My T-shirt: Welcome to the Jungle
“Toss me the shampoo.” Kyle holds out a hand.
“Man, did last night really happen?” I reach into the dugout canoe and grab the Head & Shoulders. The bottle falls short of Kyle and begins to drift down river. Kyle grabs it. The shampoo oozes out warm liquid and he gets a good lather going.
A bony cow crosses upriver. A scrawny calf follows, having to swim in the middle. You can tell by the pathetic up and down gyration of its head. They climb the opposite bank and mosey into the jungle.
“Can you believe what he did?” My eyes are shut tight and suds run down my face and back. “I was scared shitless.”
We both scrub at our mud-caked skin, revealing scratches.
Kyle and I have been on plenty of adventures together, most imaginary. Kyle, three years older than me, usually called the shots growing-up. There were the adventures of Black Man and Red Man. Both characters derived their names not from skin color or ethnicity but from armor color. They were both human cyborgs blessed with superpowers. But all cyborgs aren’t created equal and Kyle always got to be Black Man whose powers and intellect were far superior than Red Man’s. I was always Red Man, a sort of Tonto to Kyle’s Black Man.
When Kyle was Batman, I was Robin. Sometimes he even made me be Aquaman. The ability to summon whales is a pretty lame superpower when you are playing in a cornfield in landlocked Ohio. If I complained enough Kyle would bestow upon me new powers – never to exceed his own – only if I drank a freshly concocted magic potion that he had mixed in a test tube. It was usually purple.
Many evil enemies had fallen at our feet. We overcame horrendous monsters, ruthless villains, and maniacal plans against all odds. Missions and world saving were only interrupted for lunch, naps, and bed time. Our blood red Kool-Aid grimaces were feared by the evilest of enemies. Death played a roll in our imaginary adventures, but was never something that magic or healers couldn’t right.
Last night in the jungle we saw Death. It was slimy. It had teeth. And our guide whacked it over the head. It was a real adventure.
Rinsing off is easy. I hold my breath and submerge. I dig my hands into the rocky river bottom and hold fast against the current. The shampoo washes away. Pebbles and suspended sediment sneak into the lining of my shorts. I emerge soap free.
A naked boy stands on the near bank watching us. I wave to him and he runs off towards the village.
“Dude, for a moment, I thought you were a goner.” Kyle splashes water on his face and slicks back his hair. He tosses me the shampoo. We grab our extra-absorbent travel towels and walk up the bank to the village of Mocoron.