The Jungle Movie Fanfic
Arnold embarks to San Lorenzo to find his parents. AU & OOC Warnings.
Disclaimer: I don't own Hey Arnold!
He wiped his hands on his jeans until he was sure they were dry; the last thing he wanted to put in the mail was his envelope with sweaty hand prints all over it.
He drew in a deep breath and willed his hands to stop shaking, pressing the deck of his skateboard harder into his side. He didn't have to look down to know that his knuckles were turning white.
It seemed like the whole entire universe had thrown everything in its power to keep him from the post office all morning, but he was here now, standing in front of the box for outgoing mail and holding the one thing that would bring him closer to what he wanted.
"Grandpa, Grandma, you have to see this! I found a map!"
He and his grandparents hadn't gotten much sleep that night. He couldn't have slept even if he had wanted to. He'd been so scared that if he had closed his eyes, the journal and the map—everything about that day would have just been his imagination running away from him again.
They, Grandpa and Grandma, had placed the map on their coffee table. They had ordered more Chinese. They had talked and cried and tried to be calm.
"Well, Shortman, it seems like Fate has placed quite a gem in our laps, huh?" Grandpa chewed solemnly on his last fried dumpling, forcing the chewy dough and pork filling down his throat. "There are a lot of things that can happen now that you've found this and some of those things we do...or don't find out, we won't like. But your grandma and me are gonna leave it up to you. What do you want to do?"
"I want to find them, Grandpa."
Phil paused before slowly nodding. "Alright, Arnold. Then that's what we'll do."
He wrote so many letters to so many people after that, failing and starting again and again from stage one. The government of The Republic of San Lorenzo, the Red Cross, the airbase where his parents had gotten their plane, the manufacturer of said plane, the chief of this or that remote village they may have passed in their travels. He felt like every single person in Central America knew his story. Most always sent letters with their regret about not being able to help him and advice that was almost immediately unhelpful.
And sometimes he got nothing back at all.
He tried not to let it take over his life too much. He tried not to be so openly upset every time those simple black-and-white, one page letters, typed or written in basic, broken English reached his home. It was for his grandparents' sake. They had been looking for his parents longer than him; they didn't deserve to have his worries on top of their own. He began reminding himself when something fell apart that he had only been doing this for a little while, a month, six months, a year.
He continued to the do things he had always done: play baseball in Gerald Field; play his jazz and house records; find himself like like pretty girls and stop because of whatever the reason was that time. But in between all those things, he began taking his science classes seriously and poring over his Spanish homework, not stopping until most of his papers were "A"s. And he began to gather books about mythology, aviation, Latin countries—everything and anything that could have possibly been helpful...
And he continued dreaming the same dreams over and over again. Wild dreams where things went his way and the people who were supposed to be there, were there.
He grew a little taller and started caring about having muscles. His voice started changing, a wobble between the voice he had at nine and something trying to be a bit deeper. Girls that liked him began talking about his eyes, a deep green, and his smile. His hair stayed a little unruly despite his faux hawks; his head stayed oblong.
And he kept the hat—there was nothing anyone could tell him to let it go.
"Do you think I'm crazy, Gerald?" He picked up another rock and tossed it in the river. Curve ball.
"About what?" His best friend did the same, his toss splashing a little further from where the other had dropped. His hand brushed his hair for the tenth time since they had started throwing rocks. Gerald had cut off what he called "The Kid n Play 'do" a few months ago and substituted it for a fresh cut. Arnold knew for a fact that every time Gerald stood in front of anything with a reflection, he switched between that and checking to see if he really was growing peach fuzz.
"Trying so hard to find them. I mean, Grandpa said that we might not find anything at first, but…I'm almost thirteen now. Maybe there isn't anything else to know. It happened so—"
"Nah." Gerald turned to his friend. "Ya not crazy. Every time anybody sees you, talks about you, it's always about something good you did for them. 'Arnold did this for me, Arnold did that for me.'" Gerald's deep voice cracked as he imitated a high-pitched voice. "You're always doing good stuff for people without even being asked. Ya like…Papa Teresa. Why shouldn't you get what you want?
"I say, keep trying, man. You'll find them." Gerald threw another rock and they watched it skip and land with a definite, resolute thunk.
