The boy looked at me watching him and then, with no expression, he bent down, picked up a stick, and lunged at me. He hit me in the face and on the shoulder and another boy grabbed for the monkey, but I took him under my arm and ran back toward the water.
There were great crates and stacks of big metal barrels waiting to be loaded onto the ships. I saw no food anywhere. But I found a faucet near one of the smaller boat slips. I turned it and out of the hose’s end came clean water. The baby monkey drank and I drank.
I came upon a stack of long bamboo poles that were tied upon a framework of shelves, and I slid in between one of the shelves, out of the sun. It felt good to smell the wood I knew so well. I closed my eyes and prayed to the bamboo spirit to bring my mother to me and take us home again. I knew so little of the world that I believed this bamboo would know the bamboo that crowded down to the far shore of our lake.
Under its friendly shade, I watched the pack of boys who had chased me walking along now with two men. I didn’t think they could see me, but they pointed in my direction. The boy who had hit me held his hand up to his brow. I believed he was showing the men how tall I was, and again he gestured in my direction.
I crawled along the bottom shelf of the stacked bamboo and lay there in the near dark. I adjusted the baby into the crook of my arm. His breathing soothed me.
Drowsily, I listened to the rumblings and sounds of the port. The monkey’s little lips and tongue searched my skin for traces of the banana mash. A motor I had been hearing for some time became a roar and shook the lumber beneath me. I felt a jolt. Raising my head, I saw down the tunnel of bamboo poles that the scenery was changing. We were rising. I clung to the bamboo and felt the whole load shift and my stomach lurch as we were swung. The motor slowed, and we were lowered.
The path is not difficult, my teacher at the monastery used to say, save for the picking and choosing along the way. I chose to rest with the bamboo, and next I was crossing the ocean to a new world.
To make up for what I took, I shaved strips of bamboo and wove hats, which I would leave for them when the time came.
The monkey didn’t want to sleep during the day. Little by little he ventured out and soon he was adopted by the crew and eating better than I was.