"Jack," cried Stephen, bursting into the great cabin, "give me joy. I have seen the purple people eater! I have absoutely seen the purple people eater!"
"With all my heart, brother," said Jack, without looking up. "You are dripping on the cabin floor."
"Oh," said Stephen, waving his hand, "there was some difficulty about coming up the side." He shook himself dry and went on, "Listen, Jack, I observed over 150 subspeicies in just a half hour of naturalizing, and one of them was positively the one-eyed purple people eater! Such bliss!"
"I dare say," commented Jack, deep in his purser's record books. "But Stephen," looking up with grave concern at the bloody stump on Stephen's right hand, "I trust you were not too badly eaten?"
"Not at all, not at all," bubbled Stephen, wrapping his silk handkerchief over the wound, "it will make it harder to balance my bow gracefully when we play tonight, but it is only a minor inconvenience. Dear Mr. Martin was swallowed whole."
"The poor man!" Jack was visibly upset. "What a horrible business!"
"But he did not mind it, he said. Indeed, while he was yet passing through the beast's esophogal tract he particularly remarked to me that he was "quite happy to be swallowed whole if allowed to observe the true people eater." Stephen reflected on Martin's conversation as he slowly disappeared from view, his face drawn into the shadow of the people eater's gullet; "such a sight could not be hoped for over several lifetimes - could not attach any blame to the creature - was only performing that act for which it had been placed on the earth - only hoped his watch and belt buckle should not impair the digestive process - indeed, people eaters must be used to the very thing - might be interesting to . . ." until the animal's meal was over at last.
© 2000 Scott MacPhee