Written by: silverhawk

Mandy was sweating so much the back of her khaki shirt was dark brown and stuck to her skin.  The back of her khaki shorts were wet from the waist down, and the center seam had crept between her ass cheeks.  It was almost like seeing her ass naked.  She stopped walking and turned around to face me.  The front of her shirt had a brown stain on the front that spread from the buttons outward almost to the center of her breasts.  The front of her shorts had the same brown stain where the legs were sewn at the crotch.

“How much longer do we have to walk in this heat?  I need to stop and cool off.”

Biabo, a Nanti man who had been taught English by Christian missionaries and served as the guide and interpreter for the expedition, answered her question.

“We are a day from the beginning of Rio Pequino.  We will camp there tonight.”

Mandy used a handkerchief to wipe the sweat from her forehead and then put the floppy hat back on over the long blonde hair she’d done up to keep it off her slender neck.

“I’m going to sit in that river and wash off this sweat, and then stay there until I feel human again.”

Biabo grinned.

“No, Miss Mandy, you can’t.   The fishes will eat you.”

“So I have to stay like this?  I smell like I don’t know what.”

“I will have one of the men bring you a bucket of water.”

Just then, there was a shout from one of the men ahead.  He dropped the bundle of supplies he carried, pulled the machete from his belt and ran ahead.  I heard a thunk, then another before he came walking back to the caravan.  The large snake over his shoulder still writhed even though it had no head, and the man was jabbering away in Paolin.  Biabo grinned..

“We will have fresh meat for our dinner.”


The old man I was treating at the time was near death.  He was a hundred and two according to his reckoning of the years.  One day as I listened to his failing heart, he said he would confide to me a secret he’d kept nearly all his life.

“Young man, I won’t live to see Mauga O Le Ola again, so I’ll tell you the secret I’ve kept since I was twenty.  You’re a doctor and you’ll understand the value.  It’s because of the natives there I’ve lived so long.   Before my supply of their powders was exhausted, I was as strong as when I was there eighty two years ago.”

I had smiled to myself.  I had heard his story several times before.  Like many older people, he’d lost the capacity for short-term memory and often repeated himself.  Upon hearing his tale the first time, I’d spent hours at the library searching for Mauga O Le Ola in Peru, the country he had indicated as it’s location.  I found no reference to such a place, but his tale was intriguing enough I continued my search.   

He had begun his working life as a sailor at the age of sixteen, but in 1896, he had been part of an expedition to Peru to search for the gold rumored to be there.  None had been found by prior expeditions, but the leader had discovered a text written by a Spanish explorer of less renown than most.  In the text, he described the location of a vast treasure in the eastern foothills of the Andes.  The treasure was in a cave at the source of a small stream that flowed into the Rio Camasea and then to the Amazon River.  By consulting the maps of the day, the leader had determined a probable location.

The expedition had attempted to cross the Andes from the Pacific side, for that way appeared to be much faster than trekking up the Amazon River and then through the rainforest.  Their plan did not consider the difficulty of crossing the high peaks of the Andes, and the members of the expedition were near death from starvation and fatigue when they reached the eastern foothills.  They were found by a tribe of natives and carried to their village.  

All of the members of the expedition had succumbed to the rigors of the mountain crossing except this man.  He was given a remedy of some sort by the natives, and eventually made a complete recovery.  According to his tale, he left the natives with a large bag of the same remedy and followed the stream and then the river until he came to a town frequented by river craft.

He secured a passage down river by agreeing to serve as a deck hand on the boat. After several weeks, the craft docked at a seaport in Brazil.  He sought and found a ship bound for Europe, and after signing on as a crew member, made his way there.  From Europe, he again crewed on a sailing ship and finally landed in Norfolk, Virginia.

He did not again go to sea, for he had had his fill of the damp, cramped sailor’s quarters aboard a sailing vessel.  Using his knowledge of ships and rigging, he began work in a shipyard in Norlolk.  His powders kept him fit and able to work until he was in his nineties, or so he said.  He required only a tiny amount of the powders each day, but at that point they were exhausted.  He aged in one year so quickly he was forced to ask his niece in Chicago to care for him.  When the niece passed on, his care was taken over by her daughter who put him in a nursing home.  When he became ill, she brought him to my hospital.

His tale piqued my interest, but not for the promise of gold.  I knew there would always be such tales and that those tales were most likely only myth.  I was interested for another reason.  By 1974 when I graduated from medical school, modern medicine had done much to cure and prevent disease and infection, but very little to postpone the aging process.  Some of those cures had been derived from the medicines of various primitive tribes throughout the world.  It was entirely possible and indeed probable that more cures and preventions were stored in the minds of the tribal healers of the Amazon rain forest.  

I was not particularly interested in finding medicines to maintain the appearance of youth, though I knew finding such would certainly have been profitable.  My interest was in finding a way to stave off the aging of the brain and internal organs that eventually fail and result in death.  At the time of his first telling, I was twenty eight, fresh from my internship and full of hopes for the future.  I wanted to believe he might be telling the truth.

Since the man had been a sailor and was somewhat confused in his memories, I contacted the language department at the University of Illinois in Chicago and asked if they could determine the language in which Mauga O Le Ola was written.  I had assumed it to be Spanish as Peru was initially conquered by Spain and excepting for tribal languages, Spanish was the language spoken.  My own research indicated this was not the case.  I had then tried Portuguese because Peru borders on Brazil and the language of Brazil is Portuguese.  There were no such words in the Portuguese language either.

After much searching, one professor at the university identified the language.  The words were Samoan, and translated to “mountain of life”.

I thought the use of the Samoan language to name a place in Peru to be quite a stretch.  While it had been theorized that peoples from Polynesia could have made the voyage across the Pacific, it was also generally acknowledged they would have settled on the coast since they would have been people of the sea, not of the land.  They would probably not have moved inland and certainly not to the other side of the Andes.  Doing so would have forced them to reinvent their entire culture.  I concluded the old man was confusing two places where his ship had made port.

He told me the same story nearly every day.  I listened, but by that time, had discounted it.  That changed on the day before he passed away.

I was making my routine rounds and stopped by his bed.  He was in bad shape by then, gasping for every breath, and he looked as pale as the sheets.  I was sure he wouldn’t last the night.

I listened to his heart.  The regular thump was weak, and at times slowed almost to stopping and then resumed the tired sounding thud-thud.  I looped the stethoscope around my neck and asked how he was feeling.

“Not good, not good at all.  If only I had some of those native powders again, but I know that can’t happen.  You’ll call my grand-niece when I go, won’t you?  She won’t come to see me, but I understand.  She’s young and just starting out in life.  I’m just slowing her down.”

I said I would, but I didn’t think he needed to worry about that happening any time soon.  He just smiled.

“When you get as old as I am, you’ll know when it’s going to happen.  Oh…in the drawer over there is something for you.  I don’t know why I didn’t remember it before.  It’s the pouch I carried the powders in.  You take it.  My grand-niece will just throw it in the trash.”

I walked out of the room with the pouch.  It was of some sort of leather and was so old it was beginning to crack in places.  When I got back to my office, I opened it.

Inside, I could see a residue of fine, yellow powder.  The old man apparently hadn’t made up that part of the story.  I inverted the pouch over a sterile surgical tray and tapped it.  A small amount of the powder dropped onto the tray.  There wasn’t much, but it would be enough for Dale, one of the chemists in the hospital lab, to analyze with the mass spectrometer the hospital had just purchased.

Dale called me the next morning.

“Where in hell did you get that stuff””

“From an old leather bag an old man gave me.  Why?”

“I can’t figure out what the hell it is.  The mass spec gives me the percentage of elements, but I can’t find any known compounds that match.  Did he say what was in the bag?”

I thought for a second or two.   If Dale couldn’t figure out what it was, maybe the old man was telling the truth about it being from some native witch doctor.  If that was the case, he might have been telling the truth about it keeping him young as well.  I had a quick vision of my picture on the covers of magazines and articles about how I’d discovered the cure for aging.

“No, he just gave me the bag.  Can’t you just make some more?”

“Tried to.  I put together a set of compounds that should have matched the mass spec data when they were combined.  The only problem was they wouldn’t combine.  I got a power, but instead of yellow, it was a bunch of different colors just mixed together.  I need some process to make the individual compounds chemically bind to each other.  There’s nothing in any of the chemistry texts in the lab or at my house that would do that.  Would your old man know what was in the bag?”

“He might, but I don’t think he’d be able to tell us.  I’m surprised he lasted through the night.  He probably won’t last through the day.  When I examined him this morning, he just laid there.

“Well, shit.  I’ll keep trying in my spare time, but right now, it’s just foofoo dust.”

