Chapter Fourteen

Our landin in the little lake was not too bad. THEY was a splash an a bounce an then we is back on earth again. Everthin got real quiet, an me an Sue and Major Fritch peek out the winder.


They is a whole tribe of natives standin bout ten feet away on the shore, lookin at us, an they is bout the fiercest-looking folks imaginable - scowlin an leanin forward so's to see what we is. Major Fritch say maybe they is upset cause we didn't thow them nothin from the spaceship. Anyhow, she say she is gonna set down an try to figger out what to do now, on account of we has somehow got this far okay an she don't want to make no false moves with these spooks. Seven or eight of they biggest fellas jumps into the water and begin pushin us over to land.

Major Fritch still be settin there figgerin when there is a big knock at the door of the spaceship. We all look at each other an Major Fritch say, "Don't nobody do nothin."

An I say, "Maybe they be gettin angry if we don't let em in."

"Just be quiet," she say, "an maybe they think nobody's in here an go away."

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So we waited, but sure enough, after a wile they is another knock on the spaceship.

I say, "It ain't polite not to answer the door," an Major Fritch hiss back at me, "Shut up your dumbfool ass - can't you see these people is dangerous?"

Then all of a sudden ole Sue go over an open the door hissef. Standin there outside is the biggest coon I has seen since we played them Nebraska corn shucker jackoffs in the Orange Bowl.

He got a bone thru his nose an is wearin a grass skirt an carryin a spear an has a lot of beads strung aroun his neck, an his hair look somethin like that Beatle wig Mad Tom o'Bedlam wore in the Shakespeare play.

This feller seem extremely startled to find Sue starin back at him from inside the spaceship door. As a matter of fact, he is so suprised that he keel over in a dead faint. Major Fritch an me is peepin out the winder again, an when all them other natives seen this feller keel over, they run off in the shrubs an hide - I guess to wait an see what's gonna happen nex.

Major Fritch say, "Hole still now - don't make a move," but ole Sue, he grapped holt of a bottle that was settin there an he jump out on the groun an pour it in the feller's face to revive him. All of a sudden the feller set up an start sputterin an coughin an spittin an shakin his head from side to side. He was revived all right, but what Sue had grapped an poured in his face was the bottle what I used to pee in. Then the feller recognize Sue again, an he thowed his hans up an fall over on his face an begin bowin an scrapin like a Arab.

An then out from the bushes come the rest of them, movin slow an scarit-like, eyes big as saucers, ready to thow they spears. The feller on the groun stop bowin for a moment an look up an when he seen the others, he holler out somethin an they put down they spears an come up to the spaceship an gather aroun it.

"They look friendly enough now," Major Fritch say. "I spose we better go on out an identify ourselfs. The people from NASA will be here in a few minutes to pick us up." As it turns out, that is the biggest piece of bullshit I have ever heard in my life - before or since.

Anyhow, Major Fritch an me, we walk on out of the spaceship an all them natives goin "ooooh" an "ahhhh." That ole boy on the groun, he look at us real puzzled-like, but then he get up an say, "Hello - me good boy. Who you?" an he stick out his han.

I shake his han, but then Major Fritch start tryin to tell him who we is, sayin we is, "Participants in the NASA multi-orbital pre-planetary sub-gravitational inter-spheroid space-flight trainin mission."

The feller jus stan there gapin at us like we was spacemen, an so I says, "We is Americans," an all of a sudden his eyes light up an he say, "Do tell! Americans! What a jolly fine show - I say!"

"You speak English?" Major Fritch axed.

"Why hell yes," he say. "I've been to America before. During the war. I was recruited by the Office of Strategic Services to learn English, and then sent back here to organize our people in guerrilla warfare against the Japanese." At this, Sue's eyes get big an bright.

It seem kinda funny to me, though - a big ole boon like this speaking such good American out in the middle of noplace, so I says, "Where'd you go t'school?"

"Why, I went to Yale, old sport," he says. "Boola-Boola, an all that." When he say "boola-boola," all them other Sambo's start chantin it too, an the drums start up again, until the big guy wave them quiet.

"My name is Sam," he say. "At least that's what they called me at Yale. My real name's quite a mouthful. What a delight you dropped in. Would you like some tea?"

Me an Major Fritch be lookin at each other. She is damn near speechless, so I says, "Yeah, that'd be good," an then Major Fritch get her voice back an speak up kind of high-pitched, "You ain't got a phone we can use, do you?" she say.

Big Sam sort of scowl an wave his hans an the drums start up again an we be escorted into the jungle with everbody chantin "boola-boola."

They has got theyselfs a little village set up in the jungle with grass huts an shit jus like in the movies, an Big Sam's hut is the grandest of all. Out in front he got a chair look like a throne, an four or five women wearin nothin on top are doin whatever he say. One of the things he say is for them to get us some tea, an then he point to a couple of big stones for Major Fritch an me to set down on. Sue has been followin along behin us all the way, holdin on to my han, an Big Sam motion for him to set on the groun.

"That's a terrific ape you have there," Sam says. "Where'd you get him?"

"He works for NASA," Major Fritch says. She ain't lookin none too happy bout our situation.

"You don't say?" says Big Sam. "Is he paid?"

"I think he'd like a banana," I says. Big Sam said somethin an one of the woman natives brung Sue a banana.

"I'm awfully sorry," Big Sam say, "I think I haven't asked your names."

"Major Janet Fritch, United States Air Force. Serial number 04534573. That's all I'm going to tell you."

