A New Monkey

originally published in Yippee magazine


A new monkey was born. In Yuma, of all places. I found it in the Painted Desert writing chemical elements in the sand with the tip of its yellowed tail. It held rotten banana skins in its left hand, kept tight to the chest like a rag doll. I came slowly forward on hands and knees and when I was close enough to reach out and touch the monkey’s shoulder I sat and waited. The clouds drifted in the skysea and unveiled the noon sun like a glory not meant to be seen by man and the earth was alight in all that which brings life and the monkey stopped to consider this. It scratched its hairless jaw. Eyelids open a thin rim to the heavens. Then it looked right at me and said, Where are the others? Others? I said. The monkey said, Others like me. There are other monkeys, I said, but none quite like you. You’re the first of your kind. The only.

The monkey snorted and its breath was hot on my hands. It touched the undisturbed sand with its tail and continued writing, now the words: Art thou mindful of me? Will thou visitest me? Where is thy promised crown of glory and honour? Somehow the monkey knew I had questions of my own and before I could ask them it pressed its black forefinger to my lips and whispered, These words are to remain unspoken. I nodded. I scribbled them in my moleskin, the questions of monkey and of man. When the monkey saw this it took me by the hand and together we wrote on the desert floor till the sun bled open the horizon and the country was a canvas of red dust and gold. That night we lay on the dunes and muttered prayers to the dark abyss above, hopeful someone up there would hear us and cast their message down, even upon our heads.