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She’s No Queen of the Jungle

(You can listen to this piece in S2E16 of the podcast)

After hooking the sole of her boot to the outer bark and taking hold of the lowest branch, Makana heaved herself up the sycamore tree with all her might. By the time she climbed up several feet to a steady branch, she figured she had escaped. Danger effectively dodged. Down below, the Rottweiler pawed at the tree trunk, still barking. She sighed in relief.

Leaves rustled and she flinched. Makana now faced down an angry squirrel. Apparently, this branch was its branch, and it let its disdain be known as it thumped its body across Makana’s torso and up her forehead, climbing to a higher branch. A baby squirrel followed but was much more curious. It stopped to sniff her knee before taking momma or daddy squirrel’s path up her body.

Makana shivered. The baby squirrel was cute just like the babies of many other species, except its parent almost sent her falling headfirst to a most certain death. Plus, squirrels were much weirder-looking creatures up close. That, and she hated the sensation of paws and claws on her skin. Which was why she was up here in the first place. To avoid paws and claws.

Makana looked down at the ground. The Brady family’s loose Rottweiler was bored now. His barking grew less and less severe until he finally, reluctantly, turned away. This was good. Now Makana just had to figure out how to get back down. Plus, her stomach growled, so getting home for dinner sat high on her list of priorities. If she delayed any longer, her mother would get worried. This was her first time taking an evening bus home from school, and she wanted to prove that she could handle this new freedom. Theater club was rehearsing The Lion King, and she’d been casted as Nala, queen of the jungle.

It was at this moment that she heard the meow. She hadn’t heard it above the Rottweiler’s barking or the drumbeat of her racing heart. Makana craned her neck up just in time to see a flash of white fur leap towards her, paws first. The cat bounced from her shoulder down to the ground in two smooth moves, sending a startled Makana tumbling to the ground behind it. Banged up, Makana took a few minutes to catch her breath and access her injuries. By the time she looked up, the acrobatic cat had disappeared, apparently unscathed and unconcerned about its human launching pad.

Brushing off leaves and dirt and twigs, Makana moaned as she raised her forearm, stained brown and smelly. Dog poop. She wiped herself off on a pile of fallen leaves. Rehearsal may have gone well, but she clearly didn’t channel lioness off-stage. No. Makana stumbled to her feet, sore and defeated. The real animal kingdom was clearly against her.


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