Sam first noticed it slithering as the other students crowded at the rail for a closer look at the gorilla. It snaked out of the man’s safari hat and rested behind his neck. Maybe one day, thought Sam, he would have a ponytail of his own, wear a jungle hat, and know all about the animals. Maybe one day.
Chloe liked the man’s green vest. As the man moved toward her teacher, Chloe leaned near and tried to read the colorful buttons pinned to his chest. One said “Snake in the Grass” and had a cartoon snake with a devilish grin peeking from behind bending green blades. Chloe heard the man speak to Mrs. Curry.
“Did you say this was a public school group? It’s not like a private Christian school or anything?”
“We’re public,” Chloe heard Mrs. Curry tell him, “Very public.”
“Okay my safari friends,” announced the man with the hat and the funny buttons. “We are now in the primate section, and our first stop is with our oldest and most famous friend, Mongo the gorilla. Mongo is nearly thirty years old and weighs three hundred and seventy-five pounds. And what you may not know is that each of you and Mongo have the same ancestors.”
“The same what?” blurted Gabe without raising his hand.
“Ancestors,” answered the man. “Like the same family, kin folks. We are all relatives of Mongo the gorilla.”
The kids burst into simultaneous laughter at the silly man.
“I’m not teasing you at all,” spoke the man. “Humans and gorillas are both ‘great apes’. We share common ancestors from a time long, long ago. So all of us and Mongo are cousins.”
The kids edged forward and stared at Mongo in silence.
Little Tiffany suddenly remembered last summer’s beach vacation with her momma’s family. Big Uncle Bruce had hair that sprouted from his belly, climbed over his shoulders, and spread down his back. If she was kin to Mongo, she thought, it was definitely on that side of the family.
“Excuse me sir,” spoke a voice from the crowded pack.
“No need for ‘sir’, just ‘Safari Stevo’ for my friends. What’s your question?”
“Well, Mr. Safari Stevo, I don’t get it,” spoke crew-cut Curtis. “Me and Dylan there are cousins because our mommas are sisters, and Chloe here is my cousin somehow because she’s always at the family cook-outs. But I don’t get the Mongo thing.”
Safari Stevo squatted eye level to the full-faced, inquisitive youngster. “Well son, we are related to our primate cousins because…”
“Are you sure it’s just not your family that’s kin to gorillas?” interrupted Curtis. “My daddy would definitely have mentioned something about family like that.”
Laughter erupted from Mrs. Curry standing behind the children. Her hard chuckles turned to snorts, and contagious giggles spread among the students.
Curtis saw Safari Stevo’s face turn slightly red.
“No son, we are all related to Mongo. Some very smart people, scientists and researchers, have discovered that primates and humans…”
“Smarter than God?” interrupted Curtis again.
“God…umh, I don’t really think…”
“Because you see Mr. Safari Stevo, God is omni-something. Which means ‘all-smart’. And God says people came from Adam and Eve, who were people too.”
Safari Stevo rose from his squatting position and glared down at his pudgy adversary. Curtis noticed the man’s smile seemed painful. Stevo inhaled deep and began again.
“Our relationship to Mongo is not about Adam and Eve, it is about a process called ‘evolution’. I can’t tell you much about Adam and Eve, but I can…”
“Well, I can help you out there Mr. Stevo,” broke in Curtis. “You see, Adam and Eve were created by God in the Garden of Eden. Adam came first, and he got to give all the animals their names. He’s the one that told Mongo’s great, great, great granddaddy or such that he was a gorilla. And then God made…”
Safari Stevo could only stand silent and wait as Curtis recalled God’s creation of man. When Curtis hesitated or skipped an important detail, his cousins Dylon and Chloe quickly provided their biblical expertise. Chloe especially emphasized the snake in the grass who approached Eve and only wanted to cause trouble for everybody.
As Curtis finished his story, Sam, Tiffany and the others stared at Safari Stevo.
After a few moments, Stevo’s smile spread once again. “I think it’s time we find the giraffes,” he suggested. The kids agreed, and followed the slithering ponytail far away from "cousin" Mongo.
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