Snakes and Monkeys
After a quick and meager breakfast the next morning of mangos and cold, leftover rabbit, I take my treasured bow and arrows and follow my hunting partner into the denser part of the forest, leaving Finnick to fish and Peeta and the girls to bring back more mangos. I would have liked to take Peeta with me but I know from experience that he is not a good person to have beside you if you are trying to hunt.
For the next few hours it feels like we are ten years younger, just two best friends hunting to support our fatherless families.
“I wonder what kind of game we’ll find here since it’s a different environment than back home.” Gale muses as we walk quietly and carefully side by side, weapons at the ready.
"Yeah, I’m not sure,” I reply, “But as long as we can eat it then I don’t care what kind of animals are on this island.” Gale chuckles and for the next little while we are silent, not needing to speak but communicating in other ways. We decide to check his few snares for any unlucky animal that happened to get caught, bring them back to camp then head back out again with the bow. We only have one bow but Gale has a knife so we make do with what we have. The first trap that we come to is empty but has a tuft of fur stuck to it, “Must have gotten away.” Gale says quietly, checking it then resetting it before moving on to the next one.
The second snare has a brown rabbit that Gale quickly throws into his bag and we move on. The third is also empty so instead of going back to camp with only one small rabbit we continue on our hunt. All of a sudden the forest seems to change, the trees are different and I am pretty sure we haven’t been to this part of the forest yet.
“Does any of this look familiar to you?” I ask. Gale shakes his head, “Nope, you?”
“No, I don’t think we’ve explored this part of the island yet.” I say, glancing up at the strange looking trees.
“Yeah I guess not. Well do you want to keep going?”
“Sure, maybe we can find some useful things or different animals.” I say.
“That would be nice.” We continue on our way, admiring the huge leaves of certain trees, the palm trees and everything that is new to us.
Suddenly a strange high-pitched screech emits from the trees above and I absentmindedly move closer to Gale.
“I don’t think that was human.” I murmur and he nods in agreement. “I wonder what it was.” Gale shrugs, “I have no idea.” We stand still for a few minutes but we don’t hear the noise again so we just continue on our way as if nothing had happened. As I glance back up in to the trees I notice a brown form swinging from branch to branch with two legs and two arms. Then the creature screams like before and I quickly point upward for Gale to see.
Then my friend begins to laugh heartily and I just stand there, dumbfounded. When he regains his composure once more he speaks, “It’s a harmless monkey!”
“What’s a monkey?” I ask, still slightly confused.
“I heard about them once from someone and then in one of Posy’s picture books that she recently got I saw one there.” He explains.
“Really? And they are harmless?”
“I think so, they’ll only attack if they feel threatened.”
“Okay good.” I sigh with relief, “Shall we continue?” Gale nods and we resume our hunting through the forest.
“Wait!” I stop and look at Gale who has stopped a few feet behind me.
“What is it?”
“If there are monkeys around here then there could very well be a banana tree, or many trees!” He exclaims excitedly.
“Wow! I’ve only had a banana once when we were in District 10 last year.”
“Let’s begin looking around the area at the same time while searching for animals.” Gale suggests.
“Good idea.” And once again we keep on trekking through the dense foliage around us. In the next few minutes or so we don’t come across any more monkeys, animals to shoot or banana trees. I am already getting hungry and am about to suggest that we head back when Gale halts abruptly in front of me and I collide into his back.
“Gale! What in the world are you stopping for?” I ask, somewhat annoyed, but I find out why he stopped a few seconds later when I come to stand beside him.
About a dozen trees loaded with yellow fruit is what made him stop. My mouth hangs open and for a second neither of us moves. Gale is the first one to come out of the trance and, grabbing my arm gently he pulls me along towards the nearest tree.
“Come on! Let’s see how many we can fit in the backpack, then we’ll need to mark our trail so that we can come back when we need to.” Gale says and begins pulling the bunches of bright yellow bananas off of the branches and after extracting the rabbit, places them in the backpack. When the pack is almost overflowing and I can barely lift it, Gale slings it over his shoulder and hands me the rabbit to carry. Then we pick two bananas each and quickly peel them, eating them in only three bites.
We then begin making our way back to camp, me in front marking off our trail and Gale behind carrying the bananas. It doesn’t take us nearly as long to get back this time since we aren’t stopping every few minutes but before we get arrive at the Odair’s and just before we exit the strange forest an odd hissing sound reaches our ears and once again we stop, looking around us, searching for the source of the noise. The hissing continues but neither of sees anything so we just keep on walking quietly. We are under a large tree with huge, low hanging branches when I look up and see the biggest snake I’ve ever seen.
Part of its body is coiled around one of the branches but the head end is dangling directly above my head, a dark, red tongue slithering in and out of its mouth. A shriek escapes from my mouth and Gale looks up as well.
