Anne van Kesteren

The Jungle

“One more time,” the old man said as he went into the pool of dirty water again. This time with a bigger fishing net. The pool was near the house of the old man and itself housed a big fish. M was eager to see the fish, hoping it would take him out of the early morning dreaming world. As far as M could remember, he had always been slow in the morning. After lunch and a shower he would usually slowly charge up and not power down until late at night, early morning, when bread enters the oven. Far away he was from normal here, eight in the morning, and already up for two hours. The old man went under again, searching with his hands. Both daughter and granddaughter were waiting on the side, cheering him on. They must have seen it plenty of times, but their excitement was genuine, and the old man let go of a smile. Nevertheless, M felt something was wrong. For something that is daily routine it was taking too long.

Finally the old man said: “I cannot find my fish.” He sighed, though did not seem displeased. “I will have to drain the pond to be sure. It might take up to twelve hours.” M was shocked, but quickly realized he had no plans anyway. Waiting twelve hours in the hut, walking through the jungle some more, it was pretty much the same to him. “Can I wait in the hut?” The old man indicated M should follow his grandson.

Killing time, killing time, killing time. The best way to kill time, murder, end it, is to die, M thought. For then time is truly gone. Well, his perception of time. His reality. Rather than die, he followed the grandson, Pépe.

They walked along the river, through some trash, under a few trees carrying large yellow nuts and orange leaves, saw a family of frogs, and then walked away from the river, up the hill onto a field. “Wait here,” Pépe said as he walked into the house next to the field. He came out with a bucket filled with water that he poured over a wooden box. M took a closer look. “Anaconda,” Pépe said. “We will play with it and kill time.” M chuckled. Killing time. Grabbing it just after its head they each hold it and took pictures. The one taking the picture also held the snake’s tail to prevent it from strangling the one holding it just after its head.

“She finally came and took it!” the old man exclaimed as he entered his house at five in the afternoon. He seemed content. Draining the pond had indeed taken a long time and although M had made point of it to check in on the old man at least once every hour, the last three hours he had forsaken sleeping in a hammock. Startled M asked what was on everyone’s mind: “Who?”

As he sat down the old man started speaking: “When I was about your age I went into the rainforest all alone. I was banned from my village for killing my elder brother. An accident, but nevertheless I was blamed and had to go. Hush, hush.” The old man stroked the cat, then got up to fetch a few beers from the improvised fridge in the water. “It took some time but I got used to the ways of the jungle. Felt comfortable there. Gathering food, finding the right tree to sleep in. Deeper and deeper in I went. Further than anyone else. The noise changed, light became scarce, insects reigned. Then one day…” He sipped his beer and wiped away the moist. “One day I got to a big lake and was confronted by a gigantic anaconda. At least ten times the size of Pépe’s snake, over forty meters.” M blinked. “I thought I was dead. If you see an anaconda you can bet they are looking for food, and I thought I was as good as any.”

The old man took another sip. “As you can see I did not die. No, something strange occurred. The anaconda spoke and told me her name was Ara. Ara said that in the future I would have a house with a pond housing a big fish. One day she would come and eat that fish. Last night she did.” M thanked the old man and his family for everything, gave them everything, and then walked straight into the jungle.

Killing, killing time, killing time. At last M had purpose and killed the killing. Ara would tell him the rest.