2016. március 26., szombat

Antonio the chameleon (For my foreign friends)

Agnes Palasthy:
Antonio the chameleon
Illustration by Gergely Szonyi from the book: Palasthy Agnes: A tekergo boreger
The chameleon and his friend the shrew were walking to the stream through the forest clearing.
The chameleon who lived far away had only come to visit his cousin the lizard, but he had such a good time here that he decided to stay.
The animals in the area became fond of him, even though they thought he was a little crazy for calling everyone ‘Amigo’. And sometimes, he scared them out of their wits by completely blending into the background and becoming invisible.
For example, there was the incident when Antonio was peacefully sunbathing on a fallen tree trunk at the edge of the woods and Sybil the magpie landed straight on his back for a little preening because she could not see him. The magpie was hiccupping for a week afterwards because of the shock.
‘I thought there was an earthquake’ Sybil explained fuming ‘when the tree suddenly shifted under me.’
The chameleon just  shrugged.
‘Mimicry, amigo’ Antonio explained to the shrew when he first disappeared from sight ‘A very funny thing, isn’t it?’
But the shrew only muttered something under his breath, waving angrily.
As they were walking in the meadow now, the talkative shrew was chattering away. Speeding ahead at a fast pace waving wildly with his hands he was telling a tall story to his leisurely walking friend.
‘And then ... guess what' he said, glancing over his shoulder at the chameleon.
Or rather he would have glanced at him, but there was no one around.
‘How come?’ the shrew wondered scratching his head. ‘Have I walked too fast?’
He took a few hesitant steps backwards.
‘Where are ...you?’ he finished, stumbling over his friend and landing with a big thud spreadeagled on the ground.
‘I'm here’ came the answer from right behind him ‘I'm sorry, I’ve spaced out, amigo. I didn’t concentrate on the mimicry.’
‘So I can see’ the shrew muttered annoyed ‘You totally blended into that dry tuft of grass, so I didn't see that you were there.’
He got up and dusted himself grumbling. Then he turned round bemused.
‘Wait a minute’ he said. ‘I’m not sure which way to go now.’
‘There's a mole-hill. I'll climb up and have a look’ Antonio offered.
He scrambled up the molehill and looked around, carefully scanning the area. Yep, there's the crab-apple tree on the bank of the stream; they will have to proceed that way.
He was just about to get off when he noticed some strange movement in the grass. Looking closer he saw that it was the grass snake. But what was he doing? Slithering swiftly on the ground, straight towards a... but that's impossible. Antonio looked again hoping he had made a mistake. But he had not. It was obvious.
The grass snake was sliding straight towards a nest.
Did he want to steal the eggs? No way. He looked such a decent guy ... However ... they'd better go there.
Antonio tumbled headlong to the ground.
‘Come on, quickly’ he urged the shrew ‘It's an emergency. We have to stop the grass snake. Hurry.’
They broke into a trot.
Meanwhile, the grass snake arrived at the tuft of grass where a large nest with some eggs was hidden. First, he looked around suspiciously. Then, not seeing anyone nearby, he relaxed. With a smile he leaned over the nest to take an egg in his mouth.
At that moment, a hand reached out of nowhere and a huge slap landed on his face sending the grass snake flying. He fell backwards, getting so tangled that he tied a knot on his own waist.
Angrily, he looked around, but saw no one only the long grass everywhere. Then who had slapped him? Suddenly, his glance fell on the shrew.
‘Was it you, shrew?’ He asked him furiously while trying to untie the knot on his waist. ‘Are you insane?’
‘It was me’ the chameleon claimed becoming visible, and proudly puffing out his chest ‘Antonio, protector of the defenseless. Olle!’
‘You're barking mad, you Antonio. Why did you slap me?’
‘Why, amigo? Must you ask? I saw that you wanted to devour an egg from this nest.’
The snake slid closer and leaned ominously into the chameleon’s face.
‘Really?’ He asked sarcastically. ‘Whose nest do you think it is?’
‘Uh-oh’ said the shrew embarrassed in the background. ‘I fear the worst here.’
‘And so you may you daft pair. This is my own nest. Or rather, our nest with my dear Sydonia.’
‘So you wanted to eat your own eggs, amigo! That's nasty stuff, very, very nasty’ grumbled the chameleon. ‘Where I come from a snake would never do such a thing. No-no. Never.’
‘Shrew!’ Snapped the grass snake. 'Tell this green Zorro to shut up immediately, or else... .’
‘I’m sorry, don’t be cross with us. It was clearly a misunderstanding’ said the shrew. ‘But ... well ... you know… the appearances…’
‘Appearances? Well, what exactly did you see, may I ask?’
‘Well, that you just wanted to swallow an egg.’
‘To swallow? Nonsense! I was going to turn round the eggs in the nest so that the sun can warm them on all sides. A couple of days and they will hatch.’
‘I will be a father’ he added, grinning proudly.
‘Uh, congratulations’ answered the shrew.
‘We’d better go now’ he added, trying to drag the chameleon away. However, Antonio would have none of it.
He walked up to the grass snake.
‘Sir, I am devastated’ he said, with a slight bow. ‘I do not know how to apologize. I beg you, be so good as to slap me in the face too.’
The snake looked at the shrew. The shrew shrugged his shoulder. The snake swallowed hard and his body started to shake suspiciously.
‘I'm not mad at you’ he finally got out. ‘And I won’t slap you in the face either.’
‘No?’ The chameleon asked taken aback.
‘Well, how could I, amigo? With what? When I have no hands?’ Said the grass snake and he burst out laughing.
The shrew joined in. He threw himself backwards on the ground, and was rolling from side to side in the grass laughing.
‘Foreigners’ grumbled the chameleon under his breath. ‘No good manners. No elegance.’
But he could not resist much longer. He suddenly saw the funny side, started to laugh and joined the merriment with his friends.


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