Mister Rooi finished cleaning his spectacles and found a seat with his wife , Miss Oranje and his cousins Geel , Groen , Blou and Pers shortly after boarding the train .
The train whistle sounded its ear splitting blast and the travels began .
Mister Rooi smiled happily while looking out the window as the train took him and this part of his family into the Kalahari desert so they could build sand castles using the beach pails and little plastic shovels brought with them .
A jolting halt knocked him from his seat . He frowned once his cousins panicked , yelling and he reached both hands out to catch and comfort his wife .
" What's happened to the train ? ! '
" I'm not sure yet . '
" Are we in danger ? "
" Yes . '
The passengers began weeping and shouting , hugging each other as the train rattled and wheels began coming loose and rolling away .
Even Mister Rooi felt concerned and scared while the train shook before he saw the blob of orange yellow in the sky and headed towards the people in peril .
It was Super Kameelperde !
" Super Giraffe ! Help us ! " the passengers called to their caped hero flying to the method of transport , now without any wheels .
" Don't be afraid because you're all safe now that I'm here ! ' Super Giraffe swooped down , grabbed the train and flew it to the ocean , rescuing the people inside it and landing them on the beach where they made sandcastles and ate lots of chocolate candy .
" Having fun , Raymond ? "
" Yes , Mommy ! I like my toys and the trains most of all . '
" I'm happy that you do . Now guess what you and I and Daddy are going to do today ? "
' Going into the galaxies with the moon and stars and planets ? '
" You have a magnificent imagination . ' Mommy said , picking him up and holding him close .
" It's a spectacular one . Our boy , always thinking and creating using his great mind . ' Daddy commented , stepping into the little bedroom with an amount of toys that could fill a tiny store .
Ray knew he adored his parents and loved them more than food , sleeping and looking at crocodiles . The three of them had the same brown as garden soil poodle curls hair and faces that were almost alike , except Mommy didn't have a beard and mustache that Daddy did and he didn't either , not yet but hoped to one day soon .
" You'll remember something for us , would you ? '
He nodded at his parents , both still smiling but more serious looks were passed between the couple .
Mommy kept talking .
" We want you to realize you can be anything you want to be . '
" Any kind of man without limitations and making your own choices , even when other people disagree . Be who you need and want to be , despite the critics . ' Daddy added on , bending to set the train cars back onto the tracks .
" We're going on a car ride today . It'll be long and maybe boring for you but at the end of the journey is the reward when we spend time having a picnic with the aunties , uncles and your cousins . ' Mommy sat in her pretty dress and helped clean the toy mess .
Ray beamed and grabbed each toy he could carry and dumped them into their big wooden box , painted with smiling animals ' faces , artwork by Mommy and Daddy and his own bright colored hand prints . The most awesome artists in history and terrific paintings , he believed .
The happy day at the end of the journey .
The reward .
The horror and tragedy .
The day when his life ended and refreshed , starting over brand new and different yet the same .
" Maybe we should ask to head back home . ' Mommy said , wiping the watery filth from his mouth after the plane dipped , trembled then soared higher .
" I'm not sick . I'm really not ! ' the young boy replied , voice shaky after the stomach upset .
" It's only the effects of the turbulence . He doesn't have a fever and no sneezing or showing signs of pain . No reason to worry . ' Daddy said , removing one big light brown hand from his child's forehead . " He'll feel much better on solid ground and we'll have the gathering party we've planned for awhile . '
" The positive from our car not starting is that traveling by flight is much faster which means more time to spend with the family . '
" And get to Lemon Popo ! '
' LIM - popo . ' Daddy corrected and laughed , looking at the clear pretty sky . " Not citrus fruit , my boy . '
" When did you dream up that creative nickname ? Because you like lemons ? '
" Not the sour ones . ' Ray stated , squishing to sit between his parents and keeping an eye on his luggage brought along in case they had to stay longer than planned in Lemon Popo .
He missed his trains and wished he had brought them and Super Giraffe too , he speculated while the plane scooted slower and slower down the runway .
Maybe his flying , long necked hero could save him but from what , he didn't know at the time .
Each of the aunts gave him squeezing hugs and kisses on the face ( the aunties without many teeth sort of slobbered on him which he accepted with disgust disguised into a tolerating , patient smile ) and the uncles shook his hand , patted him on the shoulders and his hair while the cousins only said ' Hallo . ' instead of commenting with proud , raised voices about how much he'd grown , that he was taller and bigger now like the grown ups did .
All the cousins were nearly adults with the youngest being fourteen .
He was the only baby at the reunion this time , although he considered himself a big boy Almost Grown Up at the age of slightly past seven and had nobody to play with , excluding Mommy ( who changed out of her dress into pants for the picnic ) and Daddy , wiping his glasses while he stood and chatted .
" Is this our picnic , Mommy ? ' he asked during dining in one of the park's many family friendly restaurants . He liked this park named Kaye like his mother , Are You and a growling grrrrr at the end and his parents liked it too . Being wildlife and conservation biologists ( and part time safari photographers ) , they were happy watching the parrots , pigeons , monkeys , referee horses ( which Daddy called zee - brahs ) and the big cow reindeer people Rey pronounced by the spelling E El Ands .
