On the South China Sea, Part IV

On the South China Sea, Part IV

Early this morning, after having breakfast
alone with four lotus blossoms, I return
to my room and start setting the terrace table,
leaving the room-length sheer curtain drawn.
I put out the sugar packages
and the creamer, and go back inside
to get the dishes and silver.

When I go outside again, all the sugar packages
are gone and the creamer is empty.
I set the table and return to the room
to refill the creamer and get more sugar.
I put everything out once more
and hear some giggling. Yes!
Definitely baby orangutans!

I step back into the room and,
hidden by the curtain, watch
as two juveniles sneak onto the terrace
to steal some more milk and sugar –
their favorite treat. Just before
they grab it, I dramatically slide
the curtain open and shout, “Aha!”

They immediately go limp and sit
on the floor and start playing with some
leaves and twigs,. But even orangutans
blush! They glance up at me innocently –
one of them starts to whistle.

I step out onto the porch and, with my arms
folded over my chest, start tapping my foot.
This is the universal gesture
for “I’ve got you, smartypants.”
They stop playing and the whistler says,
“Sorry, but you know how much we love
gula and susu*! Why do you tempt us so?”

The other one says, “You think you understand
the world, but you know very little. I bet
you can’t name three members of the bat
family.” I have to agree with him.
I lower my arms and stop tapping my foot.

Then the other one yells out,
“Mama, papa and baby bat!” and they
scamper off into the woods laughing.

– Kanan Roberts.

*Gula is sugar; susu is milk in Malay.


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