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Wilbur Whiptail (Part 3)

Image of Nahdjla Bailey
By Nahdjla Bailey

It soon becomes clear to the three whiptails that the men are about to depart for the mainland. They are standing on the shore now. Without a moment to spare, Wilbur dashes forward and attaches himself to the hem of Don John’s long pants, while Wilma hides in the folds of the canvas bag belonging to one of the men and resting on the sand. Winston slides onto the back of the other man’s left shoe; the man is wearing short pants, and Winston hopes he will not be too conspicuous. Don and his companions step into the waiting boat. The adventurous trio is trembling with excitement at this point and all thinking the same thing: Yippee! We’re on our way!

In no time at all, the travellers are on the other side of the water and holding on tight to their ‘transports’. It is easy enough for Wilbur and Winston to get off, once the men are on firm ground, but poor little Wilma, she has to wait till that bag is rested down again. She is getting anxious. Oh my, oh my, why doesn’t he rest his bag down? When is he going to do that? I do hope he does not take me away with him. That would not be funny, not funny at all. She looks at the other two whiptails and sees that they appear quite calm and patient. Finally, the man with the bag stops chatting and goes to his car, resting his bag down so he can open the trunk. Wilma takes off just in time, before he lifts the bag up once more and places it in the trunk. Great! Well, that wasn’t too bad, was it? …So now we’re on our own …what next?

The three make their way along the sandy part of the road where there is no traffic. Wilbur, of course, leads the way. First, we’re heading for the little school. We want to catch the kids before they go home for the day, he says.

The climb up the little hill is a bit steep, but they make it without too much difficulty. There is noise coming from everywhere on the school compound; the students are having their break. These are what they call children, says Wilbur.

Children?says Wilma. They look like little people to me. Do they always make so much noise?

No, not always, but a lot of the time, yes, answers Wilbur.

The three lizards stop for a while and watch the children playing games and having fun. This is all so new and wonderful, Wilma tells the others. If I lived on the mainland, I would come up here every day to see this.

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I think you should know, Wilma. that this does not go on all day. Most of the time, the children are in their classrooms doing their work and being very quiet and attentive, Wilbur warns. I just knew you would love seeing all this lively activity of the ‘little people’, as you call them.

They make their way down the hill now, taking care to keep on the grassy area to the side. The last thing they want is to be noticed by anyone. It would surely cause a stir, as everyone knows that there are no more whiptails on the mainland. Of course, there are lots and lots of ordinary lizards everywhere, and people are quite used to those.

The three pause to view two lizards having a bit of a battle nearby. What could they be fighting over? they wonder. It is at that very moment that Wilbur hears the dreaded mewing of a cat, and looks up to see a big ginger feline making its way towards the fighting lizards. Wilbur quickly directs his two friends to quicken their pace and exit the area without delay. There, my dears, you’ve just learnt another lesson. That’s a cat, and I daresay that by now she has had herself a meal of double lizard for lunch.

The whiptails keep moving along at a fairly fast pace, making for the beautiful church which Wilbur loved so much. This is all so different from our little island, says Winston, and the way these big machines keep whizzing past, I would have thought they’d be considered the number one danger.

Those big machines are called cars, and yes, you’d better look out for them, or you’ll be outa here in a sec, Old Wilbur advises.

At this point, the three are about to be tested, as their next job is to cross the main street of the small town and arrive safely on the other side. They stick very close together and make a first attempt. Uh-Uh … that’s not going to work. Back! Back! shouts Wilbur. We want to get to the other side in one piece, don’t we?

It takes the friends all of twenty minutes to be able to cross the road. Fortunately for them, a policeman stops the traffic to let a handicapped man across in his wheelchair. Wilbur does not lose a second. Now! he calls out. Now!Let’s make a dash for it. And the three shoot like bolts of lightning across to the other side.

