'Deep in the Jungle'

Story Time

February 20, 2000|By Dan Yaccarino

Editor's note: After being tricked into joining the circus, an arrogant lion escapes and returns to the jungle where he once lorded over the other animals.

One day, while the animals were picking bananas for the almighty king, a man was seen roaming through the jungle. The monkeys ran and told the lion.

"Oh, very well." The lion yawned. "I'll take a look. I was bored anyway."

So the lion slunk through the bushes and vines until he spotted the man.

"Rrrrroar!" he hollered, and leaped on top of the surprised man, who, incidentally, looked like he would make a lovely dinner. "I am the king of the jungle! Now prepare to be eaten!

"Rrrrroar!" he added.

"Beautiful!" said the man. "You know, you're wasting your time here, lion. Come with me and I'll make you a big star!"

The lion, who never thought he was much appreciated anyway, agreed.

The animals were more than happy to be rid of him.

The lion and his new friend walked through the jungle to a small railroad station, where the man bought a ticket for himself and a baggage claim for the lion. "I'm afraid you must ride in the luggage car," the man explained. "But don't worry, it's a short trip."

At last, the train pulled into a station. The man put the leash around his neck, and off they went.

It was very exciting for the lion to be inside a colorful circus tent. The man and the lion walked up to a cage with thick iron bars. "And now I'm afraid I must put you in here," the man said. "It'll be a good career move for you. Trust me."

Crack! The sound of a whip woke him from his blissful slumber. It was the man, all in costume. "Wake up, ol' boy," he demanded. "It's showtime."

"What's the meaning of the whip?" asked the lion. "Certainly there's no need for that."

"I'm afraid I must use this whip," the man explained, "but don't think twice about it. Showbiz, you know."

He cracked it a few more times, just for effect, of course, and led the lion out to the center ring.

Crack! Crack! The man snapped the whip ... a little too close to the lion's nose. The lion backed up as the man waved a chair at him. Crack! "Up on the platform!" demanded the man. Crack! Crack!

So the lion climbed up. Everyone cheered wildly, but it was not for the lion, it was for the man.

Night after night this went on. Finally, he approached the man.

"Look, when will I get to perform my solo?" he asked. "First, I'll let out my mighty roar, then ..."

"Now, just hold on there, ol' boy," said the man. "I'm afraid you must always obey me. Showbiz, you know."

The lion thought for a moment. "Well then, I'm afraid I must eat you up. Jungle law, you know," he replied. And he swallowed the man, one gulp, right down.

The lion made up his mind. He was going home.

The lion followed the train tracks and, as he did, thought about all the animals in the jungle. He could hardly wait to get home.

At last the lion reached the trees and vines.

"Oh, look who's here," said the giraffe miserably. "It's that lousy lion."

The lion was hurt by the animals' harsh words. He wanted to leave, but suddenly he knew what he had to do.

"I'm afraid I owe you an apology," he said to every one of them. "Silly pride and all."

And from that day on, the lion never roared at anyone ever again. Except, of course, when he was giving a concert. The animals cheered wildly, threw roses, and demanded encores. The lion was only too happy to oblige. Showbiz, you know.

Excerpted from the book DEEP IN THE JUNGLE. Copyright c 2000 by Dan Yaccarino. Reprinted by permission of Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc., Children's Publishing Division. All rights reserved.

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