Hi, everyone. I have another chapter for you. Today's chapter is called twice fried ouzo spectacle. As evening fell, Fred and lyla and Khan formed a conclave. They sat in a tight circle around their fire. Their heads close together, planning and whispers. Max Leon is back on the stones and decorated himself with a small clover like plants, growing at his feet. Baca stand on lyla's lap, watching with careful eyes. I think we should cook something for him. Gesturing with her chin up toward the statues and the vines. Then he might help us again. Yes, said Kahn. Men love food. No. I don't want him to take my ears. Said max. He was joking max. We hope, muttered Khan, but for once she set it under her breath. That sounds great, but we can't really cook said Fred. You don't get to have an opinion, said can haughtily. If it weren't for you, we wouldn't have to worry about him. Anyway, good cooking is simply paying attention and taking your time. She spoke as if reciting. I like that. Who told you that? Ask lyla. Well, my gym teacher our gym teacher is famous for being good cooks, asked fried. He scratched a mosquito bite and winced. It had begun to bleed. No, she was a terrible gym teacher. She made us walk around the gym pretending to be riding a horse. She said it would be good for our self confidence. Was it? What do you think? Lila grinned. We still have those berries, she said. We could roast them for him with some of the leftover bird, they looked at the bird. It had dried out a little in the sun. It smells very, very leftover, said con. At home salih, we have refried bean beans from the day before. Mama makes them with spices. It's delicious. Her smile faded a little at the word mama. Khan looked for a long second at lyla, then got briskly to her feet. I'll find a stone we can use as a frying pan, she said. We could call it twice fried bird spectacular, said Lila, twice fried Rousseau's spectacle, said can. That's French. Posh food is always in French. A sudden sound made them stop talking. From the far side of the square, in among the vines, came a roaring. It sounded like a bear, or a Tiger, or an engine, or a human in pain. Lyla reached for baca on her shoulder. Is that him? The sound stopped as suddenly as it had begun. Maybe he goes there to scream to roar, maybe that's what he's doing. I'd quite like a room I could scream in. They sat in silence for many minutes, but the noise didn't come again. They returned to the food. The vulture approached, he sat on max's shoe and watched balefully as they cooked. Apparently resenting that they had not offered him any. When the explorer finally reappeared, though, he seemed to have forgotten that they were there. He looked briefly startled, then he nodded at them. As if to commuter sharing a train and was turning away without a word, when max ran after him, weaving in and out of the young shoots growing up between the stones on the city floor. Come back. It was an order not a request. We cooked you food. The explorer looks surprised. What? Oh, that's very generous, but I won't thank you. You have to. We made it specially. The explorer crouched down in front of max. I applaud your decision to move commandingly through the world, but you have vulture poo in your hair, which tends to your gravitas. Please settle lilah. She had moved silently across the square, approaching him as you would a wild animal. Baka looked out at the world through lilah's hair. Please just try it. She held out a leaf on which was laid some of the bird and some roasted berries. They had tried to make it look as much like a restaurant plate as possible. Due to an accident involving the vulture in max's elbow, the meat was more covered in ash than any of them had planned. But Fred thought, you could still make out what it was supposed to be. It's twice fried wazoo. Send max. It's special. Well, thank you, said the explorer. He took a bite, then he gave an exclamation and spatted into the bush. Good, heavens. That tastes like being punched in a graveyard. Oh, sorry. Said Lila, her voice very small. We wanted to do something that you'd like. So we please don't cut off our ears. Said max. No, I apologize. It was a kind thought. The explorer touched the ring on his little finger. I'd rather forgotten how kind children can be. Then he shook his head so hard that his shock of hair flicked sweat onto the stones, and turned giving a half bow. You'll forgive me. I must light a fire before dark. He pays to the far side of the square close to the hammock and knelt among branches. It took him less than a minute to have the flames sparking from the wood. He moved so fast and was so much assurance that it was impossible to follow his hands. He took a fish from his pocket and set it on a three cornered spit. The vulture kept close at his ankles. He sank down and squatted by the fire, Fred watched from the corner of his eye while the others grimly attempted to chew the twice burnt bird. The explorers sat his elbows on his knees staring at nothing. Do you think he's all right? Fred whispered, he looks, I don't know. Sad. Khan looked over. He kills snakes with rocks. That sort of person doesn't get sad. As they spoke, the explorer rose and crossed to a pile of coconuts at the foot of a tree. Each had been sliced open at the top and then had the lid replaced, attached on a swivel with a spike. The explorer drank deeply from one through away the shell and picked up