"What is excrement?" Theoluc asks me one day while our lemur is sleeping. My old partner left him a Malagasy-English dictionary and Theoluc is reading it to improve his English, but some of the translations are not clear. Apparently he is up to the letter E.
"Just a sec, I'm upside down." The ground under the sleeping animal's tree is too steep to sit on. I tried to sit, then lie down, then I squirmed around until my head ended up below my feet, a tree root digging into my shoulder and ants crawling on me from somewhere. Theoluc has found a perch that looks much better, and politely says nothing while I struggle upright.
"It means shit."
"As in "The animal is excrementing?""
"No, it's only the noun "shit", not the verb. Like "This is a piece of lemur excrement."" I pick up a bit of old dried lemur poo. Their poo is innocuous: the fresh stuff is like pellets of wet green plant matter and the old stuff looks like hay. It doesn't smell. Theoluc nods understanding and goes back to his dictionary.
I go back to staring lazily into the distance. It is hot, but very pleasant in the shade of the forest and when you are not moving. Insects make a loud background hum, the sort of noise you hardly notice. We are near the edge of the forest so I can look out across a field of tiny knobby trees. They are grown for biodiesel and nobody knows the English name.