Who is Chuck and why does he like to travel?

I was born to be a writer and when I wrote my novel Wild Point Island, Chuck, my orange and white recently rescued feral tabby, got it in his head that he wanted to travel to the island and see the place for himself. Well, of course, Wild Point Island, can only be seen by revenants (you'll have to read the book to find out who they are) and Chuck is no revenant so instead, I concocted a plan to take Chuck with me when I travel around the world, which I do frequently. Not an easy task. First, I have to deflate the poor kid of all air, stuff him in my carry-on bag, remember to bring my portable pump, and when I arrive, I pump him back up. Ouch. But he's used to it by now and given the choice to either stay home in his comfy cat bed or get deflated, he pulls out his passport, ready to travel, every time.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chuck Gets Introduced to Some Monkey Business



No matter where we stayed on safari, something always excited Chuck. And the few nights we spent at Camp at Siana Springs were no exception. This time it was monkeys.

Now in the United States, you are used to riding along the roads and spotting squirrels or, perhaps, an occasional deer out your window. In Kenya, you see more than squirrels. Although fifty percent of the wild animals are on preserves, fifty percent of them are not. As you drive through the country, it is not unusual to glance out your window and see an elephant in the distance or a giraffe or a family of monkeys running along beside you on the super highway.

At first, you are simply amazed at the sight. One time in particular, a mama monkey with a bambino on her back, followed by a few other family members, chased after each other in the field as we sped down the highway, so we asked Stephen to pull over so we could get some photos. And, yes, I held on fast to Chuck, just guessing he would want to leap out and “get a closer look.”

When Stephen announced that we would be spending a few nights at a camp where a very special monkey also lived, Chuck was in his glory. He just loves monkeys because he thought they were cute.

Sure enough, when we first arrived, we immediately noticed something peculiar. Monkeys seemed to be everywhere. Some were hanging out in trees; others were lounging around on pathways.

“These monkeys are smart,” Stephen said to us. “Smarter than the average monkey. Be careful.”

“How smart?” I asked, knowing that Chuckie was wondering the very same thing.

“Well, for example . . .” and Stephen proceeded to explain that one of the things that the monkeys loved to do was break into the tents and scavenge for people food. So, under no circumstances, were we to EVER leave our tents unzippered.

“Okay, I got it. Zipper the tents.”

“But, that’s not going to be enough. You see, the monkeys know how to unzipper the tents. They’re constantly on the lookout for food.”

Chuck’s eyes grew wider.

“So what do we do?”

In Stephen’s hand, was rope. “We string this rope through the zipper so we can tie it down to the ground.”

I shrugged. “No problem.”

“But,” Stephen said, “Unfortunately, the monkeys have learned how to untie the usual knots that people use to secure the zipppers down to the ground, so we’ve had to come up with a new knot.”

I lowered my voice. “A secret knot, you mean?”

“Exactly.”

“You hear that, Chuck?”

But, of course, Chuck wasn’t listening. He is the most distractable cat. No, his attention was focused to the side. What was the Chuckster looking at? I glanced over and almost fell backwards.

On a log, sitting neatly in a row, sat an entire family of monkeys. Not saying a word. No chattering. No eating. No monkeying around.

Only watching. Us. Waiting for us to tie the secret knot. I was convinced that all they needed was to see I tie it--once--and we would be doomed. They would be in our tent in a flash.

Creepy.

“Don’t pay them any attention, Chuckie,” I said. 


“Just don’t let them see you tie the knot,” Stephen warned.

But it was difficult to concentrate on learning a new knot when ten beady monkey eyes were staring at your back.

I literally froze. I panicked.

After Stephen left, I didn’t want to leave our tent, fearful that when it was my turn to tie the knot, the monkeys would catch on, untie our knot, and break into our tent. Chuckie worried, of course, that they would find and eat his “cat snacks.”

Now a cat’s paws are not designed for tying knots, but Chuck was determined to be helpful. When the time finally came to leave out tent, Chuck peeked his head outside the tent and motioned that the coast was clear.

But . . . darn. As soon as we unzipped the tent and rezipped it, the monkeys appeared like magic. Lined up on the same log, their beady eyes poised on us, watching, waiting.

That’s when Chuck jumped into action. He became my blocker. He stationed his belly between me and the monkeys and blocked their view.

“That’s the spirit, Chuck,” I whispered, as I frantically struggled to tie the knot.

But the monkeys were clever. They started moving in closer.

Suddenly, Chuck let forth a deep, guttural growl.

Whoa. The monkeys didn’t like that sound.

“Where is that coming from? You sound like a lion.”

Chuck narrowed his eyes. I guess the “chuckster” was capable of anything when his snacks were being threatened.

Finally, I tied the “secret knot,” and Chuck and I were able to leave our tent.

Now monkeys are cute all right, but Chuck and I both learned that even though they have a good arm when they’re throwing fruit down at you from a tree, due to Chuckie’s superior blocking ability and guttural growl, when we returned after dinner, our tent was still tied down shut. Our “secret knot” had not been broken.

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