“Catnip I want you to walk backwards very slowly.” He instructs. I obey and very gently begin stepping back, away from the huge snake. Its body is probably as big around as my thigh and it is at least 8-10 feet long. After a few more steps I am out of harms way, or so I hope. Gale is behind me and still has to get past the intimidating creature, who so far hasn’t seemed to notice us yet.
Gale carefully slides the backpack off of his back and throws it to me. I catch it and set it on the ground along with the rabbit, my eyes never leaving the snake. Gale begins taking slow steps in my direction, trying not to draw any more attention to himself. It seems to be working and Gale is almost clear of the deadly looking snake when it opens its mouth, so wide I could fit my head inside with room to spare, revealing sharp pointy fangs, dripping with poisonous venom. The color drains from Gale’s tanned face and he stops moving. “Catnip, get out of here.” He whispers, never taking his eyes off the snake.
“Are you kidding me? I’m not leaving you here to get eaten by an enormous snake!” I hiss back. “Madge would kill me!”
“Just go.” He strains, still unmoving. I am just about to take him up on his offer to leave when I notice a long, thick stick a few feet away, then I get an idea. Scurrying over quietly I pick it up and pointing it up at the snake I give it a strong jab on its scaly body. It immediately turns its attention to me and off of Gale. I motion for my friend to get away while I have it temporarily distracted. He gets the idea and hurries over to me, unsheathing his dagger.
“Why didn’t you think of that before?” I ask, a little annoyed.
“I didn’t really want that thing biting my head off before I got a chance to kill it.” He replies. “And what about your bow and arrows?”
“Oops, I kind of forgot about that too.” I hand Gale the stick and reach down for my bow and quiver of 12 arrows. Just when I am about to loose the arrow into the snake’s ugly head it rears back then comes straight for Gale’s head. Gale stumbles out of the way, just in time, while at the same time I lodge one of my arrows in to the side of the snake. It backs away but the small wound only seems to anger it more.
“I need you to distract it away from me.” Gale instructs.
“Just do it! I have a plan.” I trust him, so I do what he says, picking up the stick and luring the snake away from Gale. Then Gale takes his dagger and coming too close to the snake for comfort slices its head clean of. I watch the brownish red head fall to the ground by our feet, relief flooding through my body.
“We’re alive!” I exclaim, giving Gale a quick hug.
“Yeah, hopefully there aren’t anymore of those around here.”
“What was it anyway?”
“It was a Boa Constrictor, they live in jungles and rain forests I think, like this place.” Gale informs me. “They are also nocturnal but I think we woke this guy up, that’s why he didn’t see us right away.”
“Wow, well let’s get out of here.” I say, reaching for the rabbit and my weapons. Gale slings the heavy backpack full of bananas over his shoulders and we continue on our way.
“Boy will we have stories to tell.” He says to himself. I nod, “We sure will, if we ever live to tell them.” I add quietly.
It only take us about 10 minutes of normal, steady walking to get back to camp. We arrive to find Finnick stringing up the fish on a piece of string in the 'kitchen', and Peeta with the girls sitting around together next to a large pile of colorful mangos.
“Hey! You’re back!” Peeta grins and stands to greet us. He gives me a kiss and takes the rabbit from me.
“Not much game to shoot?” Finnick asks, gesturing to the single rabbit. I nod, “Yeah we didn’t have time for anything else, this one was found in one of Gale’s snares, the others were empty.”
“Well what took you so long then?” Madge asks eyeing Gale suspiciously. Gale grins in return and sets the overflowing backpack for them all to see.
“You found bananas!” Annie shrieks and immediately grabs one, peeling it happily. “Where?” Peeta asks.
“A little ways that way.” I reply, pointing in the general direction from where we had come, “But we had to go through a jungle first where we saw monkeys and got attacked by snakes.”
“Snakes?!” Peeta exclaims.
“Okay it was only one, but it was huge!”
“Are you okay?” He asks, and begins checking me over. I chuckle and nod, “Yeah we’re fine, we killed it if any of you want to check it out. It’s about ten minutes away.”
“I’m fine.” Madge replies and goes to stand next to her husband, giving his hand a squeeze.
“Well it looks as though you three were quite successful.” I say, gesturing to the pile of mangos.
“Yeah!” Annie grins, throwing her banana peel away, “The trees aren’t too far away and they are still loaded with mangos!”
“Great!” Gale replies, and along with the bananas we have quite a bit of fruit!”
“Is anybody hungry?” Finnick inquires just then. Everyone raises their hands in answer, “I’m starved!” Peeta says, rubbing his stomach with a pathetic look on his face.
“Good, because I caught a lot of fresh fish that need to get eaten before they go bad.” Finnick replies, pointing to the string of at least 8 medium sized fish.
“Well let’s begin cooking them before Peeta dies of starvation.” Annie jokes and cleans off a knife. All together there are four knives, the three guys each receive one for cleaning and gutting the fish and Finnick hands me the last one for the rabbit.
“Oh thanks, give the messiest job to the girl.” I say jokingly.
“You’re the most experienced with cleaning the kinds of animals.” Finnick tells me.
