Saturday, April 19, 2008
Gorilla My Dreams
I may have told this story before. If not, I should have ...
Back in my childhood, exotic pets were more common than they are now. There were plenty of dogs -- most of them running loose and apt to bite -- cats, birds, of course, but you could also buy what were called tea-cup monkeys -- tiny little things advertised in the back of comic books, along with snakes, lizards, and various large cats -- I had a friend who had an ocelot. We knew a guy who had a bobcat, and one who had a panther kitten.
No licenses necessary, save for the dogs.
One bright spring day, my friend Bobby Harrison and I decided to go and steal plums. I have mentioned that such an activity was common amongst the nine- and ten-year-old boys where I lived. We located various trees, watched them from afar, and then when the fruit was just the right shade of green-turning-to-yellow, we'd hop the back yard fence -- most of the plum trees were in back yards and most of those were fenced -- fill our pillowcases, and haul ass.
What passed for crime in our day and neighborhood.
So, Bobby had found a tree not far from his house -- on Enterprise, two streets over from mine -- that we had somehow missed. We rolled by on our bikes, and it was full of just-right plums.
No time like the present, we parked the bikes, climbed the fence, and started stuffing plums into a brown paper sack, when, all of a sudden --
King Kong dropped out of the tree in front of us.
Well, okay, not really King Kong. It was, I later found out, a young chimpanzee. Wearing -- though I didn't notice it at the time -- a collar and chain that was connected to the tree.
But, picture it: Two scrawny little boys, going maybe sixty pounds each, and of a moment, beset by a swings-with-Tarzan furry monster as big as we were.
You have never seen, nor will you likely ever see, anybody move so fast. Bobby and I screamed and flew -- flew -- over the fence. I don't remember the trip home, only the end when I skidded my little Huffy into the front yard, still terrified and hardly able to breathe.
My mother was waiting at the front door. She glared at me.
"What have you been doing?"
A knee-jerk response:"Me? Nothing!"
"A woman just called me and said you were in her back yard, scaring her monkey."
I was astounded.
For two reasons: One, that anybody could possibly think that I was scaring that great ape who, I was dead certain, would have torn off my limbs had it been able to grab me.
Scaring her monkey?! Me?! It would have killed me!
And two, and more importantly -- how had that woman known who I was? How could she have called my mother in the time I tore up the streets racing home? That was the mystery.
Later, when I talked to Bobby, he swore he hadn't ratted me out, and I believed him. But to this day, I recall that event with great puzzlement. What kind of person keeps an ape in her backyard plum tree? How had she known who I was and managed to phone my mother in the five minutes it took me to flee home? Even if Bobby's mother had gotten it out of him -- and how would she have even known to ask? -- it would have taken a while to get my name and number to the woman so she could call my mother.
I didn't know the woman. Nor her monkey. But maybe she knew who I was.
One of life's unanswered questions. More proof that the universe is strange.