Hey guys and girls. I realized a while back that I was in trouble. With the Boss paid off, I kind of wanted a new car. I went to several dealerships and drove several new GTs. I ended up doing a Randi. My friend Black Randi always talks about building cars. So, I hit several auctions and got myself a fairly decent donor.
I got a 67’ fastback roller. A guy in OKC was planning on doing a faithful resto and he ran out of money and time. My intention is a resto mod, with a Voodoo or Coyote power train. So anyway, that’s where I’ve been. Taking this thing apart is not nearly as easy as the pros make it seem. But on to the story.
This is a long one, but it’s also a very sneaky story. I think it’s actually too long to read at one go. So, take your time. If you’re looking for a quick two-page story with four sex scenes on each page, I am definitely not mad at you, but this ain’t it.
I’ll be doing some stuff with the Nuns later this year, so for you Sisters of Fate fans, there are major bits hidden in this story.
The second thing I wanted to do is something that the great JPB often does. He has his protagonist go through several relationships before he finds the real one. I really wanted a shot at that so here it is.
And one last thing. There are four Mustangs in this story. The first person who emails me and names them all will be written into the next story, with their choice of name and character. Anyway, here we go.
God dammit it’s hot. I was sweaty, stinky, miserable, pissed off and confused. I was afraid to take a fucking shower, totally out of my element and beginning to doubt myself.
Why the fuck was I in the middle of the Amazon jungle?
I unzipped my brand new, super durable cargo pants and for the fiftieth time in less than an hour wished they were shorts.
Just as I sighed in relief at releasing a stream of pee and enjoyed the emptying of my overly full bladder, some sort of bug dive bombed towards me.
My cat-like reflexes kicked in and I swatted in a graceful kung fu-ish gesture that came nowhere near hitting the crafty bug.
Unfortunately, letting go of my dick to perform that incredible display of fake martial arts wizardry resulted in me pissing all over my brand-new hiking boots and the bottoms of those previously mentioned pants.
“Fuuuuuccccckkkkk!” I screamed.
I stopped the leaking from my now empty bladder and ... okay it was stupid, but I gave it a couple of shakes as if that would somehow prevent me from smelling even more like an uncleaned urinal.
Maybe it was just the force of habit. Maybe I just didn’t belong in the fucking jungle.
I wiped my hands on a tree and felt that damned bug, settle onto my forehead.
Again, those cat-like reflexes kicked in and I slapped the cowboy shit out of myself. I hit myself so hard that I fell. I was dazed for a second. I hated the fucking jungle.
I swore a solemn oath that once I got back home I would never so much as watch a Tarzan movie ever again.
What the hell made me think that I could do this?
I thought about it for a second and realized that it was a nearly lethal combo of things. It was anger, liquor and TV.
A weird situation had popped up in my damned near perfect life. It made me really angry. That anger caused me to get drunk. And the huge 35-inch TV in my apartment’s living room made me think that the jungle was a place full of serenity and beauty.
It is full of beauty, but so far, I hadn’t found any serenity because every fucking one of those beautiful things wanted to kill me.
The weather was so hot that dehydration and sunstroke were competing to see who could kill me first.
Half of the insects wanted to suck out my blood and kill me. The other half were either poisonous or carriers of diseases that could kill me.
The plants carried poisons that could kill me. And hiding among those fucking plants ... ready to leap, crawl or slither out, were all kinds of snakes, animals and vermin that all wanted to FUCKING KILL ME!
I couldn’t even jump in the water from a nearby river because the water had bacteria that my American digestive tract couldn’t handle, despite the countless shots, pills, liquids, antidotes and vaccines that I’d been given to inoculate me from most of the dangers of the jungle.
The thing that scared me shitless about the river was the video of the parasite that gets into your system by swimming into you through the hole in your dick.
At least the doo-doo bugs that swim up your anus gave you the chance to shit them back out.
So, there I was ... in the jungle ... having second thoughts, sweaty, miserable, smelling like pee and wondering why I was here.
