I give the little radio a push. Watch it fall down into the water with all the dirty dishes. I just stand there watching it drown, making loud, crackling noises. I hate that song. They shouldn’t play songs like that. What does it really mean anyway? Annoying words placed after each other like that. I hate it.
“Are you okay?”
I turn towards mum. She can’t see what I have done to the radio, it is covered with water now. Later she will get mad that it’s gone. It’s the only radio we have.
“Yeah, I’m fine.”
She doesn’t go, just stands there behind me.
“Worried about tomorrow?” she says.
“No, should I be?” I don’t look at her.
“Of course not,” she sighs, “no one is more prepared than you.”
She is still standing there. Did she hear the music stop? Did she hear the radio fall into the water? I don’t know, she isn’t saying anything about it at least. She likes to listen to the radio in the morning when she smokes her daily cigarette outside the trailer. I know that. Know that I shouldn’t have let it drown like that.
“The heat has been bad these last few days,” she seems to be struggling to find the right words, “I heard some of the others talk about how it might be better to wait a bit with the hunt.”
“Your father hasn’t said anything?”
She needs to go now. I need to be alone sometimes, she knows that. The dirty dishes they should have been washed by now. Should have been clean again, ready to be eaten off, but they aren’t. The antenna from the radio is sticking up from the water right next to one of the plates.
“It’s always warm, it doesn’t matter,” I say, wanting her to leave.
“I can talk to him,” she is mumbling now, but I can still hear every word she says, “if you don’t want to go?” She would probably do that. She would. Talk to him about it for me. Maybe he even would say yes, and I wouldn’t have to go.
“No,” I hesitate for a moment, but just for a very small one. Smaller than a normal moment, for sure. “I’ll go.”
“Okay,” she says. Just like that. My decision.
She leaves me. Goes to the other end of the trailer. Will probably try to make some food before dad comes home. She is right about the heat. It is too warm. The humidity is awful, it feels like my skin is boiling, like it is always covered by this thick layer of sweat.
“Your first beer,” he hands it to me.
It is one of those beers that Mally makes. I have tasted them before, but not when dad has been around. It tastes like shit. Like warm shit, trickling down my throat. Dad has lit a fire outside the trailer. Put out two chairs so that we can sit for a while. Look into the green, thick jungle in front of us. Kind of a tradition the night before. Mum is inside the trailer, has already gone to sleep I think.
“When you get close to the crocodile that is when you need to pay attention to its every movement,” I hear his voice as if it is coming from a place far away. I don’t say anything, instead I just stare into that fire and take another gulp of my warm beer. “They are faster than you think,” he smiles, as if remembering something, “don’t forget that.”
I am too silent. I realize that. Sitting her on this special night silent like this. Doesn’t make any sense, because I know it is special. I know. Tomorrow I will have killed my first croc. Tomorrow I will be a croc hunter just like my dad. Just like my two older brothers and my sister. Just like my grandpa and my grandma. I’ll be just like them. My grandma she was tough. Maybe I’ll be just like her. When she got too old she went into the jungle without any weapons, let the crocs kill her. Eat her. Complete the circle. A croc hunter shouldn’t die an easy death. I have heard them say that.
“I thought you would be happy,” he says.
“Uhm,” he stares into the fire. Doesn’t believe me.
The jungle is full of sounds, of birds telling each other things only they can now. They are talking about us know, the birds in the jungle. To croc hunters sitting next to the fire.
“This is about Brucca isn’t it?” he is already angry when he says it, throws his beer towards the fire.
“No,” but he doesn’t hear me.
“I knew I shouldn’t have let you keep that thing,” his chair falls back when he gets up. “It is a croc, and crocs should be with their own kind.” Mum must have woken up, or maybe she has been waiting all along, knew that this would happen. She is standing in the open trailer door looking out at us.
“This is all your fault,” he says, pointing at her. “You brought that thing into the house.” She doesn’t answer. Just makes a sound I can’t understand. “Brucca is back where she belongs now, and if you see her tomorrow you goddamnit shoot her,” he is shouting now. I just nod. Look into the fire. He shouldn’t say her name. I haven’t said her name since he took her back into the jungle. I haven’t said her name. The jungle remembers. The birds, they can hear names like that. Tell it to each other. Shout it to each other. Without us even knowing.
He is angry. Takes his gun and goes behind the trailer. Will prepare it for tomorrow. Angry with the both of us. Me and mum.