“Foofoo dust?”

“Yeah, that’s what we call stuff we haven’t identified yet unless it’s liquid.  Then it’s goopy goop.”

He was chuckling when I hung up the phone, but I was thinking seriously, and I later realized, pretty selfishly.  If I could find that tribe of natives and see how they made the stuff, I’d have made my mark on medicine, well, if it actually did anything.  There would be years of testing before it could be prescribed, but if I could find out how to make it, there would at least be a supply for that testing.

I went home that night and thought some more.  The old man had told me the location of the village, or at least where to start looking.  The way he’d gotten there was out of the question.  His expedition had proven that wasn’t a good plan.  The only other way was to fly to Brazil, take whatever transportation was available up the Amazon, and then go the rest of the way on foot.

I started looking at how long it might take and how much it might cost.  How long was easy to figure out and was doable.  I figured the travel time as about two hundred miles a day on the water and maybe five over land.  That worked out to be about three weeks in, two weeks to find the village, watch the process and get a large sample, and then three weeks back out.  I’d have to take a leave of absence, but that wouldn’t be a problem.  Other doctors did that for refresher courses and sometimes just to get away for a while.

The cost was another matter.  Travel in the Amazon wasn’t all that common then, so it was difficult to obtain accurate figures.  I did a lot of estimating and decided I needed to find about ten thousand dollars.  I was making twenty a year at the time and paying off college loans.  There was no way I could do that.  .

The old man died about noon that day.  I called his grand-niece to tell her.  She said she’d already made the necessary arrangements and that the funeral home would pick up the body as soon as she called them.  Once that was done, she’d come over to pick up whatever he had at the hospital.  I said I’d collect what there was and have it in my office for her.

At two that afternoon, there was a knock on my office door.  I looked up to see a blonde woman in a blue dress standing there.  She looked about thirty or thirty five, and even though the dress wasn’t anything fancy, she was very attractive. She smiled when I asked her to come in.

“I’m Mandy Monroe, Uncle Will’s grand-niece.  Are you Doctor Wells?”

“Yes, but call me Rick.”

“I came by to pick up what my uncle left in the room.”

I pointed to the paper sack on the corner of my desk.

“There wasn’t much, just an old billfold, a pocket knife, and a pocket watch.  The billfold only has a picture of a little girl and a union card from the Boilermaker’s Union, nothing else.”

She walked to my desk, opened the bag, and took out the billfold.  She opened it and smiled again.

“The picture is me when I was about six.  He used to tell me stories about his travels before he started to forget things.  After that, he didn’t talk to me much.  I think he knew he was repeating things and that embarrassed him.”

“He must have thought a lot of you if he carried your picture.”

She sighed.

“I suppose so, and I liked him when he could remember.  It was hard to be around him when Mom died and he moved in with me.  That’s why I put him in the nursing home.  He couldn’t remember anything for more than a few seconds. I couldn’t bear seeing him like that all the time.  That’s also why I didn’t come visit him here.”

I tried to be comforting.

“Well, he’s at peace now.”

“Yes.  I know it sounds selfish, but now I can be too.”

“No, it’s not selfish.  I only see patients like him at the hospital, but I can imagine he would have occupied most of your life if he was there all the time.  It’s natural to feel some relief.”

She reached in the bag and pulled out his watch.

“He said he carried this watch over the Andes mountains and then all the way down the Amazon.  I’m not sure I believe that, but it’s one of the stories he used to tell me.”

“He told me the same story, several times.”

“Did he tell you about the magic powders?”

“Yes.  It would be fantastic if that part was true.  It might be, you know.”

Mandy’s look was questioning.

“You think it could be?”

“Well, some modern drugs aren’t really modern.  They’re purified forms of ancient remedies from healers all over the world.  Digitalis came from folk medicine practitioners in Europe, and a treatment for Hodgkin’s disease was used by the healers in Madagascar.  There are others – quinine, ipecac – and probably more we don’t know about yet.”

“Maybe someone will discover what his powders were one day.  It’s too bad he didn’t have any left.”

By then, I’d decided to give up any search for the village and more of the powder.  I couldn’t afford to do it, and I’d never be able to convince a drug company to investigate the powder unless I had enough for a thorough analysis and some preliminary testing.  Even if I could find financing, the old man had gotten the powders almost eighty years before, and the village might not even be there.

“Well, actually, he did, not enough to do him any good, but there was enough to get a small sample.  It was in an old leather bag he gave me.  I had it analyzed, but the lab couldn’t identify it.  They couldn’t figure out how to make any more either.  A drug company probably could, but they wouldn’t finance any investigation based on one old man’s story.  I thought about doing it, but it’s pretty pricey.”

“How much is pricey?”

“I sort of guessed, but I think maybe ten thousand or so.”

“That is a lot.  How would you do it if you had the money?”

I explained what the old man had told me about the location of the village and how I thought I’d have to get there.  She smiled.

“That would be an interesting trip even if you don’t find anything.”

“Probably, but it’s not going to happen.  It’ll be years before I can afford that, and maybe never.”

“Do you really think there’s anything there to find?”

“I’m not sure.  Your uncle was in really good shape except for his heart. I’ve examined people twenty years younger whose kidneys, lungs, and other organs were failing.  His all seemed just fine.  It could be that’s just the way he was, but it isn’t very common because we all age at about the same rate.  I thought it was worth a shot until I figured out the cost.”

Mandy seemed to be thinking.  She just looked at me for almost a minute and then smiled.

“What if I gave you the money?  Would you still do it?”

I had to think for a second about that.  I hadn’t been stretching the truth about his internal organs.  There was nothing wrong with any of them except his heart.  It could have been he was just at one end of the population bell curve, but then maybe…The urge to say yes was really strong.

“Probably, but even if you could, why would you do that.”

She grinned.

“Oh, I could do it.  My father owned a shipping company that transports things through the Great Lakes.  Now that he’s gone, I own it.  Ten thousand isn’t as much as even one cargo ship brings in.  I’d just stick the profit in the bank with the rest unless I gave it to you.  As for why, well, if Uncle Will was telling the truth, the rest of the world should know, don’t you think?  Maybe it’s not a cure for aging like he thought, but maybe it’s a cure for something else.  Maybe that village has other things too.  It would be kind of like his legacy and everybody should have some sort of legacy.  Still interested?”

“Well, yes.”

She grinned again.

“There’s one condition.  I get to come along.”

My excitement cooled some then.  I’d done a lot of reading when I searched for the place.  The jungle was no place for a woman.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.  We could be in the jungle for eight weeks, maybe ten if we have any problems with transportation or finding the place.  There wouldn’t be any of the things you’re accustomed to, and a whole lot of things you’re not.  Most of it would be in a boat, but we’d be walking through the jungle for at least a couple of weeks.”

Mandy pulled back her shoulders and pulled her dress tight over her breasts in the process.

“I’m tougher than you think, and I like being in the outdoors.  I grew up camping and fishing with Dad. I’ll be fine, you’ll see.”

Two weeks later, and after making the arrangements with the hospital and buying some sturdy clothing and shoes, I met Mandy at O’Hare.  From there, we flew to Mexico City, then on to Panama City, and finally boarded an old DC-3 for Belem, Brazil.  That flight was OK from the standpoint of looking but a little boring.  The Amazon jungle seemed to go on forever.  All that could be seen from the air was one solid mass of trees.  The flight wasn’t all that great otherwise.  The plane had seen better days.  The seats were ripped in places, my seat belt didn’t work, and when I looked out my window, I could see a piece of the engine cowling flapping in the wind.

By using a Portuguese/English phrase book, we found the bus station and bought tickets to Afua.  It took a while to find a hotel in Afua but we finally did.  It was down by the waterfront, and like the DC-3, it had seen better days.  Still, it was a place to sleep and that’s all we needed.  The next morning we put most of our cash and all of Mandy’s jewelry in the hotel safe with instructions we’d pick it up when we returned.  Then, we asked about boats going up river.

Riding the riverboat was much like riding the train from Belem.  There were people in business dress, people in more casual dress, and some people in what amounted to rags.  That was because the riverboat was the only public transportation between Afua and Manaus.  Everybody and anybody with business up river rode the boat or one like it.

The boat had chugged along through a confusing mass of islands that were part of the Amazon.  I don’t know how, because they all looked the same to me, but the boat captain somehow found his way through them.  As the sun was dropping into the trees ahead, the boat turned into the main river.  Mandy gasped.

“My God, it’s huge.”

It was huge.  It was so wide, the banks on either side of the boat were just a smear of green on the horizon.

A man in a business suit standing beside her at the rail chuckled.

“We aren’t on the Amazon yet. This is one of the two forks it takes to get to the Atlantic.”

