“Dude, did Mom say you could do that?”
I didn’t look away from the computer as I answered Panda’s inquiry. “No, but she left the computer on Amazon, so I thought I’d check out the cat fountains since mine doesn’t work anymore.”
Panda looked doubtful. “What do you mean, it doesn’t work? I thought Mom just took the fountain part out because it needs a new filter. You still have the water part on the bathroom counter.”
I considered for a moment. “You’re right,” I said, “but it’s not the same. I figured I’d help Mom out because you know how long it will take her to go on Amazon and get a new filter.”
Panda jumped up on the desk with me. “Hey, does Mom have Amazon Prime?” he asked, reaching out to grab the mouse. “Don’t mess anything up, Bro!” I cautioned. Panda clicked the Amazon Prime icon anyway. “I just want to see if…”
But it was too late! Before we knew it we were spiraling through outer space. We’d done this before, but it had been awhile. And usually we’d been in our travel tunnel at the time. “I told you not to touch anything,” I admonished. “Too late now,” was Panda’s reply. “There’s no telling where we’ll end up!”
“Oh wow!” I exclaimed when we re-entered the earth’s atmosphere. “That’s Machu Picchu in Peru! We’ve been there!” Panda looked down, wide eyed. “That’s where I got picked up by a giant condor,” he remembered. “Let’s don’t land here.”
Suddenly we landed with a SPLASH into a shallow pool of muddy green water. Staring us in the face was an animal we had never seen before. “Who are you?” the animal asked in a curious tone. Since it was all I could do to keep my head above water, Panda spoke for us. “My name is Panda, and this is my best friend Foster,” he said. “But who are you? And where are we?”
“I’m a capybara,” replied our new friend. “Capybaras are the world’s largest rodents. And you’re in the middle of the Amazon forest. Would you like some delicious grass?” Panda and I exchanged glances. “Um, no thank you,” I replied. “We had a snack before we came.”
The capybara invited us to meet his family. As we talked, the capybaras asked us how we happened to be in the Amazon forest. “To be honest,” Panda explained from behind a log, “we really don’t know.” I cleared my throat. “Ahem!” I said. “Well, we do know that we were on our mom’s computer looking on Amazon.com and a certain panda clicked something…” The capybaras laughed knowingly. “You, too?” they asked. “We’ve met up with a few different animals that have done the same thing. Well, you might as well enjoy your visit.”
We said goodbye to our new friends and decided to go for a walk to explore the forest. Soon we came to what looked like a bridge, but with a steep, rickety stairway leading down to it. Naturally Panda started down the steps right away. “Hey, Fos,” he called to me from the landing. “Come on! This stairway is cool!” I wasn’t convinced. Obviously Panda had forgotten the inevitable “element of risk”.
When I got to the bottom of the stairs, Panda had already disappeared from sight. All I could see in front of me was jungle. I sighed resignedly, knowing what I would have to do. It was just like when he got lost at Yosemite. I began looking for him right away.
The first animal I came across was an Amazon tree frog. He looked at me quizzically when I asked if he had seen Panda. “A panda wearing a shirt and hat made out of a sock?” was his reply. “I’ve never seen a panda wearing anything, much less a sock!” He considered for a moment. “In fact, I’ve never seen a panda at all! Don’t even know what they look like. But I’ll keep my eyes open!” I thanked him and continued on my way.
Panda told me later that, just like when we were in Yosemite, he thought I was the one that was lost. He began asking if anyone had seen me. “Excuse me,” he said when he came to a grasshopper who was eating a leaf. “Have you seen a cat go by recently?” The grasshopper shook his head. “Nope,” he replied as he munched. “No cats in this neck of the woods, except the ocelots, and they only come out at night. Hey, cool hat. Is that a real sock?” Panda replied in the affirmative. “My mom made it for me,” he replied modestly. The grasshopper nodded approvingly. “She did a good job,” he said. “Would you like some delicious leaves?”
The next animal Panda saw appeared to be a tree sloth. “Hi, who are you?” the sloth asked genially. “My name is Panda,” Panda replied as he struggled to climb up into the tree. “Are you a tree sloth?” The sloth nodded. “Yep, sure am,” he replied. “Are you a real panda? Where did you get that cool shirt? What brings you to the Amazon?” the sloth asked as he climbed.
It took Panda a minute to catch his breath after his climb, and then he carefully related the story of how we had arrived in the Amazon. The sloth nodded slowly as Panda spoke. “Yep, you have to be careful with those computers. Never know what’s going to happen when you click on stuff.” Panda agreed politely, and asked his new friend to let him know if he saw me. “Will do!” answered the sloth. “Unlike our two-toed relatives, we three-toed sloths don’t spend that much time hanging upside down. By sitting upright like this, I should be able to see more than they would.” Panda approved heartily. “Well, thanks for your help!” he said, and went on his way.
Meanwhile, I was making my way through the forest, asking every animal I met if they had seen Panda. Suddenly I heard a honking sound in a tree above me. I looked up to see a beautiful pink bird that looked kind of like a small flamingo. “Oh, sorry,” the bird said when I got closer. “I thought you were an ocelot. That’s why I was honking to the rest of my flock. It’s how we alert each other to possible danger. Who are you anyway?”
I introduced myself and explained my dilemma. “A panda?” the bird asked. “Don’t think I’ve ever seen one of those. What do they look like?” I described Panda to the best of my ability, and suddenly the pink bird’s face lit up with recognition. “Oh that guy!” he said, pointing downward with his beak. I looked down and was amazed to see Panda, trying to climb the tree. “Panda!” I called. “Where were you? I was just down there!”
Together we helped Panda to our branch. The bird grasped Panda’s hat in his beak, pulling him up the rest of the way. “Dude,” Panda replied as he reached us. “You walked right past me.” Then he looked at the pink bird. “Are you a flamingo?” he asked, incredulous. The bird laughed heartily. “No, I’m a scarlet ibis. We’re pretty common in the Amazon,” he explained. “So you’re a panda, eh? Nice hat. Is that a real sock?”
We thanked our new friend and decided we’d better try to find our way back home. After awhile we came to a sign we had never seen before. “That’s weird,” I reaching up to get a better look. “I thought Montana was in the US.” Panda thought for a minute. “I think it’s montaña,” he replied. “That means mountain in Spanish. I saw it in one of Mom’s books. What does the other part say?” When I read “Machu Picchu,” we looked at each other, our eyes wide. “Let’s get out of here!” we exclaimed in unison. The memory of Panda being by the giant condor was still fresh in our minds. Needless to say, we made a bee-line for the bottom of the mountain.
As we walked, we suddenly remembered our penguin friends from the Swiss Alps. “Do you think we’re anywhere near Patagonia?” Panda asked. “I know that there are penguins there, and it is in South America. I wonder if the penguins ever made it this far?” I considered for a moment. “Well, if they did make it to Patagonia, they could have stopped there on their way to the South Pole. While we’re here, maybe we should try to find them.” We looked at each other as we exclaimed in unison, “Let’s go to the train station!”
To be continued…
Note: The background photos used in this story are from Pixabay.com and Unsplash.com. The featured image is a screenshot from Amazon.com.