CHAPTER ONE – HERMANO continued
“Deposi-tree, Grandpapa?” whispered the prickly arboreal rat, in a confused little voice.
“Yes Hermano, or sort of. It’s a modern place where humans store things,” explained Raoul. “A warehouse. Store things like toys, and clothes, like furniture and tools. Deposit them.”
“Oh,” said Hermano, wondering why and what these things were anyway.
“So when people ask for them, Hermano, and put a price on them…” Raoul went on.
“What they pay for them with money, Hermano.”
“What’s money, grandpapa?” asked Hermano.
Raoul frowned but turned and ran to a hole in the Graviola tree and with his long nose the old tree rat pushed something out, a scrunched-up ball, made of old paper, that he rolled back along the branch towards his grandson. He unrolled it and Hermano saw a kind of multi-coloured leaf.
“That’s money,” declared Raoul, with a sigh, looking unhappily at the old US dollar bill. “They make it out of paper and things. Humans give each other these, Hermano, so they can buy things. Like the things in the depository that they then package up and send out, all around the World. To countries called China and India, to Australia and to Samoa, to Italy and to France, and even to a place called the United Kingdom. To places far, far away, my brave little Hermano.”
Raoul smiled knowingly, because he used to boast that he was a very world wise old tree rat himself. Indeed Raoul had once told Hermano the story of how his own father had even been to the country called America, far to the North of the great Amazon jungle. Now Hermano, who was naturally very inquisitive indeed and keen to learn all about the mysterious World himself, twitched his long brown snout.
“But if those places are so far away, Grandpapa,” he whispered, thinking again of those lost civilizations in the rainforest, “why do they have the things here then, in our secret home, just to send them there, and why are they cutting down all our lovely trees?”
It was Raoul’s turn to shrug and shake his head.
“Progress, Hermano, that’s what humans call it, I think, progress,” he answered, a little doubtfully. “And because things are always changing, and growing too, like the forest trees. But in life you will find that people like to dump their garbage on other people’s doorsteps,” he added, looking at the hole in the trees. “Although I suppose to them their Depository is a kind of temple to their things.”
Hermano’s huge eyes looked sad and he wanted to cry again. He thought of Cartel calling him garbage and felt like it too, as a teardrop ran down his cheek.
“Besides, it’s the modern world, Hermano,” said Raoul philosophically. “And we all have to be modern now. That’s the future. So I hear that with their computers and their laptops now, their tablets, and personal devices, the Humans have invented something called the Internet.”
“Internet?” muttered Hermano, thinking immediately of the giant spider’s webs that hang in the forest and catch flies and even little birds sometimes.
“Oh yes, Hermano. Which means they can talk to each other, but without really talking to each other, like real animals do in the forest. Humans talk online instead now, you see, and so order things in secret from giant companies, at the press of a button, from anywhere in the World. That is called Globalisation, Hermano, and the Web.”
Now this all sounded very strange and mysterious indeed to a little spiny tree rat, something Hermano could not even see, like this Internet or this web. But clever Hermano realised immediately that although he did not understand it, this modern world out there had certainly affected his life already.
“So now too they have special machines,” Raoul went on, frowning even more deeply, “and something called electricity, that makes things move on their own, Hermano. So everything can be automated inside the Depository, with hardly any people there at all, to make more and more money, for the people who own the factory anyway. That is something humans call economics.”
Hermano wondered if Che had been wrong, because how could that ever help the poor human people working on the building, if this strange Depository was automated? Yage the tree frog though, who was listening nearby, raised a green frog eyebrow.
“But it sounds horrible, grandpapa,” said Hermano, his spines tingling again.
“Hmmm,” said Raoul, with a heavy sigh, “Perhaps it does, Hermano. Except there will be one great bonus.”
“Inside there they will have things too that you cannot put a real price on, ever. Priceless things.”
“What priceless things, grandpapa?” asked Hermano more eagerly, cheering up a little.
“Books, Hermano,” declared Raoul delightedly, “books and stories and ideas inside. For this too will be a great Amazonian book depository.”
