The Pygmies made scarcely a sound as they led me at spearpoint to their
village of tiny mud huts. If I hadnąt been trembling with fear I would have
had to laugh at the scene since the big black pot boiling noisily over a
fire pit was such a cliché from the jungle movies I watched at the Center
Theater every Saturday afternoon as a boy. But there was one noteworthy
difference: while the natives in the movies always displayed wild-eyed
hostility, these Pygmies were intensely inquisitive. They pointed tiny
fingers toward my belt buckle, my shirt buttons, my shoe laces, but above
all at my shirt pocket and the clip of my Sheaffer, a gift from my sainted
grandmother who told me when I departed, "write twice a week and stay away
I uncapped the pen and wrote in my notebook in shaky block letters, "I
REALLY HOPE THESE LITTLE GUYS DONąT EAT ME." The Pygmies were marginally
interested in the fact that the thing from my pocket could make marks, but
more engrossed by the glint of the tropical sun off the stub nib.
Suddenly, a particularly large Pygmy of about 4'2" burst out of the most
elaborate of the huts and approached me, thumping a dangerous looking spear
on the ground as he rattled the skull of some small animal. The last shreds
of my hope evaporated when I recognized that the spear was decorated with a
daisy-chain of desiccated human ears. The menacing miniature approached, an
inhuman growl building in his throat, and put his spear tip to my ear as he
shook the skull in the direction of the boiling cauldron. Who was he?
Medicine man? Chief Executioner? Someone with a preference for Italian pens?
It didnąt make any difference, because I knew my ears were about to join the
In desperation I held my Sheaffer high over my head and began singing
the only tune that I could retrieve from my near-paralyzed mind: the theme
song from "Petticoat Junction". The Pygmies (including the big one with the
threatening spear) fell suddenly silent and all eyes focused on my pen. I
sang louder, modulating to a minor key and "Gilligan's Island", and slowly
and ceremoniously I extended the penąs snorkel. The Pygmies made a guttural
sound like like a clogged drain opening and fell to their knees, their hands
covering their privates.
The next few hours are not clear in my memory as a result of copious
amounts of some bitter liquid served from a gourd; but to make a very long
story short, I ended up with a sweet little wife (literally little), twin
Pyglets with names which cannot be rendered in English, and authority over
an entire village of Pygmies who know me as Gambasa Sheafoo Ba-Snorkel. And
now I get to carry the skull rattle.