Saturday, June 14, 2008

Chapter Three.

“Grrr rurr rarr!” is a greeting used by many Amazonian tribes as a wake-up message. Mel Frank knew that not from a book but from the Amazonian tribesman yelling in his face.

“Okay, I’m up!” said Mel. He hadn’t realized he had fallen asleep. He also hadn’t realized that he drooled all over the cage he was locked in. The tribesman didn’t look pleased. “Don’t worry, I’ll clean it up. I'm rather good at cleaning things up."

The tribesman dragged Mel’s cage out of the communal hut it resided in and through what appeared to be the village meeting area. During the drag Mel realized what was going on. It was the night of the vernal equinox, the day when the sun is positioned directly over the equator. It was also the day when this tribe seemed to practice some sort of sacrificial ritual to a jungle monster. Mel was more concerned with that part because, from what he had gathered, he was the sacrifice.

The dragging stopped when the cage arrived in a clearing of the forest just outside the village. It was dark. It was silent. Mel was fascinated by everything around him. It seemed the entire tribe was gathered around the clearing to witness whatever kind of brutal ritual was about to happen. There were men, women, and children all clad in leaves and bark eagerly watching Mel. As soon as he saw them Mel could only think about how uncomfortable underwear made of bark must be.

A body paint-covered tribesman wearing an elaborate mask stepped forward. Mel looked on from inside the cage.

“Grr lurr!”

“Oh, yes. Grr lurr to you too, sir. Or chief. I assume you are the chief, judging by your mask and your paints. Might I ask—“

“Grung loo!”

“Grung loo!” the villagers chanted back.

“I have just one question about what’s going on here. I want—“

“Hooga chakka!”

“I’m sorry, but I do not understand.”

“Hooga chakka!”

“Please listen to me. I am a scientist! You can see here from my goggles and bag. And look at my coat. I even have a lab coat! Don’t you know about—“

“Hooga chakka!”

Everyone joined in chanting, “Hooga chakka! Hooga chakka! Hooga chakka!”

The tribe leader unlocked Mel’s cage.

“Oh, why thank you so much. I—“

The tribe leader pushed Mel deep into the forest. It was pitch black. He couldn’t see anything. All he could hear was the solitary chanting of the tribe. And some sort of loud, terrifying growl.

Ah, thought Mel, that must be the monster.

Oh no. The monster. If those drawings were accurate Mel was about to witness a spectacular feast from the main course’s point of view.

“That would be an interesting experiment,” said Mel to himself.

Mel heard the beast approaching. Branches shattered into sprays of ballast with thunderous cracks. He heard the growl, slow and meaningful. That growl had an objective.

Mel heard his heart beating louder than it ever had before.

“Beep! Beep! Beep!”

“What was that? Is this monster some sort of robot?”

Something in his bag was ringing and vibrating wildly. He dug through it quickly and found his Sound Locator Device.

“I don’t recall programming in any sounds of deadly Amazonian monsters.”

Its display showed a jaguar. If it was correct the jaguar was fifteen meters north.

No way! thought Mel. Their drawings were so much more violent and vicious and exciting. If it was just a jaguar Mel could lure it in with one of the calls he had programmed into the Sound Locator. He activated it and soon the jaguar emerged from the forest and was kneeling next to Mel, licking his palm. Mel was somewhat disappointed that there wasn't any kind of fantastical monster, but, then again, he was pleased to still have a head.

Mel casually walked back into the village with the jaguar. The tribesman had already moved onto the next part of the ritual and was drenched in blood.

“Grr?” he said.

“Yes, grr. I have found your monster and it is nothing more than a jungle cat.”

“Hurr plurr?!” said the chief. He was amazed. In all his years of sacrificing lost explorers to that monster he had never seen it. He was pleasantly surprised to see it wasn’t anything that could rip you apart with two teeth and send you into another realm with the flick of its tongue.

All the villagers slowly approached the jaguar to pet it. They were all having a great time. After ten minutes the kids were playfully wrestling the beast and Mel was sharing a pig’s leg with the chief. Everyone ate, danced, and sang. Mel tried his best to keep up with the songs, but their lyrics sounded fairly similar to him. Was it grr or lurr? He couldn’t remember, but it didn’t matter. They were having a great time. The chief’s wife presented Mel with a golden statue of a jaguar. Another villager gave him a straw hat. Soon everyone was lined up to present Mel, the village’s savior, with some sort of gift.

Mel didn’t want to leave. He was having such a great time. “Man,” he said, “if only Tom and Jerry could see me here.”

Oddly enough Tom and Jerry wandered into the village right after he said that.

The same five tribesmen who had intercepted Mel pointed their spears at Tom and Jerry.

“No, no,” said Mel. “They’re okay.”

The tribesmen understood.

“Mel?” said Jerry. “Might I ask what’s going on here.”

“Yeah, of course,” said Mel. “They put me in a cage and there was a ritual and the monster was just a jaguar and I ate some pig and…It has been a very strange day.”

“It looks like it. Well we’ve got the plane ready to go. We have everything we need for our research. Are you ready to go?”

Mel didn’t know. He had never before been treated with such respect. But, then again, these people didn’t have any microscopes. They didn’t have any science at all.

“Okay,” said Mel. “Let’s go.”

The chief looked sad. Mel had quickly become his best friend.

“Don’t worry,” said Mel. “I’ll be back some day.”

And so Mel, Tom, and Jerry left the tribe, boarded their plane, flew with Manolo, miraculously avoided death on the flight, and were back in the lab by the next morning.

The bird egg Mel took from the nest that caught him hatched in a lab incubator. Mel named him Hooga, short for the “Hooga chakka” the tribe was so fond of chanting, which Mel later found out means “Oh, Great Monster! Here is a delicious man to eat!”

Mel finally had found his niche in science. He spent the rest of his days traveling to small tribes and villages around the world to spread the wondrous magic of science. He also sold his Sound Locator technology to a company that makes exploring equipment and became more successful than he had ever dreamed. He spent a lot of time with the chief of that Amazonian tribe, Hurr. Mel taught him everything he knows about science and the knowledge has brought incredible prosperity to the tribe and was the cause of only four major accidents. They also enjoyed eating pig legs together.

Mel Frank, the unlikely scientist, achieved superstardom one November day when a man from the Scholastic company came to his lab and took a photo of Mel, in his lab coat, inspecting a beaker. The photo was used to make Mel’s very own science poster.

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