Kanana: The Jungle Girl – Chapter 8 Excerpt

We stayed in the tree house for three more days.  I spent most of that time up in the tree, but wasn’t completely the pampered pet I often felt myself to be.  When Kanana brought home food, I sometimes prepared it, and since I knew much more about the art of cooking than she did, I at least found my own cooking more palatable.  I spent more than a few hours teaching words to Kanana, and she was an attentive and energetic pupil.  She also took to kissing me often.  I don’t know how often she thought of her mating idea, but for me, with her running around unclothed; it was hard to think of anything else.  She was no longer covered with a thick layer of mud, but had dusted herself with reddish tan dirt.  The effect was to make her look even more naked than she was, as impossible as that sounds.  And I began to realize just how strong Kanana was.  She would run and jump and lift things that would have been a challenge for a strong man, let alone a woman.  She was slender, but beneath her skin were muscles like steel coils. Still, every part of her seemed to fit so well together that I couldn’t imagine her being anything but what she was.  Every once in a while, she would ask me a question.

“Where Henry Goode’s home?”

“It was in Boston… America.  I suppose I don’t really have a home now.”

“There Giwa… el-eph-ants in Boston?”

“No, no elephants in Boston.  Neither are there any lions or crocodiles.  No hippopotamuses either.”

“Hippo-po-po?”

I cupped my hands by my ears and flipped them around to imitate the ears of a hippo.

“Dornar,” she said, nodding.  “Dornar danger.”

On the fourth day after the crocodile attack, Kanana examined my leg and pronounced me on the way to recovery.  I had been watching the teeth wounds fairly closely myself and was both pleased and surprised that there seemed to be no sign of infection.  I knew from firsthand experience that infection could kill a man deader than a bullet or a knife.

We climbed down the tree and walked through the forest, back to the edge of the grassland.  Skirting along the edge of the trees, we traveled in what I calculated to be a roughly southeast direction.  The elephants that I had seen here previously were gone, but there were plenty of other animals.

Near noon, we found a large log lying across our path.  Turning it over, Kanana stabbed around in the rotting wood with her knife, and then reached down to pull out a large scorpion.  She held it out toward me.

“Henry eat.”

“Eat?  Eat that? I cannot imagine any circumstance in which I would put that in my mouth.  It would sting me.”

“Kanana cut harbi.”  She held it closer to my face.  It’s tiny pincers snapped.  “See? No sting.”

“I shall not eat that,” I said.

She shrugged and popped it into her mouth.  She chomped down on the arachnid and a bit of its insides squirted out from between her lips.  She scooped them back into her mouth with a finger, chewed several times, and then swallowed.

“Does it taste good?” I asked.

“No,” she replied simply, and turning, continued onward.

An hour later, we stopped to rest beneath a small tree that sat out on the grass away from the rest of the forest.  The sun was warm, but the little tree provided enough shade.  I was just starting to feel drowsy, when Kanana got up and stepped over to a small green plant growing amid the brown grass. Kneeling down, she dug into the ground with her knife.  I stepped over to watch her.  About twelve inches below the surface, she uncovered two large tubers.  Cutting them away from their roots, she pulled the vegetables out and peeled them.

“Henry eat,” she said, handing me one.

I took a bite to find something very much like a mild radish, but with a much greater water content.

“This is good,” I said, feeling my thirst quenched more than my hunger abated. “I’m getting hungry.”

“Kanana say eat harbi-togo.  Henry not eat.”

“We don’t eat bugs where I come from.”

“Not in Boston,” said the jungle girl.  “In Boston we eat what Henry say.  In Kanana’s land we eat what Kanana say.”

A loud bellow a short distance away brought all conversation to a halt.  We looked up to see a great shaggy form lumbering toward us.  It looked like a frightening cross between a bear and a horse, and though it wasn’t quite as big as Giwa, it was fully as large as the bull elephants of Africa. Though I had never seen one alive, I knew from my visits to the Boston Society of Natural History what it was. It was a megatherium or giant sloth. I also knew that it was a plant eater.

As I watched, it stood up on its hind legs, stretching to a height of twenty feet, and bellowed again.  Kanana grabbed me by the sleeve and jerked me almost off my feet.

“Run,” she hissed.

“It’s a sloth.”

The gigantic monster shifted from its slow walk to a sort of jog.  Still holding onto my sleeve, she turned and ran toward the trees, pulling me along with her.  I stumbled a few steps, but regained my footing and ran along with her. Looking over my shoulder, I could see that we were easily outdistancing the megatherium, and I wasn’t running as fast as I was able, so I knew that Kanana wasn’t.

“It’s big and all, but it’s a herbivore, isn’t it?”

“Utuga bad all the time.  Utuga kill lion.  Utuga kill Giwa.  Utuga eat plants, trees.  Sometimes eat meat.”  She slowed to a brisk walk as we reached the tree line.  “Henry eat what Kanana say.  Henry run when Kanana say.”

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