“Kgatwe! What happened?”
“What do you mean what happened?” said Kgatwe impatiently. He was busy watching the crack in the tree anxiously. Lesedi followed his gaze. There was a rather scary-looking green eye peering in at them. Lesedi jumped in fright, grabbing hold of one of Kgatwe’s toes. He felt like running but he couldn’t figure out where to. There were no other outlets, only the crack, and he definitely wasn’t going to run in that direction with that eyeball there.
“Keep still!” hissed Kgatwe “Snakes pick up movement very quickly.”
The eye peered in for what seemed like forever and then withdrew. Lesedi was just about to relax when the snake’s tongue came sliding through the crack. This was even scarier. It was forked and long and moved all around the hollow tree. It was trying to smell them out. Lesedi knew that snakes used their tongues to smell. He remained very still but he could feel the sweat pouring down his face and felt sure the snake would pick this up. Eventually after what seemed an eternity the snake withdrew its tongue and could be heard slithering away. Lesedi let go of Kgatwe’s toe and the gecko shook his foot in relief.
“That’s a strong grip you have there!” said Kgatwe, getting up. “Let’s see if we can find out what’s going on.”
“You still haven’t told me what happened,” whispered Lesedi.
“What do you mean what happened?” muttered Kgatwe as he edged his way towards the crack.
“How did I get to be so small?”
“I bit you on the ankle,” said Kgatwe matter-of-factly as if this was a perfectly good explanation.
“I noticed that,” said Lesedi, “but that still doesn’t explain…”
“It’s a new thing I learnt at gecko school, only trouble is I haven’t quite mastered the other side of it.”
Lesedi was about to ask him what he meant by “the other side of it” when Kgatwe, who had reached the crack and was peering out, suddenly jumped back.
“What’s wrong?” said Lesedi anxiously, moving forward and putting his eye to the crack. He, too, jumped back in fright. Legodu was right outside. He looked enormous and very scary with his bright yellow eyes and his crested feathers standing straight up on his head. This meant he was angry and not to be messed with. They both crept slowly back to the crack and peered out again. The eagle didn’t seem to be that interested in the fig tree. He was poking around in Lesedi’s precious possessions, again throwing them all over the place.
“What’s he looking for?” whispered Kgatwe. “Have you got anything important there?”
“It’s all important to me!” said Lesedi, tears welling up in his eyes. This was all starting to get him down. Only a few days ago he had been a carefree child, fishing, poling his mokoro, playing with his siblings. Now Aunt Matilda wanted to drag him off to school, all his things were being smashed by this awful bird, and his grandfather had given him the responsibility of that ivory Palm Nut…that Ivory Palm Nut! That’s what it was! That’s what Legodu was looking for. It had crossed his mind earlier but with all this business of getting small and hiding in the fig tree, and snakes and things, he had forgotten about it. He peered anxiously up at Mrs. Noto’s nest. Mrs. Noto was standing on top of it looking down on Legodu with a great deal of annoyance. This was her Island. What was this dreadful man doing here? She knew him well and had never approved of his behaviour or his friends. Recently he had joined forces with Bosula, which annoyed her even more, another evil man. They were brewing up trouble, those two, she could tell. As Lesedi and Kgatwe watched her she started jumping up and down on her nest, letting off a stream of obscenities at Legodu. Kgatwe translated and Lesedi was amazed. He wouldn’t have thought Mrs. Noto knew language like that and he wondered if she knew what she was saying. Legodu looked up from his plundering irritated. Silly old woman, he’d soon deal with her. He snapped an instruction at the snake that was busy trying to get out of the way of some squirrels that were pelting him with berries. The snake immediately changed direction and started sliding up Mrs. Noto’s Rain Tree.
“Kgatwe! Do something!” yelled Lesedi, completely forgetting to be quiet.
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