Deep inside the Amazon Rainforest, wearing her reddish-brown, short hair coat, the hoary, wild tapir bartered with the old Jaguar.
“Look, dear friend,” the tapir said. Her tiny black eyes sparkled under the sun.
“It’s dry season. The river is full of voracious piranhas and snakes. You are too old to hunt and too weak to fight your deadly enemy, Anaconda, the biggest snake in this jungle. You don’t want to end your life squeezed by her powerful coils and swallowed whole,” she said to cousin Jaguar.
Eyes squinting under the sun, wild danta patiently waited for a sign. As soon as old Jaguar arched one thick, gray eyebrow, the peccary proceeded.
“Anaconda is the queen of these waters and swims with grace and agility, but she won’t leave the waters.”
“That’s because she fears ticks,” the Jaguar responded, releasing a deep sigh.
“I have a plan,” she said and raised her flexible snout. While sniffing and showing her teeth, she detected a mood change in the Jaguar’s scent.
The old Jaguar placed his jaw on his front paws.
“My dear wild pig, the beauty of being old is that I know all your tricks,” responded the Jaguar impassive.
“No, no, no, no. Tapirs are not wild pigs,” she said and bounced.
After raising her prehensile trunk, the wild tapir stamped her foot on the ground, “A little bit of respect, please.”
Composing herself, she proceeded.
“Aren’t you hungry for flesh? Wouldn’t you love to catch your last wild danta before you die of old age?”
The tapir leaned forward and stared at the Jaguar’s purple eyes. Standing next to his nostrils, she released the pungent scent of her glands.
“I am too old to catch running dantas. I live on birds and large rodents. They are much easier to hunt,” Jaguar responded.
“What if I assure you that you can capture a tapir,” she said with a crooked smile. Her body temperature rose eight degrees.
Intrigued by the tapir’s persistence, old Jaguar replied, “All right, cousin danta. Let’s hear your proposition.”
“My youngsters need to cross the river before the wet season. The river is low and filled with hungry piranhas and deadly anacondas. Go to the riverbank upstream and make these awful critters think that you are going to cross the river. While you distract them, my youngsters will safely cross the river downstream.”
The Jaguar licked his shoulder.
“And what do I get?” He asked, rolled his eyes, and covered both ears with his paws.
The wild tapir gently removed one paw.
“After my youngsters are safe, I will let you hunt me.”
“That is the foolish thing I have ever heard.”
“I want to die with dignity, gracefully running away from the king of the jungle.”
Wild danta sat and looked up, “I promise it will be worth it, cousin Jaguar.”
“Why would I go to all the trouble of chasing you across the jungle?” Old Jaguar asked pensively.
“Vision, dear friend, you must save wild young dantas if you want your youngsters to eat. A deed like this affirms your title, King of the Amazon.”
“Let me think about this. Come back in an hour,” he said, stood up, walked under a rubber tree, and sat under its shade.
Knowing that cousin piranha would be enticed with the taste of tapir, the wild danta approached the ravine, stepped in the water until it reached her ankles, and splashed vigorously. Soon, a school of euphoric red-belly piranhas gathered around, showing flat, triangular, needle-sharp teeth.
Promptly, the old danta stepped on a river rock and began to barter with short-tempered piranhas.
“Good morning cousin piranhas. I have an excellent deal for you.”
“What is it? Si, si, si, tell me, pronto. I can’t spend the rest of the day chatting with a smelly pig.”
A drooling piranha suggested with a sinuous voice, “dear cousin danta, why don’t you step down from that rock and get in the water, mijita? That way, I can hear you better.”
“Oh yes cousin danta, the water will refresh you. Take a bath with us,” said another scheming fish after expanding its gills. Its open mouth revealed a nasty row of protruding shiny teeth.
“I’m not stepping down this rock. Listen to me.”
“Hurry, tapir. We don’t have the whole day.”
“My youngsters need to cross the river. And I know how hungry you have been for days.” Wild danta showed a grimace expressing genuine concern.
“Si, si, si, danta is our favorite meat. We can chew it down to the bone in few seconds,” they said and laughed.
“I have a plan,” the wise old danta said with a solemn look.
“An hour from now, my youngsters will be crossing the river downstream. If you let them cross the river, I will let you eat me whole,” she proposed.
“But we like a young, fresh, juicy, and tender piece of meat. Don’t we?” Piranha asked her gang.
“Si, si, fresh young meat,” they responded looking at each other not convinced.
“We all have our preferences,” wild danta reasoned, “but the river is low, and you won’t get past their thighs. Besides, if we save my youngsters, you are protecting your future. The wet season approaches. When the river rises, you and your offspring will have fresh wild danta meat to eat. What do you say?”
Piranhas deliberated few minutes.
“We will be swimming by the flat rock upstream in an hour.”
The old danta ran to the Jaguar and finished arrangements.
As the Jaguar approached the riverbed, the old wild danta called Anaconda. “Anaconda, anaconda, save me, old Jaguar is trying to hunt me. This is your chance to devour him.”
Anaconda, anticipating her favorite meal, coiled in the shallows of the stream and waited for the Jaguar. With all these mining businesses and hunters, not many jaguars were left in the rain forest.
Piranhas, known for not keeping their word, waited for the young dantas downstream.
Promptly, the old danta gathered her youngsters. Together, they ran to the river’s midpoint and safely crossed the river.
From the other shore, the old danta waved at the jaguar who nodded acknowledging the old peccary’s wisdom.
Piranhas cursed enraged for not figuring out the old danta’s trick.
Wild danta spoke to her youngsters, “Never trust a piranha or a gold digger. They are bad news.”
They foraged under the shade of an ungurahui tree. The stylish palm had grown tall and lush on the floodplain.
Admiring how cousin Tucan preened the feathers of his ebony black wings with his large, bright orange beak, the old wild danta sang, “Larai la lai lala raila, larai la lai laila rai.”
Mariel Masque – Copyright 2016 All Rights Reserved
Words from the Author: This fable is an excerpt from Chapter 47: Deal of 5 Times 5: Invisible Evolutions, a novel written in lucid surrealism, a new literary style by Mariel Masque, This novel is the second novel in the Story Weaver Project series at Poet and Muse e-press. The author publishes a chapter every Sunday. To follow the trailblazing story of René Molina, please subscribe. It’s free at Let’s Talk. To read more chapters, go to the Table of Contents.