“It will be okay,” she says. Strokes her hand through my hair. She is the only one in our family that haven’t shot a croc, you know, except for me. My grandpa warned my dad that he shouldn’t marry that type of woman. They always become a problem, it’s like they have something contagious. He really said that. My dad did it anyway, married her and it didn’t seem to be a problem. My oldest brother became one of the finest croc hunters this jungle had ever seen. My sister and my other brother had no problems either. Talent runs in the family they said. My grandma’s blood goes through all our veins, toughest you get. Lucky they call us. I have even heard them say that it doesn’t matter that mum doesn’t have it. The kids, they are all good. I have heard them say it many times, so it must be true then.
“I don’t want to shoot Brucca,” I whisper.
“I know,” she says, sits down next to my chair, “but you might have to.”
I don’t want to cry, cause I’m not like that. I am not one of those weaklings who do that. The stars are looking down on us, sparkling like some sort of white fire above the dark jungle.
“Where do the crocs come from?”
I have thought about it for a long time, for as long as I can remember. Since the first time I saw one of them in the jungle with dad.
“I don’t know,” she whispers, “some say they were here before us.”
I wake up in the middle of the night, and I’m sure somebody have whispered that word into my ear. The same damn word from that stupid song. I lie awake. Just waiting for dad to get up and come get me. I am not that weak, he thinks I am, and he is almost right, but I’m not. I can do this. Just like the others did it before me.
The word, it’s like it’s stuck in this trailer. Like it has sunken into the filthy, white walls.
“I’m not gonna fucking tell anyone anything, if that is what you think,” I whisper, but nobody hears me.
“Are you ready?”
I get up right away.
“Sure,” I say. Even smile. He won’t doubt me now. I’m my old self.
The others are waiting by Mally’s trailer. Shouting as they see us.
“Newbie,” I can hear Mally say, as they pat me too hard on the back. “Gonna beat your brother’s record?” I don’t answer, just smile at them. Fall to the back of the group as we go into the jungle.
“I shot my first when I was 13, just a year younger than you,” Mally says. “A special feeling that first one,” he nods his head, as if thinking back to that day. “I hope you get a big one.” He winks, like we share some kind of secret. “I think you can take out a big one just like that,” pats me on the back again, too hard this time as well, “you got it in you.”
I think Mally knows. Neighbours knows when stuff like this happens. He saw Brucca a couple of times when she was small, even though me and mum always tried to hide her. We knew we couldn’t keep her when she had become too large, but still. Everything is different when they are small, they seem so harmless. Not like something you would hunt.
“We’ll go this way,” dad shouts to the others, as me and him go further into the jungle away from the rest of the group. So he doesn’t really trust me yet, is afraid that I will embarrass him. Mally probably gets it, but the others probably think dad is doing it for my sake. Newbies are nervous. I’ll be calmer if it’s just me and dad they think.
“Now you listen,” he says, “if you can’t do it, you shout to me, and I’ll finish it,” he nods with his head as if to get me to nod. “Whatever happens we are going home with a dead croc to your mum, right?”
I can hear the birds. It is like they are still saying her name. Dad shouldn’t have used her name. It is like they are calling her to us. Brucca, Brucca, Brucca. Like a pulse through the jungle. She will come. She gets the jungle. Better than us, if she hears her name she will come for us.
I can hear something. I stop. Dad stops. Looks at me. It has to be one of the crocs. It has to be. I almost can’t swallow, it feels like my spit is clogging up my throat.
“Ready?” he whispers.
I nod, even though it isn’t true. He takes the lead. I follow right behind him. I can see him hold a finger up to his mouth. They are closer than we first thought. It could be her. I can still feel it. Brucca, Brucca, Brucca. Like a drum. She could be here.
I fall. Right down on the ground. Hit my head and everything. I even shout a bit, cursing as I get up.
“What the hell are you doing?” dad is angry. I get that. If I were him I would be angry too.
“You know that they heard us, don’t you?”
I rub my head. Some blood is running down my forehead, I have gotten some of it on my hands. Dad seems insecure for a couple of seconds before he throws me one of the clean rags to tie around my head. He can’t be this angry with me when I’m bleeding. It is like the wound at least makes him think that I might just actually have fallen. Not on purpose at all.
“Okay, but watch where you’re going now.”
I nod. Brucca, Brucca, Brucca. I can feel it. The pulse is getting stronger. I turn. Almost expect seeing her eyes staring back at me.
Tell, tell, tell, tell.
It is like I can hear the jungle chanting around me. Damn birds.
