Human mysteries

Manjula Padmanabhan | Updated on May 25, 2018 Published on May 25, 2018

“Why do you have white worms stuck inside your ears?” Rocky my old raccoon friend wants to know. “They’re not WORMS!” I exclaim. “They’re headphones!” Rocky rolls over laughing. “Haha! I know that, of course,” he says. “What’re you listening to?”

“A book,” I tell him. It’s the fourth one in a row in the past couple of weeks. I subscribed to Amazon’s Audible website some months ago. “Really? And it isn’t boring?” Rocky asks. “No it’s great,” I tell him. “Especially when the books are read by clever voice actors. For instance, last week I was listening to a murder mystery called Some Danger Involved, written by Will Thomas and narrated by Antony Ferguson. The story is set in Victorian London and the narrator is able to imitate a range of different accents from that time! It really sounds authentic.” I say. Rocky twiddles his whiskers with a sardonic look. “How can you tell what sounds authentic from 2,000 years ago, I wonder?” he asks.

“Not 2,000, barely 200 !” I say. “What matters is that it SOUNDS authentic to my ears, it’s as if dozens of different characters are speaking, not just one actor. It’s almost like watching a film.” “And it’s about murders?” Rocky asks. “Yes,” I say, “with all kinds of interesting information about the social life and politics of the time. But there’s another book I read that you might like, Rocky.” It’s called The Naturalist, by Andrew Mayne, narrated by Will Damron. “The protagonist is a scientist, a biologist, who gets caught up in the hunt for a serial killer.” Rocky wrinkles his nose. “WHY would I like that?” he wants to know. “Well, it’s set in the small towns and wilderness of Montana,” I say. “I assumed you might find the descriptions of wildlife interesting — though of course, it’s really about the people who get caught up in trying to catch a killer who behaves like a bear.”

“You humans are so obsessed with murder!” says Rocky. “It’s weird. We animals kill to eat, sure. But you lot? Don’t even bother to eat the people you kill! You bury them underground or burn them up. Such a waste of good food.” There’s nothing much I can say in the defence of humans so I drop the subject. “The next book is even more astonishing,” I say. It’s called The Feather Thief, by Kirk Wallace Johnson, narrated by Macleod Andrews. “It’s a thrilling true story about a young guy who steals the feathers of rare old birds from a museum in England,” I say. “Because there’s a group of people who specialise in making lures for catching salmon. And the lures are made out of exotic bird feathers!” Even as I say these words I realise how bizarre it all seems.

By the time I’ve finished describing the intricate details of this highly unusual crime, Rocky has lost interest. “Yeah, yeah,” he says, dismissively. “Humans are twisted! Cookies, please? I’m so glad I’m only an animal!”

Manjula Padmanabhan, author and artist, writes of her life in the fictional town of Elsewhere, US, in this weekly column

Published on May 25, 2018
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