When the friends arrived at the island, Will lay in the hot sand. The bright sun dried him quickly. But now a new problem presented itself: Will was hungry! He didn’t like the idea of looking for food in the woods by himself, but since none of his friends could leave the water – except Turtle, who moved too slow to be much help – he set out on his own.
The tall palm trees at the forest’s edge posed a tough challenge in the breakfast department. Unlike the beech tree in Will’s yard, these trees didn’t have any branches to climb – only trunks, and the coconuts were all the way at the top. Since he couldn’t see any way to reach the coconuts, Will decided to look a little further into the jungle. There must be bananas or berries growing nearby. He looked at the beach and the water where Turtle and the other friends waited and memorized which direction they lay. Then he set out into the woods.
Green dominated every other color. A canopy of leaves closed above him like a green ceiling. Green, leafy bushes pushed bright flowers toward Will’s face and he breathed in their scent. It was hot and steamy in the green space, where moisture gathered beneath that green ceiling. But even though he was sweaty and hungry, wandering a foreign land, Will felt strangely calm. He traveled deeper with confidence, even daring to sing a few lines of a song. He felt very, very happy and safe.
So happy and safe that he soon forgot why he’d come to the woods in the first place. His hungry belly stopped growling. He stopped worrying about whether he would be able to find the beach again – or his house, for that matter. When the way got steep and rocky, Will didn’t notice. He just kept walking until walking became trekking and trekking became climbing. Will climbed the bare side of a mountain until the tops of the trees were far below him and, far away, the ocean sparkled in the sunlight. It didn’t occur to him to be scared. If Will had looked, he might have seen his house floating very, very far away. But Will didn’t look. By some strong magic in the moist jungle air, he had forgotten all about his house.
When the rocks got too steep to climb anymore, Will stopped and curled up in a little nook to rest. Soon he was fast asleep.
When Will woke up, he couldn’t remember where he was or how he’d gotten there. He’d fallen asleep on a sharp rock, and, frowning, he studied the red dent it had left in his side. Why was he sleeping on rocks? His head felt fuzzy, like he’d woken up with a head cold, while the rest of him felt as heavy as a sack of sand. He remembered an ocean…
“Ah, he awakes,” said a voice like wet cement.
Will’s hair stood on end as he turned to see who else was in the cave. Two big, hunched-over figures, shaped mostly like people but with a lot more hair, fewer teeth, and – Will gasped – only one eye each!
“Can we eat him now, Daddy?”
Will now saw two smaller, furry cyclopes sitting in the shadow. One shook a rattle made out of a coconut. The other, the one who had asked to eat Will, cradled a doll made of leaves and string.
Will had arrived just in time for family dinner, but he was the entree! He thought fast. Heart pounding, he said, “oh, you don’t want to eat me. I’m no older than your two children over there. Would you eat a child? Look,” he added, pointing to his bare top half. “I haven’t even grown all my skin yet.” He hoped they would buy it. The cyclopes had so much hair they didn’t need clothes. Maybe they would believe that Will’s were attached.
The big cyclops went, “hmm.”
“We could keep him and fatten him up,” suggested the wife.
“I won’t be full grown for another ten years,” said Will, who was only eight. “At least ten years. Maybe fifteen.” Better play it safe, he thought. “And, and my mom says I’m all skin and bones. There’s not much to eat here. Really, you should just let me go.”
“Aw, he has a mama,” said the wife. She sounded almost convinced. Will crossed all his fingers and hoped. “Gilbert,” said the wife. “We can’t take him away from his mama.”
The husband folded his arms, grumbling to himself.
“If you let me go,” Will bargained, “I’ll buy you all dinner at McDonald’s. Have you ever had a French fry?”
“No,” the husband admitted. “I’ve never even heard of one.”
“Oh, you’ll love them! They’re absolutely the best food in the world. Much tastier than I am. Crunchy, and hot, and salty…” The husband licked his lips. Will went on, “and the happy meals come with toys for the kids!”
“All right,” the cyclops snapped. “Bring us this happy meal with the, whaddaya call it, French fry, and we’ll call it even. Felix, our pterodactyl, will take you where you need to go.” The husband whistled, and a huge, gray, bird-like dinosaur waddled into view, looking like he would be much happier in the air. Will’s stomach sank. If this was a world where dinosaurs were still alive, no one had probably invented McDonald’s yet. And as soon as Felix figured that out, he’d bring Will right back to the cave for the cyclops family’s dinner. As much as Will wanted to ride on a pterodactyl, he knew it would be very risky to make friends with Felix.
“I actually have a ride,” Will said quickly. Oh, but those wings! And a real live dinosaur – none of the kids at school would believe it if Will came home and said he’d flown on a real live dinosaur! Maybe it would be all right to just take Felix out for a little spin…
“My friends are waiting for me down at the beach,” Will said carefully. “It would be a big help if Felix could bring me back to them.” So Will mounted the pterodactyl. He wasn’t sure what to hold on to. He had ridden a pony once at a fair, but there had been reins and a saddle then. The pterodactyl didn’t have either of those.
While Will was still deciding, the dinosaur hopped to the cave’s edge and dove into the air. “Whoa!” Will shouted, and threw his arms around the creature’s neck. At first he kept his eyes squeezed shut. Then he opened them and saw the whole island spread out below them.
“Wow,” said Will, measuring the distance from the beach to the mountain. “I can’t believe how far I walked! No wonder it’s getting dark now. I must have walked for hours.”
“Probably,” said Felix. “The plants in that forest have magic pollen that makes you lose track of things.”
Now Will began to remember his time in the rainforest. “I went in to find something to eat,” he said, his stomach growling again. “But I forgot and got lost.”
“That’s the idea. The cyclops families that live in the mountain will never go hungry there because dinner just wanders right into the caves. You’re a lucky kid to get away.”
“Yeah,” Will agreed. “I am. A lucky, hungry kid.”
“Luck strikes again,” the pterodactyl announced as the beach came into view. A cheery fire roared in the deepening dusk. Turtle waited nearby with some monkeys and a small pile of leaves and fruit: dinner. Will had never been so happy to see a salad – or a turtle – in his life. Felix coasted in for a landing. Will jumped off the dinosaur’s back and gave Turtle a big hug.
“We thought you were gone for good,” said Turtle in his slow, affectionate way.
“I just got a little lost,” Will said. “I’m so glad to see you again. And dinner!”
“Who’s your friend?” Turtle wanted to know.
“Oh, that’s Felix!” Will spun around to thank the pterodactyl for the ride, but the dinosaur had already taken flight again. “Well that’s two things I owe,” said Will. “A thank you and some happy meals.” Turtle wanted to hear all about Will’s adventure, but first, Will dug into a supper of roasted bananas, coconut milk, wild berries and seeds, which the monkeys had gathered and cooked. He huddled close to the fire: now that the sun had set, the tropical island was cooling off quickly. A monkey held out a Hawaiian shirt for Will to put on and, although it was a little big, he gratefully shrugged into it.
“Where’d you get this thing?” he asked.
The monkeys giggled. “Nabbed it from a tourist!” one said, and they all fell down in gales of laughter.
“They’re big pranksters,” Turtle explained. “At first I thought they had kidnapped you for a joke.”
“Pranksters, huh.” So Will, finally full and warm and safe, told them about the trick he’d pulled on the cyclopes, and the monkeys howled with laughter deep into the night.