" No , only a light lunch until this sunset when the cookout begins and we'll all eat huge portions and amounts . '
Raymond ate his sandwich and his dessert and his fruit in that order and took the opportunity to drop his vegetables on the floor each time no adult including his parents especially , noticed him doing so .
At the time the sky turned pink and orange and then light yellow orange tinged with gray , he'd ran into his father's long legs while swatting at mosquitoes .
" Careful , my hunter ! I wouldn't want to see you getting hurt . ' Daddy said as he handed out paper plates and either silvery metal cutlery or clear plastic while Mommy was one of several in charge of watching that the lamb sosaties , chicken on skewers and whole fish didn't burn over the fire .
" I'm okay " the young boy called over his shoulder , running and smacking at pesty insect blood drinkers .
" You'll stay close , not out of our sight . ' Mommy said . " Because once it's fully dark , we'll be - '
Daddy coughed suddenly and frowned , making Ray wonder . His parents never had bad faces for each other , always smiles .
He didn't dwell on it since cooked ostrich meat provided a distraction of the delish kind to focus his attention upon and his hungry mouth .
" It's our time now . ' Mommy said , holding his hand once the sky's colors became deepest ocean blue and purple melting into charcoal . " Do you hear them calling ? Singing their music , my sweet ? '
Her son nodded and listened to the whooping , cackling and chattering that formed an oval around the three person happy family .
The sounds of the aunties , uncles and cousins having their REAL party , celebration of the literal night life .
Daddy grinned at him and his brown mop of hair was shrinking , sinking back into his scalp and becoming bristles , lighter brown blended with plenty of soot grey .
Mommy's hand altered in shape , smaller but thicker boned and heavier , also coated with the short gray - tan fur and painted nails replaced with hard stubby black claws .
Raymond squeaked , his reply to nervousness , terror and thrill once he went through what he was slowly remembering having happen many times before at late night , this slightly painful , very perplexing and unusually fun Change .
After the weird ache when his face morphed and shifted , stretched and bulged into a different shape , the rest wasn't awful . He especially enjoyed chasing his tail he could never catch .
He yipped and chattered and cackled , startled himself with a huge giggle that made his parents extra proud of their boy and set the rest of the hyena pack into a whooping and groaning fit .
They were proud of him too .
He saw his parents freeze in place and heard them whine at the popcorn sounds , more after one auntie toppled and then the eldest uncle , with a red dot on his head .
' Full humans ! And they're shooting at us ... RUN ! ' Mommy screamed in her hyena yell and the pack blurred together , running smudges of gray brown in panic , more and more collapsing from the head shots .
Daddy gripped him by his neck scruff and raced like a cheetah , then tripping and sliding on one side as he stumbled .
" No ! ' Mommy squealed , turning to be by her mate's side .
Daddy coughed , whimpered and shuddered .
" Hurry and leave - before ... before - '
" I'm staying . ' she inhaled bravely and nudged her child from her . " Go now . Please run and hide . Leave NOW ! "
" No , I'm not leaving you and Daddy . '
" Get your ass away from here right NOW and run so you'll be safe . Please ! "
Being an inferior male in comparison to his Mother , one of the females in charge and along with the flying bullets and bleeding relatives , he had no choice but to haul tail and did .
Then he paused and turned to stare at the mean men , all completely human and they were repulsive , cruel bastards .
Half dozen , tall and short ones , chubby and thin ones , short shaved hair and below the ears hairstyles varied among the group and skin tones as well , including sunburned apricot tan to light beach sand brown to a blackish dark brown .
These bad men were picking off his family and his parents , the loved ones who'd told him he could be any sort of man he wanted to be .
And Ray chose to be a family man , always putting his loved ones first and doing everything good in life for them .
He U - turned , snarled and charged the gang and bit each of them right on their ankles .
' I came here for the big game hunt I was promised . Take some trophies back with me and go home and I'm getting chomped on by a runt of the litter instead ? " A shorter and swollen cheeked man grumbled , smiling mockingly at the young animal .
Ray glowered at the speaking man , one of the sunburned men with a skin tone more like his own human flesh than the darker fellow Afrikaaners .
This complainer was an enemy , The Enemy in fact . A human his family had warned him about more than the rest , from the United States .
" This one is little and worthless . ' the towering and long armed ringleader sneered , grabbed the cub and threw him like a dart before glaring and gesturing at his troupe . " Let's finish off these filth , these vermin that attacked and chased away a family , ruining their cookout ! "
Crashing into a sunken boulder had made his body sore and his mind blank as the life with his family faded away along with his memories .
Gunshots carried on and machetes were used while he drowned in the eclipse .
The woman carrying low in front tapped the tree trunk with her walking stick , peered upward at the small face grinning Cheshire cat naughtiness and his father's popular dimples down at her .