Mandy turned to him.

“You speak English?”

“Yes, and Portuguese, and a little Spanish.  I make this trip about twice a month.  Manaus is the factory location of my company.  Afau is the export center.”

“There’s a factory in the middle of the rain forest?”

He smiled.

“People who come to Brazil believe what they see on the television is all there is to Brazil.  Yes, we have a huge rain forest with much wildlife, but we also have industry, farming, and ranching.  Manaus is a large city not unlike some of yours in America.  I would enjoy showing you and your husband some of the sights.”

Mandy smiled.

“Rick isn’t my husband.  We’re just two friends traveling together.”

The man grinned.

“Ah, I see.  I would enjoy a friend as seductive as you.  He is a lucky man.”

Mandy smiled.

“He’s not that lucky.  We’re just here to see animals and the rain forest and to take some pictures.  I’m afraid we won’t have time to see much of Manaus.  As soon as we can find a boat, we’re going up the main river.

“You mean Rio Solimoes.  That is the name in Portuguese.  It will be an interesting trip.  You will see many animals and few cities or towns.

It took three days to reach Manaus during which we had a few more conversations with the man.  He directed us to a company that made excursions to the various cities and towns on the Rio Solimoes.  He also treated us to dinner the evening we arrived in Manaus.

The next morning we boarded another, smaller riverboat and started up the Rio Solimoes.  As we left Manaus and the busy part of the river, wildlife became more easily seen.  Pink dolphins sometimes cruised along with the boat.  We saw caiman basking on the river banks.  It seemed as if there were brightly colored birds everywhere, from green parrots to the macaws with their color combinations of red, blue, yellow, and green that screamed at us from the treetops.  We were constantly in awe of the many and varied animals we saw at the river’s banks.  We had seen most of them at the zoo in Chicago, but seeing them in the wild was a completely different experience..

The boat slowly made its way through the myriad of twists and turns and islands of the Rio Solimoes over the next eight days. Mandy and I sat under the canopy of the deck and talked while we watched the water and the shoreline.  I found her to be an intelligent woman, and though she seemed to have abandoned makeup since leaving Chicago, still a very attractive woman.  That most men would find  her to be also a physically desirable woman was a fact of which she was aware.  I suppose it was because I was a doctor and she and I were the only people on the boat who spoke English, but she was a little more open with me than she probably would have been in Chicago.  

I was kidding her one afternoon about what the man on the first boat had said about her being seductive and said she must be pleased she could attract men.  She looked at me and smiled, but there was something else in her smile, a kind of sadness I hadn’t seen before.

“I wish I could feel that way, but I don’t.”

I’d never given much thought to whether women wanted to attract men.  The women I’d known made no excuses for the way they dressed and acted.  They did so for the purpose of finding a husband.

“You don’t feel like you’re attractive to men?”

“Men tell me I am but I’m not trying to be that way.  I dress like I do because it’s  the current style and I can’t find anything else to buy.”

The doctor in me became very interested then.

“You don’t have any urge to be with a man?”

“I was with one man long enough to know sleeping with him wasn’t something I liked.  I still have men as friends.  I just don’t want to be with a man sexually.”

“It might be a medical condition.  When did it start?”

“I’ve always been this way.  In high school, all the other girls talked about was sex and how it would feel.  They couldn’t wait to do it.  I listened, but I didn’t feel like they did.  It just wasn’t something I thought or cared about.  In college, men kept asking me out, and after a couple of dates would kiss me and try to get me aroused.  I didn’t feel anything.  That’s why I’m still single.  No man wants a woman who doesn’t like sex.”

“You matured normally – no problems with your periods or with any infections?”

She shrugged.

“As far as I know I did.  Everything works like it’s suppose to that way, and I’ve never had even a yeast infection.”

“Have you seen a doctor and asked him about it?”

“Once.  He told me it was all in my head and I should see a psychiatrist.  It’s not in my head.  I know I should want to.  I just don’t ever have the feeling that I do want to.”

I’d read about a similar case when I was in medical school, but I’d never actually seen one.  I was interested on a professional basis as well as a personal one.  The woman in the case study had been in good health and the doctors were stumped.  They had sent her to a psychiatrist as well.  His diagnosis was she didn’t have any mental issues caused by something like early sexual abuse, any past head injuries, or anything else that could be a cause.  He’d come to the conclusion she just didn’t like sex and he didn’t know why other than that she was probably a lesbian who couldn’t accept that fact.

“What about other women?”

“You mean am I a lesbian?  No, I’m not.  I thought I might be and tried to find out.  It was the same.  She was a nice woman, but I didn’t feel anything.”


“I had an orgasm, or what I think was an orgasm, but I didn’t want to do it again.”

“What about masturbation?”

“Almost never, and I have to make myself do it and then only when I’m really stressed out.  It isn’t something I really want to do.  It’s just the only way of relieving the stress.  Why is that important?”

“Well, if you can have an orgasm, it probably means your body is functional as far as being capable of being aroused.  Something else is responsible for your lack of desire.”

“Well, I’ve learned to live with it, I guess.  It would be nice to know why I’m like I am though.”

I didn’t have any answers for her because the medical profession hadn’t really studied women’s sexuality very much.  Kinsey did, but he only identified a scale of sexual preferences, not any causes.  Before that, women were either classified as either heterosexual or homosexual.  There was the lame clinical diagnosis of “frigid”, that that was pretty much a catchall for anything doctors couldn’t explain.

We didn’t talk about her condition after that.  I didn’t try because I didn’t have any answers and she seemed to have accepted it.  We spent the rest of the trip watching animals and taking pictures.

Eight days after leaving Manaus, the boat docked in Leticia, the last city on the Rio Solimoes still inside the border of Brazil.  The next day, we boarded an even smaller riverboat and crossed into Peru.  Our excitement increased each day as the boat chugged along.  We would end up in Chiriaco, the last city where the river was still navigable by large boats.  From Chiriaco, we’d take a smaller boat up the Rio Solimoes until it forked to the north.

A few miles from that fork, the Rio Solimoes became just a narrow stream except for the rainy season.  A creek called Rio Pequeno, Spanish for small river, fed into the Rio Solimoes, and the headwaters of that creek was our destination.  We’d have to hike through the jungle part of the way to get there, and needed a guide and men to carry our supplies.

Chiriaco was small compared to the other ports we’d stopped at. We had intended to ask at the docks for directions to a hotel.  Unfortunately, none of the workers spoke English.  We were leafing through out Spanish/English phrase book when a man walked up.

He was obviously a native.  His features had the same round contours as other natives we had seen as we traveled up the Rio Solimoes and his skin was fairly dark.  Mandy moved a little closer to me and he seemed to notice because he smiled.

“Do not be afraid.  I have just not heard English spoken here in quite a while and I was curious.  I am Biabo.  I can translate for you if you wish.”

I explained we were looking for a hotel for the night.  He grinned again.

“There is only one, and I will take you there.  You will need to eat as well.  Once you have your room, I will show you the best place to eat in Chiriaco.”

We learned a little about Biabo over dinner.  He was of the Nanti tribe, and had been taught English by Christian missionaries who had lived in his village for a time.  The missionaries had also taught him something of western culture.  He had decided the way of life in his village was not what he wanted.  He came downriver and settled in Chiriaco.  His occupations had been varied, but he said he had guided some groups of scientists up the Rio Pequeno.

I mentioned we were in need of a guide, and Biabo beamed.

“What do you seek?  I hope you do not seek gold.  There is no gold.  The Spaniards took it all years ago.”

He seemed trustworthy, but I wasn’t taking any unnecessary risks.

“We thought we might find natives at the headwaters of the river and record some of their culture.”

Biabo looked at Mandy for a second, then turned back to me.

“Ah…there are several tribes who live along the river.  It might require much walking.  They do not stay in one place for very long.”

I started to say we were prepared to walk, but Mandy interrupted me.

“Mr. Biabo, I assure you we are both capable of walking anywhere necessary.”

She had accented the word “both”.  Biabo looked a bit taken aback, but he smiled at her.

“I didn’t say you were not, only that there would be much walking.  Now, did you bring supplies, or must we purchase them here?”

We met Biabo on the dock the next morning.  He pointed to a large canoe made from an entire tree.  It had an outboard motor on the back, and several gas cans sat in various places in the boat.

“This is our boat.  It does not look like much, but it is strong, stable, and does not need much water to float.  We will have a shorter walk by taking it.”

The two other men Biabo had brought along to carry our supplies loaded them into the canoe while Mandy and I watched.  Half an hour later, we were motoring up river.

