The giant cat was back. Slowly, silently, almost gliding through the dark thick jungle he moved with purpose and precision, blending in almost completely with the night forest. Then, almost at once as if on command, all the noises of all the jungle creatures stopped. Even the air stood still. It felt like just before a summer storm sometimes. It seemed as if all were holding their breath waiting for him to pass. And the silence began to scream danger.
But he was on a hunt and nothing would get in his way or cause him to just pass on by. With each careful, deliberate step his large furry paws whispered a soft thud on the huge palm leaves carpeting the jungle floor. All the sound even the sharpest of ears could hear that moonless night.
He was Somat (pronounced So māht)–Somat the jaguar. And he was most definitely back!
The blackest fur you ever saw on a cat covered his sleek muscular body—glistening, inky black fur obscuring the mosaic of leopard spots on his skin beneath, and blurring the boundaries between the night’s darkness and the cat’s imposing body.
Only one exception escaped the darkness–two very yellow, penetrating eyes–glowing portals they were…his portals for reaching deep into the night.
And every now and then he’d silently open his mouth wide as it could go, quickly dissolving the night’s inky darkness to reveal his set of large, very white, very sharp pointy teeth. Perhaps it was this impressive weaponry of his that made it feel just so good to try and show them off in spite of the pitch black darkness surrounding him.
Somat stopped, sniffing the air again for any telltale scent of his intended prey. He arched his back, tilted his head slightly and sniffed a good, long, unhurried sniff with the most powerful sensory organ he possessed–his nose. While he waited and sniffed, his long, thick, graceful black tail twitched back and forth nervously.
For a moment or two he pondered again how much he truly hated the waiting part. Then suddenly there it was–a most distinct smell floating in the air–the invisible, telltale scent-cloud of monkeys!
Instinct kicked in and Somat instantly went into crawl position. Crouched almost flat to the ground he slithered along like a reptile, his body fully tensed up. He could wait no longer.
An entire monkey troop lay sleeping, draped over branches high up in the tallest of several towering trees. “Zzzzzzzzzz. Zzzzzzzzzz. Burp! Zzzzz. Scratch! Zzzzzz.”
All slept and snored except for one that is–one very irritated, cross little monkey who’d been trying to sleep next to another monkey named Melton, but Melton’s snoring kept waking him up. Besides his snoring, Melton was widely known, among other things, for his unpleasant body odor. Getting an up-close whiff of him every time whenever one of the monkeys awakened during the night made it much more difficult for them to get back to sleep again.
“C’mon, Smelly,” whined the sleepy monkey. “Roll over or do something–ANYTHING. I’ve got to get some sleep!”
Meanwhile, Somat had begun his silent ascent easily digging his big claws into the rough bark of a tree closest to the monkeys. A skillful predator, he took care to stay in stealth mode while he climbed upward. But every now and then as he thought about the delicious morsels awaiting him, he simply couldn’t hold back sliding his tongue across his upper lip and swallowing hard.
When Somat reached a branch close to the treetop he found it easily within jumping distance to the group of sleeping monkeys. Then two things happened almost simultaneously. The cat’s intended target, Melton, rolled over at the exact moment the huge cat leaped through the air from his tree limb, screaming a ferocious, blood curdling roar out into the jungle night!
But, alas, Somat realized too late that his target monkey had suddenly changed his sleeping position. To make matters worse, in the middle of his dramatic leap through the air, Somat tried to correct his direction, but guessed incorrectly and fell helplessly out of the tree and into a thorn bush on the ground below. Long, needle-like thorns pierced him turning his lips and nose into a painful pincushion.
“Roooaaaaarrrrrffff!” he bellowed in pain, his sensitive nose immediately beginning to swell like a balloon filling with air. Somat batted furiously at the thorns with his paws, then began rubbing his face against the broad, cool, smooth leaves of nearby plants. He slunk off into the night while his nose continued to swell.
Now fully awakened, all the monkeys realized with horror what had almost happened. Instantly they scattered in different directions and hid, their entire bodies shaking with the monkey shivers in spite of their furry skins. After waiting a safe time, one by one they slowly regrouped.
“Where’s that Smelly Melly gone now? Melllllllton, you come here right now! Front and center, mister! We need to talk!” shouted the alpha monkey of the troop.
Now, just to be clear, they called Melton “Smelly Melly” for a very good reason. The simple truth: he just hated keeping clean. When all the other monkeys in the troop sat around in the afternoon sun, grooming each other, searching for and picking at the pesky bugs in each other’s fur, Melton went off swinging through the trees looking for yummy mangoes, his favorite fruit. And when the troop slipped into the creek to bathe and swim in its watery eddies, Melton was nowhere to be found.
“I don’t like the water and I don’t like other monkeys always touching me and getting in my face!” Melton would always say under his breath.