In the Jungle

"In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight."

"Mommy," the little girl interrupted the singing. "What's a lying?"

The woman smiled at her daughter. "A lion, sweetheart, is a big cat."

A little boy, a year or two younger than the girl, crinkled his forehead in confusion. "Cat?" he questioned.

Marguerite sighed and stood up. It didn't look like the two of them were going to go to sleep anytime soon. "Come on," she motioned.

Her daughter and nephew obediently rose from their beds and followed her into the main room. Marguerite quickly found the book she was looking for and took it down. She sat down and her nephew quickly wormed his way onto her lap.

Marguerite's daughter didn't like that. "Artie!" she cried, trying to force him off of her mother's lap.

"Maia," Marguerite warned.

Maia gave both her mother and her cousin a dirty look, but she stopped fighting. Sullenly she took a seat beside Marguerite. When the children settled down, Marguerite opened the book. She pointed to a picture of a lion.

"That's a lion." She began to read. "The lion is one of God's mightiest creatures. It is known as 'the king of the 'jungle.'"

"What about the raptors?" Maia interrupted.

"An' the T-rex?" piped Arthur.

"Don't the get mad at the lying calling itself king? The lying doesn't look nearly as mighty as a raptor or a T-rex."

"Lion, dear," Marguerite corrected. "But no, the raptors and the T-rex don't get mad at it for being the king of the jungle."

"Why not?" Arthur asked. "Can it beat them up?"

"I doubt it," Marguerite said. "A lion isn't that big. It's about the size of an apeman if that apeman was on all fours."

"That's not the big," Maia scoffed. "It shouldn't call itself the king of the jungle! Even I can kill a raptor."

"Cannot!" Arthur said.

"Can too! Well," Maia amended, "I will when Mommy and Daddy teach me how to fire a gun."

Marguerite smiled. "That's still a couple of years away, sweetheart."

"Yeah, Maia." Arthur stuck his tongue out at his cousin.

Maia glared at him. "I can still throw a knife better than you, Arthur."

Marguerite thought it would be a good time to intervene before the children really started to fight. "Arthur's also two years younger than you, Maia," she reprimanded.

"One an' a half!" Arthur protested indignantly.

"Fine." Marguerite smiled indulgently. "A year and a half younger than you. But that's inconsequential."

Arthur frowned. "What's inco - cons - "

"Inconsequential," Marguerite repeated. "It means it doesn't matter."

"Oh." Maia changed the subject. "So why does the lion call itself king of the jungle."

"The lion doesn't," Marguerite said. "People do."

"But why?" Maia wanted to know. "Shouldn't that by the raptor?"

"No," Arthur argued. "T-rex."

Marguerite cut them off before another fight could begin. "Most people don't know about raptors or T-rexes. They think they're extinct."

Maia wrinkled her nose. "Extinct?" her mouth stumbled around the foreign word.

"They think they all died years ago."

"But that's silly!" Maia exclaimed. "Of course they're alive! Everyone's seen them."

"Not true," Marguerite told her. "Only people on the plateau have seen them, because they only live on the plateau. Everywhere else they died millions and millions of years ago."

Both of the children looked awed. Millions of years was a long time. Even longer than they had been alive.

"But why don't the people on the plateau just tell the people out there 'bout the raptors an' the T-rexes?" Arthur asked.

"Because," Marguerite said sadly, "it's very hard to get off the plateau. We're not even sure there is a way."

"Oh." Then, as if sensing it was not a topic her mother wanted to discuss, Maia changed the subject. "Have you ever seen a lion, Mommy?" she asked.

"Once," Marguerite answered. "Long ago."

"Were you scared?"

"At the time," Marguerite admitted. "But I wouldn't be anymore. There are lots of scarier things out there, like T-rexes and raptors."

All three of them heard the noise at the same time. It was the elevator. Roxton, Veronica, Ned and Challenger came out.

"Daddy!" Maia shouted, while Arthur shouted, "Mommy! Daddy!" Both children ran to their respective parents. 

"You're up rather late," Roxton remarked. He had Maia up in his arms, with her arms flung around his neck. Marguerite had gone over to join them.

"The children couldn't sleep. They were worried," she said quietly.

Roxton immediately heard the unvoiced words, that the children had not been the only ones who had been worried, and sobered. "We ran into a bit of trouble, nothing we couldn't handle."

The answer satisfied Marguerite. She could get details later, after the kids went to sleep. "Well, I'm glad you're safe," she said.

"Me too," Roxton murmured. Then, still holding their daughter in his arms, he leaned in and kissed Marguerite.

The End

Wednesday, October 11, 2000