Being The Good Guys
Fiction by KM Elkes
And then we decided to save the orangutans!
We gathered a lot of intel about bad guys burning down the forest and how the orangutans were getting fried and how no one was stepping up. Well, we love to step up. We love being the good guys! It was such a no-brainer, even an orangutan could understand.
Sure some of the people at HQ were skeptical. They were all like: ‘why go all that way to save a few monkeys’, and ‘we’ve got problems closer to home’, and ‘we shouldn’t send our best people to do someone else’s work.’
So we explained that the orangutans are actually like us (well, old-bald-man versions of us) and are worth fighting for. But they didn’t really buy that. So we said: ‘if someone was burning down your home, wouldn’t you want someone to intervene?’ Well, they still weren’t happy.
Then Lance said: ‘haters gonna hate man, let’s go anyway’, which is a real Lance thing to say. So we flew to the jungle, cleared ourselves a perimeter for the camp and got to work. Guess what? The very first day we found one! We called it Orangutan Number One, or ON1 for short. A big male sitting in a tree watching the fire-line creeping closer and closer with these soft, sad brown eyes.
“Good times,” we shouted. “We’ve come to help.”
“So I see,” said the orangutan. “No thanks.”
“We’re here to rescue you,” we said and gave a big thumbs up, which our intelligence guys told us was okay to do.
“I admire the persistence, but I’m not coming,” it said.
This wasn’t in the plan. But Lance pointed out that orangutans sometimes don’t know what’s good for them, otherwise they wouldn’t be getting fried. So we had a little chat among ourselves, then spoke to ON1 again.
“Forest’s burning all around. Your home’s gone. You need to pull out, dude,” we said.
“I can see that. But it’s my forest, so if it’s all the same…” the orangutan said.
“You’re gonna burn,” we said. “Besides it would help us get off to a primo start, statistics-wise.”
“I’m waiting for my family. I’ll take my chances,” said the orangutan.
We had another huddle. Then we got out our megaphone (because those flames were getting really close and really loud) and informed ON1 all about the good guys and the bad guys thing. And then Lance showed some pictures on his laptop of dead orangutans, which had been caught in the fires and were all charred and lumpy.
But ON1 just sat in the tree, ignoring us. A couple of times it reached up and felt a leaf, really delicate, just like a human might do. Orangutans have got almost human fingers, I said, but Lance shot me one of those Lance-looks so I kept schtum.
Eventually we got a bit tired of the smoke and the fire, so Lance pulled out the dart gun. And he maybe pointed it a few times and made dart gun firing noises. Then (so Lance!) he put it to his shoulder and pulled back the bolt. That’s when the orangutan looked our way.
“You people,” it said and climbed down. We gave a few whoops and some applause and then grabbed its hands to make sure it didn’t run away. It felt just great to be rescuing such a magnificent, noble creature. When we got back to camp, we put it in a cage for protection purposes.
“This? Really?” it said, because some of these orangutans are real characters!
“It’s for your own safety,” we said.
We had to run some major tests on Orangutan 01. We needed to know he wasn’t carrying any diseases that would infect other orangutans, or even us! There were blood tests and skin tests and poop tests and wee tests. We talked to it a lot about what it had seen and what it had done and where it thought the other orangutans would be. We tried to make it our friend.
Usually it would listen to us and then ask for crayons and a piece of paper, and then go to the corner of the cage and begin to draw. Sometimes, when it was out on tests or in the playground on the tyre swing, we went into ON1’s cage and looked at the drawings, just in case there was something important. But they weren’t very good.
It lost a heck of a lot of weight those first few months, even though we gave it plenty of the best food. Sometimes Orangutan Number One would lie in his cage all day, just staring. Then it started with the whole thing of pulling on the bars and spitting at us. Then it stopped all that and just turned those big, brown sad eyes on us and asked to go back home.
It was a load of trouble, basically. We didn’t know what to do with it. We had a lot of chats about this. We didn’t think we could release it back into the wild.
“We don’t think we can release you back into the wild,” we said.
“What wild?” the orangutan asked.
“Exactly,” we said.
Then someone called us up and said they needed an orangutan for mating purposes in America. Bingo! we thought. We asked him if he would like this?
“Technically I’m taken. But I dream she is dead,” said the orangutan and pulled at his ear. We shot him full of tranquilisers and sent him to America, for re-education and re-homing and to make new better little orangutans for when things changed.
From what we hear, it isn’t going so well. Orangutan Number One throws his shit at the people who visit him at the zoo. The keepers say he gets pretty bitey during inspection time.
We have to say, we are pretty hacked off. We think ON1 has been really ungrateful about all the rescuing, but as Lance said, ‘We’ve done the best we can. Let’s move up.’
Besides, we had a look at the rhinos and they seem in a really tight spot…
© KM Elkes
[This piece was selected by Stephanie Doeing]
KM Elkes lives and works in Bristol UK. He began writing four years ago and his work has since been published in more than a dozen anthologies and won short fiction prizes in Ireland, the UK, Australia and North America. His stories have also appeared in literary magazines including Structo, Litro, Nottingham Review and Everyday Fiction. His work has featured on school curriculums in the USA, Canada, India and Hong Kong. He is working on his first collection and making this short biography more interesting to read. Website: www.kmelkes.co.uk Twitter: www.twitter.com/mysmalltales