Chapter 2

End of Time

After the meal is finished, Mr. Zhang
Smiles as a loud celebration bang
Shakes the house with some Lunar New Year fun,
Announcing the party has just begun.
Mr. Zhang invites all to come outside
And enjoy all the village has supplied.

He recommends that Puff remain behind,
Because all the people will push and grind
Him in a most uncomfortable way,
And that here is a safer place to stay.
The families move outside to the street,
Forgetting to give Puff something to eat.

Puff leaps to a tabletop feeling sad,
Now abandoned after the fun they had.
Then he leans against a statue to see
The Zhangs disappear with his family
In the distance of the lantern-lit street,
Having fun while leaving him incomplete.

Puff sighs—then looks at the statue’s stark face
With its dreadful features showing no grace.
Puff leaps backward in fear off the table
From the white tiger that seems unstable,
Then darts straight to the middle of the room
To gain some space from the porcelain gloom.

Puff ponders why such nice people would host
An angry tiger as white as a ghost.
Now realizing that he must depart
Quickly from this creature without a heart,
He moves sideways toward the screened front door
To where freedom calls him outside once more.

From the high porch Puff watches a dense crowd
Of villagers moving past looking proud.
They noisily make-up the late-night flow,
Waving a festival flag to and fro.
Everyone is in holiday attire
With fine embroidered lacework to inspire.

Farther up, Puff watches dancers braving
A very flowing kind of hand waving,
Done in circles that expand and contract
And are timed with drumbeats that sound exact
To musicians playing strange instruments,
While others sell food items from their tents.

Then the sky explodes with thunderous sounds
Shot from iron cannons blasting their rounds
With a frightening reverberation,
Followed by shouts and screams of elation
Coming from a crowd who Puff cannot see,
Suggesting to him a catastrophe.

Suddenly a rhesus monkey appears,
Looking behind like someone dodging spears.
He is sprinting toward Puff on all fours,
While an anxious crowd in the background roars.
Then the monkey and Puff collide in fright
Like an unexpected punch in the night.

The monkey and Puff shake their heads then stand
Since their collision neither really planned.
They stare at each other without a word,
Much longer than either would have preferred.
Then the monkey leaps up to the railing,
Bored that their conversation was failing.

Loud fireworks and rifles pound the air
As Puff freezes in a state of despair,
While the monkey darts to the railing’s end
Then jumps with quite a distance to descend.
While falling—he shouts a caution to Puff:
A warning that does not sound like a bluff.

“You fool. Run as fast as you can.
The world you know is exploding.
This is the end of times for man.”

Puff darts to the porch’s end, then looks down
As confusion fills his questioning frown
How the limber monkey survived the fall.
Puff looks hard but cannot see him at all.
Just a steep grassy descent to a stream
Where a forest and mountain set the theme.

Another blast makes Puff shiver and shake,
Thinking this is no time for a mistake.
He wants to find Kathy amidst the crowd,
But that seems much too dangerous and loud.
He would only be crushed by careless feet
As he makes his way through mankind’s retreat.

Puff hears more screams from the scary affair,
With thunderous explosions everywhere.
He hurries down the stairs to the steep slope,
Then tumbles straight down to the stream of hope.
Puff turns quickly from the shadows behind,
Hoping nearby is a friend he might find.

Then—as a stray Roman candle zooms by,
Puff leaps in the stream while cries fill the sky.

He paddles quickly to the other side
To a rock where he can safely abide.
Now he feels at peace with trees to his back,
No longer feeling like under attack.

Suddenly Puff senses the rock moving
And understands things are not improving—
That lounging on an alligator’s snout
Is not what relaxing is all about.
Puff jumps to the grass with its jaws snapping,
Sounding like two mountain-sized hands clapping.

Puff dives in the forest without delay
With a full moon rising to guide his way.
He frantically pushes through dark green leaves
While his survival instinct charts and weaves
Him past animals that quickly scurry
Away to their shadows in a hurry.

Soon Puff slows down to catch his breath and hear
If something dangerous is coming near.
He decides to climb up a camphor tree
To see from up high where he needs to be
Once the violence begins to calm down,
Then head back in the direction of town.

The camphor’s smell is like a menthol rub
Kathy will wash off with a deep soap scrub
After he gets home in a little while,
Relaxing in her cushioned bed in style.
Then as he climbs to the tree’s upper loft
He bumps into something furry and soft.

Puff observes a red panda upside down,
Hanging by its tail from a branch it found

Right next to him, smiling gently Puff’s way,
Offering something neighborly to say.

“Those are some pointed ears
Atop your head of white.
Mine are nicely rounded,
But securely founded
And enjoying tonight
The fireworks and cheers.”

The red panda smiles at Puff upside down
Like a furry, cinnamon-covered clown.
His ears complement his white muzzle
And his tail-rings that create the puzzle
Of a creature with a black nose and eyes
That smiles politely but secretly spies.

“Oh… and I should mention
You were followed here, sir,
By a capable foe
Which you really should know
Can hear your slightest purr
And knows your intention.

“And climbing up a tree
Is something he does well.
So if you have to sneeze
Or breathe with a loud wheeze,
That could be your farewell.
Time to sit quietly.”

“Okay,” whispers Puff, when directly down
Puff hears a quiet rustling kind of sound
Which keeps moving westward with the light breeze.
Puff can tell its stealthy prowl is no tease.

Its cautious steps demand Puff’s attention.
As it stops to listen, Puff feels tension.

The upside-down red panda’s head near Puff
Is so close that it tickles Puff’s neck scruff
Just as the predator looks to the sky,
Puff shivers from the tickle in reply
And turns to the stranger sleeping soundly,
Hanging by his tail almost profoundly.

Then the red panda opens his black eyes
And whispers to Puff with a hushed disguise,

“My name is Junglow, sir,
And time for me to go.
Our foe is over there,
So squint your eyes with care
Because they tend to glow.
Make sure you do not purr.”

Junglow pulls himself up by his thick tail
To the branch, as his short black legs avail
Him in moving from the branch to the trunk,
Then downward smiling like a humble monk.
“Be careful,” he says nearly halfway down,
While Puff hopes he might be going to town.

“You too,” replies Puff with a lonely glance,
Said softly to thwart the hunter’s advance.
Puff watches Junglow’s rather leisurely pace
Descend the camphor tree with little grace.
He determines he must follow Junglow
Wherever the creature decides to go.