “I'm afraid that it isn't quite as simple as that, yes you will continue to lose mobility, and yes, when the
medication begins to take control the condition will stabilise and not get any worse... but I am sorry to say... It won't get any better
either. Mr Baker, you should make plans regarding your career because I am sorry to say that you will not pass a medical again for field
“How bad?” he had asked quietly.
“At best,” the doctor replied with a look of genuine regret, “You will need a cane to walk!”
Troy nodded and held up his hand, he didn't need to hear the worst case scenario, “Thanks Doc,” he replied, “I got the picture now.”