A Sudden Crush(10)

By: Camilla Isley


I hold my breath, waiting for the word to change, but the network’s message inexorably remains the same. Of course there’s no network. I lift my arm over my head to see if there’s better reception up there. I turn in various directions, but nothing. “Searching…” is engraved on the screen. Manny gets tired of all this spinning and jumps onto the seats, mildly protesting with a curt “eek.”

I put the phone back in my bag, close the zip, and wrap the strap across my chest. I’ll evaluate the rest of its content later with Connor. Next, I decide to circle the area below and around the seats to see if I can find something else useful. Manny follows me for a while, and then he suddenly darts forward into the vegetation, disappearing from sight. My heart gives a little pang as I watch him go. I was getting used to his presence by my side; it was comforting.

“Hoo, hoo.”

“Hey.” I smile when I see that he’s back at my feet. I make to pat him, but he quickly jumps ahead and scurries away in the same direction as before.

I follow him with my gaze. He stops mid-step and looks back at me expectantly.

“You want me to follow you?” I ask, puzzled.

“Hoo.”

I look back toward the beach and decide that as long as I can keep the tree line in sight it shouldn’t be too dangerous, so I tag after him. Screw Connor the Caveman. I’m a grown-up. I can make my own decisions. As we wend deeper and deeper into the jungle, Manny has to slow down a couple of times and wait for me. This is easy for him. He either runs under the vegetation or jumps from one liana to the next, but me? I have to fight my way through every yard of uncharted territory.

After ten minutes of walking, I am not sure this was such a good idea. “You know, maybe we should go back,” I say, stopping.

“Eek.” Manny moves forward decidedly.

I turn around and try to orient myself. I know the direction we came from, and I left a good trail of forest devastation in my wake: bent branches, broken stems, and flattened leaves. It should be easy to find my way back.

“Eek,” Manny utters again, impatient.

“Okay, okay. I’m coming.” I force my way through some bushes and spot Manny standing on a rock with a proud expression on his little muzzle. If monkeys can smile, then he is smiling.

I lift my gaze beyond him and see that he has led me to a wide clearing. In the middle, a rock wall towers over a small lake, creating a beautiful waterfall.

“Manny, you’re a genius.”

I run toward the lake and kneel down at the edge to splash my face with the fresh water. It feels cold and smooth on my heated skin. I pour some over my head, and relish the cooling sensation of it trickling down my body in small streams. Then I move toward the waterfall, cup my hands, and quaff as much of the liquid as I can manage before I have to stop to breathe. Once my thirst is quenched, I sit on the cool ground, lean my back against the rocks, and let out a liberating laugh.

“Hoo, hoo.” Manny jumps on my bent knees.

“Yeah, you did good, little friend. Thank you!”

“Hoo, hoo,” he insists, jumping in another direction.

“What?” I ask. “You have some other treasures to show me?”

“Hoo.”

“All right then.” I get up to follow him. Now I have complete trust in his abilities as my local guide.

He leads me around the lake and stops near a small pond; there are several around the main lake.

“What’s here, baby?” I can’t see anything interesting.

“Hoo.” He dabs at the water with one tiny hand in a burrowing motion.

“Something under here?”

“Hoo.”

I squat next to him and a red sparkle immediately attracts my attention. I lower my hand in the water, pick up the mysterious object, and stare at it, mesmerized.

“Manny, you truly are a genius!”

“Hoo.”

“Let’s go back and show this to Connor. I bet he’ll be happy with us. What do you say?”

“Hoo.”

I take him in my arms and cuddle his white belly as I walk back toward our camp.





7


Hidden Treasures


It takes me a while to walk back. I hadn’t realized we had gone so deep into the jungle. However, about an hour after my expedition began I’m back on the beach, proud of my discoveries and excited to share them with Connor.

I pick up the leaf hats from the rock where I’d left them, wear mine, and go meet Mr. Ogre. He’s put this time to good use too, and has built a hut at the border of the rainforest. The walls are made of bamboo sticks tied together with vines, and the roof is a perfect-shaped cone made with many layers of palm fronds.

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