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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
The Rock of Gibraltar

“You’ve done it again, Ian. We fall asleep on a boat and wake up who knows where.” Mac pulled the tarp back and kicked it to the side of the small boat.

“Me? Why is it always my fault? You blame me for everything. You were running just as fast as me. I didn’t hear you object when we were being chased by an angry mob in Nice.” Ian tipped his head back and gazed at the towering wall of limestone. “What is that? Is it a volcano? We’re going to die, aren’t we?”

Mac leapt out of the boat. “Come on, Ian. Don’t start panicking already. It’s not a volcano; it’s the Rock of Gibraltar.”

“How do you know?”

Mac grabbed Ian’s head and turned it, aiming his gaze to the sign. “See? It says Gibraltar.”

“Oh. What’s the Rock of Gibraltar?”

“That is the Rock of Gibraltar. It’s a rock, a huge piece of limestone; it is owned by the British, but is part of Spain.”

“Know it all!” Ian stuck out his tongue. “And what is on the Rock of Gibraltar?”

“We are.”

Ian didn’t say another word. He climbed out of the boat and walked a few feet, stopping to sniff for food. When his nose picked up the scent of roasted meat, he took Mac’s paw and pulled him along towards the tantalizing aroma floating in the air.  Smoke billowed high, carrying with it spattered droplets of sizzled grease from sliced beef. Ian’s nose twitched again as he followed the hypnotic cloud luring him as if it had fingers pulling him closer. “Food! Food, food, food, food, food, food! Roasting food. Delicious food.”

“Any food is delicious to you, Ian. Hmm. I never knew there was a town here. It’s very Mediterranean, but since we are at the Mediterranean, that makes sense. Over there,” Mac said, pointing south, “is Morocco, Africa. I’ve read that there’s a grand view from the top of the Rock.”

“Up there? You want to go up to the top? Are you suicidal? First of all, I am not repelling up that mountain. Second of all, I am not going anywhere until I eat something. Third, no more boat rides for a while, all right?” Ian’s tummy rumbled.

“There’s a road that leads to the top. We can walk up, taking our time, of course, but first, let’s get you some food. We should keep to the back of the shops and restaurants. That’s where they’ll toss the leftover food.” Mac sighed, mumbling to himself. “All he thinks about is food.”

Ian and Mac crept behind a shop selling tourist trinkets and tee shirts before coming to the first restaurant. There was only one large rubbish container and it had a heavy plastic lid. The raccoons struggled to lift it, but the hard plastic was too heavy. Ian didn’t give up. He knew his lunch lay inside. When he peeked over the edge he spotted a rusted hole in the side. “Aha. I knew I’d find a way in. It’ll be a bit tight, but we can do it. Come on, Mac.”

They sprung from the lid and stood next to the hole. “It’s all jaggy. If we get a cut, we’ll get tetanus. I don’t want to die from lock jaw.” Mac rubbed his chin.

“I’ll do it.” Ian put his right leg into the hole, stretching it until he felt something solid. Using his arms, he pried himself up while he slid his shoulder through.

“Be careful, Ian. You almost cut yourself. Think tetanus, Ian, tetanus.”

“Stop talking, Mac. I’m fine.” Ian pulled his other shoulder through the hole an inch at a time and then his other leg. He stuck his face out. “I told you I’d be able to do it. Stay there and I’ll toss some food out to you.”

Mac heard Ian rummaging through the rubbish. Out popped the bone of a ham hock, landing near Mac’s feet. That was followed by several half-eaten baked potato skins, covered with melted cheese and bits of rubbery broccoli. Mac had to scoot back to avoid being hit. Soon he gazed upon pieces of pie crust, pork chop bones, chicken legs, piles of sautéed onions and some mashed up custards and puddings with globs of soggy fruit. “Enough, Ian. We’ll never be able to eat all of this.”

“One more thing; I’m not leaving without this.” Ian’s face appeared at the hole. “I’ve got pot roast. It’s almost whole. I’ve died and gone to heaven.” When Ian tried to push it through the hole, the half raw meat wedged in the middle, catching hold of the rusted points of metal. Ian pushed and shoved, using his shoulder and all of his strength, but no matter what he did, he couldn’t budge the pot roast.

Mac chuckled. “Now what?”

“I’m not leaving without this pot roast.” Ian’s voice came in short breaths as he struggled with the meat.

“While you’re working on that, I’m going to enjoy some of this other food.” Mac found a place to sit in some tall grass growing behind the trash receptacle. He pulled the food with him and then feasted, tugging leftover bits of ham off the hock with his sharp teeth. “This is delicious.” Ian ignored him and Mac shook his head to the side, wondering how long it would take his friend to give up. Mac ate the onions and puddings with fruit. He was just about to start on the chicken legs when the bushes rustled behind him. He turned, hoping to see what it was. “Who’s there?” No answer.

Six Barbary macaques leaped out, rushing towards Mac, chattering, squealing, and waving their arms in the air. Mac didn’t stick around. He ran to the door of the restaurant and curled up behind a coiled rope. The Gibraltar monkeys gobbled at Mac’s food, throwing the bones at each other and scraping fruit off the grass with their fingers.

“What are you doing, Mac? It sounds like you’ve turned into a ravished monster. It’s only food. There’s plenty of it in here.” Ian called from inside his smelly prison, unaware of the new arrivals. “If you’ll just be patient, I’ve almost got this pot roast through the hole.”