The jungle here was wilder and denser than any we had seen before.  We heard the howls of the monkeys Biabo called macacos, and saw flights of macaws overhead.  The river was less cloudy here, and since we were sitting so close to the water, we saw a lot of fish.  Some of those fish looked large enough to eat a small child, but they didn’t seem aggressive.  Occasionally we would see a group of caiman and some turtles sunning on the bank.

At least once a day, we would see one or more people along the river bank.  Usually they were fishing with cast nets.  We had seen this before, but on the Rio Solimoes, the people had been dressed in normal clothing.  The people of the Rio Pequeno were barely dressed at all.  The men’s only clothing, if one could even call it clothing, was usually a simple breechcloth.  Often it was only a band which served to secure the man’s penis to his thigh.

Women were all bare-breasted and wore either a breech cloth or a skirt Biabo said was made from the inner bark of trees.  Children were always completely naked.  Mandy remarked that with no clothes they were probably cooler.  I asked if she was going to try it, and she just laughed.

“In your dreams.  I told you how I feel about men, didn’t I?”

The trip upriver was relatively uneventful.  Most of our meals were caught as we motored or after we made land for the night.  A couple of nights I wasn’t really sure what we ate.  It was probably better that way.

Five days out from Chiriaco, the canoe grounded hard on the stream bed and Biabo announced we would have to walk from this point.  Biabo and the other men shouldered our supplies.  I carried my notepad and Mandy a camera bag with her cameras and rolls of film.  Biabo led us east beside the river.

After another day of walking, we came to the small rivulet that fed the Rio Pequeno.  We had seen no more natives and had nearly given up hope.  As they had done the night before, Biabo and the two men cut and lashed small tree trunks between two trees and hung our hammocks from them, each one higher than the next.  Mandy’s hammock was six feet off the forest floor.  Mine was about ten.  Biabo’s and the other two men had to climb much higher.  Biabo explained the hammocks were high to protect us from the animals of the night.  We ate and then went to bed.

The next morning, I was lying in my hammock waiting for the men to build a fire when I heard Mandy cry out.

“Ow ow ow ow ow.  Something in my boot bit me.”

Biabo quickly climbed up to her hammock and peered into the boot, threw it to the ground, then frowned and started climbing up to my hammock.  I saw a large, brown spider scurry from Mandy’s hiking boot and away into the undergrowth.

“Come down.  We must talk.”

He looked worried when I stepped onto the ground.

“It was an arana verrante, the spider with no web.  This is not good.”

“What do you mean, not good?”

“She will probably die.  If not, she will be sick for weeks.  We do not have enough supplies to last that long, and she would not survive a trip down river.”

Mandy had climbed to the ground by then and limped to where Biabo and I stood.

“What was it?  It hurts really bad.”

I looked at Biabo and he shook his head.  I looked at Mandy.

“It was a spider of some sort.  Most spider bites are painful but otherwise pretty harmless.  We’ll rest here today.  It’ll be better in the morning.”

In an hour, Mandy was having trouble breathing and she couldn’t walk.  Biabo tied her hammock almost at ground level.  We put her in the hammock and sat down to wait.  Biabo said by night she would either die or start to get better.  It all depended upon how much venom the spider had injected into her ankle and how strong she was.

If we’d been in Chicago, I could maybe have done something to help her.  I’d have had a ventilator to help her breathing and something for the pain.  There in the Amazon, I had nothing.  I could only watch and hope.

None of us heard or saw the man walk into the campsite.  I just looked up and he was there, like he’d just materialized out of thin air.  He was different from any other of the native men we’d seen along the riverbanks.  His facial features were a little more delicate, his skin lighter, and instead of being naked, he wore a sort of skirt that covered him from his hips to nearly his knees.  

Another thing about him was different as well.  From his knees to the skirt, and above the skirt and half way up his lower back were black tattoos.  I nudged Biabo and nodded in the man’s direction.

Biabo called to him.  I recognized  the Spanish, “Hola Amigo”, and the equivalent words in Portugese because I’d heard them many times during the trip.  After that came several attempts in languages that sounded like gibberish.  The results were the same.  Biabo turned to me.

“I do not know his tribe or language.  I have lived all my life here and have spoken with what I thought were all the tribes, but I have never encountered his.”

He turned back to the man, pointed to his chest, and said “Biabo, Nanti”.  

The man smiled, pointed to his chest and said “Tulimanu” and something that sounded like “fanu ala sami”.  He walked closer, and then pointed to Mandy in the hammock.  He cocked his head to one side as if to ask what had happened and more gibberish came from his lips..

Biabo put the fingers of one hand on his other palm and mimicked a spider crawling, then used his middle finger to stab at his palm.  The man nodded as if he understood.  He pointed to Mandy, then extended his hand and waved his fingers toward his chest.

“He wants us to bring the woman”, said Biabo.

Mandy was unconscious by then, and she was just dead weight in the hammock.  It took me and the two other men to carry the hammock while Biabo followed the native and cut a wider trail with his machete.

We’d walked for an hour when the jungle suddenly opened up into a clearing.  In the center of the clearing was a structure made of tree trunks that served as exterior columns, limbs that formed an arching roof structure, and a thatching of tree bark.  

The cleared area was occupied by about twenty people, men and women, and a like number of children.  The all came running when we walked out of the trees.  The man shouted something at them and they stopped.  He then said something else, and one man came forward.  He looked at Biabo, and said something.  Biabo smiled.

“His name is Tanata, and he speaks Bora.  He will translate.”

Biabo and Tanata carried on a brief conversation.  I assumed Biabo was telling him about Mandy’s spider bite.  That assumption proved to be correct.  Tanata said a few more words, then turned and ran back to the large house.  He returned with a very old woman.

The woman lifted Mandy’s bare leg and looked at her ankle.  It was swollen to at least twice its normal size by then.  She touched it and Mandy groaned.  

With saying anything the old woman walked back to the house.  I could see her talking with a young girl while looking at objects hanging from the beams that crossed the span of the house.  She selected one of them and walked back with the young girl.

In her hand was a small basket woven from tree bark, and had a lid secured by a leather thong.  She untied the thong, took off the lid and handed it to the young girl, then tipped it over on her open hand.  

When she lifted the basket, a white spider sat quietly in her palm.  She gently stroked the spider’s back, then walked to Mandy again.  Before I could stop her, she’d placed the spider on Mandy’s ankle.  I saw the spider rear up and then plunge its two long fangs into Mandy’s skin.

The old woman gently picked up the spider, placed it back in the basket, and secured the lid again.  She then began some sort of chant that went on for about five minutes.  When she stopped, she said something to Tanata, and then walked back to the house with the young girl.

Tanata smiled and began to speak.  Biabo translated as quickly as he could.

“Bring the woman to the house.  She must rest tonight.  In the morning, she will be well and in another day, she will walk again.  You may spend the time in our house.  The women will prepare your food.”

I had seen only a few cases that got better soon after a medicine was injected, and none of those had been as dramatic.  Mandy wasn’t awake yet, but the swelling in her ankle was already receding, and she was breathing a little easier.  

I sat beside Mandy all that day.  She didn’t wake up, but it was amazing at how quickly her condition improved.  By evening, the swelling of her ankle was gone and left only a slight blue/black bruising on her skin.  The four puncture wounds from the two spider bites were there, but barely perceptible.  She was breathing normally as well.  After eating a meal of something I couldn’t identify, I sat and watched the people of the village as they sat around the fire.

All the men wore the same skirt, and all had the similar tattoos.  The women were dressed similarly, and also had tattoos visible below the skirt.  They did not have tattoos on their back, and like the other natives we’d seen, were bare breasted.  The children were dressed in smaller versions of skirts with no tattoos.

Here and there, a woman nursed a baby in full view of the entire village.  She seemed to pay no attention to the baby, instead talking and laughing with the group of people around her.  The only change in this behavior was when she would gently pull her nipple from the baby’s mouth and then change breasts.

As the fire died down, the people began to leave the fire and go to the mats that covered the floor of part of the communal house.  Both men and women would disrobe and lay down together.  It was then I saw the men’s tattoos covered their legs from the knee to just above their hips.  The women’s tattoos went from the knee to the hip.  

I was both surprised and interested when I began hearing the sounds of sex coming from the mats.  Even though each couple was only a few feet away from their neighbors, they appeared not to have any modesty and could be seen and heard having sex by anyone.

That each woman was agreeable to this was evidenced by the sounds of her moans and later, her panting breaths as she achieved orgasm.  Afterwards, the couple would separate and fall asleep.

It was also interesting that it was not only the men who seemed to initiate the sex act.  I watched a couple near our mats as they disrobed and then lay down.  The woman smiled at the man, and then reached for his penis.  He just grinned and fondled her breasts with one hand and her sex with the other.

