(This is Part 4/4. Really should be read after the other parts and not before…)
“Do tell me you haven’t kicked that poor Pangolin all the way here?” quizzed Larry when he saw the girls approaching. Embarrassed, they stopped immediately.
Larry gazed at the ball like someone who had ordered a plate of pancakes, and had been given pancakes… bright blue pancakes. You know you could eat them, but you aren’t going to.
“So… can it be eaten?” Lois asked tentatively. “Would you eat bright blue pancakes?” Larry asked Lois. Lois didn’t understand the nature of the question and didn’t know what a pancake was. “Um… so… no, then? But you know what it is?” Lois asked.
“It’s a Pangolin! Young one, by the looks of it. Very rare in these parts” said Larry. “How does it eat?” asked Lois, examining the ball for any holes. “It won’t need any skin cream, will it? Leona inquired hopefully.
“No no, it doesn’t always look like this. It’s wrapped itself into a ball. There’s a standard-issue mammal in there somewhere”. “Oooh” Lois was intrigued, “can you…open it?”
“Why bother?” said Larry. “The little chap can stay like that for days. Waste of time if you ask me. Besides, there aren’t many of those around, it’s best if we leave it so it can have children one day”. “Ew, children. I think not!”, Manny thought to himself from deep within the ball. For just a brief moment he considered uncurling himself and smacking the lion on the nose, but thought better of it.
Larry lowered his voice. “Fertogafers eat these, given the chance”. The three girls gasped in horror. From what the girls had seen, fertogafers only ate things that came wrapped in little plastic packages. Larry had their attention. “Oh yeah, they do all sorts of ridiculous things to them as well. Eat them, wear them, use them as medicine. Personally, I can’t see how this would work better than Med-Lemon.” This sent a wave of panic over the tightly rolled ball. Its mother hadn’t told it this, despite the fact it was an only child and its mother most definitely had the time. So this must be why ‘YOU MUSN’T BE SEEN!’
Feeling that it was in a safe space, the ball decided it was time to break its silence. “Excuse me, so does this mean you’re not going to eat me?” it asked the lion. Only it sounded much like, ‘Skeewwmeeee, Sofudis meee Voo-naa-gna-eeeee?’, as the ball’s words were impossibly muffled by its scales. “You can give up the ball act”, Larry assured. A tiny, pointed mouth emerged from the ball and spoke. “You really won’t eat me?” “Promise” said the lion, holding up a paw. He didn’t know why he did this, and lowered before anyone noticed. “Don’t flatter yourself, you don’t even look that tasty.”
Slowly the pangolin unravelled itself, revealing its funny form. Lois couldn’t help but giggle at the weird creature. Larry shot her a nasty look and she quickly composed herself. Lisa suddenly sprang to her feet. “The whale will FALL if I don’t collect 37 cucumbers by 4 o’clock!” and with that, she bolted across the dunes and out of sight. The other lions weren’t going to see her again until three days later, and when they did, she would be inexplicably covered in blue and red polka-dots.
“You’re free to go”, Larry said to the little Pangolin. “You know your way home from here?” The Pangolin had a good look around, or at least it pretended to. In reality, it was quite blind and couldn’t see beyond the grains of sand by its feet. It looked the large lion square in the eye (or what it thought was the lion’s eye- it was however the lion’s third claw on its left foot), and spoke with confidence. “Yeah, sure”, it said, trying to sound relaxed and cool. The truth was, it could easily spend the next 5 years trying to find its burrow, but it wasn’t going to. It wanted its mummy.
“Er… do you mind if I stay here until nightfall?… I musn’t been seen” it added quickly, remembering fertogafers aren’t nocturnal. The lions agreed. The pangolin looked at his new companions. They looked at him. What do you say to a Pangoin? Time passed. A lot of time passed. “I think its staring at our toes”, exclaimed Lois. More time passed. The lions were stumped and so began the longest and most awkward silence ever not heard in Kgalagadi . Even the barking geckos joined in. By doing nothing.
It was very awkward.