" Husband , your namesake is on a branch of a ten meter boabab and climbing to the top without hesitation or guilt . '
" And as often as this occurs , you're surprised ? ' the tough and sturdy man commented beside her , only a twitch of a disapproving frown while staring towards pale golden hair barely seen so high off the ground . " We'll do what we usually do , ignore him and continue walking and he'll do what he usually does - '
" Begin undressing . ' The mother said and gave a knowing , tired sigh .
" He'll come down when he has to take a leak or gets hungry enough . A baobab isn't is dangerous as the house roof . ' Paul senior stated , embracing his wife carefully , to not bump the melon like roundness of her stomach . " Don't worry excessively about him . How are YOU feeling ? "
" Fat and exhausted . '
" This travel could've been postponed . It's not safe to be out in the wild when you're close to birthing again . '
" I've plenty of time and I have the energy for today . Besides , it's not the trip or the stroll wearing me down , it's our howling wolf Dare devil boy . '
" I was never like that as his age ! Stayed on dry land and kept my clothing on . '
" Tell him that and he'll think you're as boring as he said I am . '
" You're not dull at all . No stress . Our little fearless , disobedient nudist has given me grey hairs early too . '
" Very nice . We'll start a club . '
" I saw Sethunya ! ' the smaller Paul dropped from the tree and sprinted , getting back into his knee length shorts one little brown leg at at time . " And she's driving her park ranger cycle ! "
" PJ , the world's population can see your bottom . ' his mother exhaled and glanced ahead at the noise of an engine .
" Underwear is worn INSIDE your shorts , son . ' her husband said , stepping closer to the arriving transportation with attached sidecar . " He's right . That IS Sethunya . '
The woman in her late twenties with a sturdy helmet holding down her chestnut color braided mohawk parked nearby and shook her head in amazement .
" It's like seeing a ghost , the two of you - '
" Three . ' Paul junior scrambled up on the still warm seat and gripped long handlebars .
" All of you because I was about to call for the emergency we've came upon . '
" Emergency ? Paul , get down from there ! "
" I'll get him . '
" It's a sickening , nasty , heart shattering incident actually . ' the secretary bird Shape Shifter who ironically worked part time as a secretary for his father's office said . " Don't worry about him . He's no bother and besides , I've got the keys . '
" My relief . ' the mother to be second time around quipped . ' I'm willing to help with anything needed to be done . '
" So will I . First aid , any medical assistance I'll be part of . ' her spouse said , watching his son making his best motorcycle racing sounds close by .
" I'll lead the way . I left them guarded , however when they were found , unfortunately they were already long dead . Slaughtered and skinned with most of their fangs and claws removed , I hate to confess . ' Sethunya commented with a trembling voice and dry , aching throat .
The child of the group stopped making ' Zoooooooom ! ' and ' Rrrrrrrrrr ! " vocalizations and looked over , frowning at the sound of soft weeping .
" We rented a golf cart . If you don't mind a slight wait , we'll follow behind you . '
" Can I ride too ? Please ? ' the second Paul asked , slipping into the sidecar and hunting for the safety belt to latch over his little body .
' I'll reward you this once and relish that this mother finally heard her son ask nicely instead of being rude and taking without permission . ' the large bellied woman nodded at the female park ranger . ' Do inform me if he becomes a hassle . '
Sethunya grinned knowingly . " He won't be any more trouble for me than my nestlings at home . '
" To not be sorry , I'll save some aspirin for you and admire your courage . '
' I'm merely pretending to be brave . After what I've seen today , the nightmares will last for my lifetime . '
Six wildebeest men had awaited their arrival . Four patrolling the area while the other two stood close to the bodies and Sethunya had changed , after taking cover in the tall grasses , into her bird form and was soaring above the family , keeping lookout for humans and other intruders .
" We're going to bury them . ' the woman with her second child on the way said after examining the corpses , paying respect by washing as much blood as she could from the victims and surrounding the carcasses with woven flower wreaths then finally gathering the claws and fangs that had been left behind , either accidental or in a rush .
" I will . ' her spouse stated , gesturing to some of the gnu gang for help . " You'll sit or stand but do nothing beside rest . In your condition , you shouldn't be bending or working hard . '
" I'll walk a little ways then . Our son took a stroll down a path and I might as well find what tree he's scaling this time . '
A small footy ball shaped head wearing the uncombed , sweaty golden cap of hair peered over a pile of rocks , hardly at his rib cage height and although damp , quite simple to crawl , climb and leap over .
He tumble landed beside the weird little dog , touched its grey brown shaggy coat and patted its head with the black golf ball lump stuck on it .
" Baby ? ! Hallo , baby! Ek sal jou beskerm . Alles is okay nou . ' With a grunt and a wobble , he barely managed to carry the heavy young animal back to his mother , knowing because she was a Mommy , she could magically somehow make any hurt baby well again .
" Pa , kyk wat ek gevind ! Mamma , kyk ! Dit is 'n baba ! '
" Super job , my boy ! I'm proud of you more than words can describe . '
The pregnant woman examined the cub thoroughly and smiled , courage and gratitude in her profile .
