A Sudden Crush(9)

By: Camilla Isley


“Agh!”

This thing is stronger than it looks. I plant my right foot on the trunk of the tree and pull the branch with all my body weight. After some struggling, I manage to sever it from the tree with my new knife and cut some of the thin dangling vines that I will need to use as a cord. The effort is enough to have me drenched in sweat. It’s mid-January, which in Chicago means freezing temperatures and snow up to my shins, but here it’s sweltering. I have no idea how many degrees it is today, but the humidity is awful. I’m tempted to drop the palm and go take a dip in the ocean. But I don’t think Mr. Ogre—Connor, I mean—would approve, so it’s probably better if I stick to the plan.

I sit in the shade, drag the branch over my knees, cut it in half, and measure it around my head. Chopping away the unnecessary length, I tie the two ends together with the vine. I stare at my head circle, unsure what to do next. It takes me a while to remember the right way to weave the leaves, but in the end I manage to do a good job on the brim. Now the difficult part—the crown. I flip all the leaves inside the head-circle and experiment again with the weaving until I get it right.

Admiring the final product, I feel proud of myself. It’s almost professional quality, so I decide to make another one for Connor. I restart the whole process, changing only the size of the base. When I’m done, I’m hungry and thirsty. I drink the last few drops of the warm coconut milk, which is not nearly quenching enough, and avidly eat the white pulp inside. I love coconuts, but I seriously hope we can find something different to eat.

While I’m eating, a mini-macaque comes near me and studies me with curiosity.

“Hello,” I say.

“Eek.” He jumps back scared, and goes to hide behind a rock. But after thirty seconds or so he’s out again, peeking with interest at my coconut. I cut a small slice and offer it to him. “Here, are you hungry?” I dangle the slice in front of me.

He stares at it and then back at me, not sure if he should trust me or not. Hunger must get the best of him, because after a while he scampers towards me and takes the slice from my outstretched arm with his little monkey hands. The moment he has it in his grasp, he runs away and goes back to hide behind his rock to enjoy his loot in private. However, after a while I find him back at my feet, staring at me expectantly.

“No,” I say firmly. “You had your piece, now go back to the others.”

He doesn’t move; he just stares at me with big brown monkey eyes.

“Go.” I try to shoo him away. “I’m not giving you any more food.”

I try to make my statement convincing, but as I say it I don’t believe it. He doesn’t believe it either, and the staring war continues. After another minute or so, I crumble under the pressure of his pleading gaze and share the rest of my meal with him equally.

When we’re done eating he jumps on my lap, climbs up my shirt, and wraps his little arms around my neck. Oh boy! I’m afraid I’ve just adopted a baby monkey. I hope he doesn’t have an angry mother looking for him somewhere. But he is so tiny and cute. I cuddle him a little and he nuzzles my neck in return. When I move to get up I try to put him down, but he jumps onto my shoulder and perches there.

“Well, if you’re going to stay we’ll have to give you a name. How about Manny? Do you like it?” I ask, wedging the makeshift knife under my belt.

“Hoo, hoo.”

Lately I’m learning to speak Monkeyrian. “Hoo,” is good, “eek,” is bad, and “eek, eeeeek, eeeeek, ooook, ooook,” is run to the water.

“Manny it is, then.” I give him a gentle pat on the head and try to ignore the fact that he may have fleas. “Let’s go. We have another job to do now—we have to search for useful things.”

“Hoo.” He accepts the assignment with enthusiasm.

As I walk toward the jungle, his tiny monkey feet grip onto my shirt and I feel mildly comforted by the little bundle of fur resting on my shoulder. I begin my search in the area near the plane’s seats. The first thing I notice is my bag hanging on my side of the seating arrangement, still tightly tied to the armrest. The blue leather looks battered and scratched, but the bag seems otherwise intact. A flicker of hope flutters in my belly. I quickly loosen the knots and take it down. I open the zip in a hurry and rummage inside to search for my phone.

After a few minutes of blind exploration, my fingers finally clasp around the slim, plastic rectangle. I take the phone out and examine its condition. The screen is badly cracked, but still responsive to my touch, and all the other functions seem to work perfectly. I turn off airplane mode and wait with a beating heart while the little plane icon is replaced by the word “Searching…”

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