Suddenly ... not the cat-like reflexes this time. I heard the sound of something running towards me. It was running quickly. It was crashing through the foliage and making no attempt at stealth.
I took off running too, hoping to make it back to the vicinity of our camp, where one of our guides could handle it or scare it off.
I was amazed by my own bravery. It was pretty fucking brave to admit, among the kind of guides that had led me here, that I was scared shitless and needed to be rescued.
At least I didn’t scream. Screaming was the worst thing you could do in the jungle, for a number of reasons. First off screaming announced your fear to every living creature around you. It meant that instead of one predator chasing me, there might be many more added to the list ... just to see who could eat me first.
Screaming also announced to my guides and the other men in the camp, that I was a terrified little baby and they’d spend the rest of this already miserable trip giving me shit about it. They would tell everyone they knew about it ... and they’d tell two friends, and they’d tell two friends ... you get the picture. But no, it’s far worse these days because sooner or later one of those bastards would tell a friend who had one of those cell phones and once news of my cowardice hit someone I knew, then everyone in Michigan would know about it.
They’d do a skit featuring me sprinting through the fucking jungle, screaming my fucking head off on Saturday night live. They’d bring in cheetahs, race cars and Carl Lewis, to compare their speed with my terror fueled velocity.
The last reason was far more practical. Screaming took a lot of your available lung capacity. And I was currently using every iota of my VO2 max to sprint away from danger. It’s really difficult to run for your life AND scream.
And just to show that life was not done pissing in my cornflakes, there it was. I’m sure you all saw it coming. Just like in every slasher film ever made, someone decided to drop the inevitable tree branch, right in my path.
Now in the slasher flick, this always seems to happen to the second prettiest girl in the bunch. Either the second prettiest girl, or the black guy is ALWAYS, the first one to die in the very stupidest way possible.
This makes perfect sense to movie directors because if you still have the prettiest girl ... the second prettiest girl is expendable. AND in order for a director to show the diversity of his cast, the director has to do something to show the audience that there are minorities in his movie so no one whines about it.
The best way to show this in a slasher film is to kill them off.
But any way ... like the second prettiest girl in the slasher film, I hit that branch and flew through the air.
Luckily for me, or so I thought ... the fallen branch was at the edge of the clearing that we were grouped on.
I thought that meant that there would be men there to frighten off or kill the animal chasing me.
Unluckily for me ... the fallen branch was at the edge of the clearing that we were grouped on.
That meant that all of the men in our group were there. So, when I flew through the air ... as awkwardly as humanly possible, arms and legs flailing, rolling over in mid-air and landing on my ass, every man in our group saw it. And even worse as the animal leaped out of the woods in hot pursuit and landed near me, they thought it was hilarious.
Even as it attacked me, licking its rough, wet tongue over my face as I screamed and tried to ward it off, they fell onto the ground laughing.
It took a few moments for me to realize that I wasn’t in danger. The animal that I’d assumed to be a Jaguar or some other predator, was simply the biggest fucking dog I’d ever seen.
As I pushed the beast away from me, it looked as if I’d hurt its feelings. But within a couple of seconds it was back sniffing around me.
Then it sat down right by my feet and growled at the men who were still laughing at me. Most of them stopped laughing when they heard the growls. It was a really big fucking dog.
As I looked at it, it seemed to be more like a wolf than any dog breed I’d ever seen. But it was huge. It didn’t look like the feral yet scruffy wolves I’d seen on TV or at the zoo back in Michigan.
This thing was amazing. Seeing that it obviously meant me no harm, I relaxed and looked at it. Its fur was mostly gray with some flashes of white thrown in. Its muzzle was longer than a German Shepherd’s but a similar shape. The head was larger and wider and its eyes seemed to show almost too much intelligence.
I was on the verge of trying to start a conversation with it when...
“Bayah! ... Where the fuck are ya?” The voice was very deep almost a growling sound. At the first sound of that voice, my new friend took one more swipe at my face with that sandpaper like tongue and disappeared into the jungle.
“Took ya long enough, Rollins,” sighed one of the guys who was guiding me through the jungle.