another. Eat this better than that horrendous nightmare of a bird you concocted, the fish was hot and rich, it was unexpectedly meaty and flavor, smoky, and bold. Fred 8 has two bites and looked hopefully at what was left. Piranha said the explorer, the older they are when you catch them, the more they taste like chicken. The explorer seems surprisingly disposed to talk. He made a sweeping gesture with his hand, hit the vulture in the chest and slashed some of the coconuts liquid over the bird. Tell me, what do you think of this? The vulture said Khan doubtfully. Her voice took on the tone that voices take when asked to comment on a newborn baby when the baby is self evidently horrifyingly ugly. It's nice. It smells very original. Of the city of the jungle. Fred stared at the vast expanse of stone at the green ceiling, high, high overhead. Men, and when I say men, I made idiots, used to come out here with pianos on the backs of elephants, and they used to be angry when their teacups broke in the storms. He grunted. But if you're willing to have a roughish wildish kind of life, I find it close to heaven here. The explorers stared his eyelids a little uneven at Fred. Fred stared at the fire avoiding his gaze, there was a quality in this place that work like Flint dutta's insides. It was the light and the vastness of it, and the sun and the green. He could see why other people might feel it was too green, too loud, too endless, too much. But for him, it felt like a trumpet call to a part of him he had not known existed. Fred's face must have shown something of what he was thinking. The explorer hammered his coconut on the ground. I can tell. I can see that you are falling in love with this place. How do you not see yet why it must be a secret? How do you not see how mad it would be to gamble with such beauty here? Fred hesitated. He could not keep it a secret. It was impossible. The world deserved to know about this much beauty. The headmaster at school would call an assembly and call him a hero. But he had never seen anyone as utterly sure of anything as the man in front of him. You don't understand, said the explorer under his breath, speech is dangerous. Some of the most interesting things I have said I realized later, I did not have a right to. Then abruptly, he changed tack. He became brisk. You said you followed my map, he said. Does that mean you ain't encountered the beast? Yes, saliva. We borrowed some of their honey. She explained how max had seen the monkeys and the ants. The explorer nodded. I used to do the same. Bees mate, good allies. I used to get the tobacco pouches made specially by a man in the Burlington arcade. I spent a lot of time in those parts of the jungle, but a dozen due to be without tobacco for too long. And you can't carry too much on your person without attracting more attention from Jaguars than is practical. I have tobacco pouches stationed across the whole sweep of the river. By the way, did you meet my dolphins? Yes, said Fred. We didn't know they were yours. They're a good creatures, dolphins. I used to feed them sardines. I worry it was a mistake, though. They trust too easily. It's a mistake to trust too easily. And then there was a fire, said Lila, a bad one. And so we came here. We thought it was the least crazy risk. That's exactly it. Take risks said the explorer, that's the thing to do. Get to know what fear feels like. Get to know how to maneuver around it, but but that's Lila, but make sure the risks you take aren't taken to impress someone else. Fred frowned. It sounded like the kind of thing that the headmaster said at school. That's the way people end up with Jaguars chewing at their collarbones, and nobody to love them for it. He wiped his eyes and stared up at them. Risks, Jaguars, said Khan, noted, I took a risk once. I love someone to people. A woman, and then we had a child, did you know that? We didn't know, no. Said Lila gently. She exchanged a glance with Fred. I lost that gamble. I lost them. He sat down the coconut and closed his eyes in a long exhausted blink. But I'm glad I had to make that wager. I love like I was unhinged, he said. His voice was rough. As the stark spread over the city, a swarm of mosquitos appeared, one of them got caught inside Fred's nose and bit his nostril. Is there a way to get rid of mosquitos, said con? It was a peculiar night that night, fries thoughts kept returning to the man lying asleep by the fire at the other side of the ruined city square. And who has lost sun and wife. The explorer was so alone, living with the only green and the birds in the endless jungle. But Fred thought, it wasn't as if he was so much less alone himself. The thought made him shiver. He felt something touch his ankle. He jerked away thinking of tarantulas, but it was a hand, Khan's hand, gripping his ankle in her sleep. He hesitated. Then he reached down and pressed down with his thumb on hers. He hoped the touch said, will be all right. It will be all right. It is hard to be specific with thumbs. But it must have worked a little because she grew still and her breathing became heavy and regular. Lila muttered in her sleep, back a land tangled in her long, dark hair, Fred looked up at the vine roof above him, scanning it for snakes, and then his Flint tightness palm. He allowed himself to close his eyes. And that is the end of the chapter. Next chapter for next time is called fishing in the dark.