The Best in Environmental Fiction............ by Agi Kiss
..."There she is!" exclaimed Samuel, as another bonobo ambled leisurely into the clearing.
"She has got her baby."
The infant was barely visible as a tiny lump pressed close against its mother's belly. The
others immediately crowded around to greet them, plucking gently at the baby's silky fur with sensitive fingers. Chelsea sat
calmly in their midst like a Madonna before the Magi. The baby turned its face and gazed out at them with huge, black eyes,
its mouth clasped firmly onto a long, pink nipple.
"I'd say it's about a month old," said Lisa. "Okay, Samuel, you
saw it first so you get to name it. What's it going to be?"
Samuel grinned wickedly. "How about Changuma?"
not!," snapped Lisa. "How sick can you get?"
"Only a joke," he apologized sheepishly.
"Well it's not funny,
Changuma meant food in Ruahya. Many local people
considered bonobo meat a delicacy, along with chimpanzee
"I think, maybe we can call him Chuyu," said Samuel.
"Chuyu," repeated Lisa. "That's nice.
What does it mean?"
"It is the name of my sister's new boy, also born last
month," said Samuel. "They can be spirit
"What if it turns out to be a female?" teased Lisa.
"Only the bodies are male and female," answered
Samuel. "The spirits are all one."
The troop gradually lost interest in the baby and wandered away to resume feeding
and then to groom each other and play chasing games. Samuel and Lisa watched, making notes on what they ate and who interacted
with whom. After about an hour the bonobos began to filter out of the clearing and back into the forest, with old Cheetah
leading the way.
"That's it," said Lisa. "Let's go see if we can find Delta group. Samuel? What is it?"
had stood up and was scanning the horizon off
toward the south, sniffing the air like a bird dog. "Fire," he said, pointing
toward the southeast. "There, past the river."
Lisa followed his finger with her binoculars and made out a wispy plume
of white smoke rising lazily against the hazy blue-green background.
"Shit!" she said, "Not again..."
...Finding herself reading the same paragraph of her novel for the fifth time, Carol snapped it
shut with a sigh. The night seemed eerily quiet. Even the chorus of crickets and frogs seemed to be taking an intermission.
She glanced at her watch again. Almost ten oclock. Ten minutes since she had last checked, and almost three hours since darkness
had fallen and Maleke was supposed to return.
She had packed quickly as soon as he'd left, meanwhile
her speech to Thor about not feeling up to dinner and wanting to turn in early. As it turned out, she didnt get a chance to
use it. Thor had stopped by at about seven thirty and immediately launched into the same speech himself, almost word for word,
smiling ruefully as he complained of a griping stomach. She had pretended to be sympathetic, hiding the hurt and anger of
knowing that he was really on his way to meet Singh.
Carol slouched down in the armchair, propped her feet up
on the bed and stared restlessly at the flaking paint on the wall across the room. She had never noticed how many cracks there
were, and how much they looked like rivers on a map. As she traced them upward, her eye caught on a small, shiny spot about
a foot below the ceiling.
She was standing up to take a closer look, when the silence was suddenly shattered
by a sharp, staccato rapping on the patio door behind the closed curtains.
"It's about time," she
exclaimed, as she hastily unbolted the door and swung it open. "Where have you been?"
Instead of Maleke,
she found herself looking into the
protruding eyes of the small, dark man from the garden of the Intercontinental, the
one she now knew was called Juma. He was holding one side of a large, battered cardboard box. On the other side was a tall,
thin young African, who seemed vaguely familiar. Before she could react and slam the door shut they had carried the reeking
"What do you think you're doing?" demanded Carol. "Get
out of my room."
"You told them both to go away, yes," Juma observed with
satisfaction, glancing around the room.
"What are you talking about? Told who to go away? No, don't bother, I don't want to hear it. Just get out, right
"We have your merchandise here, Mrs. Simon. You only
pay us and we go. Five thousand U.S.
A sense of unreality swept over Carol, as if she were in a dream, or watching a scene unfolding
on a movie screen. Her voice sounded strange and detached. "I don't believe this," she shouted. "How many times
do I have to tell you I'm not--"
"It's all right, Carol, I will take over now."
Jasper walked briskly in from the adjoining room, shutting the connecting door firmly behind him. He was cool and self-assured,
completely in command. Carol sat slowly down on the bed, her initial astonishment turning to cold anger as she began to understand
what Jasper had done...