“Fuck you too, Princess,” grumbled the biggest man I had ever seen. As a child, I’d seen Andre the giant once at WrestleMania. This guy was very close if not equal. And truthfully when I’d seen Andre, he was way past his prime and barely able to move. This guy moved through the jungle like a fucking shadow. That huge fucking wolf dog looked like a puppy next to him.
The guys that were guiding me apparently knew him. I still stood there like a deer caught in the headlights. My jaw was open and had been open for so long that my tongue dried up.
“That him?” he asked. Several heads nodded and he turned to me.
“Jack Rollins,” he said and extended a hand that was easily two or three times the size of mine. As he shook my hand I noticed that he didn’t try to crush mine. But I’m sure he could have if he’d wanted to. He spoke with a thick Australian accent that sometimes made it just slightly hard to figure out what he was saying. Other times it made me want to throw another shrimp on the barbie.
“Jeremy LeBeau,” I said. “Why are YOU here, Mr. Rollins?”
“Just call me Jack,” he said. “Mr. Rollins was my father. Actually, I’m here to take you to the Gnatsum. I’m your guide.”
“Take me to the WHAT?” I asked. “I thought those guys were my guides!”
“Those guys are great for tourists ... ya know?” he said. “If you want to just go out for a night or two of basically camping and not too far from a city or from water they’re great. But the Gnatsum are nomadic. They travel from area to area. These guys can’t find their feet in their shoes outside of the trails.”
“Oh!” I said in confusion.
“You’re in luck,” he smiled. “You’ve got luck rolling offa you in spades.”
I looked confused and truthfully, I was beginning to wonder for the umpteenth time why the fuck I was here and if I should just go home.
“What makes me so lucky?” I asked.
“I work for UNSARA as a consultant,” he said. “You know the UN Scientific Anthropological Relief Agency? I was already taking one of their egg headed scientists up to see the Gnatsum. He’s only been here for a day and he’s already getting on my fucking nerves. So, I decided to wait for you. Figured you’d be better company. Don’t like that fucking guy at all. Other than that, you’d a hadda wait a couple of weeks at least for me to take ya up there.”
“Why don’t you like him?” I asked. “Is it him in particular? Or do you just not like scientists?”
“Don’t know many scientific types, but this guy ... he and Bayah don’t hit it off. Bayah’s a good judge of character,” he said.
I thought of the way all of the men that I’d thought were my guides acted around the huge dog. Not one of them came near me when the dog was around. They made no sudden moves and never took their eyes off of it.
As fearless as I’d thought they were, it was obvious that they were all scared shitless of the dog. But they were even more afraid of showing that fear around the other men.
“Bayah likes you,” he said.
“I like Bayah,” I said. He burst out laughing. It sounded like a bunch of boulders rolling downhill.
“What’s so funny?” I asked.
“Who the fuck is Bayah?” he asked.
“Your giant fucking wolf dog,” I said.
“His name isn’t Bayah,” he said. “It’s Bayah. It’s an American name ... like does a Bayah sheet in the woods?” I thought for a second.
“Oh ... I get it,” I laughed. “It’s Bear!” As soon as I said it, the dog was there and licking at my face. The scary part was that the dog didn’t have to climb or jump to reach my face.
“Well ... get ya geeyah and we’ll get outta heeyah,” he said.
A few minutes later we were standing in front of my tent. He looked at it as if it was disgusting. He just shook his head while I took the tent down. After adjusting a few of the lightweight plastic rods the tent folded down flat and then I folded it again and rolled it into a single rod that I strapped to the side of my back pack.
I rolled my air mattress up and folded it into a bundle that fit inside of my backpack. All of my other gear also fit in the backpack. I strapped the pack to my back and was ready to move.
He looked at me and laughed. Then he went over to the guides and spoke to them for a while. When he came back he handed me a machete.
“What’s this for?” I asked.
“What’s it NOT for?” he laughed. “So far you’ve been in candy land. We’re going into the jungle. That’ll help you cut your way through the foliage. It’ll protect you from snakes and some animals. It’s your main tool, your best friend and your last line of defense.”
