Excerpt from My Life So Far



One day some humans showed up in our part of the forest . . . Just before they got back each day, I would hide in the tree right above their fire circle. And I'd stay there until they went to sleep, listening to them talk. At first I couldn't understand anything, but after a few weeks I recognized certain sounds.

The first word I recognized was "orangutan." They said it a lot, until finally I realized why they had come to the rain forest. They were looking for us. Now I had a problem. If I told Mom the humans were after orangutans, I knew she'd be terrified. She might even leave our nest and go somewhere else to get away from them. But if I didn't tell her and something bad happened, it would be my fault.

What did these humans want with us; that is what I had to find out. So one night as they sat around their fire, I slowly came down from my hiding place and joined them. I'd waited to make my move until I heard enough of their talk to understand them. That way, if one of them said, "Let's cook this boy up for dinner!" I'd still have a chance to get away and warn the others.

But they didn't say anything; just looked at me with eyes as big and round as moons. One of them reached for his clicking box, but he stopped when the oldest one said, "Nobody move."

We stared at each other for a long time. Finally the Old One picked up a yellow liana fruit and slowly held it out to me. He pointed at his mouth and made chewing faces. "Yes," I said (in orang), "you're supposed to eat them. Though I like durian fruit better." But he didn't understand. It was obvious humans didn't speak orang. He kept sticking the liana under my nose, smiling and nodding. I guess he wanted a demonstration, so I took it from him and ate a bit of it. This was a big thrill for all of them, watching me eat. I thought they'd really enjoy it if they could watch each other eat, so I handed the liana back to him and said "eat" in his talk. (I'd been practicing human talk at home. The lip moves were easy because humans have such stiff, little lips.)

Now they looked even more surprised than when I arrived. "I beg your pardon?" said one I thought was a female.

"Eat! Eat!" I answered, pointing at my mouth and making chewing faces just like the Old One. I was saying it right. What was the matter with them?

"I believe our eloquent friend wants us to join him," the Old One said softly. At least I think that's what he said. Who knows about "eloquent"?