— Psst! Kiddo!
Mary continued to walk straight on, looking right ahead of her.
Who was that? Where did that whistle come from?
She turned her head. Nobody there. Nothing but the... [+]
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I will dog sled. There’s no better way to the North Pole. I will be muffled up in thirty-six layers of fur and I will drive my pack with great wild cries: Mush! Let’s go! Line out! My huskies will understand and obey me. At night I will feed them dried meat and they’ll curl up at my feet.
As for George, he thinks it’s better to know how to ski in order to explore the Far North. That’s why he took some lessons last winter. They were so expensive, his family had to live on pasta for a whole week.
As for traveling through the Indian forest, according to all the books we got from the library, the best thing would be to go by elephant. Apparently you can buy anything for next to nothing in Bombay: a bike, a skateboard, an elephant, anything really. George’s dad says that you can’t ride an elephant if you’re prone to seasickness. He told us it would be safer to take a four wheeler instead.
It doesn’t really matter. We’ll meet a tiger anyway. Those regions are teeming with them. I‘ll leap easily down from my elephant, and he’ll observe the scene with indifference, waiting for the tiger to devour me. But, I’ll approach the animal very slowly, cautiously, and when we’re about five feet apart, we’ll both freeze, caught in a staring contest. I better remember to put my contact lenses in, otherwise I definitely won’t win. The tiger will snarl slightly, and eventually, to the elephant’s great displeasure, he’ll let me pet him. Then I’ll calmly remount the elephant who, impressed by my bravery, will hoist me onto his back with one flourish of his trunk. George will be watching me with a terrified expression. “You’re completely insane,” he’ll say.
In the Rocky Mountains, we’ll visit the last of the Sioux, or else the Mohicans. We’ll sleep rough under a tepee, richly decorated by the chief and his tribe. At night, around the camp fire, they will perform their traditional dances to honor us. Loud, guttural chants will rise up with a throbbing rhythm under the canopy of heaven. That is how the warriors implore their gods to ensure the next day’s hunting is plentiful. We will go to bed long after ten o’clock.
We will not visit the Sahara. Everybody goes there.
We will, of course, write books. We’ll be guests on the most watched television shows. Of course, we will say we’re ‘in-between flights,’ so that the interviewer will be fully aware of how lucky he is to be able to interview us. We will be dressed as explorers and will answer questions in a relaxed way so that the journalists will be impressed by our poise. They would never have imagined that there could still be people like us, capable of roaming the world, searching for new civilizations.
Soon, lured by the call of adventure, I’ll set off again for Patagonia. Alone this time, because George will give up after his father tells him, “That’s enough of your nonsense.” He thinks George has a great career ahead of him in banking, and that he’s in the process of ruining his chances to succeed.
At the airport, we will embrace each other warmly. George’s eyes will be misty. He’ll tell me to take care of myself and to send him some postcards.
I will forget about George as soon as I see the beautiful landscapes of Patagonia. I will then learn to ride a horse and will know how to bring the huge flocks of sheep under my control, circling them wildly, mounted high up on my horse. In the evenings, the farmers will greet me warmly.
Then, I will sail through the Roaring Forties winds. The very name gives me goose bumps. George would not have passed that test; instead he’ll be in the crowded metro by then, miserable and full of regret. As for me, I will refuse to take part in a whale hunt. My Grandma, who is an ecologist, would not like it if I did. As I’ll pass the Cape of Good Hope, my yacht will lose its mast. In the middle of the ocean, I will send an SOS – or an SMS. Well, something to get rescued, anyway... A Norwegian tanker will come to the rescue and save me.
“Mercer! Did you have a nice nap?”
The horrible face of Mr. Miller has just appeared in front of me. I don’t know why, but my geography teacher has this awful habit of yelling in my ear at some point during every single lesson.
Translated by Wendy Cross