“What about a gun?” I asked.
“Sheet happens fast out here,” he said. “Imagine that it’s late one evening, you’re relaxing after a hard trek through the jungle. Bayah starts growling, the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and you look up to find a big ass python right behind you.
You reach for your gun ... are you a good shot? Are you a good shot when your hands are trembling and your life is on the line? ... with this all you need is one good swing and you can take his whole fucking head off. Then we throw a snake on the barbie for dinner.”
I looked at the machete again.
“Do you have one?” I asked.
“Don’t need it,” he said. “I got a knife.” He pulled it from a sheath on his belt. It was the biggest, shiniest, evilest looking bowie knife I had ever seen.
Remember the knife in Rambo? ... pfft ... nothing! Remember the knife in Crocodile Dundee? Pffft ... less than nothing.
The blade on this thing had to be two feet long and about 4 inches wide. The spine was serrated and the first four inches of the top of the blade was sharpened as well as the bottom edge.
The blade gleamed as if it was sharp enough to cut through a beam of light.
He expertly flipped the knife back and forth as if it was a toy, while I found myself wondering if I could lift it. The thing looked more like a short sword than a knife.
It reminded me of a Wakizashi, the shorter of a pair of samurai swords, except that it was much wider and not nearly as elegant. It simply looked brutal.
He pointed in the direction we were heading for and we started walking. At first, I was pushing the branches out of my way. But I quickly got tired of the way the branches snapped back and scratched any of my exposed skin they contacted.
“Some of those are poisonous,” he said.
“Which ones?” I asked.
“Does it matter?” he asked.
“Of course, it matters!” I said loudly. “Maybe not to you, but it matters a hell of a lot to me. I want to get there alive.”
“I want you to get there alive, too,” he said. “If you don’t ... I don’t get paid. I’d just be wandering around in the fucking jungle for nothing.”
I became much more careful about the branches then. I tried to avoid touching them altogether. He looked at me with a bit of a smirk on his face. Then he rolled his eyes as if he was trying to explain something really simple to a very stupid child.
“What do you do for a living?” he asked.
“Nothing yet,” I said. “I just graduated from college. Believe me, I had no idea I’d be doing this. This wasn’t even a blip on my radar screen. Right now, I should be getting ready to marry the prettiest girl in my school and start our perfect fucking life together. I’m supposed to start work at the end of the God damned summer.”
“Oh!” he said. We walked for a while longer and it seemed as if he was going to explode at any second. “You graduated, huh?” he asked.
“Yep,” I said.
“What’s your degree in?” he asked.
“Engineering,” I said proudly. He burst out laughing. He laughed so hard he fell heavily against the trunk of one of the trees.
“Engineers ... Morons, every God damned one of em. Trust an engineer to find the most complicated solution to the simplest problem.”
He started dancing little circles around every tree trunk. He skipped up to every branch and dosey doed around them. I suddenly realized that he was imitating me or perhaps mocking me.
“What did you expect me to do?” I said. “You just bull your way through the branches. You’ve probably built up a tolerance to any toxins or poisons from the plants.”
“You’re the engineer,” he smirked. “Why don’t you engineer a brilliant new tool to quickly and efficiently keep the branches from scratching you and clear them out of the way. It should probably be something lightweight, that you don’t have to reload and is small enough to carry with you. Preferably something you could use with one hand.
Oh, and since you’re an engineer, I have to tell you that it shouldn’t have any type of cord, battery pack or power source. Engineers love all of that technical, electrical sheet.”
“I could do it,” I said. “We just don’t have time.”
“Well, could you take the time to engineer a way to move your head so your brilliant engineering eyes can see the fucking machete that I placed in your brilliant fucking hand?” he asked. I stopped and looked at him. He had the biggest, saltiest smile on his face. Even bear was laughing at me in a half dog, half wolf kind of way.
Bear trotted over and licked my hand. It was his way of letting me know that he was laughing with me, not at me ... I think.
