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  • Tina pulled on my hand as we walked toward our group of picnickers near the bank of the Shabelle River south of Mogadishu. She whispered, "Mommy, I have to pee."

    "Me too. Let's go behind those bushes."

    We had learned about the benefits of wearing a skirt as the Muslim women did for modesty. A skirt also provided more privacy for impromptu pit stops. We found a clear spot in the thicket. Together we lifted skirts, lowered panties, squatted, pulled panties out of the line of fire, and tinkled. As we finished and began readjusting our clothes, I heard my husband calling our names.

    A sudden eruption of wild cacophony answered his shout. Crashing and thrashing and hooting and barking drowned out Fred's voice. I looked at Tina. Tina looked at me. We both looked for Fred.

    Fred stood still as a statue at the edge of the thicket. An agitated baboon faced him, pounding his chest, barking and yakking. Long sharp fangs glistened in his wide red mouth. He lunged at Fred in short bursts, threatening again and again. Louder and louder he shrieked and hooted. Tina closed her eyes and covered her ears. I knelt down and wrapped my arms around her. Fred stood his ground.

    The baboon flashed his eyelids at machinegun speed and yawned wide to show his teeth. Fred squared his shoulders and straightened up as tall as a superhero. Baboon and Man locked eyes in a stare-down.

    I held my breath. Tina clung to me tighter than a limpet. Silence rang in my ears and I felt my own pulse pounding. Time stopped and stretched taut. When the baboon broke his gaze and pierced the air with one menacing yak, I jerked as if struck. The baboon leaped sideways and crashed away through the bushes.

    Fred ran to us and we dragged each other, trip-stumble-run, to the picnic site, looking behind, feeling baboon eyes on our backs.

    When we felt safe again among our friends at the picnic area, we puzzled over what had happened. I thought the baboon objected to us outsiders making "marks" on his territory. Tina believed the baboon saw us as predators and wanted to scare us off. Fred maintained that the baboon had fallen in love and wanted Tina and me for his harem. Everyone laughed at Fred's explanation, but I liked the idea of my man taking a stand that day and saving our daughter and me from baboon love.
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