Hermano’s bright brown eyes lit up in wonder now, because in all the things his grandpapa had told him already about the world, just like the rest of the family, Raoul had taught him to love the idea of books and stories. Books, that Hermano’s father had said were made by humans from trees, and sometimes even covered in bark, but which had pages of paper and ink and writing on them. Things to make up tales of the world, or tell the long tale of time itself and of the human civilizations too that had been and gone already. Like Hermano’s family. In fact, both his father and Raoul had told Hermano the name of many made-up stories they had heard, by famous human writers, like The Hump-back Whale of Notre Dames and The Lizard of Oz. Wonderful titles, which had filled Hermano’s head with amazing dreams.
“Books,” croaked Yage though, rather sourly too, “there’s only one book ever worth really reading, Hermano, the secret book of the mighty rainforest itself. There, if you journey with Shaman eyes like mine, you can know the whole world too. The whole of Nature and all the amazing things in it. But without having to destroy it all, like the humans do. Or make a hole in it either.”
“Destroy it?” said Hermano, wondering where his parents had gone, his tail curling like the creepers on that broken face on the temple, as another tear ran down his cheek.
“Right, Hermano,” said Yage very angrily now, “since humans are the most destructive animals on Earth and what the humans always forget is what a Shaman like me knows instinctively.”
“And what’s that, Yage?” whispered Hermano keenly.
“That there is life in everything, Hermano,” declared the shaman frog. “In the animals and insects, in the birds and bees. But in the flowers and plants too, and in the trees and even the rocks, and that everything is connected somehow. That’s a Shaman’s true wisdom, Hermano.”
Hermano nodded but he wondered how there could be life in a rock, or that stony human face in the trees.
“But I’ll tell you another deep secret of the forest too, Hermano,” whispered Yage gravely, looking all around them now, “in fact, the very deepest. Which is this, Hermano: because everything in the forest is really alive, it has memory too, a very ancient memory.”
Hermano felt very strange and Yage noticed the tears welling in his eyes again.
“So remember this, Hermano, that if you ever cry looking at what you see and learn of the World, at all its sadness too sometimes, its darkness, to look only with good eyes, and to remember that in life there are good tears and there are bad tears.”
Hermano gulped and wondered what Yage meant, but old Raoul scowled.
“Now, now, Yage,” he scolded softly, “don’t teach Hermano things he doesn’t understand yet. Hermano must grow and be brave, not full of fear, and know how to find his own story in life.”
Hermano looked at both the adults and felt very small and wondered if he would ever find a story.
“He must remember too, never do harm to anything less than yourself, and that if you strike, you must always strikes upwards, even as high as the stars themselves,” said Raoul and Hermano felt almost dizzy. “And I love human books, Yage, and their stories,” Raoul went on eagerly, “Like the one written long ago by that man in the land of America, in a city called New York. My grandfather went there, he always told me, long, long ago, and made friends of the human, and my own father visited too, in the time of something called The Great Depression. So in a way we have a connection to America, Hermano. And I will tell you the story the human wrote one day. All of it.”
Yage and Hermano smiled, for Hermano’s Grandpapa was always talking of this Great Depression and the other animals of the Amazon said it was why he was always so depressed.
“I want to be a writer,” said Hermano suddenly, “and to write books too, grandpapa.”
“Yes, Hermano,” said his grandfather approvingly, though with a smile, “the great thing in life is to be an artist. Then perhaps you can really be immortal.”
“Immortal?” said Hermano.
“It means you’ll live forever, my little rat.”
Hermano wondered what it wold be like to live forever.
“Stories,” said the Shaman tree frog though, “Write not just books but great stories, Hermano. So if you must be an artist, which is always a hard life, don’t be just any old writer, Hermano, but a magic, shaman storyteller. Be a teller of tales then that really change the world.”
“Change the world?” gulped Hermano.
“But by changing the way we see. Stories that always tell the truth too, of course.”
“Truth?” said Hermano nervously.
“Yes. And special stories to light a fire in other’s hearts, Hermano. Though with a tail like that,” added Yage, with a froggy wink, “Perhaps stories with a little twist in them too.”
Then it was that Hermano the spiny tree rat decided that this was a very good idea indeed and that he would do exactly that in his life and be an artist and a writer.