She stroked him until he was erect, then lay back and opened her thighs.  The man rolled over between them and slowly entered her.  She wrapped her arms and legs around his body, and they began to move in unison.  

It was obvious both were enjoying each other, and just as obvious that unlike most American women seem to be, she was a very active participant in the act.  She murmured something from time to time and stroked his back with her fingertips.  At one point, she began pulling on his hips as he stroked in and out, and also lifted her hips into his slow thrusts.  At the climax, she cried out softly and began to rock her hips up and down.  He groaned and quickly pumped in and out a few times, then stopped.  The woman lowered her legs then, but they stayed together like that until he slipped from her body.

I’m not really a voyeur, but I couldn’t help but watch. I was embarrassed when they both looked at me and grinned.  They weren’t embarrassed at all and did not attempt to cover themselves.  They just closed their eyes and went to sleep.

I woke the next morning and looked at Mandy.  Her color was good, she was breathing normally, and other than the four small puncture wounds, there was no evidence of anything unusual about her.  I touched her arm and shook her gently until she opened her eyes.  She looked up at the roof of the house and then at me.

“Where are we?”

“We’re in a native village.  Biabo doesn’t know who they are, but they seem friendly.  Their witch doctor or whatever she is used another spider to cure you yesterday.  It was the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen.  The spider was white, and she put it on your ankle.  The spider bit you then, and a few minutes later you started getting better.  How do you feel?”

“I feel kind of weak, but other than that, I feel OK.”

Mandy tried to sit up then, and managed to do so after I helped her.  She looked around the house.

The men and women of the village were already up and walking about.  Upon seeing her rise, one of the women dipped a wood bowl into another that sat by the fire circle and brought it to Mandy.  She made the motions of drinking and then handed Mandy the bowl.  Mandy turned to me.

“Do you think I should drink this?”

The woman who’d brought the bowl was still watching.  She made the motions of drinking again.

“I think it’s probably OK.  They don’t seem to be anything except helpful.”

Mandy took a sip from the bowl, then swallowed.

“It’s some type of fruit juice.  It’s a little sweet, but I’ve never tasted anything like it before.”

The native woman smiled and brought another bowl for me.

We drank the rest of the contents of the bowls and handed them back to the woman.  The woman smiled then and left us to ourselves.

We spent the day together, and as time went by, Mandy got stronger.  By the time of the evening meal, she could stand though she was a little wobbly.  The evening meal was some sort of meat that tasted a little like pork and a starchy dish like potatoes but more bland in taste.  

As on the night before, the people of the village sat around the fire until it died and then went to their sleeping mats.  Mandy chuckled.

“I guess with no television, they go to sleep early.”

“They’re not going to sleep.  They’re only going to bed.”

“Oh?  Ohhhhh…right here…in front of everybody else?”

“Just wait.  You’ll see.”

The couple beside us had taken off their skirts by then.  As on the night before, both eased down on the mats and the woman put her hand on the man’s flat belly.  She moved her hand up and down a few times, and then closed her fingers around his penis.

Everything after that was a repeat of the night before.  The man fondled the woman’s breasts and then began using his fingertips between her spread thighs to arouse her.  

I looked at Mandy when the man entered the woman.  She caught her breath and then exhaled slowly.  I touched her on the arm to get her attention.  I was going to ask her what she thought, but it was like she didn’t even feel it.  She just sat there and stared at the couple.

I watched the couple as they went through the same actions as the night before.  I felt Mandy shift positions a couple times, but thought she was just getting comfortable.  When the woman climaxed, I looked at Mandy and realized I’d been wrong.

Mandy had unbuttoned her shirt and was rubbing her breast with one hand.  The other hand was inside the front of her shorts and it was moving up and down.  I touched her arm again.

“Mandy, what are you doing?”

She didn’t say anything.  She just looked down at where I lay and then pulled the shirt off her body.  She took off her bra next, and then lay down and worked the shorts down over her hips and legs.  After she rolled her panties off, she was naked.  

Her eyes were wide open as she unbuttoned my shirt and then unzipped my pants.  Her small, soft hand probed inside my underwear, found my cock, and started stroking it.  She was still stroking it when she laid down on the mat beside me and then whispered, “Have sex with me.”

To say I was surprised would be an understatement.  This was the woman who’d told me she had no sex drive at all, and now, she was pulling on my stiffening cock and telling me she wanted me.  I was thinking of what to say when she started pulling my pants and underwear down.  Once my cock was free, she began stroking it in earnest.  I couldn’t help but develop an erection.

Mandy spread her thighs wide and probed her sex with her other hand.  She moaned and her voice was low and sultry when whispered in my ear again.

“I want you.  I want to have sex with you.”

“Right here?”

“Yes, right here…right now.”

It was difficult to get my pants and underwear off while she pulled at my stiff cock.  Once I managed, Mandy pulled me between her upraised thighs and then down.  I felt her moving my cock between her wet lips until she found her entrance.  She pulled my cock again, and I groaned as it entered her.

Mandy was very tight, but very wet and slippery.  It took several short strokes until my cock was lubricated enough to sink all the way into her depths.  She caught her breath when it did, and rocked her hips up just a little.  

I’d had sex with several women before, but none of them were like Mandy.  The others had mostly lain there until the final moments.  Then, they’d pant a little and maybe lurch a few times when their orgasm hit.  That would drive me to my own climax.  The sex was good, but Mandy was unbelievable.

She was using her body to arouse us both.  I felt her passage massage my cock as she worked her pelvic muscles, and her hands pulled at my ass with each stroke.  It was like she was trying to get my cock inside her even more than it already was.

Along with all the writhing of her body and her nails digging into my ass were the little gasps, pants, and murmurs I heard.  The murmurs weren’t many words, really.  They were just a word or two mixed in with the other sounds.

She started to arch into my strokes a while later, and I was trying to keep from getting there before she did.  That was difficult because of the contractions around my cock and her nails digging into my ass cheeks.  As it was, I didn’t have to try for long.  Mandy began lurching her body up into each stroke and then gasping as the base of my cock bottomed out against her soft lips.  After several of those lurches, she gasped and arched high off the mat.  She pushed her pelvis rapidly up and down as she climaxed.  I did the same a few seconds later.

The contractions inside her were still milking my cock when she eased back down on the mat.  She held my hips to keep me inside her until my cock softened to the point it slipped out on its own.  She snuggled up beside me then and quickly fell asleep.  I pulled my pants back on and listened to another couple until I fell asleep too.

I woke up the next morning to find Mandy snuggled up to my side with one leg thrown over my thighs.  She woke up when I gently pushed her thigh off,   stretched, scratched under each breast and then rubbed the mass of blonde curls on her mound.  Her eyes opened then and she smiled at me.

“Have sex with me again.”

I wasn’t accustomed to being naked in front of groups of anyone except for groups of men like in a college shower room or swimming pool dressing room.  I wasn’t really sure I could get my cock to stand up with so many people around.
“Now?  It’s daylight and the whole village is up and walking around.”

Mandy grinned.

“You’re shy.”

“No, well, with this many people around, yes.”

“Then I’ll have to do it myself.”

She stretched out, cupped her right breast with her left hand, and began stroking the soft lips between her thighs with the other.  One woman who was walking past saw her and stopped to watch.  That attracted several other men and women who likewise stopped what they were doing and came to watch.  I noticed Biabo and Tanata were among them.

It didn’t take Mandy very long at all.  I watched as she flicked and pulled on her nipples until they were thicker and rigid.  I watched as first one and then two fingers disappeared inside her and began stroking.

A few minutes later Mandy cried out and arched high off the mat.  Her hips did a little rocking dance as the orgasm swept through her.  Then she sank back down to the mat.  Her fingers were still stroking in and out, she continued to make little jerking arches for another minute or so.

The people who’d been watching her grinned when she pulled her hand from between her thighs and rubbed her breasts.  Then there were a few words exchanged along with some chuckles. I heard the words “togafiti, faataulaitu , paʻepaʻe, and apogaleveleve” several times and jotted them down as best I remembered along with the other words I’d collected since meeting the tribe.  

I looked at Mandy.  She was smiling, and reached over to touch my hand.

“I wish you’d done that for me.  Last night was a lot better.”

I was a little dumbfounded.

“Mandy, what’s gotten into you?”

She giggled.

“You mean besides you last night?”

“You know what I mean.  On the boat you said you had no desire for sex.  Last night and then this morning…I’ve never known a woman who seemed to want it more.”

“I don’t know.  I think it must have been watching that couple beside us.  I’ve never seen anything like that before, and as I watched them, I got really, really excited.  I did want it.  This morning I remembered watching them and I wanted to do it again.  I still do.”

