Today's post is brought to you by one Cass Grattan, illustrious birder-writer, founder of the League of Intrepid Naturalists (LOINS), Munitions Specialist of the Nudibranch Appreciation and Pontifications Society (NAPS)...and regular contributor to BB&B. Enjoy. - Felonious Jive, The Great Ornithologist
We are awake in the dark.
Mango is there. She is a small, wheezing cantina whens she sleeps. The sound helps me sleep. When she wakes up, she sniffles a bit.
Sister Anna is a haloed gray silhouette against the jungle.
Sandman is a close talking mouth breather.
We say a little helpless prayer. Everyone’s breakfast, a finger dipped in honey.
Time to go.
The opening of the screen door is the sound of a screaming howler monkey.
Us bipeds are bolted to the earth, blood boiled. Then sheepish moans, giggles, stomach rumblings. Someone’s bowels have loosened but this has happened before, will again. It is dealt with quietly and efficiently.
The thunder in the treetops continues to roll. They are following us.
The day is climbing into our eyes, a tremendous decanting of light. All the plants are reaching towards it, this flooding. Patient birds, waiting for the day to grow the fruit, to warm the boneless bodies, float the bugs up to them. Owls turn into wood. A potoo hardens into an oblong mineral block.
Improbable bill of the toucan; it won’t fit into the binoculars, no matter how far we distance ourselves from it. Its plumage, that thing on its face, its all too much to consider right now. We must keep lurking and leave the pondering of this glutton for leaner times.
A trogon, violaceous, is perched above us on a telephone wire. Voices without bodies humming through its feet. Bottomless eyes, its head turning like some haunted toy from Giuseppe’s workshop. Wordlessly, it sings, You have been Judged.
The ants surround us.
Somehow, we make it to the marketplace, the entrance to the ruins.
The girls have to take a pee.
The men, broken boys, are charged with ticket buying.
The fever has begun to boil and if only we could be away from these people, all these beasts, safe in the shadows of the temple, against the cold stones of this ruin, tracing fingers against the carvings, taking countless mediocre photographs.
The man who I bought the tickets from; I couldn’t see his face very well. The window between us was cloudy and cracked. I gave him the money in the little bowl beneath the glass and he reached for it and revealed a bright pink nail on his left hand, pinky finger. This nail slackened my hold on things and I stood shocked and helpless; suddenly I could hear the howler monkeys laughing again. They had followed us. They had followed us.
Skyguy found me staring at the tickets being offered by the man with the pinky.
Its only paper, man. Take it. He took it and led me away.
He had one pink fingernail, I said to no one. To everyone.
There are the girls. Mango has peed a little on her shoe and is grinning big.
Staggering towards the gate, almost there. Men with machine guns, smiling and not smiling. Iguanas in the trees, thinking about ants.
There is a violent commotion in the brush nearby.
A bit of emerald daylight jerking about in the understory.
I go towards it, groaning, mouth agape. Skyguy grabs me, shakes hard, Pull it together gawdamit! He follows my eyes, brimming with horror and joy, smiling and not smiling.
Together, we watch the green honeycreepers, paired, desperately copulating, lost in their savage beauty. Clutching each other, on the edge of the jungle.
Cass has written many good things for us over the years, including this recent piece right here. Photos in today's post are provided by one Seagull Steve.