Amichi is a thinker. Snakes, he's figured out, turn on the charm and act like your best pal until you let them close enough to snap at you with their poisonous fangs. Elephants, Uzura the wise one aside, are boring conversationalists, but are good for a ride when your arms are tired from swinging branch to branch. Trees without leaves are vengeful, their branches liable to snap anytime you sit on them. Parrots, especially the blue and yellow ones, speak mostly nonsense. And monkeys, of course he knows this best, they live for the good times, and most days, for Amichi at least, is good times.
Sometimes, Amichi feels he isn't like the other monkeys. Yes, bananas are his favourite food, he finds tasteless jokes hilarious, and he loves treetop parties. But he also likes spending time alone, thinking.
"Monkeys don't think," Imja, his mother, always chides when she catches him staring into space. "Monkeys live."
Uzura the wise one is more encouraging. "A good thought is better than a good lunch," he says wisely, "and a good deed is best of all."
Also, Amichi is different because he feels bad when his monkey friends bully the smaller monkeys. He'd felt especially guilty when they'd played a practical joke on blind Dimitri, the most ancient elephant in the jungle, telling him to follow them because they had a special treat lined up, then ran away, leaving Dimitri lost and miles from his herd. He joins in when they throw stones at the hummingbirds because he doesn't want to be called a wussy, but he hates when a bird is hit, especially when it moans and struggles before it dies.
Today, Amichi is sitting alone in a tree by the river, watching the water and thinking. Under the water he notices a small fish struggling to swim against the flow of the river. He feels sorry for the little fish, and he works out that if he can climb onto the low branch, hold on with his tail, and reach down into the river, maybe he can help.
This is precarious. The branch over the river is leafless, and Amichi doesn't have the best balance when he dangles from his tail.
Amichi tries anyway, and he succeeds. He grabs the fish in his paw, climbs back along the branch, then puts the fish on the ground beside the river. At first it wriggles in grateful excitement, then it goes still. Amichi watches it sleep peacefully after its exhausting day of swimming against the current.
Amichi is delighted. Inside he feels glowing and proud. He has done a good deed, he has helped another animal, and not at small risk to himself. He is not like the other monkeys: rude, self-centred, obnoxious. He is a helpful monkey. Tonight, he will find Uzura and tell him what he did, and how good it feels.