When he pointed the gun at my head, I knew it was over; and I remembered my father telling me so many years ago, “It’s a jungle out there. Be careful.”
The Red Fox
The red fox is a pivotal character in Jane of the Jungle. Near the very end of the book, Sadji finally explains who he is; but up until that moment he is a mysterious figure who appears to various characters and precipitates great changes in their lives. Some resist him, such as Jane’s nemesis, the mobster Albert Mazzini. But even Albie cannot escape him, and is haunted by the memory of the fox for decades.
One of the most important characters in this story is not human. He is a Siberian tiger, made sentient by a lightning strike. He becomes Jane's best friend, and they adventure together around the country. He is a great student of human nature and an eloquent observer of events. And at the end of the story, it is Sadji's sacrifice that saves the day and opens everyone to a whole new world.
Life at the Roadhouse
The Roadhouse is an important place to Jane and to Sadji, later to John. It is the home of The Balls of Steel, a motorcycle club made up of weirdos and misfits of every variety. The Balls of Steel save Jane's life on more than one occasion. The story is told by Sadji.
Just after Dylan’s departure, we had an arrival. A taxi pulled up to the roadhouse and screeched to a desperate halt. A grizzled older woman with amazing long white hair and an expression that could scare the peace out of Jesus stepped out, paid the driver, cursed his driving, and marched into the bar.
“Anyone seen Marcy?” she yelled to the few daytime customers. Marcy was a relatively new member to the Balls of Steel. She had appeared one day on an antique Harley that she claimed to have stolen from her mother, begging sanctuary from this very person. Because of her plight and the size of her breasts, the Balls of Steel were quick to agree, and she had remained in their company for the past six months.
But her mother, whom she described as having psychic powers mixed with a bloodhound’s sense of smell, had found her.
It was an ugly few days as the two women celebrated their reunion with screams that could be heard across oceans and bouts of fisticuffs that reduced the furniture in Marcy’s motel room to sticks of kindling. Marcy was disappointed that her mate, a male named Tiny, who was six feet four inches tall and smelled inexplicably of spring breezes, refused to intervene.
“Are you crazy?” he said to her. “I know certain death when I see it.”
Marcy and her mother, who was named Gert, fought to a draw over six days, when finally it was agreed that Gert would settle down if she could get what she wanted—which was not, as everyone supposed, the antique Harley. With a sage’s understanding mixed with desperation for peace, Jane pointed out that what Gert really wanted was to stay. She cleaned out another room in the abandoned motel—at a considerable distance from Marcy—and said to Gert, “Why don’t you stay a while?”
The screams ended at once. For over two weeks, people saw little of Gert, but I observed her beating the softening ground behind the motel with a madman’s fervor, using a pickax and an old hoe she found in the shed. After ten days, she had cleared a respectable garden plot and had planted herbs, despite the lingering winter.
Marcy shook her head and said, “The only thing she likes better than fighting and screwing is gardening.”
To ensure that the peace would be long lasting, several male members of the Balls of Steel offered their services to Gert, who was hardy and shapely and whose face, when she was not set on murder, was rather pleasant. Most of them she drove off with the pickax, but one, who was possessed of a shy smile when he wanted to be, got her to pause. His name was Sandy, referring to the thick straight hair that he could cause to fall over his eyes when wooing females.
Sandy made a special effort and went to see her in her garden. “Let’s face it,” he said, making a lewd gesture. “You’re a bitch. Take the edge off.”
He flashed his smile and she flashed her breasts, which were surprisingly firm and shapely for her age. Then began a love affair that was to become legendary in the area, partly for the outlandish howls that emerged from the motel at all hours of the day or night and partly for its influence on the fortunes of the Balls of Steel.
For it was Sandy who helped Gert with her gardening, and it was their need for supplies that caused the Balls of Steel members to realize that they were, contrary to appearances, among the most unique and special of humans.
Winter was barely passing when Gert planted her herb garden, and despite skepticism from the Balls of Steel in general and her daughter in particular, she tortured the reluctant earth with a she-bear’s rage, as if the ground could be beaten into production. Only Sandy had faith in her. When she called for tools, he stole them; when she called for labor, he worked with her; and when she called for fertilizer, he made an amazing discovery.
Not having money and not wanting to disappoint her, Sandy raided the roadhouse septic tank for Gert’s fertilizer, fearing her wrath more than potential contagion from the fertilizer in question. To everyone’s astonishment, two days after the first application, the little garden was full of lush green herbs. Gert, delighted, ordered Sandy to sample some of the produce, which he declined.
“Maybe they’ll taste funny,” he said with a guilty look.
“Aw crap,” Gert replied. “They’ll taste as good as they look, which is great. Here, try the parsley; it makes your breath smell good.”
“Not this parsley,” he said, but resistance was futile, and Gert shoved a handful of the stuff into his mouth.
It was delicious. It tasted like parsley, mint, meat, and chocolate cake.
When the Balls of Steel discovered the amazing herbs that often tasted like whatever you wanted them to and complimented the poorest of cuisines, Jane suggested they could make money selling them to restaurants. Gert protested that it was just a little garden, saying that it would take forever to grow enough for resale, but Sandy said he had an idea. That night, the strongest males cleared a large section of field and planted seeds in a soft, malodorous mixture of dark soil and septic tank murk. In the morning, the herbs were sturdy sprouts, and by nightfall, they were solid young plants. By the next evening, they were ready for harvest.
“What the hell kind of fertilizer did you buy?” Gert demanded of Sandy.
When she discovered the truth, she flew into a rage. She had buried the tip of the pickax in his backside and was trying to draw it out, probably in order to bury it in his head, when Jane intervened.
As she applied her best medical skill to the nasty puncture wound in Sandy’s right buttock, Jane said, “Well all right, this fertilizer’s illegal, but what isn’t? And it works great, and if no one gets sick by next week, what the hell. It’s for sure the price is right, and there’s plenty more where it came from.” The decision was made to wait and see if anyone who had eaten the herbs became ill.
No one did. In fact, most of them claimed to feel increased energy and others swore they looked better. One of the females, famous for her matted hair, awoke one morning to find that her tresses had combed themselves and lay fetchingly about her shoulders. Meanwhile, Jane used her computer to discover a frightfully pretentious restaurant in Los Angeles that wanted the herbs and would pay absurd prices for them. It was agreed that a few of the men would pack them in coolers and drive to Los Angeles on their motorcycles.
It was a life-changing event. When the men came back, they were reborn. “Man, it was good to ride,” they said as one.
Gert shook her head in wonder as she patted Sandy gently on his bruised and stitched behind. “Go figure,” she said. “God’s most perfect garden ... and it grows from shit.”
The club members swore an oath to keep the source of the herbs secret and made plans to cultivate the field, whose rightful owners had abandoned the property before memory. In an effort to contribute to the well-being of their cash crop, Balls of Steel members insisted that Pussy and Jane cook abundant healthy food, which they ate heartily and, in good time, deposited into the septic.
Zip observed with great solemnity, “Our shit is magic.”
Pussy said to Jane, “You see, Sadji means that magic is real. All the magic I waited for in those early mornings when I was a child, which never came to me, has come to me now.”