Chunky Monkey's Rainforest stories
Jimja jaguar learns a lesson

by Pauline Comanor

Jaguars are very tiny when they are born, weighing no more that two or three pounds.  Of course, they get a lot bigger when they grow up, sometimes weighing up to 250 pounds.  They also don't open their eyes for two weeks after they're born.  That's why they stay close together, depending on mother jaguar to keep them warm, fed and safe.

A mother jaguar and her three cubs lived in a cozy den located in the rain forest in Brazil. She had three cubs, Stevia, Tonie and Jimja.

One day, after mother had left the den to hunt for lunch, Jimja got restless.  He was also very hungry.  So he decided to poke around and see if he could find something good to eat, but he couldn't detect anything but the familiar smell of the den.  "Oh well," he said, "I guess I'll get something to eat soon.  I better go back to Stevia and Tonie or they'll miss me when they wake up."  But he couldn't find his way back.

 "I'm sure I went this way," he said.  "No, I went the other way. It's all so confusing."  His little brain was getting tired trying to figure it out.  But he knew he was somewhere, so he wasn't really worried.   He decided to curl up wherever he was, and take a nap.

Soon he felt someone poking him.  "Why Jimja, what are you doing way over here?"  It was his mother.

"Well," said Jimja, "I wouldn't be here except I don't know where I am."  His mother picked him up by the scruff of his neck and took him back to where his brothers were just waking up.

Jimja was glad he had strayed a bit; it gave him a sense of adventure.  "I must try this again," he said.

The two weeks waiting for their eyes to open went by quickly, and at last, they opened.  They were surprised and happy to see how they looked.  "We're very handsome," said Tonie.  Stevia thought that Jimja's nose was bigger than his.  They all thought that was funny, and rolled around and had fun.  But of course they weren't ready to see the outside world yet and learn how to do things.

 At last mother jaguar took her three cubs, who were getting bigger each day, out of the den and started teaching them how to hunt.  But Jimja was not satisfied just learning things.  He wanted to have another adventure, all by himself.  So when no one was watching, he sneaked off and ran as fast as his four legs would take him down the path between the tall grasses, where he had never been before.

The birds were singing, and that made him feel good.  He tried to sing along with them, even though he couldn't carry a tune.  He smelled the flowers and grass.  A butterfly tickled his nose.  He was having a great time, when suddenly he realized he was lost.  Jimja got scared and wanted to cry. Then a happy thought hit him: I couldn't be lost because I know where I am.  My brothers are lost.  If I can only go back to where they are they won't be lost anymore.  That's it, I'll go back.

     "Back where?" said a gruff but friendly voice.

     "Back where I came from, silly," said Jimja.

     "But you're here now, and that's all that matters," said the voice now in a rather cross manner.  "And if you just take a little jump, you'll cool off."

     "Jump into what?" asked Jimja.

     "Into the magic lake," said the voice.  "Turn around three times and you'll see it.  All you have to do is wish for it to appear."

Jimja wished hard and jumped with all his might -- KERSPLASH -- right into the magic lake.  He started to paddle, and found he could swim.  That wasn’t surprising, as jaguars are excellent swimmers.

Then Jimja began to feel very hungry.  He hadn't eaten for quite a while. Suddenly he saw a lot of little fish swimming around him which he tried to catch.   They laughed and quickly swished out of sight.  Then he saw a strange looking creature, all bumpy and lumpy with a big tail. Jimja, being a very hungry little jaguar, decided to try and see if this was something good to eat.

     "Hold on there," said the bumpy, lumpy creature.  "What are you doing?"

     "Just trying to see if you’re good to eat," said Jimja.

     "Not so fast," the creature snorted.  "Never eat anything unless you know if the thing wants to be eaten.  It might make them very angry.  I’m a magic alligator and this is my magic lake. I expect my guests to be polite. Let me introduce myself, but first you'll have to give me a name.  Everyone does when they first meet me, that way they never forget what my name is."

      "How 'bout Wishy Washy," said Jimja.