“Well, we can’t.  I need to talk to their healer and ask her about your uncle’s powders.  You need to come along.  Maybe if she knows you’re his grand-niece, she’ll be more likely to tell me.”

Once Mandy was dressed we went to find Biabo and Tanata.  They were at the other end of the communal house, sitting on mats and talking.  Biabo grinned when we walked up.

“I see you have decided to get up instead of enjoying yourselves again.  Do not be embarrassed.  Sex is a very open thing among all the native tribes.”

I nodded.

“We’re not embarrassed.  We would just like to speak with the healer who cured Mandy, if I might do that.”

Biabo translated this to Tanata.  Tanata frowned and then jabbered something to Biabo.  Biabo translated.

“Tanata asks why you would speak to the healer.”

“Tell him this woman’s uncle was treated by a healer in this same area many years ago.  She and I would like to know the medicine the healer gave him.”

Biabo relayed this to Tanata.  Again Tanata jabbered something back and Biabo translated.

“He says he will ask.”

Tanata walked to the center of the house where the healer lived.  We saw him speak to the old woman for a minute or so, and then he came back.  Biabo translated.

“He says the healer does not remember the man, but she will talk with you.”

The conversation took a long time.  I would ask a question.  Biabo would translate that question into Bora and then Tanata would translate it into the language of the tribe.  I began by relating what the old man had told me.

“His group was searching for treasure and walked over the mountains.  When they reached this area they were very sick and starving.  This woman’s uncle was given a yellow medicine.  He was the only one to survive.  Do you know of this medicine?”

The old woman listened intently, then smiled and began to jabber.  After the two translations, I was hopeful.

“Yes, I know of the powder.  It comes from the samasama tree.  The tree feeds us in life, and gives life when it dies.”

“Can you tell me how you make the medicine?”

The old woman smiled.

“I do not make the medicine.  The spirit of the samasama makes the medicine when it dies.”

I knew that had to be some sort of tribal myth.  I said as much to Biabo.  He frowned.

“You must understand the beliefs of native people.  To them, everything has a spirit – trees, animals, even the stones in the river.  She is telling you what she believes.”

“Ask her how she finds the medicine.”

After hearing the question, the old woman spoke for a time.

“When the samasama lives, it makes fruits we eat.  When it dies, it falls to the ground and its spirit marries with the spirit of the lanu.  They have tree children that live inside the tree.  When the tree children are grown, they open the tree to get out and bring more life to us.  I collect the tree children, dry them in the sun, and grind them into the powder.  The tree children give life even to those who are nearly dead.”

It still sounded like a myth to me, but the old woman seemed serious.  I asked if she could show me the samasama tree.  She smiled.

“There are samasama trees not far from here.  I will take you there.”

The trees were a few hundred yards into the deep jungle around the village.  They were very large trees, and dangling from the branches were clusters of fruits.  Mandy took pictures of the tree itself, the leaves, and some of the fruit that had fallen to the forest floor.

The old woman then waved for us to follow her.  A short distance away was a fallen tree.  The trunk was split open and a yellow, furry-looking mass grew where the pith had once been.  She pointed to that growth.

“These are the tree children.”

It was starting to make a little sense then. The yellow furry masses of fungus were part of the natural decomposition of the tree. Some medicines had already been obtained from fungal growths.  Mandy took pictures of the fungal growths as well.  I asked if I could collect some samples.  The old woman showed me how she did this task, and I filled a small bag with the clumps of yellow fungus.  I picked up some of the fallen fruit and a few leaves as well.

When we returned to the village, the people were in turmoil.  Tanata ran to find out why.  He returned with a worried look on his face.  As Biabo listened, he began to look worried as well.

“We must leave now, and we must hurry.”

I asked what had happened.  He shook his head.

“There is no time to tell you.  Pick up what you can carry and follow me.”

Mandy carried her camera bag, my notes, and the bags of samples we’d collected.  Biabo said “food” and handed me a pack, then picked up another pack and his machete.  We walked quickly into the forest..  We could hear the shouts from the village for five minutes after leaving.

The trail Biabo had blazed was still open, so our pace was faster than when we’d walked to the village.  The sun was overhead when we passed the campsite where Mandy had been bitten, and by dusk had arrived at the spot Biabo had tied up the canoe.  Biabo threw his pack and machete into the canoe and told us to do the same.  After a few pulls to the starter rope of the outboard, we were racing down river as fast at the motor would take us.

Biabo continued down the river until the sun dropped below the trees.  I couldn’t see much of anything.  Either he could, or he was steering by instinct, because he motored on for another hour before steering for the bank.  He tied up the canoe, then took his machete and went to look for wood for a fire.  He told us to stay in the canoe until he returned.

About half an hour later, we saw the flicker of a campfire.  Biabo walked down the bank and told us we could get out of the canoe.

The fire was only to keep away any animals because in our haste to leave, Biabo hadn’t picked up the pack with the cooking pots and utensils.  Instead he had picked up the pack with our spare clothing.  With no way to cook the dried food I’d carried, there was no way to eat.  Instead, we had a drink of water from the river while Biabo told us what had happened.

“The two men I brought with me became excited by two of the young native girls.  Tanata said the young girls enjoy teasing young men, but their customs are that girls must remain virgins until they marry.  My men did not understand their ways.  They took the girls into the jungle thinking they would have sex with them.  When the girls realized this, they screamed and two of the village men went to see why.

“The girls told of what had happened and the village men were very angry.  They took my two men back to the village.  Tanata said their punishment would be death.

“He also said that since we were not involved, we would not be punished, but such a thing is viewed as disrespect for their customs and so too, their gods.  Anything bad that happened later would be the result of that disrespect, and we would have been blamed because we are not of the tribe.  Had we not left, the tribe would have kept us there for a time to make sure the gods had been satisfied by the death of my two men.

“We are not yet safe.  They will soon discover we have left and send men to follow us.  As soon as I can see the river again, we must be on our way.”

It was still dark when that time came, or at least neither I nor Mandy could see anything.  Biabo led us to the canoe, and when we were on board, started the motor and cast off into the current.  Just as on the day before, he opened the throttle on the outboard to full speed.  We flew down the river as a result of that speed and the river current.

The same frantic rush continued over the next three days.  We did eat when we camped after the second day.  Biabo felt safe stopping earlier and caught a few fish in a trap he fashioned from sticks and vines.  They were hung over the fire on small, green sticks until mostly cooked.  Neither Mandy or I liked the taste, but hunger overpowers taste when one is starving.

The afternoon of the fourth day, Biabo steered the canoe to the dock in Chiriaco.  We unloaded and then went to the same hotel.  Biabo waited in the lobby until we had cleaned up a little and changed clothes.  We went then to the same  restaurant and ate until we were stuffed.  We said good night to Biabo at the hotel.  He promised to be on the docks to help us find a boat going down river the next morning.

He was at the docks just as he’d promised, and helped us book passage on a boat going to Manaus.  We thanked him for all he had done and paid him half again as much as he’d asked when we started.  We also left him what remained of our food supplies.  He was still standing on the dock when the riverboat pulled into the current and waved when he saw us standing at the rail.

After dinner that night, I was reviewing my notes when there was a knock on my cabin door.  I opened it to see Mandy standing there

“I couldn’t seem to fall asleep.  Can I come in and talk to you for a while?”

I closed the door as soon as she was inside.

“What do you want to talk about?”

Mandy didn’t say anything.  She just started unbuttoning the front of her khaki shirt.  She wasn’t wearing a bra, and when she pulled it off her shoulders and tossed it on the floor, her breasts jiggled.

She unbuttoned and then unzipped her shorts, then pulled them to her knees.  She wasn’t wearing panties either.  As she stepped out of her shorts, she looked up at me.  The look on her face was almost pleading.

“I don’t want to talk. I want to have sex again.”

“Are you sure about this?”

Mandy slipped her fingers through the mass of blonde hair on her mound.  The fingers disappeared for a second and came back out.  She held them up in front of my face.

“Yes.  I’m ready right now.  See.”

Her two fingers were coated with a milky liquid that formed thinning strings when she separated them.

“How…I mean, in the village you said it was from watching that other couple.  Why now?”

Mandy felt the front of my pants for my cock.

“I don’t know why.  I just know I need you to make love with me again.”

That night was a repeat of the night in the village.  Mandy was erotic in every move and sound she made from the little moans I caused by sucking her nipples to the spasms that tightened her body when her climax came.  Her climax spurred mine, and we lay there afterwards, Mandy still impaled by my cock, and both of us breathing hard.

The doctor in me came back once I rolled over on my back beside Mandy.

“Mandy, when did you start feeling like this, wanting sex I mean?”

