JUNGLE TALES

Burt was having a friend for a sleepover, while they laughed and relaxed in his Trophy room, Stacey sipped her scotch and looked around this intensely masculine space.

Filled with trinkets and souvenirs from Burt’s extensive travels, she laughed at the funny looking hat slung up on some stag antlers and asked to try it on.

“Ahh, my old Pith Helmet.” Burt exclaimed fondly,

“It’s for keeping your head cool in hot climates.”

“Tell me a story Burt.” Stacey knew exactly how to press his buttons, her quiet and reserved companion would once again become a man of action and adventure when recalling his past deeds.

“Well that was a few years ago now, deep in the African Congo, just before the rains….”

Burt smiled as he recalled the oppressive humidity as well as the sounds of the jungle.

Although mainly prickly and uncomfortable, if his memory was correct, there was nothing cosy in that intense warm wetness and he had immediately regretted taking on his one man mission. He’d either pulled the short straw or had drunkenly volunteered, he’d forgotten exactly how he got here but…. duty called.

Burt wasn’t even a hundred yards inside the lush jungle, there was no way he’d back out now and lose face amongst his fellow explorers; the crack team of experts sent by the Royal Society were renown throughout the world for their excellence and endurance. Every uncharted inch of the Globe had been searched except this one, Burt had a lot of eyes watching his progress – at this exact moment, none of them human.

Strange noises and rustlings high in the canopy unnerved Burt, he hadn’t come very well armed as this was a scientific mission; all his senses were hyper alert, including his imagination, making every branch look like a deadly snake.

Surrounded by weird and exotic flowers that reminded him of toilet brushes and parrots beaks, he suddenly realised how ill prepared he was for this foray, he had no idea what was poisonous or deadly so tried not to touch any of them.

The heady smell of scented perfume, almost intoxicating, wafted through the air and what at first looked like snow was actually a carpet of fallen blooms on the dank jungle floor; as he peered down millions of ants were busy amongst the flowers so the whole place writhed with life.

His heart was pumping now in excitement as he rushed up to…oh its just some flowers, crestfallen Burt carried on his seemingly endless march, careful not to pick up any unwanted passengers, aiming towards the bright light ahead.

Under his helmet was sweaty and a bit itchy as he stopped to brushed off some stray ants,

‘The little buggers bite too!’

Loud bird calls filled the jungle with eerie sounds, some seemed quite close although he couldn’t see any, this was beginning to feel a bit oppressive.

Were they birds or was something more sinister following his trail?

An open mind was needed for this adventure, brave Burt thought nothing could phase him but this tree shook the bejeebers out of his very core.

“Blooming’ heck.” he muttered, quickly side stepping a squirming mass of slimy black snakes.

‘Just roots!’

The whole tree was as rough and unholy as Satan’s tail, he quickly marched on towards a open clearing leaving the evil squawks echoing in the heavy darkness behind him.

“Oh my Burt, you are so brave, I would have been terrified.” His pretty companion shuddered at the thought of all those creepy crawlies.

As she refilled his glass, the tale continued….

“I had no idea how long that jungle trek had taken, an hour or an afternoon, time is different in Africa.”

“Oh gosh, what happened next?”

“But I did know I was getting close as all these giant carnivorous plants surrounded the clearing, like Triffids waiting to pounce.” He said, mainly for effect as she grabbed his hand in suspense.

It must have been the perfect time because the whole clearing was filled with vermillion butterflies flittering in the air; leading Burt a merry dance to capture one, he dashed to and fro, tripping and swishing his net furiously.

Success at last, a fine specimen was captured with only a small amount of swearing; although beautiful, this species wasn’t his mission, he couldn’t go back until he’d caught the holy grail of Lepidopterology.

With biting gnats and rogue ants invading his boots as well as soggy socks and blisters, all things African were taking their toll on his morale; not to be defeated Burt mustered his deep reserve of endurance and got back to the task at hand.

There it was, the Brenton Blue, one of the rarest butterflies in the world, Burt had only ever seen drawings of it but it was unmistakable by the incredible electric blue colour.

This wasn’t as easy as he’d imagined for as soon as it landed and closed its wings the creature seemed to totally disappear; Burt furtively ran around and around until he was completely puffed out.

Heat and thirst tried in vain to beat him but sheer determination drove him on.

Mustering up his last reserve of energy, egged on with the thought of fame and fortune, nothing would stop him.

Standing as still as he could in the clearing, camouflaged except for his net, held at half mast, softly softly catchee Monkey ( or in this case, butterfly)

“Get in there you little bugger.” Muttered the victorious hunter rapturously.

Either the icing on the cake or taking the Micky – depending on whether you are an optimist or a pessimist, Burt was just gobsmacked.

No matter what he did they just wouldn’t leave him alone,

‘And I thought these were supposed to be rare?’ He muttered while collecting a few more specimens.

“Wow thats incredible, what happened then?”

“One of them was a strange new sub species, it was bigger than the rest so they named it after me – the Blue Burt – look here.”

“I love your tall stories Burt, lets go to bed…. and bring the pith helmet!”

©Juliette Dodd 2019

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