" Wonderful , blessing and miracle . This one lives . '
" With a bump on the noggin . '
" Head wound , yes , but only a slight lump . No broken bones or other injuries . '
" Concussion ? Trauma ? "
" I'm hoping not . ' the wife and mother gestured for her mate to look closer and notice what she'd observed .
The bottoms of both back paws were hairless , fur less , soft and wrinkled small human feet .
" Are those - '
" Yes . Paul . "
Darker haired father and his golden haired offspring both looked to be precise at which one she was speaking to .
" We're taking him home . As soon as we can . Fast . We'll locate a flight and be on a plane instead of being on the train again for a full day's travels . '
Paul senior couldn't bring himself to agree to the crazy idea , nor would he muster up the spine to argue with his wife and past savior .
Paul junior was beside himself with delighted , dance party joy because finding the baby had given him the reward of getting a motorcycle AND airplane ride in the same day instead of another boring train ride where he had to sit still and trek along paint dry slow .
He was trapped inside a room with no way to see and the only sounds he heard were the voices of two people , one male and female .
He shivered inside . Not his parents' speaking .
" This is unexpected after the tragedy . '
" It's a blessing . ' the female talking said to the man .
" His parents and closest relatives being killed and skinned by poachers doesn't make this little one BLESSED . '
The child growled to himself , an inner snarl of absolute heartbroken anger . He recalled one of the mean men calling him little . He loathed being thought of as little , a word to haunt him .
" You don't recognize this sweet baby ? ! "
He grinned through the unlit room . Being called a sweet baby from a woman's voice reminded him of his Mommy , someone that was a reason to smile .
" I know that's Ray . Clyde and Kaye's only child . " the man's voice closer to him now .
" Having lost his family is a sick , horrible and traumatic event that could cause his destruction . I'm going to save him . '
" Exactly how ? "
" I'm keeping him . WE'RE keeping him . We vowed to long before any children were born and they did the same for us . '
" The entire family COULDN'T have been wiped out . Some relative somewhere might want him - '
" Paul , if they want to raise him because they love him , they can prove it to me before I let him go . And if they want to take him for any other reason , I'll fight until I die . '
" Cassie , your temper is rising . '
" We PROMISED , didn't we ? "
" Yes , but ... there's paperwork , legal things to deal with ... '
" Then we'll deal with them . "
" And our second on the way . '
" Three children won't be any more problem for me than two . '
" Somebody will come looking for him . '
" Most will believe he was ... harmed along with the rest . Besides we can change his name and nobody will ever - '
" SOMEONE will ! "
" I'm letting him stay . He's our family , our second son now and if you try to prevent me , I'll gladly inform every married man from here to Zimbabwe how well you keep their wives company while they're at work ! "
" Now what are going to do about this fallout from what took place ? "
" You'll be taking a drive along with your men friends , no mistresses please , and gather together as much usable items from the household as your group can haul out . Bring Ray's clothing and toys , his bed if there's room to carry it along with some belongings of his family and all the money you can find . I want to clear the home before word gets around that it's empty and the place gets ransacked . '
" And you ? '
" I'll be getting in touch with people , your kind , that can help us . From his tree's hyena blood , there's bound to at least to give assistance for our unusual requests and needs . "
" I'll talk to our baby Black and be on my way . But you know with the trip , we'd be gone until tomorrow night . "
" Yes and you'll have three waiting for you . Accurately , four . Stay safe for me . For us . '
' All five . Yes . '
Ray landed back into eyes open reality , the terrible and real life that had taken from him and given back with extra .
He had goggle eyes and the tint fluff of hairs upright down the back of his neck at the sight of the round woman and the room full of pink kitty cats stuck on the walls .
The pitch black room slowly lightened , a sunrise for the sore and exhausted young boy to witness .
The giant seekoei woman gave him two things while he lay with barely any movement on the diy bed of gym mat and several blankets tossed on top on the floor in this bizarre little room , walls decorated with a collection of pink as stomach upset medicine plush toy animals , mostly long tailed cats .
A plastic round sipping cup with an over sized handle on each side and her concerned and considerate warm smile .
She dabbed the wet square cloth against his forehead and face despite his growls which didn't seem to frighten her .
" Mommy and Daddy ? ' he wondered out loud , turning his sore neck to find them if they were hidden in this room . ' Aunties and Uncles ? Cousins ? "
The big fat woman sniffled and her eyes were raining indoors .
" I would change things , if I could've by getting there in time to stop - '
The young boy snarled , totally infuriated and making the same sniffling stuffed up with a cold noise the big bellied woman was making .
He was sick . His insides ached and he was sick and needed his parents to feed him soup and make him feel better again .
" Mommy and Daddy ? ! ' the child asked once more , shouting and trembling . Yelling might fix things . It HAD to .