“I’m not sure…no, yes I am sure.  I remember having a dream before I woke up in the village.  Well, I don’t really remember it, but I do remember a dream with naked people having sex.  I was one of them, I think, because when I woke up, I felt wet down there.  Sometimes in the mornings I am a little, but not like that.  Why?”

“I’ve been trying to figure out what caused it, that’s all.  If you’d started feeling like that sometime during the day you woke up, I’d think it was something you ate or drank.  The healer might have put something in it to help you get well, or maybe whatever it was just does that.”

“You ate and drank the same things I did.  Do you feel any different?”

“No, and if you woke up feeling like that, it has to be something else, something that happened only to you.  I can think of only one thing, or maybe a combination of two things.”

“My spider bite?”

“Yes, either the venom of the first one or that of the white spider.  When we get back to Chicago, I’m going to have to do some research into spiders.”

Mandy stroked my belly and then moved her hand down to stroke my cock.

“Well, whatever it was, I’m glad it happened.  I’m still not sleepy.  Do you suppose…”

The rest of the trip down river was a joy for Mandy.  For me it was an experience I knew I’d never forget.  When Mandy had come to my office that day her uncle passed away, she seemed to be a strong woman but a lot distant.  She was still a strong woman, but now, she was everything except distant.  

When we walked the deck together, I’d usually feel her slip her arm in mine.  When we stood at the rail watching the shoreline go by, she would always find a way to be touching me with some part of her body.

Mandy would lean over the rail to look at the water and put her hand on my shoulder to steady herself.  As she leaned, I’d feel her breast pressing into my arm.  If we sat together on one of the benches on the deck, her thigh would eventually end up against mine.  Her hands were always touching me to accent something she was saying.

I was certain she wasn’t aware of doing these things.  They happened too naturally for her to have planned doing them.  She’d just changed.

We had separate cabins from Chiriaco to Manaus.  At Manaus, Mandy had touched my arm and asked if I would mind if we shared a cabin.  The evenings between Manaus and Afua were an experience in how completely and in how many ways a woman can give herself to a man.

It wasn’t just that she enjoyed sex.  Mandy seemed to need sex.  She needed to be touched, caressed, and kissed.   She needed to feel my shaft penetrate her body and she needed to feel the orgasms that wracked her body like no other woman I’d ever been with.

It was the way she completely lost herself when we joined.  The act wasn’t me trying to excite her to an orgasm.  It was both of us slowly enjoying every sensation, every electric tingle, every little spasm that would take us to the height of pleasure and then leave us gasping when that pleasure exploded in the waves of release.

She wasn’t what psychiatrists of the time would have called a nymphomaniac, at least by the definition I’d learned in my psychology classes.  She didn’t crave sex all the time like a drug addict craves the next fix.  She just needed to feel the shattering release of tensions sweep her away and then lie in my arms and cuddle for a while.  

Doctors tend to be clinical-thinking, but I couldn’t be that way when we had sex.  She was much too erotic for me to think about anything but the pure ecstasy of being with her.  During the day, though, I would marvel at the change.

I realized there must be more women like Mandy, women who wanted to enjoy the attentions of a man, or maybe even another woman, but couldn’t.  If I could find the cause, maybe I could help those women.  I wasn’t thinking about the fame and riches I could achieve by doing so.  Mandy had shown me how happy a woman could be when that problem was resolved, and I knew that would be enough.

We arrived in Afua a day earlier than planned because of our hasty retreat down river.  We booked a room at the same hotel and retrieved our cash and other items from the safe, then took in the sights and did a little shopping.  After eating an evening meal at the same restaurant as before, we went back to the hotel.  I made love to Mandy for what I figured would be the last time.  

We landed at O’Hare after another series of flights, and walked to the cab stop together.  It was with more than a little mental pain I watched Mandy get into a cab and leave me.  She’d said she needed to get back to her office and make sure everything was as she’d left it.  She did say she’d call me when she had everything in order to just talk.  It was almost like the old Mandy had come back.  She was distant again, and I couldn’t figure out why.

I wasn’t happy at all when I got back to my apartment.  Every time I turned around, I expected to see Mandy standing there, but she never was.  When I rolled into bed that night, I unconsciously felt for her beside me.  When my hand touched nothing except the bed sheet, my heart sank.  I finally fell asleep after wondering what had happened.  Had it just been the stress of the trip that changed her, and now that we were home that was all over?

I took a day to rest up before going back to the hospital.  It was a miserable day of thinking about Mandy and wishing she was there with me.  I missed feeling her hand on my arm.  I missed hearing her laugh.  I missed everything that I’d felt when she was with me.  I thought about calling her several times, but talked myself out of doing it.  She’d just think I was after more sex.

I was still missing her when I took my notes and samples to the hospital.  It would take another day before I was back in the routine of making rounds and seeing new patients, so I took my samples to Dale.  He grinned when he saw me walk in the door.

“I figured your shrunken head would be hanging on the wall of some native hut by now.”

“No, I didn’t see any headhunters, but I did find out what that yellow powder is.”

Dale grinned again.

“Good, because it’s still foofoo dust to me.  What the hell is it?”

After I went through the explanation, Dale nodded.

“I hadn’t thought about an organic process, but it makes a lot of sense.  It must be the fungus digesting the wood fibers that causes the compounds to form and then cross-link.  Did you bring any samples back?”

I gave him the bag with the fungus samples and the method the healer had used to turn them into powder.  Dale didn’t hear me leave the lab.  He was already putting some of the samples in his desiccating oven to dry.

That afternoon, I left the hospital early and drove to the university campus to see three department heads.  I had the leaves and a few of the fruits from the samasama tree in one bag.  The fruits had started to decay and the leaves had dried out, but I hoped someone in the botany department could identify the tree.  I left those samples with the request to call me if they could identify them.  

My next stop was with the head of the language department I’d spoken with before.  I had made copies of my notes at the hospital and gave them to him.  He looked at them, shook his head, and said he’d never seen the words but he’d ask his professors to take a look.

The last stop was one I was a little concerned about making.  I wanted to know about spiders in Peru.  If both could be identified, it might be possible to analyze the venom and determine if that was the cause of the change in Mandy.  It would also probably mean a lot of analyzing of Mandy.  I wasn’t sure she’d ever agree to that.

The head of the entomology department directed me to Professor Art James.  She said he was the best source of information about arachnids in the US.  

Art was a weird sort of guy, but it was obvious he was an expert on the subject.  His office walls were covered with specimens of spiders pinned to framed boards behind glass, and it was a bit difficult to understand his explanation because he was using a lot of Latin names.

“What did this spider look like”, he asked.

“I didn’t actually see it up close, but our guide said it was brown and had black hairs on its legs and body.  He called it the spider with no web ”

“Ah…no web…Probably one of the spiders of the genus Phonetria.  I think I have a few specimens.”

He walked to a frame on the wall and pointed to the spider in the center.

“Did it look like this?”

The spider could have been the one I saw leaving Mandy’s boot.  This one looked larger, but it was closer.

“I think that’s what I saw, but it was farther away.  I can’t be sure about the size.”

“It was probably one of the Phoetria genus, and considering you were in Peru, probably Phoetria Fera or possibly Nigriventer.   Be happy you did not pick one up.  Nasty fellows, the Phoetria’s, well, the females actually.  It’s the females who have the most potent venom.  The Phoetria’s are all aggressive, and they’re deadly.  They kill more people in South America than snake bites.

“They are of some interest in medicine.  The venom of Phoetria Nigriventer has been observed to cause intense, long-lasting, but painful erections in males who suffer the bite.  I have a few contacts in the pharmaceutical industry who ask for my advice occasionally.  According to Wanda, apparently they are studying the venom as a possible cure for the inability to develop or maintain an erection.”

He chuckled.

“She called it the boner builder study.”

“Would the bite have a similar effect on a woman?”

“Well, she wouldn’t grow a penis and have an erection, if that’s what you mean.  The erection thing doesn’t happen every time either.  Usually both men and women just die.”

“Is there an antivenom?”

“There is supposedly a plant extract used by the native healers, but it has never been clinically tested.  Other than that, none of which I am aware.  There’s really no market for an antivenom here because there’s no need.  Poetria does not live this far north so there’s no economical justification for an American company to develop one.  I don’t know of any labs in Brazil working on one either.”

My next question for him was one I hesitated to ask.  He would probably want to know why I asked it, and I wasn’t sure if I should tell him.

“Is there such a thing as a white spider?”

He appeared to think for a moment and then smiled.

“Yes.  They’re not really white-white.  They’re more of a cream or silver.  I have one or two over here.

He stepped sideways three boxes, and pointed to a spider in the upper right corner.

