The Tiny Soldier-Part 2

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The following story is part of Flash Fiction Chain # 5 hosted at the wonderful Photrablogger. The chain is inspired by the photograph above which is just one of the bunch of amazing photos and posts about travel, photography and life on the blog.

Part 1 has been written by Abirami. Please read it to understand how the story progresses.

The characters are

Rick- a not so ordinary ten year old

Jenna- a social service employee

Mrs. Montgomery- the foster mom

Jake- Mrs. Montgomery’s only son

Rick was a surprised boy. The monkey sat on one of the low branches. Rick looked up curiously, cautiously. Mrs. Montgomery never did mention any monkeys around here. Macaws, yes and mockingbirds. This was good, this was fun. Rick swung his arm with the banana in his hand. The monkey chattered for a while and in one swoop took the banana from his hand. Rick nearly cried out for the touch was as if an electric current had passed into his body.

Now, how did he know electric currents? Jake, ma’s (for that was what all the children called Mrs. Montgomery) real son, had once set up some wires across the field. Two boys tripped over them-and there were such a hell lot of them in the house ma kept- and got some nasty burns. Rick was one of those boys and it made him swear revenge. Jenna saw his burn on one of her visits and her eyes were oh so round! But Rick lied about it. Jenna had been a rock in his short and troubled life. Going beyond the duties of a social worker, she was maternal and caring. Rick almost lied about ma too. He did not want Jenna to know how much he had come to like ma. “Wouldn’t Jenna be jealous?”, mused Rick as he practiced skipping stones on the surface of the muddy still pond behind the dingy house.

Soon, the sun was overhead and Rick felt drowsy. He sat in the shade of one of the nearly bare trees. To get the scanty shade, he twisted his legs around a dried, fallen branch. Sometime, this piece of wood too would be taken away for burning in the kitchen. The memory of the kitchen smoke started his eyes smarting. His eyes were always red these days. And watery. One of the boys in his room-there were only two rooms for the boys-hit him with the enamel jug used for washing themselves in the basin and called him a devil. Rick had felt the anger rising in him but he stayed quiet for he saw Jake looking on. He could not risk a fight and be ratted upon.

Under the tree, Rick felt a soft touch on his head. He stirred sleepily. He felt something moist put into his hand. Reluctantly, he opened his eyes and squinted against the afternoon sun. A banana peel! He bolted upright. As the leaves rustled overhead, Rick shouted. For there was the monkey again! Returning the banana peel! The monkey playfully swung from one branch to another and perched on one of the higher branches on the tree across. Rick looked at the monkey for some time. For a boy who was only interested in books and the make believe world, Rick spent a long time peeping at the monkey through his half closed eyes.

Ma rounded up all the children soon after. They were to wash up before the evening meal. As the boys sat down on the hard floor in rows, Jake and Ben took turns to pour the thin gruel into the boys’ soup bowls. Rick sloshed about the gruel in his bowl. There was a loud screech from the yard and a flurry of screams from the boys sitting near the window. A hazy brown shape came in and kicked over Jake’s bowl. And then it was gone.

“Just a wild monkey, children”, ma tried to soothe the boys. But Rick smirked. The monkey was an ally. It had taken his revenge on Jake.

Before getting in the bed that night, Rick crept to the barn outside where fruit and vegetables were kept. He hid a small bunch of bananas under his shirt. Rick then walked in to ma’s room to kiss her goodnight and to get an eyeful of the whimpering Jake. He got in the bed with the bulging bunch under his shirt. “Tomorrow, the monkey shall be given good food. What a soldier! Coming to my rescue”.

The moon was as bright as a round, clean tin plate. It peeped in the open window of Rick’s room. Shadows of the leaves danced on his face. He rubbed at his itchy eyes in his sleep. He felt, rather than heard the booming voice. “Give me the bananas”. Rick’s red eyes flew open and there was a rounded shape at the end of his bed. A soft furry hand reached under his shirt and pulled out his bunch! Rick screamed but no voice came from his dry throat! He watched in amazement as his soldier peeled the fruit one by one and devoured it. “It gets mighty difficult to get something to eat in this dry bush. Too little water in the rivers to make the land green and fertile”, said the booming voice.

“Fertile?”, croaked Rick. “What does that mean?”

“You don’t read many books, do you?”, said the monkey.

“Oh, I do. Nobody can read as well as I can here. Ma makes us study for two hours in the morning but I alone read for four, five hours”, said Rick proudly.

“Hmm.. but you still do not know enough. I shall have to teach you myself”, said the monkey in that booming voice of his. Rick looked around nervously to see if anybody else was awake by their conversation but amazingly, everybody slept on.

“A talking monkey“, thought Rick incredulously. Was he really talking to a monkey? Was he going bonkers or was this just a dream??

Part 3 by Yinglan