He grinned. "Thanks, Gerald."
"You're a bold kid, man. A bold kid."
That had been his doubt.
Or maybe that had been what he needed, because that night, he'd gone on the computer and had typed in something he hadn't really thought of looking for before: "Green-Eyed People."
The Green-Eyed People. He had a few books about them and a flier to the museum's Indigenous Peoples exhibition they had had a year back. With as many times he had gone to see the pictures of temples and found wall carvings they had had on display in those glass cases, he thought he knew as much about them as anyone else did. Maybe that was why he hadn't ever really thought about them.
And that was why he was surprised when he saw all the results in his search.
A few clicks on his Dell to here and there, and he stumbled on this one website that had nothing special about it. A plain lime green backdrop and plain font and long lists of links. But with blurry eyes and his mind worlds away from an Honors Biology paper he hadn't started and was due the next morning, he clicked on the first one that caught his eye.
And found this:
"Green Eyes, Babbling Tongues: A Short Study of Native Speech in San Lorenzo
by Eduardo del Verde Rosa"
He felt something twist in his stomach. It couldn't have been the same "Eduardo" that he had read again and again in his dad's journal.
He read the whole thing, seeing "Green-Eyes" and "my colleagues" in each column on every page.
And at the end of those twenty-five pages, in black-and-white, was a picture of all of them together. Eduardo and his mom and dad laughing and having the time of their lives. From the look of it, it had to be before he had been born.
He called his grandpa and grandma upstairs to see what he'd found.
He smiled when they screamed.
He wasn't crazy.
He'd found a piece of the puzzle.
He struggled trying to write that essay for class and went to bed with his laptop on—just to test whether the page would still be there when he woke up in the morning.
He spent another week looking for current information on "Eduardo del Verde Rosa" but had found that the whereabouts of his father's best friend was another dead end. The essay he had found had been written when he was three, after his parents had disappeared; there wasn't anything else that Eduardo had written since then, and the sites he found with information about him never mentioned anything current.
He went back to that page to read that essay again over and over. And on the fifth time, he finally saw something that he had missed before in the copyright:
"The Smith Institution of Anthropology"
His fingers opened another window and typed in those words and clicked on the first thing that came up.
And there it was, this glossy looking webpage with pictures of exotic animals and villages and scientists poring over flowers and laboratory equipment and links to all the places they had been.
And at the top, "San Lorenzo" in large block letters.
"The jungle. The past. A new history. The Smith Institute has been in San Lorenzo since the 1970s, exploring the history of the peoples of Central America. Dedicating time and our love for the mysteries of the Mayan and Green-Eyed peoples, the institute awards grants to individuals exploring the landmarks the past has left behind…"
There wasn't any screaming this time.
Just resolve and seconds, hours, days, months dedicated to writing the most important letter of his life. The letter that explained everything, from the beginning to the end to right now.
He didn't know what that moment was.
But he knew what it was gonna be.
He was almost fourteen now. He was ready to search. He wanted to know what happened after they left. He wanted them.
He looked at the envelope, his handwriting written neatly on the envelope. He thought about the letter inside, detailing to anybody who looked inside his life, his story.
And for a moment, he thought about them.
What they were like now.
What they were doing.
Where they were.
Who they were with, if they were with anybody.
The things they said to each other every day.
What they'd tell him when he saw them.
What he'd tell them.
He opened the slot and closed his eyes.
"Please let this work. Please."
He placed the envelope inside and walked out.
This could only be the beginning—the real beginning.
a/n: This past summer, I began writing my first HA! Fanfic called "The Things They Cling To." To sum it up, it is a collection of one-shots based on the idea of the show's characters being "bound to" the things that were most important to them—things, people, relationships. Towards the end, I gave Arnold his second one-shot entitled "Them" that covered the gap of time between "The Journal" and what was supposed to be The Jungle Movie.
I liked it. And I began thinking about adding my own spin on what would've happened if Nickelodeon had actually let Arnold reach San Lorenzo. I hope you like it. So, R&R and this to your Story/Author Alerts.
s/n: "The Things They Cling To" can be considered a prequel to this, and I do "take" things from that and add them to this, but please do not think that you're bound to read it in order to understand what's going on in my "TJMF." Although it'd make me happy to know you read it.