“I can’t,” I whisper. “You know that.” I look down. The jungle doesn’t listen to lies. Mum said that. The jungle knows the truth, but I said she was talking rubbish. Yet I am the one that haven’t said her name since dad brought her back to the jungle, where she belongs.
“You coming?” dad is annoyed. I can see that. I touch my head, try to pretend that it hurts more than it does. “I think I can hear something,” he says. I can’t fall this time. Dad won’t stop even if I do, not this time. Brucca, Brucca, Brucca. The goddamn jungle knows. I know. Maybe dad can sense it. It is her. Stupid croc would probably try to stay close to our trailer. Close to home.
“Goddamn, silly croc,” I mutter, but I hurry after him. Can see him push some of the big, green leaves to the side with his gun. He turns. Looks straight at me. It is her. I can see it in his eyes. Brucca, Brucca, Brucca.
I look the way his gun is pointing. Just stand there and look. Brucca. She is sitting under a tree. Her brown hair hanging freely. Has nobody that will braid it for her. They haven’t accepted her. She is all alone. No true croc, no true croc hunter either. I swallow. Her thin, little hands are struggling with something, some sort of can in her lap. She is trying to open it. I know she has been stealing food again. I have heard Mally complain about some of the crocs getting too close, getting into his storage. A small, little croc like Brucca, she could do it.
“She is a croc,” I can hear dad whisper, ”no matter how much she looks like a human,” he hesitates, “she is still a croc.” I can feel his hand push me forward. I know what he is thinking. I will never be a true croc hunter before Brucca is dead. He is right about that. “A dumb creature. A shell,” he continues, “A shell with very little inside,” I have heard all these things before. How they are dumb, doesn’t get things like we do, can’t learn stuff. “Only cares about food.”
Tell, tell, tell, tell.
I look down. Did I know this would happen? When mum found her in the woods I did not like her. Brucca was crying, but she was so small. A baby croc. Even smaller than she is now. I could just pick her up. Not heavy at all, could carry her around and she would stop crying. Her eyes were a lot more alert than I thought they would be, I don’t know, I just didn’t think they would be that after what dad used to say about them.
It goes so fast that he doesn’t see it coming. I turn. Hit him across the face with my gun, and then it is his time to fall.
“Brucca,” I whisper.
Her little head darts up immediately. She lights up. Throws the can she has been holding and run towards me. She throws herself against me, clings on with her small hands.
“Okay?” she whispers, looks up at me. They are not supposed to be able to talk. Not have the ability to learn words. They don’t think. Don’t have any complex emotions. So why should they be able to talk, it would be weird if they could. Would change everything.
“It’s gonna be okay.”
“Where’s your father?”
Mum looks up. I don’t say anything, but she sees the small creature standing by the tree.
“Brucca,” she shouts and Brucca runs again. The fastest her small feet can manage.
“Mum,” she cries.
I can see it in mum’s eyes, when she is holding the small body.
“Where’s your father?” she asks again. I can see that her hands are trembling.
“In the jungle,” I hesitate, “I knocked him out, tied him up.”
She nods. Relieved? Probably, at least he isn’t dead. I can see three backpacks standing outside the trailer.
“I packed a few things,” she says, “that I thought we might need.”
“So you didn’t think I would …” I can’t get the words out.
“No,” she smiles at me, but I think a part of her wasn’t really sure before I came out of that jungle.
“Where are we gonna go?” I have thought about that too much. Where can we really go? The croc hunters will kill us. Dad can’t forgive this. No one can.
“We’ll go into the jungle,” mum looks down, “further than we’ve ever been before.”
I almost can’t breathe when she says it. It is like I can’t get the air down in my lungs.
“Yes, that is exactly what I mean,” she hands me my backpack, “We’ll go live with the crocs.” Brucca is already getting her little backpack on. Mum throws her own on as well, and I do the same. It is heavy. Filled with all the things we can’t leave behind. Mum smiles, grabs Brucca’s hand, and we start walking towards the path into the jungle. It is going to be a long walk.
I hope you have enjoyed “Don’t Tell”, the story as well as the song, and I really hope that you would like to hear more songs and read more stories
About the song: Vocals/music composition/lyrics/mixing: Therese J (Me)
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If you like the that have been used to illustrate this short story, they are all from morguefile.com. All the photos have been edited, but the first photo is by JimMunnelly, the second photo (the soundcloud photo) is by kconnors, the third photo is by Ricorocks, the fourth photo is by bluecot, the fifth photo is by patriciaegreen, the sixth photo is by clconroy and the last photo is by Sergey81.
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