“This is a male cupiennius salei, the cane spider.  The one to the right is the female.  They are native to parts of South America.”

The spider didn’t really look like the one I’d seen bite Mandy.  That one was larger and was truly almost white.  In the same case was another spider that was at least closer in size and shape.  I pointed to it.

“The one I saw looked more like this one except it was white and not brown.”

“That’s Pleorotus braueri, one of the huntsman spiders.  You wouldn’t have seen one of these in Peru.”

“Why not?  The one I saw sure looked like this one except for the color.”

“Two reasons.  Pleorotus braueri was native to Mahi Island in the Seychelles.  It was also declared extinct in 1909 so we don’t know much about them.  I’m not really sure if this is an adult or a juvenile.  In any case, there’s no way it could have gotten to Peru.  I’m pretty sure you saw something else, though I have no idea what it might have been.  The Amazon rain forest is one of the most diverse habitats on the planet and new species are being identified every year.  Maybe it was some spider we don’t know about yet.  Why are you so interested?”

It was probably the wrong thing to do, but I was afraid if he knew the truth, Mandy would be turned into some kind of lab experiment.  I’d seen that happen before if a person had a rare cancer or other rare disease.

“I’d never seen or read about white spiders until I saw that one.  I was just curious.”

I thanked him for the information and then left.

The next day I was back in the swing of things at the hospital.  I made rounds and then saw a few people with upper respiratory infections and one broken finger.  When I got back to my office, there was a note on my desk to call a Professor Milo Anderson, and a phone number.  He picked up on the second ring.  I introduced myself and asked the reason he wanted me to call him.

“Harry gave me a listing of words this morning and asked if I knew what language they were.  He said you gave him the list.  May I ask where you got them?”

I said in Peru on the east side of the Andes..

The line was silent for a few seconds and I heard paper shuffling in the background.  Then, he spoke again.

“That’s not really possible.  You must have made a mistake when you wrote them down.”

“Well, I was writing down what the words sounded like.  I have no idea if that’s how the words would actually be written.  The people I heard using them didn’t seem to have a written language.  Why isn’t it possible?”

“I assumed the spelling was phonetic.  You wouldn’t hear the inflections like I would.  The reason it’s not possible is the language is Samoan.”

“Are you sure?”

He sounded a little offended.

“Yes, I’m sure.  The Phd after my name doesn’t stand for ‘pounding his dick’ you know.  I’m positive it’s Samoan.  “Fanu ala sami” means people of the sea.  “Apogaleveleve” is Samoan for spider.  Pa’epa’e  means white woman. Tagata faʻamaʻI is the phrase in Samoan used for both sick person and for healer.  These last words, when put together in the right syntax, are togafiti faataulaitu o le paʻepaʻe papaʻe apogaleveleve.  That translates to magic or witchcraft of the white spider.  There are a lot of idioms in Samoan, but I’ve never seen that phrase before.  Any idea what it means?”

I smiled to myself.  I thought I had the answer I was seeking.

“No, I just heard it a few times.”

“You’re sure they were natives and not tourists?”

“Unless Samoan tourists run around in bark skirts with tattoos on their legs, they were natives.”

He said he’d talk to the anthropology department about how Samoans could end up in Peru.  I thanked him for his information and went back to my office.

I was getting ready to leave for the day when there was a knock on my door.  Mandy was standing there looking just as desirable as ever.  She was smiling, but her smile looked a little forced.’

“Are you busy?”

“No, I was getting ready to leave.”

“I uh…I was wondering if you’d like to have dinner sometime.”

“You came to the hospital just to ask me that?  You could have just called me.”

Mandy looked at the floor.

“Well, I was thinking we might do it tonight.”

I had a flicker of hope.

“Sure.  Where would you like to go?”

Mandy looked up then.

“I was thinking we might eat at my house.  I ordered a pizza and…but it you don’t want to, that’s OK.”

I locked my desk, then stood up and walked to the door and took her hand.

“I’d love to have pizza with you at your house.  I’ve been going nuts thinking about you for the last two days.”

The pizza, a true Chicago pizza, was great.  The wine Mandy opened was great.  Sitting with Mandy on her couch afterwards was wonderful.

I told her what I’d found out about the spiders and the words I’d jotted down.

“It had to be the white spider the healer used.  That’s what the people in the village were saying when they saw us that morning.  They were saying it was the magic of the white spider.”

“So I got bitten by a spider and that made me want to have sex?”

“It’s the only explanation that makes any sense.”

“Will it last, or will I have to keep getting bitten?”

“I don’t know.  Do you feel any different?”

Mandy put her arms around my neck and kissed me.   She pulled gently away and then pulled her top off over her head.

“Yes I do.  It’s been three days since you made love to me.  I’ve been going crazy too.”

In her bed, Mandy was sensuality and eroticism fired by a need I felt too.  It was a need to feel her body pressed tight against mine.  It was a need to feel her responding to my touch and then being aroused just as she’d aroused me on the Amazon.  The need was more primal than anything else that time.  She needed to be excited until she couldn’t wait to be impaled on my cock.  I needed to feel her body moving under my hands until I couldn’t wait to penetrate her depths.

When my cock slipped slowly inside her, Mandy moaned.

“Do it fast.  I’m almost there already.”

She was.  She moaned again when I began stroking my cock in and out, and wrapped her arms around my back.  Shortly after that, she began rocking her body into every stroke.  All her little mewing sounds and low moans were taking me there fast, but she was right there with me.  I felt her pelvic muscles contract, then she gasped, “now”, and heaved her body up off the bed.   She hung there shaking like a leaf in the wind as I filled her with seed.

The second time, about half an hour later, was slower, but ended with the same shattering climax for both of us.  Mandy was still panting when she pulled me down on top of her.  She stroked my back and whispered, “promise me we’ll be like this always.”

I kissed her, then looked into her sparkling eyes.

“I can’t imagine not being with you forever.”


A lot has happened since that day in 1978.  Dale finished his analysis of the yellow powder.  Together we wrote a paper about Mandy’s great uncle and the effect of the powder on his health along with some theories about how the powder worked.  

That paper was read by one of the chemists at a pharmaceutical company who was working on a cure for a disease that seemed to pop up out of nowhere.  We know it now as AIDS, but at the time, no one knew what it was or what caused it.  All doctors knew was it caused organ deterioration and some types of cancer.

The chemist reasoned that if the powder had kept the man’s organs healthy even though he was over a hundred it might at least postpone some of the effects of AIDS.  He proposed a study and his proposal was accepted.  

The samasama tree was identified as a species considered endangered, so killing trees for the purpose of obtaining the resulting fungus was not possible.  It took two years, but the chemistry was finally understood and the powder synthesized.  The required series of trials are underway and have shown some promise, but it will likely be several years before it can be approved.  I find it odd that the FDA is concerned about a new drug injuring or killing someone who is going to die without it.

The anthropology department at the university was very interested in the fact that the natives in the village spoke Samoan.  They theorized that over the decades, a few of the Polynesians who sailed to South America ventured over the Andes.  Their manner of dress and their tattoos seem to confirm this theory.  They wrote a paper and it was published.  

Of course, as always, there was another paper written by another school of thought.  That school says the tribe is just another undiscovered tribe and the manner of dress and tattoos are original to that tribe.  If they ever get tired of  arguing about it, perhaps they’ll try to find them.

I married Mandy three months after that night and we spent our honeymoon in Manaus.  The reason was twofold.  First of all, we had both fallen in love with each other and with the Amazon there, and we wanted to start our lives together in the same place.

Second, we wanted to find Biabo again.  I still had questions about the white spider and wanted to talk to the healer again.  We found Biabo working on the docks and he was happy to see us again.  

He wasn’t quite so happy when we proposed going back to the village.  He said it would be better to wait a year or so.  His logic made sense.  For a people so primitive in their beliefs, it was certain another incident would take place to anger their gods and we wouldn’t be blamed if we’d been gone for a while.  

A year after that, we did go back, but the communal house had rotted away and the entire site of the village was overgrown with vegetation.  We spent a week looking for some sign of them, but didn’t find anything.  They could have been anywhere in the thousands of square miles of rain forest and we had only one week to look.

Mandy hasn’t changed in the last ten years, so we’re assuming whatever the spider venom did is permanent.  It would be nice to know for certain what that something was, but we have a son and two daughters now, and we decided against going back until they’re in college.  

We know we will go back one day, if only to experience the Amazon again.  It’s where Mandy changed to the woman she wanted to be and where she became the woman I couldn’t live without.  We owe some of that to the Amazon.  We owe some to the white spider and we hope we can learn more about how the venom works.  Mandy says the white spider should have a legacy too.