I swung the machete and began clearing the branches in front of me. Jack nodded his head and murmured under his breath, “Ya might just make it. At least yer better than the other one.”
After a few more minutes of hacking our way through a seemingly endless curtain of varying bushes and foliage, we arrived at a small clearing. There was a tent, not very different from mine in the very center of it as far away from the trees as was possible.
I was sure I heard the sound of water and it wasn’t very far away. I also smelled the funky, plant and fungus filled aroma of the river I’d peed in an hour or so before.
“Jack, are we close to that river?” I asked. His face took on the same type of smile that a predator gets when one of his offspring has killed something on its own. It was a kind of demented pride.
“Yah,” he grinned. “Right ovah thayah. Our path ran roughly parallel to the river the whole way.”
“We could have just walked along the river bank and saved ourselves a lot of effort,” I said. His look of pride evaporated.
“Do yah know what the predators do?” he said. “They post up near places that the food has to go to. Every animal in the jungle has to have water. So, the crocs, the big snakes, the leopards, the jags and every other thing out there that crawls, scurries, or shits between two of its legs watches that fucking stream.
Would you rather cut branches or fight predators?”
“Okay Jack,” I said. “I’m learning.”
The sound of our voices alerted someone inside of the small tent. He emerged with a gun pointed in front of him. He was fiftyish and nerdy with glasses that looked like two magnifying glasses glued together and perched on his bulbous nose. He had a fringe of graying brown hair surrounding a bald pate.
He looked at me and then recognized Jack and lowered his gun. He was glistening with sweat from the humidity and temperature. For all the time that I’d been in that fucking jungle, I’d thought that I was afraid, but that guy had me beat.
You could almost see the fear coming off of him in waves. Seeing how afraid he was, made me feel brave.
“Professor Guggenheim, this is Jeremy LeBeau,” Jack told the little man.
“You can call me Remy,” I said holding out my hand.
He took one look at my hand and stepped backwards, like I had cooties or something.
“Young man, I’m not trying to be rude,” he said in a voice that was so tight from stress and fear that it sounded as if it had been ripped from his larynx. “But there are all sorts of germs and infections just waiting to kill me. I have no idea where your hand has been and...”
He stopped in mid-sentence as an almost silent snap came from the jungle near us. He raised his gun just as bear bounded out of the jungle.
“No... !” I yelled and slammed my hand against the side of the gun just before I heard it click as the hammer hit an empty chamber. The man looked shocked.
“God damned unreliable, cheap firearms,” he spat. “It’s jammed again.”
“Professor, I fucking warned you,” growled Jack. “This is your last warning. Next time you shoot at my dog, I’ll leave you out here in the jungle alone.”
“But you won’t get paid,” gasped the man. “And it wasn’t my fault. That animal runs around the jungle as if he owns it.”
“Some things are more important than money,” spat Jack. “Besides, I’ll still get paid if I get Remy to the tribe. I just won’t make double. Now pack up your shit, we’re moving out.”
“But we can’t,” he whined. “I haven’t rested enough. And doesn’t Mr. LeBeau need some rest, you just got back. My arms ache from...”
“Okay, it’s a free jungle,” spat Jack. “You can stay here for as long as you want. But WE’RE moving out in ten minutes.”
Even as they finished that exchange Bear was behind me licking my hand.
“Good reflexes, back thayah,” Jack said.
“I didn’t know I was gonna...” I began. “He was gonna...”
“Bayah knows that he’s safe around us,” he said. “You’re the guy that tried to save him. And...” he said reaching into his pocket and holding out his hand. “I’m the one who took alla’ the fucking bullets outta’ that crackpot’s gun.”
We hacked our way through what seemed like miles of jungle, with Jack and me alternating who led. My arms ached from swinging my machete, but Jack’s giant arms never seemed to tire from swinging his gigantic knife.
The professor never took a turn. He seemed to spend all of his time whining. I wondered what he was doing out there in the jungle. He was the only person less suited to the jungle than I was.
There were several times during the afternoon that we were interrupted by brief but heavy rainfall. Each time my clothes were soaked, the professor managed to pull out a small umbrella to shield himself from the bulk of the water.