They are directly in front of the church now. It is every bit as beautiful as Wilbur remembers it. Wait till you see inside, my friends, he tells Winston and Wilma. Happily, there aren’t any steps to climb; they can enter the vast interior with no sweat at all. Look at it, beams Wilbur. Look at it! Isn’t it magnificent! It is so peaceful and quiet in here. The old whiptail knows every dusty corner of the place.

And cool and breezy as well, says Wilma. I can see why you like this place, Wilbur. I really like it too. What do people do in here?

Oh, they pray that the world will be a better place, is Wilbur’s reply.

Well, that’s surely not a bad idea at all, says Wilma.

Wilbur is beginning to get a bit itchy now. He must leave sufficient time to make his third visit. He is not going to miss out on that for anything. It’s a bit of a distance from the church, but he’ll find a way. Ready to move, guys?asks Wilbur.

Okay, if you insist, says Wilma, but I want to say a prayer before we leave. I pray that people will stop fighting each other and that there will be peace all over the world. I also pray that people will leave us wild things alone and not harm us, so that our children and our children’s children will be around for generations to come.

Wilbur is impressed. Wow! Wilma, that’s a great prayer. I did not know you thought so deeply.

Hmm, nor did I, Winston whispers, then asks, So, is this the end of our journey, Wilbur?

No way! I have a huge surprise for you, for us, really. Let’s go. And with that, the three move on to the mysterious third visit known only to Old Wilbur.

Wilbur looks back at his two friends. It seems as though they have slowed down a bit. Are you getting hungry, children? It won’t be long now, I promise; we’ll have some grub when we get to our next stop.

Wilma shakes her head. Hungry? Whoever said we were hungry? This is all much too interesting to be hungry!

Oh, good. Shouldn’t be long now, anyway, Wilbur repeats.

He stops for a moment to think of a plan to get them to the third spot. I know, he says after a minute or two. We’ll take the bus. Wilbur marches his pals down to the bus stop and gives them instructions for when the next bus arrives. They pay close attention and understand him well. A few minutes later and, Here it comes, directs Wilbur. Quick! Get on! Losing no time, Wilbur secures himself on one hubcap, Wilma on another, and Winston on a third. Hold on tight! orders Wilbur.

By the time the bus arrives at their stop, the three are as dizzy as if they have tried out all the rides at a Coney Island. They are forced to slow down; they keep bumping into each other – and everything else – as they move along. This is no joke, says Wilma, no joke at all.

No, but it sure was fast! Um … let’s have something to eat, suggests Wilbur, and he takes his friends to a little spot where the pickings are plentiful. Old Wilbur sure knows his insect restaurants.

By this time, the old reptile’s heart is almost jumping out of his chest as he gets that much closer to fulfilling his dream. Where are we now? Wilma wants to know. It looks like a big beach, and there are so many people around. They seem to be having loads of fun.

Well, says Wilbur, I may as well tell you everything now. I am here to do something which I have dreamed of doing for more than four years, ever since the day Don John stopped here with me before taking me over to our little island. I remember that day well. My pal, Don, stopped for a while to have a cold drink. He was seated just over there. I was inside a nice see-through container with air holes. He placed it on the little table at which he was sitting. From there, I could get a wonderful view of the entire beach. It was then that I saw the people going up and up into the air and clearly having so much fun. I heard a man say it was the best experience of his life. I can’t explain it, but from that time I’ve had a yearning to take to the sky. I want to get up there. I must get up there. I want to be the first whiptail in the world to get to such heights. I’ve never liked the fact that we whiptails are not climbers, and are referred to as ‘just ground lizards’. I want to go up high. I want to fly like a bird … and I will, with a little help.

The two young lizards remain totally quiet during Wilbur’s long speech. It is clear that he feels very strongly about all of this. But isn’t he being just a little crazy? Wilma speaks up. Dear Wilbur friend, we are so happy for you. We realize that this is a very important moment in your life. Can we do anything to help?

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