I am the one your parents warned you about; the one who was forbidden in your house. "That one's trouble," your father would say to your mother and she would nod slowly in reply. I have invented the following games: Face-First Downstreet Toboggan, Dodge-Bike!, Fire Wars, Skate-Boxing. I have played none of these but slunk away like a sly raccoon post injury. I am the bad influence.
I'm winding my way along the equator, snaking north and south of this invisible division. Which way will the water whirl now? I wonder, but there is no time to circle a stick into a miniature maelstrom to find out; the rapids propel us onwards in a mad cocaine-infused rush. This river does not rest.
I grip the oar so tight I feel I might break it. My heart has not slowed down since morning and I find little comfort in the glaze that seems to eternally cover the eyes of my guide. Is he bored? High? Unaware of the danger? Undisturbed by it? Impervious perhaps? He sits on the back of the boat and steers in silence, leaving Iona and I to guess at when to paddle into danger and when to hide out against the floor of the boat.
Iona has a baby monkey stuffed into her shirt. We're smugglers, pirates; an unsavory lot with a bribed local guide and an inflatable boat. We sense danger all around us though no one knows what we're doing. This monkey is quiet. Sh. Sleep, baby, sleep through the class four rapids.
I haven’t a clue what I'm going to do with this monkey once I escape the country. Right now, I'm more concerned with that waterfall up ahead.
"Hold on to your monkey-baby, Iona, we're going over."