Jack shook his head at me, indicating that I should just let myself get wet. Once the rain stopped, I noticed that I was actually cooler. The water-soaked clothing seemed to insulate me from the stifling heat.
Long before we’d intended, we had to stop. The professor was on the verge of passing out. Jack looked at him and shook his head.
“Professor, we’ll camp here for the night. If we start out early tomorrow morning, we can probably catch the tribe by between mid-day and early evening tomorrow,” he said.
“Why can’t you give me an exact time?” grumbled the professor.
“Two reasons,” snapped Jack. “One the Gnatsum are nomadic. They may stay in place for a day or two, sometimes even a week or so, but we have no exact idea where they are. I have a friend who’s traveling with them, along with a few others from the UN, so I have a good idea where they are and where they’re heading, but it’s not an exact position.
“Secondly, I have no idea how quickly you can walk the distance we have to cover. I’d expected to be a lot further along, but you clearly aren’t a sprinter. You’re not even taking your turns at the front cutting through the brush...”
“I’m not cut out to be a brush cutter,” spat the professor. “I’m an expert on jungle ecosystems so I...”
“So, you should know that the plants you’re lying on are poisonous,” spat Jack. “Remy ... let’s go hunting.”
Jack looked at me as if he was doing a mental analysis of my skills and capabilities. Then he nodded and looked at bear. “Find us a snake,” he said. “A beeg one.”
Bear bounded into the jungle. Jack and I headed in roughly the direction he’d taken. I was about to chop a branch that was blocking us with my machete when Jack held up his hand and shook his head.
“No noises,” he hissed. We stepped carefully through the thick foliage. The humidity and heat though lower since the sun was beginning to set, made it feel almost as if we were forcing our way through the moist air.
After what seemed like hours but according to my watch was only seventeen minutes, Bear brushed by my side. It was incredible, I had never seen anything like it. One second Jack and I were creeping along through the jungle alone, and the next Bear was there. He was wagging his tail happily, but he never made a fucking sound. He didn’t whimper, or bark, he just brushed us after appearing from nowhere.
How the fuck does a huge, gray and white wolf-like dog melt in and out of the jungle so easily?
“Okay, Bayah, take us to dinnah!” whispered Jack. It took only a few minutes for Bear to lead us to what he’d found.
Jack and I crept silently after the dog as he ran through the dense foliage. Then he suddenly stopped, wagging his tail excitedly. The fact that he didn’t bark still amazed me.
Jack tapped me on the shoulder and pointed. It took me a while to see it. It blended so well into the colors of the vines that until it moved, I just didn’t see it.
It was a huge tree boa. The thing was much larger than any snake I had ever seen on tv. I shuddered, disgusted by the smell and just the general thought that something like that was not only alive, but real.
Jack pulled me backwards. He pointed at me and then at his eyes, indicating that I should watch carefully.
He pointed and Bear walked slowly to where the snake curled around a thick tree limb. The dog slowly walked through the bush in the general direction of the snake, never looking at it. It looked as if Bear had forgotten where the snake was.
And then unexpectedly, Bear lay down on the ground. He looked around, he looked everywhere that the snake wasn’t. Then he lowered his head and went to sleep.
The snake wasn’t looking a gift horse ... I mean dog ... in the face. He slowly uncurled and began creeping down the trunk of the tree. There was no doubt in my mind that a boa that big could squeeze the life out of the huge dog.
Before I could move, Jack’s huge hand in my chest pushed me back. He made an okay sign to tell me that things were fine.
I continued to watch, but with a real revulsion as the snake uncurled. But before I could do anything it was over. As soon as the snake’s head was away from its massive body, stretching towards the seemingly sleeping dog. Jack leaped forward and with one swing of his massive sword-like knife, chopped through the snake’s neck.
Its body flopped once or twice and then dropped lifelessly to the ground. Bear jumped up and ran over to us. And for once he barked happily.
It all made sense, then. And the dog seemed even smarter in light of the performance he’d just given.
