Friday, October 7, 2011


She was in the tree, high up, invisible from the ground. A female Tarzan. Tarzana she called herself. Not Jane. She did not respect Jane.

She didn’t know the word subservient and wouldn’t have thought of weak, but that was what she didn’t like about Jane. Plus the one-syllable name was too ordinary. Something out of a boring book. All anybody named Jane could really expect out of life was a dog named Spot.

But Tarzana lived with the apes and the leopards. Tarzana hung around with monkeys and hurled coconuts at unsuspecting passers-by. She knew it was a game, a fantasy, but if you’re going to pretend, think big. Her alternate identity, the one on the ground, was queen of England, the only country wise enough to have a queen. She didn’t much like the dowdy look of the present monarch, but that didn't stop her from taking on the role. However Tarzana was her preferred identity, her best game. Tarzana was strong, feral, in touch with monkeys, and above it all.

She was lounging along her favorite branch when she heard the rustle of somebody coming along the path. She shifted just enough to watch them approach—a man and a girl. He had his arm around the girl who was laughing. There was something wrong with the laugh. It was put on, a fake. A trill with no laughter in it. The pair stopped just under her tree.

His voice was too low and throaty to catch his words, but the girl's voice was high pitched and very clear. I have to go. No. No. I said, No. Really no.

The tree trembled when he pushed the girl against the trunk. She said no again, and then the words were muffled as if he’d thrown a blanket over her head.

Tarzana parted the branches to get a better view. His mouth was over the girl’s, and the girl was beating on his back with her little fists, fists like Jane’s. The tree shook. No, no!

Tarzana raised her throat to the heavens and sent out her danger call, a high-pitched shriek that carried down the trunk and through the jungle behind her suburban park. She swung down a branch, raised her throat again to the staccato screech of danger, then swung another branch lower, shaking the canopy. The whole tree shook with her fury.

“Jesus Christ!” the man yelled and pushed the girl against the tree, then ran. Tarzana gave her two-pitch yell again as he crashed through the jungle.

The trembling stopped. The tree quieted. Tarzana let herself down slowly. She didn’t want to scare Jane who she could see was sitting on the ground at the base of the tree sniffling into her two hands.

She landed on all fours in front of the girl.


The girl didn’t understand.

“Your name? Jane?”

The girl wiped her eyes and looked at Tarzana. “My name is Janet,” she said.

Close enough.

© 2011 Kathleen Coskran