There were too many people on the walking track so Jarra diverted to a parallel course he’d worked out over time which passed interesting plants and other features.
Yes, here was his N-tree with its curiously distorted shape. Next was the broken termite mound and not far past that the cleared ground where a big colony of red ants lived. As usual he brushed his feet across the top then quickly moved far enough away so we could watch, without getting bitten, as the defenders erupted from the various exits and rushed in all directions. This nest had its own trails winding in five different connections with five more nests, which in turn had trails connecting to other nests. Jarra had looked them up on the InterWeb and developed an idea that they were all part of a super colony involving every red ant in the area.
A bit further along he stopped to look at an Australian grass tree. This was quite a large one and particularly interesting because it was starting to grow a flower stalk. The InterWeb said these stalks had been called Kangaroo tails for hundreds of years.
Whoo! There was someone sitting at the base of the gum tree?
Jarra felt a flicker of annoyance. He’d left the walking track to get away from people and here was someone invading the space of his special tree. The annoyance changed to curiosity and then concern as he took in the figure now watching his approach.
“I’m exploring but I don’t know which way is home.”
Jarra wasn’t sure how to respond. The main path was close and there were public buildings not far away.
“I’ve got an InfoPad. We can use that to find the way if you like.”
“You’re nice. Can we explore?”
“Don’t you want to go home? I could see you were upset about it.”
“Not upset! Explorers don’t cry.”
A smile lit up his face and Jarra couldn’t tell if it was related to the miss-statement or not. Whatever, he couldn’t help smiling back as the boy jumped to his feet.
“Look! The tree is hurt. Blood is coming out.”
Jarra blinked in surprise at the complete shift of attention. Definitely strange.
“It’s not blood. Its sap. And there’s not much so the tree doesn’t really hurt.”
“It is a lot. If that much sap came out of me it would hurt.”
“Look how big the tree is. It’s thirty meters high so it would be like a pinprick.”
An understanding came to Jarra that he needed to reassure this puzzling person that the tree was okay. He looked round, moved to a nearby shrub which he knew had prickles on its stem, and beckoned.
Carefully, he pressed his finger against a prickle then, smiling, showed the tiny speck of welling blood.
“See! It hurts, but not much.”
The boy’s eyes widened then turned and looked at the top of the tree then down to the dark red blob of hardened sap.
“You are clever. What is your name?”
“That is a good name. My name is Mirri. What will we look at next?”
Jarra’s answer was immediate and impulsive.
“I’ll show you a kangaroo tail.”
“A tail? Did you hunt the kangaroo?”
“No, it’s just a tail. Its growing without a kangaroo.”
“No it’s not!”
“Yes it is. Come on, Mirri. I’ll show you.”
Jarra laughed at the mixture of puzzlement and fascination now focused on him.
A few moments later Mirri was touching the young grass tree flower with what could only be described as delight.
“I’ve seen these but no one told me they are kangaroo tails. It’s a good name. Kangaroos don’t use them do they?”
This was another startling question, but not as much because Jarra was understanding that Mirri was different.