" I'm sorry and hurting for you , little one . Those were my friends and some of the most incredible , giving and thoughtful people to ever live . '
" Give me my Mommy and Daddy ! I want them NOW , here with me and the Aunties and Uncles and Cousins ! '
" Sweetest , I CAN'T . I miss them and wish them back as much as you do . '
He lunged when the straw was the last and final , his long even at that age legs tangling in a blanket and tripping him to face plant at her feet .
The balloon stomach woman helped him upright , patted him and he was in no mood for being petted .
He buried his small and a few somewhat loose teeth into the nearest marshmallow soft over hard thin bone arm .
" That's good for you , my sweetest , to release the pain and express your emotions . But my skin would prefer you'd bite this instead . '
Ray's attention was butterfly net captured , stuck in spider web silk and focus upon the apple flavored Fizz Pop he snatched and stuck into his frowning mouth lowered the level of angry , terrified and miserable to the depressed breaking point almost instantly .
Memories clumped into clusters inside his mind , recalling a smiling oval face and ankles held up by feet , smaller before than the hippo feet he saw now .
The man's words and the name he spoke during the time of coming out of the daze slapped him with more recollection .
" Cassie ? ' he asked , his breath now scented sugary .
" I'm honored that you've remembered me . '
" Your feet got gigantic ! '
" That's from the heavy weight my daughter makes . '
' Baby ? A baby ? ! "
" Yes and she likes to move about , rearranging things to her liking , I believe . '
" She's in your whole belly ? Is she that big ? ! '
" Not the entirety , only here to here . ' Cassie measured with her thumbs .
" Wow ! Will she fall out ? '
" I'm hoping that won't happen . '
" Can she see us ? '
" No , but she can hear us . ' The mother to be smiled and motioned for the little boy to lean carefully against her swollen stomach . " Do you feel her in there ? '
" Yes ! Oh hello ! Hello , baby ! ' he grinned and giggled , feeling the footy ball worthy kicks ( and possible punches too , he guessed ) touching his face .
" You can see that she's happy you are talking to her . '
" How did she get inside your stomach ? '
" Uhm ... well , that's - would you like to look at the rest of the house ? '
" Yes ! But how did - '
" Here , you can hold my hand if you want . '
" You don't really know , do you ? ' Ray inquired , easier to speak now that his sweet had melted from consumption . His mother's closest female friend sighed , beamed fondly at him and transferred them from one room into the hallway and pausing in front of one open door room , little but enough space for the narrow bed , hills of toys and a little boy with dandelion golden hair and a disobedient spark in his eyes , bouncing on his bed and hitting the near wall with enthusiasm and no fear .
" Astonishing that you're in your room this time . ' Cassie commented dryly .
" Dad took the ladder . " her son kept jumping on the bed , a visible pout on his lips .
" Which is what I suggested . Could you calm down for now , for me and say hello to our house guest ? '
Ray took refuge behind the woman , smiling faintly and waving his lolly stick as a greeting .
The mother nodded at her sidekick and explained .
' Paul , you'll become used to . And my little man who always gets into trouble , this is Ray . '
" Hey , he has a lollipop ! Where's my candy ? I want a Tempo bar . '
" Chocolate is saved for holidays . '
" You are no fun . '
" And you're my nuisance headache but I love you no matter what , forever and longer . Stop ruining the bedding and greet our house guest . He'll be living here until ... let me excuse myself and make a few calls . '
" Okay . ' her son said , returning to the bed jumping in a cheetah's run flash as soon as the door shut . " She really is no fun but is nice and doesn't yell at me . Not a LOT anyway . '
" She's really nice but not smart . '
" Hey ! My mom IS smart ! '
" She doesn't know how her baby got made . '
" Oh that . She KNOWS but she doesn't like telling . I know how it happened and I'll tell you . '
" Oohhhh , really ? ! '
" Yeah . Listen 'cause it's neat . '
" Okay . ' Ray used the stickiness from the dissolved lolly to glue it to one side of his face so it wouldn't escape . " I want to know everything . '
" My Dad and Mom are grown adult people and since they are , they can have sex . ' The second Paul took time from hopping - shoes on - upon the bed to give a flying kick to the wall the mattress and frame was touching . " Heeiiiyaah! "
" Yikes ! ' Ray said , hand to his mouth in amazement . " Really ? '
" That's how they made my sister . Don't you know that when grown ups have sex , the baby is made when the Dad makes a bobotie and the Mom eats the egg from it ? Then the egg grows in her belly as big as an ostrich egg and then it hatches into the baby . '
" Wow ! '
" And then , the Mom goes to the hospital and the doctors open a door in her stomach and take the baby and the eggshell out . '
" Oh gracious ! That sounds scary ! '
" It's not but it is DUMB . ' Paul junior said sourly , karate kicking the wall again . " My Mom's having a no - good SISTER when I told her to have a brother for me to play with . '
" I'll stay here and play with you until my Mommy and Daddy come back from wherever they went and then I'll go back home with them . But after that , I'll visit you . '
" Wow , really ? ! That's cool if you'll be my brother . '
" I want to and it'll be fun . And I like you and your Mom and your sister and your Dad even though your sister hasn't completely hatched yet and your Dad isn't here right now . '
" He'll bring all your toys here because he's the greatest man in the whole world ever ! '
Ray hero - worshiped this Paul at first talk so he wouldn't inform the hyper blond that truthfully it was HIS Dad that was the absolute best , his parents , Kaye and Clyde , brunettes with wavy , curly dark brown hair same as his own poodle mop top .
