“Where d’you think I’m gonna find that kinda money?” asked Shelly Green, pulling on her dog’s lead. “Sit, Earl, sit!”
“Listen Shell’, it’s a chance in a lifetime! I dunno, get a loan from the bank, sell your car, sell your house!”
Shelly sighed. “What about Wharton’s. They wouldn’t let me go for a month!”
“For Chrissakes, Shelly, you’re only a cleaner. They can get someone else from the agency. No offence.”
“Thanks a lot!” She blushed. Her friend, Mavis Enderby didn’t mince words. “But, look, Mave, those pygmies, with their beards and loincloths and sweaty bodies, I mean, what about … y’know, women’s things … I’d be embarrassed!”
Mavis deposited her ample backside on a garden chair and took out her laptop. “When in Rome, do as the Romans. You’ll get used to jungle life, and I’ll be with you, I’m the tour guide, don’t forget.” She tapped on the keyboard. The flight leaves on the 22nd December. Just think, you’ll get to celebrate New Year in the jungles of New Guinea!”
“Oh, yeah, singing Old Lang Syne with a bunch of sweaty, spear-waving pygmies – no thank you! Anyway, I’ve got to take Earl for a walk. Have some more prosecco, I’ll be back in half an hour.”
When Shelly returned, she was shocked to find Mavis had stripped down to her bra and panties, smeared her face and body with soil and was now brandishing a garden cane as if it were a spear. Earl began to bark loudly.
“Shut up!” The dog carried on barking until Shelly slapped his backside. “Hey, that cane was holding my string beans!”
Mavis began to dance around in a circle, jiggling her sizeable bottom and waving her ‘spear.’ “You white woman, you welcome to our village. You hold pig whilst I club its head!”
“You’re mad, Mave, y’know!”
Laughing and breathless, Mavis sat down and threw her ‘spear’ to the ground. “Sorry, I got carried away. Maybe the prosecco had something to do with it.”
Shelly noticed the bottle was empty.
Several months later, older and wiser, Shelly sat in her garden, basking in the summer sun. She’d got over her anger at selling her cherished car to pay for Mavis’s ‘Christmas Jungle Experience,’ arriving in New Guinea to find her friend conspicuous by her absence. Instead, along with a motley crew of oddballs, they’d had to hire their own tour guide, a native by the name of Umberto. Then had followed weeks of hacking through jungle paths and ‘toileting’ behind trees, keeping a wary eye out for poisonous snakes. She’d lost her job at Wharton’s but, hey, she’d got a job on the checkouts at Tesco, which she preferred. Now she’d invited Mavis around to patch things up.
The garden gate opened and in came Mavis, holding a huge bunch of red roses and a vase-shaped package, wrapped in cream paper with red stripes. “Hello, kiddo, how was New Guinea? I’m sorry, kid, I couldn’t go, I broke a toe getting out of bed. No hard feelings?”
“No hard feelings, Mave.”
“Well, you made it home, anyway. I guess you’ve got some good memories?”
Shelly smiled. “More than memories, actually, Mave. Umberto!”
The back door opened and out came a man in bathing trunks. His body was short, but lithe and brown. He sported a bushy black beard and matching curly hair. “Greetings, Mavis, Shelly much tells me about you.”
“Oh, all good, I hope,” Mavis improvised, taken aback.
“Yes, and we invite you to our wedding.”
Mavis recovered, casting an envious glance at Shelly, “How lovely, thank you. Of course I’ll come. I promise this time!”
Umberto smiled. “Thank you, dear Mavis. It will be on anniversary of Shelly coming in my country, the 22nd of December. You will be special guest!”
“Oh, thank you.”
“And to be held with my tribe in foothills of Papua, New Guinea.”
For once, Mavis Enderby was speechless.
Featured in the book, Letters from Reuben and Other Stories: 40 Little Tales of Mirth
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