Keep This Promise

She was ahead of me because she could run much faster than me and she knew this part of the Kakombe Valley much better than me and because she was younger and smaller and faster than me she could climb the trees faster because she had less body weight to pull up and I was chasing her because she was in her period of estrus and had made a promise and I was after her to keep her promise.

Her tan ears stuck out of sweaty-stiff black hair and her tan face lined with white whiskers and her tail sometimes getting ahead of her and her solid-black eyes and smiling nose and straight mouth all zigzagged so quickly that I could just glimpse her smooth behind, which was perhaps all I wanted to see, bulbous and gleaming to perfection, slipping in and out of reach.

At the base of a Baobab tree I was able to make a giant leap and swipe her feet out from under her. She fell on her back and I screamed and pounced but she was able to wriggle out from under me by cramping my upper-thigh with a rock wrapped in her foot. Then she galloped under a bush. Then I saw her up a tree five trees away heading away at a speed I could never muster and then I knew I had to keep my part of the promise in order for her to keep her part of the promise. My part of the promise was to prove myself by killing a monkey for her. I tried to just catch her so I wouldn't have to kill a monkey but I couldn't.

On the way down to where the monkeys were I thought about the first time I saw her and then about when we made our first promise. It was during the time she was with her mother all the time and her mother wouldn't let her out of sight even for a moment. Her mother caught on to my intentions right away and knew I wasn't just playing or anything but that I had serious intentions towards her daughter and would have stolen her away in a flash so her mother wouldn't let me near. When the daughter was younger her ears were even lighter and the fuzz around her chin even softer and her smile even straighter. But the mother wouldn't let me near her. Then I was away from the valley for a long time and when I came back she was there but her mother wasn't but by that time she knew the valley much better than I did and it was only once that I could catch her and that was because I got some others to help me and it was then that she pulled my head closer with her paw and whispered the i dea of a promise and I found myself whispering mine. It just happened like that. She didn't want to do it then but later, and I agreed and since I wasn't able to just catch her after that I had to fulfill my end of the deal by bringing her a dead monkey. The only problem was that we weren't alone and one of the other monkeys I had gotten to help me chase her down heard the promise too and thought she was promising him although she wasn't. He didn't care though and on my way down the hill to where the monkeys were I saw him heading down to the same place from the opposite side.

The red colobus monkey we were after is not so easy to kill especially when alone because our normal predation takes place in parties of 5-6 males and even then we mainly kill the infant and the juvenile. But I had to have an adult male to take to her to show her how Alpha I could be and I had to do it alone because that's what I'd promised her I'd do and I'd thought of just stealing another's dead monkey or bringing her a dead one if I found one but then I was beginning to wonder if she'd be able to tell I cheated because I thought maybe she could.

The monkeys liked to be in the basin of the valley because there was a dirty water supply there that no one else liked to use. It made some of them sick but they didn't seem to notice and they could drink in peace so I guess it was a good trade-off for the monkeys except that I knew where to find them and kill them and was heading down the hill to do just that as was my rival from the opposite side.

The red male colobus monkey is a scavenger when he has the chance so I waited, partially concealed under a dead adult bushpig and when a colobus monkey came up I checked if it was an adult male and it was so I bit his leg so he couldn't run and he screamed but since these monkeys only have one kind of scream the other monkeys didn't know whether to come to his aid or to run away so they just stayed in their trees and screamed back while I bit the monkey in other places until he couldn't do anything at all. Then I had to leave quick because I was still partially under that dead bushpig which is one of the red colobus monkey's favorite treats and there were a bunch of them around now and biting one monkey in the leg is one thing but biting a bunch of monkeys in the leg is another so I left with my monkey and made my way up the valley to find her and claim what was owed. My rival must have taken advantage of the distraction I created because I saw him heading up the opposite side of the valley with a dead monkey in his mouth. Although I couldn't tell if it was a male or not, it sure looked big.

Carrying my monkey back up the valley I thought aboutwhat she meant to me and how my rival had a monkey inhis mouth too. When I got to the top of the valley Ifound her digging some termites out of a dead logwith a blade of grass. I was relieved to see I had arrived first. When I looked over to the other side ofthe valley I saw my rival sitting on his hauncheseating the monkey himself. Either he had forgottenabout the promise or just gotten hungry.

It was funny to think of all the effort she had hadto put into those little bugs when now she could havethis whole monkey all to herself, which in fact Islumped down over the log, scaring her a bit. Aftershe screamed she saw what it was and she looked overat me and I sat down beside her, folding my armsacross my chest. As she started in I leaned forwardand began to tell her how with this promise fulfilledwe had learned how to wait, and by waiting for eachother we had formed a unit and with that unit we wouldbecome a family and have a future in which we wouldhave children whose children would form tribes andbuild houses and one would even write down the storyof the first promise their ancestors so far-agowhispered, longed for and kept.

But she was too busy eating to hear much of what Isaid and besides, the way her black eyes grew foggy,I think she was as eager as I was for her meal to beover and our promise to be fulfilled.

About the author:

Brian Willems is an American living in Split, Croatia where he teaches at a local university. His fiction has recently appeared in Yankee Pot Roast, The Edward Society, and Retort Magazine.