Mike had already retrieved my suitcase and was carrying it in for me. I stopped to look at the scenery. When he saw me standing there, Mike called out, “Don’t stay too long or the bugs will get you and you don’t want to risk getting fever out here.”
I trotted to catch up to him. “Thanks.”
The inside of the building was surprisingly pleasing. It was very clean and orderly. Carlotta motioned for me to follow her and we walked through a hallway and entered the living quarters. The atmosphere was warm and friendly and had a woman’s touch to it. If it hadn’t been for the ride through the jungle, it could easily have passed as someone’s home in the States.
Fernando did the cooking that night and Carlotta explained how they all took turns with the chores. What I truly enjoyed was how we spoke about plans for the next day’s trek and yet no one asked me about my foot. They did ask a lot of questions about back home and they all gave a brief synopsis of how they came to be here at the lab. They were a fascinating group and I was glad my mind was occupied with other thoughts besides my foot.
However, the reprieve was short-lived because I no sooner got into bed and the toad began his mating call once again. I’m not sure how long it kept up its song because I was so exhausted I fell into a deep sleep and didn’t hear a thing. Morning came too quickly and if it hadn’t been for Carlotta persistently shaking me, I would have gone right back to sleep.
The atmosphere in the main room was quiet as compared to the night before and as soon as we finished eating, Carlotta checked my clothing to make sure I would have the proper clothing. That done, we headed out for what I desperately hoped would be the end of my nightmare.
Journeying through the jungle was slow and arduous; sometimes bringing us to a complete halt until the men cleared a path. We were traveling single file with Mike in the lead, followed by Carlotta, Tim, myself and Fernando bringing up the rear. Before long, my clothes were soaked and I could feel the heat and humidity sapping my strength. Every fifteen minutes or so, Mike paused long enough for us to take a drink of water and catch our breath.
Two and a half hours later, Mike turned to the rest of us. “We’re here but we can’t go any further and we have to remain quiet or we’ll spook them and then we’d have to come back tomorrow.”
Mike summoned for me to step forward. In a soft voice he said, “The rest is up to you. You’ll have to remove your boot and then slowly stick your foot under these bushes.” He pointed to a space under the closest bush large enough to get my foot through.
I knelt down and started unlacing my boot and glanced at the space where I had to shove my foot through. A wave of panic washed over me when I realized I wouldn’t be able to see my foot once it was through the opening. I would have no idea what was happening to it. For all I knew, there could have been a jungle troll on the other side that loved eating toadstools and would see my foot as a feast.,
Carlotta must have sensed my fear and knelt down beside me. “You have to do it Ellie. I know it’s not easy but it’s the only way you can get rid of this thing. I’ll sit with you if you want.”
I nodded. “Thanks.”
The moment had arrived. I sat on a rubber sheet Mike had placed beneath me and ever so carefully eased my foot through the opening. When I felt no more resistance, I stopped and hoped I had gotten it far enough through to do the trick. Carlotta placed her arm around my shoulders and leaned her head against mine.
Approximately between fifteen and twenty minutes later, I felt a stirring in my foot and wondered if the troll had come to dinner and then we heard the toad’s mating call. I whispered to everyone what was happening. Fernando began writing in his pad, wanting to record the events for future reference.
Carlotta turned her head so her mouth was near my ear. “Can you feel anything different? I mean, are you in pain?”
Afraid to talk, I wagged my finger back and forth.
I’m not sure how much time elapsed when I started feeling a lot of commotion around and on my foot. My first instincts were to scream, believing the troll had arrived. I fought off the urge to yank my foot back, reached for Carlotta’s hand and squeezed it tightly. Then, almost as quickly as it had started, everything stopped, including the noise. None of us could see over the bushes and had no idea what was taking place.
I glanced at Tim. “Should I pull my foot out now?” I whispered as softly as possible but so he could still hear me.
He held his hand up and flashed his fingers signaling five more minutes. I wanted to kill him but I remembered Dr. Lentz’s words to trust him and had to resign myself to waiting it out. In the interim, I was like a tennis fan shifting my head back and forth from my foot to Tim and back again.
Tim finally motioned for me to withdraw my foot. Carlotta squeezed my hand and I believe we all held our breath that nothing would go wrong. Again, while fighting the urge to snap it back, I carefully pulled it clear of the bush.
Tim stepped forward and gently lifted my foot. He moved it from side to side and then examined the sole for any odd bumps or lumps. He kept his fingers on the sole of my foot for a few minutes and nodded.
“I don’t feel anything. I think it’s safe to say we were successful.”
“When will you be sure?” I blurted thickly, my mouth having gone dry from nerves.
“My guess is tonight. If it’s still inside you, it will start its song all over again. If nothing happens I would say it’s safe to posit it’s gone.”
I looked him straight in the eyes and smiled. “Spoken like a true scientist.”
When I said that, the others breathed a sigh of relief and Fernando was the first to speak. “Ready to head back then? This place gives me the creeps.”
“It gives all of us the creeps,” Carlotta added and the other two men agreed.
Tim held his hand out to help me up. “You ready?”
Wanting to get out of there, I probably could have skyrocketed to my feet but I was appreciative of the offer.
That night, it was quiet as could be and I was able to drift into a peaceful slumber. Early next morning after a few phone calls, we were back in the jeep heading for the airport. We arrived in plenty enough time to check in and get all our paperwork stamped. I cried, hugged everyone and beat them all with my “thanks” for having saved my life.
The flight back home was more relaxing than when we had left and when we exited the plane, Dr. Lentz was waiting for us. He told Tim that he would be escorting me to the clinic to get the toadstool ex-rayed and if all was well, removed. To say I was relieved and excited with the expediency with which he wanted to remove the growth would have been a gross understatement. Passing through the doors of the clinic, I immediately spotted the medical staff waiting to take care of me and I cried tears of joy.
Chelle Munroe ©
January 29, 2014