“Okay, shows over, you carry that back to camp, I’m gonna scrounge for some edible greens,” said Jack. “Bayah, you go with Remy, he probably forgot the way back.”
I’m pretty sure Jack was testing me. I got over my disgust and started picking up the large, dead snake. It weighed more than I expected. I looped it over my shoulders and it touched the ground on both sides.
I looked at Bear and he turned and headed off towards the camp.
Carrying the dead snake had really slowed me down, but I still got back to camp before Jack did.
The professor was sitting on a blanket in front of his tent. He had a couple of cameras and was taking photographs of everything he saw.
Before I realized it, he’d taken several of me with the snake carcass over my shoulders. As he aimed the camera at Bear, the dog began a warning growl.
The professor quickly put his camera down. “I don’t think he wants his picture taken,” I said.
“Keep that animal under control,” he said tersely.
“Come on Bear, let’s find some wood or something that will burn,” I said. I watched in amazement as the dog leaped back into the jungle.
We gathered twigs and branches. I learned somehow that the woodsier, dry, brownish branches, and limbs would probably burn, while the greener, more moist ones most likely wouldn’t.
As I brought the wood back and arranged it in a pile, the professor took pictures of it as well. It was then that I noticed something off about his cameras. They were Nikon cameras, like most of the professionals used but...
“Staring at my cameras huh?” he asked as if he’d read my mind.
“What kind of film are you using?” I asked, trying to sound as if I knew what I was talking about.
“Film?” he laughed. “It’s 1986, boy. Film cameras are on the way out. These cameras are the new Nikon digital SLR type.”
I was shocked. That was why I never saw him change his film.
“I took a photography class a while back,” I said. “My instructor told us that digital cameras are a fad. They’re too expensive, too fidgety and they’ll never be as reliable, or have the resolution of film cameras.”
He laughed again. “Your instructor was probably one of those cavemen who are too afraid of trying anything new and too feeble minded to see the future. Digital cameras are still in their infancy, but within the next twenty years or so, film cameras will be gone. And as the technology improves, digital cameras will become so small that almost everyone will carry one in their pocket.”
My reply was cut off by Jack’s return. He looked at my pile of wood and nodded. “Good going Remy, you have the makings of an explorer in your bones,” he said. “I can see that as usual the professor did next to nothing...”
“It’s not my job to...” sputtered the professor.
“Out here, survival is everyone’s job,” spat Jack. “Do you intend to eat?”
“Of course,” said the professor. “I brought an entire pack of camp bars with me and...”
“Those things taste like sheet,” laughed Jack. “Suit yourself!”
“Remy, you and Bayah scout around for some beeg, flat stones,” he said. He dropped off a bunch of reed-like plants and pulled out his huge knife. “Remy, the sun is going down so stay away from the reevah. There are probably lots of stones theyah, but every animal in the area will probably head theyah too.” I nodded and Bear and I took off into the woods again.
Finding stones wasn’t hard. The task was carrying them back to camp. Bear was no help, or so I thought. He kept leaping in front of me and refusing to move. It took me a while to realize that the large dog was keeping me from stumbling into places that I should avoid.
The one time that I didn’t heed his warning almost got me killed. I saw a beautiful stone, that was not only flatter, but much thinner than the two I was carrying. Flatter mean better and thinner meant, easier to carry, due to less weight.
Bear jumped in front of me, but I wasn’t having it. I rubbed his ears and told him it was alright. At my first step, my foot sank into what I thought was mud. My second step saw me losing my balance as my leg sank into the dirt up to my knee. What I’d believed was grass was only a mossy covering over what appeared to be some sort of quicksand-like mud.
But suddenly, I stopped falling forward. I noticed that Bear had grabbed the back of my pants in his jaws and was pulling me back the way I’d come. I fell backwards onto the mud instead of forward into the quicksand. I scrambled backwards with Bear refusing to let me go until I was back on firm ground.
All I could do was look at the pristine greenery that had settled back into place as if only seconds before it hadn’t nearly killed me. Even the fucking ground wanted me dead, no wonder the professor was such an asshole.
