One Son the Belcher Monkey moved from to tree to tree, making his way above the slowly traveling coterie of Amber, Millie and Little Lindsay. What’s the big deal about having a house to live in, he thought to himself, when you have the entire jungle? He would never understand the human need for four walls, a TeeVee and washing machines, but whatever. Live and let others live how they wish, his mother said. Here, have a banana.
“Uh-oh,” One Son said to the others. “You’d better give a wide BURP!, I mean berth!, to Aaaron the armadillo. He’s mad. I’d wager he was the first to lose to Lemu-eel tonight. Let’s find out.” One Son dropped a banana peel on Aaaron the armadillo’s head. “Hey Aaaron, how much did you lose tonight?”
Aaaron trudged along like a little tank wearing a banana peel hat. “Don’t talk to me, monster-mouth. I’m an angry armadillo right now.” He was approaching Amber, who stopped immediately and raised her snout. “Outta my way, pooch. I’m in a bad mood. A bad mood.” Amber and the others moved to the side to let him pass. “A week’s worth of grubs gone just like that.”
“Like what?” Millie asked.
The armadillo stopped. “Like that,” he repeated. “What am I going to tell my wife? ‘Oh but honey, a full house beats a straight!?’ Stupid snake even winked at me!”
“BRA-A-A-AP? How patronizing!”
“I know, huh. That snake’s mother was overly proud. Hey, what’s this?” Aaaron crawled closer to Little Lindsay and sniffed her feet. Little Lindsay, as a result, grew seventy-nine inches of new leg. “Whoa! A human! A tall one, too!”
“Amber! Where’s Amber?”
“No worries, little tall one. She seeks the lost one. She’ll be back, with luck. And where, might I ask, is this unlikely trio going, One Son?”
“BRA-A-A-AP! I’m taking Little Lindsay to see Lemu-eel. That snake knows everything. She may know how to find Little Lindsay’s Mommy and Daddy.”
“Hmm? Maybe so. Maybe so.” Aaaron nodded his head, causing the banana peel hat to slide jauntily to the side. “They say snakes absorb the wisdom of the earth because their whole body is in contact with Her. I think the serpent cheats, personally, but it’s hard to prove someone has something up their sleeve when they don’t have any arms.” The banana peel slipped to the ground. “Well, gotta go! Good luck, little tall one. Hey One Son, how much you wanna bet Pepe is right behind me? Stupid pizote.” Aaaron pushed his tank-like little body further into the trees. They could hear him muttering to himself as he waddled away, the darkening jungle swallowing him up like a tough, exotic appetizer. “But honey, I flopped a straight! What could I do? What could I do? What would you do? What would you do? Ow! Stop hitting me! Ow! Oh, I’m in so much trouble!”
“Whoa,” Millie said, shaking her head, “I’d hate to be wearing his underwear right now.”
One Son and Little Lindsay looked at each other.
“Ew? Ugh, yucky. Can you back up, One Son?”
“Hey, you’re the one who came up here, chiquita grande. Mmm! Chiquita bananas!” He shoved another down his throat without chewing. “Ahhhh…”
“Amber!” Little Lindsay called out. “Amber! Where are you? Come back!” But there was no answer. “Now what?”
“I say we carry on,” Millie said. “Don’t worry, Little Lindsay. Amber seems like a very smart canine, though a bit pushy at times. And a little too frisky for my tastes, but hey, that’s what dogs do. Plus she snores, and that’s okay but… Do you think she has ticks? I hate those things. One time—”
“Millie, please. Can we move on?”
“Oh! Yes, sure. All I’m saying is that Amber didn’t just walk off without a good reason.”
“That dog has a good nose. BRA-A-A-AP! She’ll find us.”
“Hmm.” Little Lindsay decided they had no choice but to do what Millie suggested, which was to carry on, further into the dark and scary jungle. Further into the unknown. She had to confront her biggest fear head-on. She had to look the serpent in her eyes and, what was it Mister Swift had said? She had to “ask the right questions for the right answers.”
It’s been said of Lemu-eel that each time she sheds her skin she is born anew, and has thus become immortal. She has been called by many names over the years. Some call her Infinite, and some have referred to her as Manasha, the Mother, but Lemu-eel prefers to drop the ‘nasha and go by Ma.