“Hey! What about me?” Gale fakes hurt, but a smile is tugging at the sides of his mouth at the same time.
“I need your help with the fish!” Finnick cries, exasperated.
“Oh whatever.” I say, shrugging and reach for the rabbit. Sitting a little further from everyone else I begin skinning and gutting the little plump rabbit, a little grossed out from the blood but happy nonetheless at doing something that I feel so comfortable and familiar with.
Twenty minutes later the rabbit is all ready to be cooked and I give it to Annie who in turn places it in the iron pot with some water to be cooked into stew for dinner. The fish are already finished when I return and grabbing a nearby stick I stab the chunk of meat and hold it over the small fire, slowly rotating it.
“So, what are the plans for the rest of the day?” Madge asks in between bites of fish.
Finnick shrugs, “I don’t think we have any set plans so I guess everyone can just do what ever they want to do and we’ll meet back here in a few hours for dinner.”
“Sounds good.” Gale says, wiping his mouth and growing mustache in need of a shave. “I think Madge and I will head back in a few minutes to our place, she’s tired and I think I could use a small nap as well.”
“Okay, well Annie and I were thinking about going swimming and maybe going around the island if we can and just checking things out.”
“That sounds nice.” Madge smiles.
“Kat, what would you like to do?” Peeta asks me.
“I don’t know, I’d really like to go back to the waterfall.” I reply quietly.
“My thoughts exactly.” He says with a smile. After we finish our late lunch I help Madge and Annie quickly clean up then after we say goodbye to Gale and Madge, Peeta and I also head back to our little home/room.
Setting my bow and arrows in the box we change into our swimsuits and I slip a sundress over top. The sun is shining brightly above us with only a few wispy clouds on the vast stretch of blue sky.
“Ready?” Peeta asks, sticking his sunglasses on top of his head.
“Yes, let’s go.” I answer with a smile. Intertwining our hands together we begin the short trek to the waterfall. Before I know it we are already at the bushes which I help Peeta move to the side, revealing the cascading waterfall.
“How about we go down that way a bit where we can actually hear each other talk!” Peeta suggests quite loudly. Instead of talking I just nod and follow him further away from the loud waterfall. We find a small pool of water where it is a little quieter, “It’s perfect.” I say and slide out of my sundress, stepping tentatively into the warmish water. Peeta takes his shirt off and follows me in.
“Ah,” He sighs, settling farther into the comforting water that now reaches his bare chest.
“Nice isn’t it?” I say, standing beside him.
“Wonderful.” He breathes, leaning closer and closer to me until our noses are almost touching, then just when I am closing my eyes for the expected kiss I feel hands on my waist, then fingers that begin tickling the exposed skin on my tummy. My eyes fly open to find Peeta laughing at me. A squeal escapes my lips as he continues to tickle my sides.
“You are so dead!” I shriek and splash water in his face that temporarily stops the tickling, but not for long. “Peeta splashes more water in my face then, holding me tightly with one arm around my waist he starts tickling me again until my eyes are watering from giggling so hard.
“S-stop! P-please s-stop!” I get out between fits of laughter.
“Fine, only because you said please.” Peeta says and stops torturing me with his fingers in my sides where he knows I am the most ticklish.
“T-thank you.” I say, breathing heavily.
“Sure, now come, let’s swim over to that rock.” He says, pointing to a wide walk protruding from the water just a short ways away.
“Okay, let’s go.”
I follow Peeta to the rock, staying a short distance behind him because I am so tired from laughing.
When we get to the rock Peeta climbs up then helps me as well. Together we sit down side by side on the edge of the boulder, dangling our legs in the clear water.
“I have to say that even though this isn’t the honeymoon that I imagined, it’s still pretty nice isn’t it?” Peeta says with a smile as he wraps his arm around my wet shoulders, drawing me nearer to him.
“Romantic too.” I whisper.
“Very.” This time he leans down I place both of my hands on either side of his face so that he can’t move away and our lips come together.
“You know, I’ll never tire of kissing you.” Peeta says quietly once we pull away.
I grin and say, “That’s good to know.” Then I pull him back down to me, kissing him with all the love I have inside of me for him and he with the same passion and love.
“I love you, so much.” He breathes, his lips by my ear.
“I love you too.” I reply, “And I can’t believe how long it took for me to realize it.”
Peeta wraps both of his arms around my lower back, “You weren’t ready for love yet, which is totally understandable. I still can’t believe you’re mine.”
“Well believe it.” I say and kiss him again, then lay my head on his shoulder, just watching the water ripple by my feet.
“Kat look!” Peeta points to the water excitedly. I look to where he is pointing and just see the tiny minnows swimming in a group past our legs.
“Oh they’re so tiny!” I smile and swish my fingers along in the water.
“Let’s come here every day.”
“Just you and me?”
“Yes, just you and me. It can be our special spot where we can come to be alone, and talk.” I reply.
“Sounds perfectly perfect.”