     "I don't like the sound of that," said the alligator.  He looked a bit peeved, but thought for a minute,  "okay,  if that's your name for me it will do.  I'm glad you put "wish" into my name, because I can grant wishes if I want to."

     "What are wishes?" asked Jimja. "are they something good to eat?"

     "Certainly not. Wishes are something you really, really want," said Wishy Washy.

     "I really, really want things all the time," said Jimja.  "Should I wish for them all?"

     "No," said Wishy Washy, "you have to be careful what you wish for in case it’s the wrong thing."

     "How do I know if it's wrong?" asked Jimja.

     "You'll learn soon enough," said Wishy Washy, "by what happens.  Besides, if you wish for the wrong thing long enough, it's too hard to change.  They say a leopard can never change his spots, and I guess that’s true of jaguars, too.  You are a jaguar, aren't you, and not a leopard?"

     "If I were a leopard I would never want to change," said Jimja.  "Their spots are nicer than mine.  Please, can I have spots like a leopard?"

     "Okay," said Wishy Washy,  "if that’s what you want, but it will take at least a week, because you have so many spots.  I take a lot of lunch breaks."

     "That's too long," said Jimja impatiently, "I want all my spots changed at once."

     "No can do," said Wishy Washy.  I’ll change some here and there, wherever I think I should.  I might change quite a few, if you're very good."

     "Well, that's better than nothing," said Jimja, not very happy about the whole thing.

     "I'm sorry you're not pleased with my offer," said Wishy Washy.  "I suppose I could give you a scary sound like a red howler monkey. Would that make you feel better?  The whole forest knows when they're around."

     "I'll bet everyone would be afraid of me then," said Jimja.

     "They will shake with fright," said Wishy Washy. "Now close your eyes and swish your tail."

Jimja tried.  "My tail just won’t swish," he said.

     "Hmm," said Wishy Washy, "that’s right, you don’t have a wonderful tail like mine.  Your tail is long, but has no character."

     "I like my tail," said Jimja, "and if you’re going to say mean things about it, I guess I just don’t want any of your wishes anyhow."

     "I’ll just swish my tail for you, that's what friends are for," said Wishy Washy.  With that he said 14 magic words. "Bam bam, blueberry jam, I am what I am and that’s what I am."

I think he's making up all that magic stuff,  thought Jimja. Suddenly he heard a loud eerie screech which made him run for cover.  "Hmm, there must be a horrible monster around," he said while trying to hide.

     "Don’t be frightened," said Wishy Washy. "That was you, yelling like a red howler monkey."

     "Oh my goodness," said Jimja, "You shouldn't have let me have that wish, you made me scare myself.

     "Howling is okay if you're supposed to do it," said Wishy Washy, "but I don’t think your mother would like it.  It would scare your brothers out of their spots."

When he said the word spots, Jimja realized that he hadn't looked at his new leopard spots yet.  He peered into the magic lake and saw his image reflected.  For the first time he knew that his spots had changed.  They were smaller and a light brown color.

     "Oh no," he cried out, "I don't like those spots at all.  They’re too small, and don’t look like flowers.  I want my old spots back!"  He started to cry.

     "What's wrong," said Wishy Washy.  "You asked for leopard spots and I gave them to you.  Then I was generous enough to throw in the howling monkey sound as your second wish."

     "But I didn't wish for that," Jimja said.  "What I really wish is that I wasn't here at all."  He didn't like Wishy Washy anymore.  He shouldn't be granting wishes when no one really knows what they want, he thought.  I guess I'm lucky I didn't wish to be a fish.

Wishy Washy read his thoughts.  "That's hard to reverse if you change your mind, all those gills and fins.  It could be worse, you know."

     "Well I don't want to be a fish, I'm sure of that," said Jimja. "Please change these leopard spots back to my real spots.  And while you're at it, make them bigger and better."

     "But that will be your fourth wish," said Wishy Washy. "Bigger is three, and better is four."

     "You're not counting right," said Jimja.  "I only made three wishes.  But now I need another one, to go home on."