Paul junior was very cool . He did what he wanted , had toy cars scattered on the floor , knew about sex and babies and his hair was yellow like sunshine .
" There's a hundred thousand million toys in here ! "
" Yeah , Mommy thinks that if I have all this to play with , I'll stay off of the roof and indoors . '
" You go on the roof ? ! '
" Yeah and I'll show you later when I find wherever Dad put the ladder . '
" I have a entire train station set but it's not here . It's at my house , in my room . I want it and my bed . '
" Oh , you'll get those back real soon ! Dad and Tornado and Dirty Angel took their big trucks and went today to your Mommy and Daddy's house to get what they could and make sure nobody looted the place . That's what my Mommy told me and my Dad did too when you were asleep in my Dad's pink panther room . '
" Would he be a clean angel if he took a bubble bath ? '
" He might . I dunno . We can ask him if you wanna . "
" I don't think I do . Who is Tornado ? '
" He's my uncle but he's not my uncle . "
" Does he spin around ? '
" Nah but he fights just like my Dad does but not as good . '
" I hope you don't mind this one night of inconvenience , having to sleep on the floor instead of your bed . '
" No , it's okay . I like it ' cause I can pretend I'm in a camping tent . ' the orphaned male commented , wiggling all his toes beneath the mass of blankets , pillows and sheets his new mother had piled upon and around his small body .
" Good night , boys . Rest well , both of you . '
" Nighty . '
Paul junior grunted a ' night ' that sounded quite like a warthog's perturbed snort and waited until after the door shut to leap from bed and race to the window , creaking it open and waving at Ray .
" If you're not sleepy , come out here with me and I'll show you how cool my tree house is ! '
" Oh , I want to see it ! '
" I'm going on the roof too , so follow me and we'll have fun . '
His friend easily climbed the wobbling metal ladder against the child's bedroom side of the home but he wasn't as brave , stepping up two rungs , shivering and biting his lower lip then moving backwards to safe ground .
" I can't climb as good as you . '
" Keep going ! Try harder ! I like being up here . It's really fun to be so high , near the clouds and the moon and if any planes go past me , I'm gonna jump on them . '
" I ... I don't want to ! I'll fall . '
" You won't - crap , wait there and I'll help you . '
Ray felt the stomachache from upsetting and letting his friend down . He wasn't nearly as cool as this boy who had no fear and said Bad Words , same as grown up people did .
" I'm sorry . I just - my hands want to go but my feet won't move to get up there . '
" It's alright . Mommy says this is why I don't have friends , because I'm always damn reckless . ' Paul junior beamed with bragging pride .
" I'll be your friend but you wouldn't want a coward to play with . '
" Yeah but you're not a cow herd . You're my brother friend , a gazillion billion times better than a damn useless SISTER . I'd rather have you live here and we can put my sister in a boat after Mommy has her and send her to live with the hippos . ' the original son astounded his bru when he slid down the water drainage tubing attached to the home's gutters . " You can climb a rope ladder , right ? Or should I help you ? "
" I'll do it myself . I'm alright , nothing to help me with . '
The tree house's shape was an exact cube , not the roomiest but big enough to move about inside .
A lengthy plastic racing car track set traveled from floor to up connected to one wall in loops and dives and figure eights .
The invited guest looked at the posters hanging from bent nails , the beanbag chairs losing their innards from the holes various tree dwelling animals had gnawed into them and the little oval table , faded and dust hardened crusty upon its weather worn surface and packs of playing cards stored inside a hidden knife carved compartment inside another wall .
He smiled eagerly before sobbing instantly , a cry that pained him more than the blazing sun burning his skin blistered and shamed him faster than wetting his pants would've .
" What's wrong ? Did you get a splinter ? I get scared whenever I have to get one removed ' cause Mommy has to cut my finger to pick it out . ' Paul junior confessed . " And I cry at how bad it hurts ! "
" No ... no , it's because - be - because I'm the reason my Mommy and Daddy aren't here ! My fault they got killed ! '
" No , that was from nasty old damn poachers , not you . '
" But I wished for a brother and got you and lost them as a trade , I think . '
" Maybe they aren't lost . They might have had to go use the toilet . ' Paul junior responded and in a flash , panicked when his bru wept , creating his brain and arms ' reaction - a giant , sympathizing embrace that consoled . " I'm REALLY sorry you're hurting and I'll take you with me to the moon one day . We'll go in my rocket ship when I buy one and you'll be with your parents again , in case they turned into stars . '
' Thank you . ' Ray said and continued to cry himself exhausted , appreciative his brother for life wasn't mocking him for being a baby or trying to stop his tears .
He cried on throughout the late night hours and the salt water dribbling down his flushed and puffy face were small , clear and shimmering .