The macaques went silent and moved over to the pot roast half poking from the rusted hole. Curious and hungry, they examined the roast, ripping pieces off and sniffing them. A few of the monkeys climbed on top of the metal container.

“Say, Mac, what are you doing up there? Are you trying to deafen me? Stop jumping on the lid. If you want to help that bad, then lift it up, get in here and help me.” Ian hit the lid from the inside, frightening the monkeys. They leapt off, but after a few minutes, climbed back on. One by one they tried to raise the lid, but failed. It didn’t take long for them to discover that if they worked together, they could. Up it went, sending bright light inside, temporarily blinding Ian. Before he knew what hit him, the six monkeys jumped inside and started rummaging through the rubbish, tossing banana peels at each other and at Ian. “Stop it, Mac. Mac? Mac? Is that you? It doesn’t sound like you.” When Ian’s eyes adjusted to the sunlight, he spied the monkeys. “Yikes.” Using all his strength he pushed the pot roast out of the hole onto the ground. While the macaques fought over some lemon chiffon crepes, Ian climbed out, grabbed the pot roast and ran off, leaving Mac behind the ropes. “Mac? Mac? Where are you?” Ian called out in a semi-whisper. He pushed leaves and branches out of his way as he climbed higher and higher, trying to flee from the rampaging monkeys. He didn’t stop running, lugging his pot roast behind him, until he reached the top and discovered he could go no further.

Mac, who watched everything from his coil of safety, saw where Ian was headed, but stayed still, not make any noises. When the six monkeys were together inside the trash bin, Mac ran over and hopped on top of it, pushing the lid shut and enclosing them inside. He jumped back down and was aghast to see the monkeys climbing out of the rusty hole. Fearing for his life, he ran up the road to the top, huffing and puffing until he reached Ian. “Ian. Ian. They’re coming after us.”

Ian saw Mac’s terrified expression. “What? What did you say?” Just then he spotted and heard the monkeys, who had gathered reinforcements.

Mac grabbed Ian’s paw and pulled him into a bush. “The….monkeys….are….after….me.” Trying to calm his breathing down, he focused on his words. “Where can we hide?”

Ian looked over the edge. “Lovely view from up here. Look, you can see Spain and over there is Morocco.”

“We’re going to die in a minute and all you can do is think of the view?  Where can we hide?”

“While I was finishing off my pot roast, which, by the way, was delicious and tender, with just the right amount of seasoning…”


“Oh, all right. There are caves inside the mountain. We can hide in them, if we can find an entrance. I don’t think we want to try our luck in that direction,” Ian said, pointing to the sheer drop on the white limestone side of the Rock. “Let’s go this way.” The gentler slope appealed to them more. Down they ran, dodging bushes, stones, and other small bands of macaques. Ian noticed people walking up the path and cars driving the zigzag road. Several had pulled over at the half way mark. “There! The caves.”

Mac turned around and spotted the monkeys at the top, jumping up and down on the roof of a small car. “We got out of there just in time. I hope they leave us alone now.”

“I heard some people talking about how there are quite a few of those monkeys on the island. They like people, but I suppose we’re strange animals to them because obviously they don’t like raccoons. There are like 230 of them and normally they’re in groups of twenty-five to seventy, so we were lucky to have only encountered six of them.” Ian sighed. “This way. Stay in the shadows. Somehow I think the people might not like to see us running around in the tunnels.”

They found the entrance to the caves and waited until all the people had gone inside. As they marched down further into the darkness, they were relieved to see lighting. One tunnel led to another and it didn’t take long for them to realize they were lost. “Do the monkeys go in the caves?” Mac turned in a circle, checking his back.

“I don’t think they like the caves. They like being where people are so they can get food and take bites of them.” Ian glanced from one end of the tunnel to the other. “Um, how are we going to find our way out of here?”

“We keep walking until we do.” Mac ran ahead and beheld a bright light. “Up here, Ian. I see sunlight.”

Ian ran after his friend, who had stopped at the end of the tunnel. “What’s wrong?” Mac pointed down. “This isn’t the way we want to go.” Ian lay on his belly and peered over the edge. “We’re on the steep side, about half way up the Rock. We can’t jump that far, or climb down. We’ll have to turn around and go back.”

An hour later they were still wandering the tunnels, no idea where they were or which way to go. Relief washed over them when a group of tourists walked by. The raccoons followed them out. “Freedom! Fresh air! Sunshine!” Mac was thrilled to be in the open. “Have you seen enough of the Rock of Gibraltar yet, Ian? I know I have. Do we go to Spain or to Morocco?”

“We’ve been to Spain, so Morocco it is. How are we going to get there? Not by boat, I hope.”

“It’s too far to swim. Look down there; it’s a ferry. I can tell because people are driving their cars on board. It’s still a boat, but it’s a different type of boat and besides that, it’s daylight. We usually go on boats during the night. Give it a try?” Mac winked at Ian, who consented. They rushed down the mountainside and sprang onto the ferry boat, carefully avoiding the cars driving on board. They found a place to hide - a funnel near the back of the boat. When the ferry pulled away from the dock, they breathed a sigh of relief. Soon the Rock of Gibraltar was a distant memory. The raccoons napped and didn’t wake again until the ferry bumped into the Moroccan dock. “Here we are, Ian. What adventure lies ahead for us today?”

Ian could only let out a sigh. “We’ll soon find out, Mac. We’ll soon find out.”

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