     "But that would be your fourth wish," said Wishy Washy.  "No one ever grants four wishes.  It’s always three.  I couldn't possibly consider your request.  Maybe you shouldn't be so greedy and want your spots bigger.  If you take that wish back it would leave you a third wish to go home with."

     "I can't take that wish back," said Jimja.  "I want to show my brothers I have bigger spots than they do.  But now I won't even be able to get home at all."   He thought about all the fun he had playing with his two brothers and his mother who was always kind to him and made sure he and his brothers were safe and never hungry.  Jimja looked sad, and wished he had never left his den and got all mixed up in this magic lake.

Wishy Washy looked very sad too. "Perhaps there's something I can do. "I’m going to wish with all my might.  Maybe four wishes can come true.

     "I only really needed one wish anyhow," said Jimja.

      "It takes time to know what you want," said Wishy Washy.  Close your eyes and say after me, ‘if you leave your home, wherever you roam."'

     "If I leave my home, wherever I roam," said Jimja.

     "You’ll always find, home is on your mind," said Wishy Washy.

     "I'll always find, home is on my mind," repeated Jimja.

     "Good job," said Wishy Washy.  "You sounded as if you meant it."

      Jimja waited for something magic to happen, but nothing did.  "Hmm, I'm still here," said Jimja.

     "If that's a complaint, I'm not through yet," said Wishy Washy a little gruffly.  "Four wishes takes a little in-gen-u-ity."

     "What's that?" asked Jimja.

     "It means thinking up a better plan, being clever, which of course I am" said Wishy Washy, "even if I have to say so myself.  It's not every alligator who has a magic lake filled with ginger fizz and lemonade."

     "If you're so smart, help me get home," said Jimja. "So far nothing's worked."

     "I'll try," said Wishy Washy.  "You know this whole thing is your fault."

     "Is it too late to take back my third wish?" asked Jimja, hanging his head.

     "I'm afraid so," said Wishy Washy.  "Take a look at yourself.  You're already getting bigger spots."

     Jimja sat down at the edge of the magic lake and looked into it.  "Can you help me go home?" he asked.

     "Y-E-S," said a voice that rippled like waves.  "Sometimes when everything else fails counting reasons why you deserve your wish to come true might help.  Close your eyes and count ten reasons.  If it doesn't work, go back and count again."

     "But I can’t count yet," said Jimja.

     "I'll count with you" said Wishy Washy.  "You don't have to tell me your reasons, just think them.  And if they're good, your wish will come true."

     "I'll think up real good reasons, and I won't be greedy anymore" said Jimja,. "Can I tell you some of them?"

     "No, not necessary, " said Wishy Washy, "just think them very hard and mean what you think."

     Jimja closed his eyes and wished all his reasons as hard as he could, until he reached ten.

     "Now just sit and think about your reasons," said the voice in the magic lake.  "It may take a little time to go through."

     "I'll think with you" said Wishy Washy.

     "Thanks," said Jimja.  "Goodness, I'm not here anymore.  See you later alligator."

When he opened his eyes he couldn’t believe it.  He was back in his very own den with his two brothers and his mother.  They seemed very happy to see him.  Thank goodness they don’t have leopard spots, he thought. Then he noticed his spots were the same size as theirs.  I guess Wishy Washy took back that wish after all, he thought. His brothers jumped all over him and his mother rubbed her face against his. "Where have you been Jimja," she said.  "I thought I would never see you again."

Jimja hung his head.  "I ran away," he said, "I'm sorry.  But I did have an adventure.  I met a magic alligator who lived in a magic lake, and that's how I got home again."

      "You're not ready for adventures," said his mother.  "It seems like just yesterday you opened your eyes.  You could have been hurt, or maybe never found your way back."

 "Yes," said Jimja, "and I’ll never leave home again until I’m grown up."

    "Don't grow up too fast," said his mother.  "I like to keep my cubs as long as I can.  Once you grow up and leave you'll never come back.  That's how jaguars are. But you'll know how to take care of yourself."  She gave Jimja a hug.

     "I'll be the first jaguar to change his ways, and remember his home," said Jimja. "That's my fourth wish," he said, smiling.  "Maybe Wishy Washy can make it come true."

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