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Tami in the rain forest

Tami Smithers walked and walked and ate fruit and vegetables and avoided any sign of civilization and walked and walked and walked, always due east by the sun, traveling by night, sleeping by day. One night she came to a wide, wide river and knew it had to be the Mississippi. There was a town to her right, and she walked south until it was safely out of sight. Then she swam across. It took her half the night. There were huge dim shapes of barges moving very slowly by, so slowly that she grew tired of waiting for them to pass and swan in front of them and around them.

The dawn was breaking as she dragged her dripping, nude form onto the other side, and got as far as the first clump of trees before she curled up and slept. She was awakened, late in the afternoon, by a clap of thunder. Then lightning. She worried about the trees getting struck, but then the fireworks were over and her whole world was drenched in a cloudburst.

For three whole days the naked teenager walked through the rain, a big long shower, hair plastered down her back, sheets of water down her back, down each breast, down her flat tummy, down her legs to her muddy bare feet. She was going through an endless forest, possibly a state park of some kind, and she kept splashing across the sodden ground even in daylight, knowing that no one would be out in the park in the middle of such a downpour. She had never seen it keep raining and raining like this; was there really a “rain forest” down here in the southeast United States? Even more amazing was her ability to sleep in it. Exhausted, needing sleep, she had dropped to her knees in the middle of a grassy clearing, then lay down on her stomach, just to rest for a while, not thinking she could actually sleep like this, resting her head on her crossed hands, and then was surprised to wake up in the dark, lying on her side in a fetal position, still being rained on as if the rain were a soft warm blanket that God had tucked her into.

When the rain finally stopped and the sun came out, she had looked around for a place to call home for a couple of days, to rest up and maybe do some thinking about how to continue her journey. In the hot steamy air she found herself sweating with the slightest movement, and told herself how much more uncomfortable she would be in clothes. Once more, she realized that it was an advantage to be naked -- as she had felt, so long ago, back in December in her dorm room when Terri had mentioned getting a cold from walking in the slush with wet shoes, and Tami had realized that her nakedness had made her strong and resilient and the only person in her dorm wing not to have been sick with a sore throat or the flu or anything else the whole semester.

The air was so thick and humid that she could feel herself pushing through it like an invisible ocean. After half a day she found the perfect home -- a thick, tall tree, of a species she had never seen before, with a hollow in the trunk that was big enough for her to curl up in. She cleaned all the branches out and put some leaves in as a mattress. The other nice feature of this tree was the crotch of the branches above, in which she could sit or lie back, her feet on the branches, and even go to sleep, with no danger of falling off.

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