Only the timely intervention of a dog who was smarter than I was had saved my life. Another reminder that I had no business being in the God damned jungle.
I knelt down and rubbed Bear’s ears affectionately. Then I grabbed the two flat stones that we’d already gathered and headed back for camp. The one I’d tried to get sat there teasingly, in the middle of the vine covered death trap that I’d barely escaped. I saluted it and went on my way.
Even before we got back to the clearing that we were spending the night in, I smelled the aroma of meat cooking. Jack had cleaned and skinned the snake and chopped it into large portions.
He was slowly roasting it over an open fire. There were three foil wrapped packages very close to the fire. I wondered what was in them. It all smelled really good.
Even the professor was staring at the fire. I gave Jack the stones. He placed them very close to the fire and using a stick flipped the foil wrapped packages into the stones.
He reached into one of the pockets of his cargo shorts and pulled out a tiny foil packet. He sprinkled something onto the roasting snake meat and then opened and sprinkled it onto the contents of each foil wrapped packet.
“Set up your tent, Remy,” he said. “It’ll be dark soon.” I didn’t doubt him, but the sun was still up. Then it hit me.
We were almost completely covered by a canopy of leaves. The only illumination we got was from the sun streaming through the branches and leaves. Once the sun went down, it would get very dark, very quickly.
Setting up my tent was no problem. All I had to do was free it from my pack, unsnap a couple of straps that held the plastic rods in place and throw it. The pop-up tent would do the rest.
“Not bad,” laughed Jack. The professor looked at my tent with barely disguised envy.
I set out all of my other things and went back to the fire. Jack took the foil packets off of the stones and opened them. Steam came from each of them. Then he handed me a large leaf and shoveled a huge amount of the fragrant snake meat onto it. The foil packs were the reeds and greens that Jack had found in the jungle. The smaller foil packets that he’d pulled from his pocket were some sort of seasonings.
Jack capped it off by handing me a can of warm, but drinkable soda.
The professor looked at us, with barely disguised anger. He got even more upset when Jack placed another huge leaf on the ground and put a big hunk of the roasted snake and some of the vegetables on it. He then pushed the leaf in front of Bear.
The huge dog quickly gobbled down the meat and then the greens. Before I’d even begun to sample my dinner, he was at my side looking at my portions of snake meat.
“Ya already ate yours, Bayah,” laughed Jack. He looked over at the professor. “How do those camp bars taste, Professor?”
The professor was almost salivating at the smell of the freshly roasted meat. And the seasonings from one of Jack’s hidden foil packets made the greens taste great as well.
There was far too much meat on my plate for me to finish, so I gave Bear a huge chunk of it. He wolfed it down in two bites. I gave the professor a chunk of meat as well. He savored the taste and dropped his camp bar on the ground, where Bear scooped it up. The huge dog took two bites and left the rest on the ground.
As the sun disappeared behind the canopy of leaves, the fire illuminated our small camp.
“Ya did well today, Remy,” said Jack. “Far better than I expected. But then Bayah likes ya, and he’s a pretty good judge of character. He doesn’t like most people that much, especially right from the start. He tolerates them because they’re the way we make money, but he liked you right from the beginning.”
“How’d he take to Bran?” I asked. “Everybody loves Bran,” I said with more than a little bit of sarcasm hiding the bitterness in my voice.
“I don’t let him eat cereal,” said Jack. “If I did, he’d want some whenever we hit a town and since we’re out here most of the time, it wouldn’t be good to get him hooked on something we won’t have regularly.”
“Bran is Brandon Stark,” I spat. “He’s ... well ... I thought he was my friend. I felt that way for most of my life. We just graduated. Like in most things during our life we were one and two in our graduating class of about three thousand students. My degree is in engineering. Bran had a dual major ... Anthropology and Political Science. I got a job with a major automotive manufacturer and Bran took an opportunity to study the Gnatsum tribe for UNSARA.
You probably brought him out here too. He’s Irish or at least his parents were. He’s a big red headed guy ... almost as big as you and...”