His little stars , the galaxy of emotions .
In the two weeks that passed and the two after , he became a new person with the name of the king of the jungle , a brand new young man .
A pink - orange Cupid's heart with tiny black bead eyes and little clawed feet that it hopped around on pecked at him , trying to obtain some of his plentiful springy spiral locks for nesting material .
Leo yawned in his bottom bunk of the tall wooden framed bed , grinned and waved at the lovebird .
' Hello , heart face bird person ! It's Heritage Day and I'm going to eat all the food that fits inside my mouth ! '
The small parrot chirped and flew from the room , back outdoors by way of the same open window that Leo's brother was climbing through to return from the roof .
" It's Heritage Day , man ! Gonna be exciting and fun once Dad starts cooking . '
" I'm going to stuff my tummy full ! '
Paul junior climbed without difficulty back to the top bunk and swatted happily at the airplane models on strings .
" And I'M going to climb every tree in our yard and Mommy can't stop me from it , not today ' cause it's time to celebrate . '
Both boys flinched at the wail and nearly toppled from bed at the screeching .
" Oh oh ! I think she heard you . ' Leo commented .
His younger brother looked uneasy and swung down to the floor , holding his sagging pajama pants with one hand to not trip over them .
" I'll ask Dad and find out what's wrong . ' Paul junior said . " She sounds sick . '
" Mommy's sick ? ! ' the older child dropped to the floor , following his sibling .
' Boys , you'll be spending the day with your uncle and aunt so you won't miss out on the festivities and cookout . Your mother and I are going to the hospital today and we'll return tomorrow . '
" Mommy , don't be sick ! You have to get better . '
" It's the baby , isn't it ? She's trying to open the door ? "
" Oh , the ostrich egg hatched ! '
" A door ? An egg ? My silly , kindhearted sons ! Both of you can make me smile and bring me cheer even during the greatest pain . '
" Don't leave , Mommy ! '
' Or if you HAVE to , hurry back home real soon . "
" My sweet babies . I'll not be apart from either of you too long . And tomorrow , we'll be together again and my two little young men will have a sister . ' '
" Seconds on anything , boys ? There's plenty . More eggs , tea , bacon or toasted bread with jam ? ' Tornado turned a knob to lower the heat on a stove burner .
' I'll have strawberry . "
' I want ginger . '
' Watermelon and ginger . ' Leo corrected when not slurping his drink .
' Who cares ? It's the same thing in a jar . ' Paul junior replied with a surly attitude and bacon in his mouth .
" What's that noise ? ! '
" I hear it too ! '
" Here you go . Makes it easier to see what's happening . ' Tornado lifted the boys closer to the main room's biggest window and placed ottomans beneath their feet so they were high enough to watch the festivities outside , men , women and children walking down the street , either dancing , singing , cheering , waving flags or playing small drums .
" Thank you . Oh , it's a party ! " Leo told his ' uncle ' and excitedly tapped the glass .
" No , it's a parade . ' PJ said , gloating inside to get to correct his brother this time .
" It is a celebration for all the neighbors . ' Tornado explained . ' We rejoice for each new life and mourn the ones that ended . "
" Yay ! They're happy too that Dad and Mom are back . '
" And your sister . '
" She's no good reason to be happy . '
" I don't know . She could be . ' Leo suggested .
Paul junior glared but didn't argue this time .
" I'll drive both of you home once we finish our breakfast , right ? '
" Yes ! '
" Yeah , I guess so . I don't care . '
The children eagerly slid into the back seat and their unrelated uncle buckled them in while their auntie carried a wide covered basket and a small stack of folded square blankets on the top .
Leo's nausea built up when he saw that basket . The wicker somehow disturbed him yet he couldn't recall why .
He shrugged the sick feeling off , same as his brother would've done , too cool to care .
" There's Dad ! " Paul junior shouted , tangled once trying to squirm from the seat belt on his own .
The four tires slowed motion and stopped behind the weaving trail of other vehicles .
Both little boys were in awe at the crowd size .
" Everyone in the world is here ! " Leo straightened in his seat .
" Everybody in Africa did , I bet . ' Paul junior proclaimed . " Maybe one of them will take the baby with them and I'll get her out of my house . '
Tornado laughed gently , assisting the children out of the vehicle . " You'll not want your parents to hear you say those things . '
" My thanks to you and for the help from all . I hope they didn't annoy you or create extra work and cleaning , Steve . ' the man of the house stated from the front door stoop .
" No troubles whatsoever . I've known total brats compared to these little angels . ' Tornado answered .
" Well then , you've been fooled because that angel with my face has horns , not a halo . ' Paul senior chuckled , scooping up his boys , swinging them in his arms then setting them back onto the lawn .
" Dad ! ' the first born child and only true blood son ran and embraced his father's legs with a happy , hopping tackle move .
" Daddy ! I missed you and Mommy ! Can I go see Mommy ? " the adopted son asked , hugging his father's legs from the opposite side that his brother had .