"Oh, my dear woman," says Big Sam. "You are not a prisoner here. We are just poor backward tribesmen. Some say we've not progressed much since the Stone Age. We mean you no harm."

"I ain't got nothin else to say till I can use the phone," Major Fritch say.

"Very well then," says Big Sam. "And what of you, young man?"

"My name is Forrest," I tell him.

"Really," he say. "Is that taken from your famous Civil War General Nathan Bedford Forrest?"

"Yep," I says.

"How very interesting. I say, Forrest, where did you go to school?"

I started to say I went up to the University of Alabama for a wile, but then I decided to play it safe, an so I tole him I went to Harvard, which was not exactly a lie.

"Ah, Harvard - the old Crimson," Big Sam says. "Yes - I knew it well. Lovely bunch of fellows - even if they couldn't get into Yale," an then he start to laugh real loud. "Actually, you do look sort of like a Harvard man at that," he say. Somehow, I figger that trouble lay ahead.

It was late in the afternoon an Big Sam tole a couple of them native women to show us where we is gonna stay. It is a grass hut with a dirt floor an a little entranceway, an it sort of remind me of the hovel where King Lear went. Two big ole fellers with spears come up an be standin guard outside our door.

All night long them natives be beatin on they drums an chantin "boola-boola," an we could see out the entrance that they have set up a great big cauldron an built a fire under it. Me an Major Fritch don't know what to make of all this, but I reckon ole Sue does, cause he settin over in the corner by hissef, lookin glum.

Bout nine or ten o'clock they still ain't fed us no food, an Major Fritch say maybe I ought to go axe Big Sam for our supper. I start to go out the door of the hovel but them two natives cross they spears in front of me, an I get the message an go back inside. Suddenly it dawn on me how come we ain't been invited to supper - we is the supper. It is a bleak outlook.

Then the drums quit an they stop chantin "boola-boola." Outside we hear somebody squawkin an he is answered by somebody else squawkin that sound like Big Sam. That go on for a wile, an the argument get real heated up. Just as it seem like they can't shout any louder, we hear this big "conk," which sound like somebody get hit over the head with a board or somethin. Everthing get quiet for a moment, then the drums start up again an everbody chantin "boola-boola" once more.

Next mornin, we settin there an Big Sam come thru the door an he say, "Hello - did you have a nice sleep?"

"Hell no," Major Fritch say. "How in God's name does you expect us to sleep with all that racket out there?"

Big Sam get a pained look on his face, an say, "Oh, I'm sorry about that. But you see, my people were, ah, sort of expectin a gift of some sort when they saw your vehicle drop from the sky. We have been waiting since 1945 for the return of your people an their presents to us. When they saw that you had no presents, naturally they assumed that you were the present, and they were prepared to cook you and eat you until I persuaded them otherwise."

"You're shittin me, buster," Major Fritch say.

"To the contrary," says Big Sam. "You see, my people are not exactly what you would call civilized�Cat least by your standards - as they have a particular affection for human flesh. Especially white meat."

"Do you mean to tell me you people are cannibals?" Major Fritch say.

Big Sam shrug his shoulders. "That's bout the size of it."

"That's disgusting," says Major Fritch. "Listen, you has got to see to it that we is not harmed, an that we get out of here an back to civilization. There is probably a search party from NASA about to arrive any minute. I demand that you treat us with the dignity you would accord any allied nation."

"Ah," Big Sam say, "that was precisely what they had in mind last night."

"Now see here!" says Major Fritch. "I demand that we be set free this instant, and allowed to make our way to the nearest city or town where there is a telephone."

"I am afraid," Big Sam say, "that would be impossible. Even if we did turn you loose, the pygmies would get you before you went a hundred yards into the jungle."

"Pygmies?" say Major Fritch.

"We have been at war with the pygmies for many generations. Somebody stole a pig once, I think - nobody remembers who or where - it is lost in legend. But we are virtually surrounded by the pygmies, and have been ever since anyone can remember."

"Well," says Major Fritch, "I'd rather us take our chances with pygmies than with a bunch of fucking cannibals - the pygmies ain't cannibals, is they?"

"No, madam," Big Sam say, "they are head-hunters."

"Terrific," Major Fritch say sourly.

"Now last night," Big Sam says, "I managed to save you from the cooking pot, but I am not sure how long I can keep my people at bay. They are determined to turn your appearance into some sort of gain."

"Is that so?" Major Fritch says. "Like what?"

"Well, for one thing, your ape. I think they would at least like to be able to eat him."

"That ape is the sole property of the United States of America," says Major Fritch.

"Nonetheless," Big Sam says, "I think it would be a diplomatic gesture on your part."

Ole Sue be frownin an noddin his head slowly an lookin sorrowfully out the door.

"And then," Big Sam continue, "I think that wile you are here, you could perhaps do some work for us."

"What sort of work?" Major Fritch say suspiciously.

"Well," say Big Sam, "farming work. Agriculture. You see, I have been trying to improve the ignominious lot of my people for many years. And not too long ago I stumbled on an idea. If we can simply turn the fertile soil here to our advantage, and bring to it some of the modern techniques of agronomy, we might thus begin to haul ourselves out of our tribal predicament and assume a role in the world marketplace. In short, turn ourselves away from this backward and stale economy and become a viable, cultured race of peoples."

"What kind of farming?" Major Fritch axed.

"Cotton, my dear woman, cotton! King of cash crops! The plant that built an empire in your own country some years ago."

"You expectin us to grow cotton!" Major Fritch squawked.

"You bet your sweet ass I do, sister," Big Sam say.

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