Vittorio continues to console me as I choke out my feelings against his chest for what I’ve done, my negligence in leaving behind my faithful pennyfarthing. Suddenly I’m taken by surprise by a pair of strong arms.
“Don’t be sad, Doll!” Charlie cries, throwing his arms about me from behind, and suddenly I find myself the filling in a Doll sandwich. Luckily Myron refrains from adding a bit of pickle to the mix.
“We’ll get it, don’t worry,” Vittorio whispers to me. He pulls out his handkerchief from his pocket, and although it’s lost something of its usual starch, probably due to the humidity, he dabs at my eyes, and then tells me to blow and I obey.
Charlie kisses my cheek before returning to Myron. He takes his hand, and leans down to him, kissing him with a great deal of passion and enthusiasm, before he announces, “Let us get our food!” And once again he’s leading the way, Vittorio and I bringing up the rear.
I’m not sure what I am expecting. It’s not as though we’re likely to find an automat here, in the middle of the jungle, even though they are very popular back home. It’s a very efficient idea; a quick and easy way to obtain one’s food when one is not at home.
Somehow I doubt there are any of those here. In fact, I am rather skeptical as to just what we will find when we finish this trek through the jungle.
Which we’ve just done, apparently. I stop short of running into Vittorio, and look around me. It looks exactly like every other bit of jungle we’ve seen thus far—full of trees veiled with vines, large broad-leafed plants, swampy areas, and assorted small creatures that skitter from view too fast to ascertain what they might actually be.
“Where are we?” The question needs to be asked, so I ask it.
“Home!” Charlie proclaims proudly.
Home where? We glance around. Not as though I had expected Charlie the monkey to possess any sort of man-made structure—according to Darwin, we’re far too early on the evolutionary scale to expect our forebears to put in an appearance—but I did expect… something.
“Home up there!” Charlie points up into the tree he stands under; all our gazes rise skyward.
“What do you think about this, Vittorio?”
“Well, I think that it is logical that Charlie lives in a tree.”
Does this mean we have to climb the tree in order to have breakfast? That is an idea that I don’t particularly relish.
As if he can read my mind, Charlie says, “I shall be right back.” He begins to shinny up the huge tree until he is lost from sight.
While we wait, I can’t help but stare at Myron. Is it my imagination, or does his complexion seem to have cleared up a little? He seems fidgety, standing first on one foot, then the other. It suddenly dawns on me why that is, and I cannot help a slightly evil grin, knowing the cause of his discomfort. I catch his eye; he turns beet red, and looks quickly away.
Before I can say anything, Charlie climbs back down the tree with an armful of something—don’t ask me how he managed that without the use of his tail. He’s positively prehensile!
So, what have we for breakfast, and how quickly can we eat it?
He lays his burden onto the ground, stands back and surveys us as though he has just done something wonderful. And perhaps he has. We all gather around to see what he’s brought us. I see what appears to be bananas, and something else that might be another type of fruit. As well as a mass of leaves.
Not exactly what I had in mind.
Charlie takes one of the bananas, peels it, and holds it out toward Myron, who blushes but accepts it, biting off the tip. Vittorio peels one for me, and I turn my attention to my love.
“Eat this for me, Doll,” he croons. I open my mouth obligingly and take the banana in. It tastes okay, I guess, and fruit is healthy. I reciprocate by sharing this piece of fruit with Vittorio.
“I have something else!” Charlie cries. He gets on his hands and knees and starts rooting around some plants with bifurcated leaves. “Ah ha!” he cries. He cups his hands for us to see. In the middle of it are a number of wriggling things that I cannot identify at first, until I realize that those are some sort of bugs. What’s he going to do with those?
I’m sorry I asked as he takes one and wolfs it down, then hands one to Myron. Myron doesn’t look very excited at the prospect of adding insects to his diet.
“For you, Myron,” Charlie says lovingly, and holds the bugs out toward his lover again. Myron’s face turns ten shades of pale. He takes an wriggling insect from Charlie’s grasp and opens his mouth.
I cannot watch, so I turn away. It’s obvious to me that we need a little more… variety in our diet.
“Doll, you have to eat,” Vittorio whispers to me.
“Not bugs I don’t,” I insist, perhaps petulantly, but firmly. Not if I were starving and on my deathbed. Some things are simply not meant to be ingested. Insects are one of those things.
The next thing I know Charlie is standing beside us, holding out his offerings and smiling at us with the warmth of a hundred suns.
“Please eat,” he said. “We have a long journey ahead of us.”
A what? Where?
Vittorio, ever the diplomat, takes a couple of small bugs. I don’t even want to hazard a guess as to what they are.
“To see the Professor. He’s the smartest man in the jungle. He can help you.”
There’s another man in this place? Who knew? And how did he get here?
to be continued