" Yeah , I missed you too , Dad . And Mom . '
" She's healthy and happy but tired so after the adults of the neighborhood visit , then you both may spend time with her and your sister . '
PJ rolled his eyes and frowned , obviously sulking and Leo beamed cheerfully , jumping about in delight .
" We're not lacking for groceries after today , boys . ' Paul senior commented and pushed against the fridge door to make sure it was closed tightly . " And we may get through a week without having to buy more diapers , not from the neighbors gifting us with a quantity . '
" Now can we see the baby ? ! Everybody else left already . ' Leo asked .
" Yeah and I wish I'd gone with them . ' Paul junior said and frowned darkly .
" Yes , of course . But let me help you - here , we'll put these on first , okay ? '
Leo glanced at the pale mint green squares of cloth , then his dad with confused fascination .
" What are these ? '
" They're a homemade version of surgical masks . It'll keep your sister safe in case either of you boys sneeze or cough . '
" Like that matters ? ! She's already a germ . '
" Don't use insulting words . You know better . '
PJ grinned at his brother meaningfully . Leo knew that his male sibling DID but preferred to act rebellious despite his parents' warnings .
" Hey , look ! I'm a doctor . Rawr ! "
" Doctors don't roar , my boy . ' his father smiled carefully .
" Rrrrrrrrrrr ! " the masked golden haired child ran around the adult legs with glee .
" Or growl either , I believe . ' Paul senior sighed , catching sight of the other child , looking out of place and sorrowful , lonely and empty .
He beamed a full smile and picked his second son from the floor , swung him around and laughed .
" My sons . My wonderful boys . '
" You're horrible ! Why did you ruin my life and have her ? ! '
" Hey now , enough of that talk ! You'll apologize and show that you have manners . '
" Not ever . Never . No ! '
Leo paused and his white crayon rolled over his coloring . He'd drawn multiple circles , making a white smiling face , black scribbled around the small eyes and round black ears that matched before his brother's ear aching tantrum had interrupted .
He observed silently while his male sibling made most of the noise and the tiny wailing complaint in the room across from where he sat wasn't as vocal or fussy .
His father patted his back as he passed , chasing his sprinting son .
" Go to your mother and sister while I have a word with your brother . They're waiting for you . '
Leo shuffled his feet and crept to the doorway of Dad's pink panther room , now changed with the addition of a crib , changing table and other important things replacing the bed that had been removed from the room while the plush pink toys collection remained untouched , hanging on the walls and all looked happy at their new roommate that was as pink and small as they were .
" My other heart . ' Mommy beamed sweetly and rocked in her chair , cradling the blanket swaddled mini person sleeping in her mother's protective but gently hold . " The one that isn't yelling , cursing and kicking holes in the walls while his father tries to tame him from the outbursts . "
" Is it okay if - ' the boy inquired from behind the mask .
" Ah yes . But don't expect her to carry on conversation . She's worn out . ' his mother quipped , causing him to snicker .
Leo looked past the multi colored , striped blanket and inhaled quickly .
" Mommy , she's really small ! What if she's a termite ? '
His mother laughed which warmed his heart .
" I have doubts that your sister is an insect . She's a baby and she's little now but she'll grow each year , you'll see . '
" Not an inn segg but a baby . '
" Yes and you're right . You were a small baby at one time so it won't be long before she's bigger than she is now . "
" I want to help care for her . ' Leo thought over what his brother had described to him about being a parent . ' But not her stinky diapers . '
His mother laughed again , trying to keep the noise low and not disturb her tiniest , youngest child's rest .
" None of my men dare volunteer for the messiest task . '
" I'll feed her ! Can I do that , please ? '
" Well ... she has to have very special milk that only I can feed to her . '
" Oh - oooohhh ! Where is it ? ! "
" Uhm ... ' his mother rocked slowly in the chair and maintained a poker face . " What would YOU feed her , my little sweetheart ? '
" Biltong ! '
" You would ? '
" Yeah ! It's yummy . '
" You'll have to wait until her teeth come in and that'll be awhile . '
" Oh . "
" Don't be sad from this . You're my helper by being her big brother and that's more than enough . But if you have second thoughts and want to change dirty diapers - "
" Ew ! Yuck ! NO ! "
" I had to double check . She'll be a safe girl , protected by me and three very handsome brave men in the house . "
" She's a baby AND a moon or a baby moon ? ' Leo stared at the light pink , squishy face , her small potato head and fluffy patch of golden brown hair .
" A baby daughter and your sister whose named means the moon and its glowing light . '
The moon , a glowing white light shaped into a crescent , a mostly eaten sugar cookie lighting the night time and hanging above their house .
Paul junior seethed and pouted while he sat in bed wide awake , enraged the senior Paul had put new locks on the windows , taken the ladder AGAIN and banned him from his tree house for an entire two days and nights .
The former Raymond wasn't angry whatsoever .
He slept peacefully in the bottom bunk with his brother and his trains overhead .
Two new parents , a brother and a sister .
These terrific gifts his parents had sent to him , he knew , until they were able to be a family together once more .