“My mother brought me to Lemu-eel when I was a baby,” One Son was saying as he picked through the tree branches on their way to the poker game. “She said the snake would teach me all about the wind, and other worlds that shine in the night sky, and the dawn. She said Ma knew all about humans and their arts, and about what they knew and didn’t know, and what they wanted to know but hadn’t quite gotten to figuring out yet. She could teach me all of that.”
“So how did that work out, belcher-breath? You know everything there is to know now?” Millie asked, not without sarcasm.
“I know enough, silly-Millie-Willy-Nilly-sing-song-name, to feed my face and stay out of trouble, which is more than I can say for you two wandering whatevers.”
“Wait, can we stop please?” Little Lindsay asked. “I’m hungry. I think Mommy packed a lunch in my backpack.” Sure enough, there was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a banana with a note attached to it that read: Little Lindsay, I hope you enjoy this sandwich I made with love in my heart. When you eat the banana, drizzle some of the secret sauce (in the tupperware) on it first. And don’t forget to share! Love you, Mommy. Little Lindsay took a bite of the sandwich and held back tears. Millie grazed on small tufts of vegetation growing on the jungle floor.
One Son peered over Little Lindsay’s shoulder into her backpack. At the banana, specifically, while monkey juice puddled in his mouth.
“You gonna eat that?” he asked.
“What? Oh, yes. But you can have a piece if you like. Here, let me get it for you.” Little Lindsay peeled the banana and dipped one end into Mommy’s secret sauce. Handing it to One Son, she said, “But you have to chew it. That way you can enjoy the flavor. It’s much better when you chew.”
“Huh? What? Chew?”
“Yes, like this.” Lindsay took a bite of her sandwich and showed him how to chew.
“Oh, that. I can do that. See?”
Millie, her mouth stuffed with leaves, looked up to watch as One Son delicately placed the banana part in his mouth and started to chew, with his mouth open. The two watched in fascination at the faces he made—first surprise, then delight, then ecstasy—followed by a slow fall forward, a tumbling through the air, and a resounding SLAP! as he landed on his back on the ground. His face was blank and mouth open wide, with bits of strained banana covering his big, yellow teeth, and his breath was shallow.
“One Son! Are you alright?”
A lone cricket chuckled in the still, warm night. Off to the side, under a low branch, Margeaux the margay licked her paw. Nothing else moved.
“I can hear you, Margeaux,” One Son said. “BRA-A-A-A-P!”
(Chorus of Oh! Ugh! and Phew! from Millie and Little Lindsay.) “One Son, you’re alive!” Little Lindsay exclaimed with obvious relief.
One Son leaned onto one elbow. “Wow. That was a religious experience! Open your eyes, Margeaux, so I can see you,” he said aloud to somewhere, anywhere, in the black foliage.
Millie emitted a low growl and stamped her front hoof. “I have a D battery ready to throw,” she warned.
A tiny laugh tinkled back. “And I can smell you, Belcher, from three point four kilometers away…”
Little Lindsay jumped. In the process, she grew another sixteen inches, mas o menos.
“…in the rain, after the osas defecate in the deepest part of the woods. Every day and twice on—”
“Okay we get the point, Margie. How much did you lose tonight?”
“Everything, of course.” Margeaux said. “It’s okay. I think of it as an offering to Ma.”
“No pay, no game. Is that it?”
“Something like that. Although it didn’t pay off tonight. That’s why I’m licking my wounds. Some overweight dog with a rude attitude took my dinner away.”
“Amber?” Little Lindsay immediately asked.
“I’d say more blonde than amber, but what do I know? I’m color blind.”
“No, that’s her name. Amber.”
“Oh. Look, all I know is that she came flying after me like someone threw her from a train and ran around in circles shouting about how lucky she was. Oy. I can tell you it was most annoying. I had to give up my dinner just to shut her up.”
“That’s Amber, alright,” Millie said.
“Amber!” Little Lindsay called. “Come!”
Only the cricket replied.
“Don’t worry, Little Lindsay,” Millie comforted her. “She’ll find us. Let’s move ahead.”
“A head? Whose head? Where? BRA-A-A-AP!”