I am panther, sleek blue-black, shinier than a blackbird’s wing, more jet than a jungle night without a moon. I am deep in the jungle today, in a thicket of green hung with vines, so the light itself is green, as if I am underwater. I know about underwater: sometimes I romp and splash in hidden jungle pools; their light is also green.
Blue lipstick froths on her lips, pours from the tube all zingy like champagne. She loves applying it in front of her mirror, feeling the tang, the wetness, seeing the strange colour paint all her face in its difference — her eyes purple, her cheeks mauve, her hair faint green in the light — all in relation to the glow from her thickly-blued lips.
I am looking for my dinner, and a mate. Dinner is more urgent just now. I leap through my thicket, listening for possibilities. My ears twitch and swivel to all directions. I am alive to the sounds of my home forest; I know it for miles by sound and smell — can detect both the beautifully familiar and the tiniest alteration.
She wonders if the unusual texture is to do with the dye, and why this lipstick is so unlike others from more conventional sources. This colour is ALL blue, not just red with a blueish tinge. She loves to encrust her mouth with it, layers of frothy blue on frothy blue until it looks matted, indelible.
There is an old bullock tethered right at the edge of the jungle, east of here; I catch the scent on the wind. At once I know everything about this beast. It belongs to a poor farmer who is trying to find extra grazing land there on the dangerous edge of the jungle. It is fat enough to make a meal, but weak and slow, which is all the better for me.
She runs her fingers through her hair to spike it, and puts on huge loop earrings of an alloy that looks like heavy metal. She drapes a fishnet stocking over her hand, stares a moment, then tosses it back on the bed. Tonight she will leave her legs bare. High on her thigh, just below the hem of her black satin skirt, is tattooed a tiny mouth — a laughing mouth, lips parted, showing teeth.
The edge of the jungle — the border where two worlds meet — is dangerous to those of either world. The danger is in the encounter with the other side. For me, there is risk in getting this easy meal. It may bring men into my green thicket after me, with guns. For the farmer and his beast, I am the danger. I might kill the beast. Also, I might kill the man. I sneak nearer. I am panther, hungry panther, choosing my game.
Published in Secret Leopard. Paris, Alyscamps Press, 2005. (See sidebar.)
Submitted for dVerse Meeting the Bar: Postmodern (prose)