I have been serializing Colonel Birdwhistle’s first story from the book. Click here to start at the beginning: Part 1 .
And now, I submit to you Part 3:
He sat for several minutes facing skyward with a peculiar look on his face. Having lived alongside noise all his military life, he had developed the ability to drown out distractions around him by simply shutting his eyes and focusing on his thoughts. It was a rare gift really. He entered this trance while considering what to say next and was half hoping that Leon would wander off. Finally, an acceptable topic came to mind, and he blurted out the word, “Monkeys!”
The Colonel opened his eyes and looked down to find that his audience had grown. Instead of one plump boy seated in front of him, there were now a dozen children of all shapes and sizes waiting patiently for him to continue. Behind them all stood their mothers as interested as their tots, and Mrs. Dobrey was smiling and nodding to him.
“I like monkeys,” said a pig-tailed little girl up front with her hand on his knee.
“My name is Sally,” said the little girl with a smile.
“Well Sally, do you like rats?” asked the Colonel.
“Ewwww. No. They’re gross.”
“To some degree, in Africa, monkeys are just like rats. Only they are more intelligent and can get into more trouble because they have these,” he held up one hand and pointed to it with the other. “There is almost nothing that a group of cute little monkeys can’t steal. And you know what they want most of all?”
The children said nothing but sat, eyes wide open, waiting for an answer.
“Food. Just the same as what you and I want,” continued the old man, warming to his story. “One of the things I had to do was to make sure that all of our men had enough food, right. Because they couldn’t do anything if they were hungry all the time. So we had these great big ships that came into port full of food and other supplies, and we would have to unload it and put it on carts that would carry everything to the forward post. But the monkeys made it terribly hard to get this done because they were everywhere. There were hundreds of them. So we decided one time to trap the monkeys and um…” he paused looking slowly around at the innocent faces. “Um, relocate them to a different area. Yes, that’s it.”
“If they’re smart, how could you trap them?” asked one of the children.