I Don’t Want to Live with Monkeys
K. A. Laity
‘Another year, eh?’ Norman said as he set the pints down on the table in the usual corner.
‘They seem to go so faster every time around,’ Stanley agreed.
‘What surprises await us in the coming year, I wonder?’
Stanley grimaced. ‘None. That’s my hope. No bloody surprises and everything getting back to normal.’
‘There’s no normal to get back to,’ Lennie muttered from the bar. He was polishing the glasses as if to get ready for a big night that wasn’t going to happen. Strictly speaking they weren’t even open but the two regulars had begged admittance when Norman saw the bartender pull up and unlock the door. After they each gifted him with a tenner he said it was no business of his if they should want to drink from the pints he pulled ‘just to test the pressure of the taps’ as it were.
Not that they were keeping a watch on the pub that day. It was just that Norman lived across the street and happened to be gazing out the window at the time. He did do a lot of that lately. What they hell else was there to do? No sport to speak of. And every time he turned on the telly another advert for Mrs Bloody Brown’s Bloody Boys.
It took a monumental effort not to kick in the screen whenever he saw that face.
So it was good to be sipping a pint of stout with Stanley—of course he called Stanley at once, wouldn’t be the same without him—and imaging it was just another slow night at the local. ‘Did you really come in just to clean glasses, Lennie?’
‘Very funny. Glad to see you’re still the bleeding raconteur.’ Lennie sniffed. ‘No, Harry wanted to meet up and show me his new Christmas present from the babe.’ Ingrid was Harry’s surprisingly young Brazilian wife. Pub regulars would taunt him about what she saw in him, but it was obvious: three pubs and a nice detached house with a river view.
‘Bet it’s a gold watch,’ Stanley said, nodding sagely.
‘Nah, it’s one of them Apple watches,’ Norman suggested, having been harangued weekly by his nieces since September for that particular technicolour glory.
A key in the door signaled the owner’s arrival. ‘Aw Lennie, did you have to let Stan and Ollie in, too?’
‘Evening, Harry!’ Norman said, raising his pint.
‘What the hell is that?’ Stanley said, pointing behind the portly pub owner.
Harry laughed. ‘That my friends is a genuine Capuchin monkey all the way from Brazil. Ingrid got it from one her mates who got it off a ship.’
‘Don’t they throw their feces around a bit?’ Stanley made a face as the creature on its leash trotted behind Harry to the bar.
‘Nah, you’re thinking chimps. They do that at the zoo.’ Harry whistled and the monkey hopped up on the bar with ease and looked around curiously. ‘This one’s quite tame. Used to be a sailor’s pet. Very clean.’
‘What do they eat?’ Norman asked.
‘Mostly fruits and vegetables. Likes to get his five a day!’ Harry chucked the monkey under the chin and it chittered at him and showed its teeth. ‘Look he’s smiling.’
‘Are you sure?’ Lennie looked a bit worried. ‘I saw a nature programme what said that baring your teeth like that was a way to show aggression.’
‘Get stuffed, Lennie.’ Harry said it without rancor and poured a neat whisky for himself.
‘Bet it would like crisps,’ Norman said. ‘All those new flavours they have.’
‘I still prefer my cheese and onions,’ Stanley said.
‘There’s the prawn and pickle ones nobody ever wants. They always end up in the bottom crushed with the Hula Hoops.’ Lennie grabbed one of the garish bags from the bin under the bar.
‘I dunno. Probably not healthy for a monkey.’ Harry sipped his drink as he watched the monkey take the bag Lennie opened for him and sniff at it.
‘Not healthy for anyone,’ Norman said with a chuckle.
The monkey grabbed a crisp in its tiny almost-human hand and crammed it in its mouth. Its head jerked. He’d obviously never had anything like that before. The men all laughed. The monkey stuffed the rest of the crisps in its mouth and chewed in a frenzy.
‘I think he likes ‘em,’ Lennie said.
‘He could be in an advert. Can’t stop eating them!’ Stanley laughed again.
The monkey wanted more. He hopped over to the bin and fished out another packet. Salt and vinegar this time, but when he ripped open the package and tasted it, he immediately spit it out and tossed the package to the floor. He grabbed another packet, ripped it open: nope. And another.
‘Hey now,’ Harry said, gently tugging the leash. ‘Let’s not make a mess.’ He cooed at the little beast. The monkey screamed and ignored the pulling. It was desperate to find the right crisps. It grabbed the bin, tipped the contents onto the floor and began to paw through them.
Harry bent down to retrieve his pet but the monkey shrieked and bit him. ‘The fucker!’ His hand bled freely. Lennie grabbed a broom. ‘Don’t hurt him!’
‘I just want to keep him off me,’ the bartender said, backing away.
Furious he could not find the right packet of crisps, the monkey screamed his anger and hopped back on the bar, throwing pint glasses left and right so they smashed on the floor and the back wall. Stanley and Norman gaped, still holding tightly to their pint glasses for safety.
‘Get him!’ Harry cried as the monkey leaped onto the till.
‘The hell I will!’ Lennie shouted back, brandishing the broom.
There was a sort of gleam in the monkey’s eye when he spotted the billy club, or so Norman would claim later. The truncheon was protection against the rare outbreak of violence in the pub and was claimed to have belonged to the original owner, said to have been a retired officer.
Whatever the origin of the club, it was a dangerous thing in the small monkey’s hands, smashing glasses and bottles and eventually Lennie who was knocked out cold behind the bar and cut up quite badly by the broken glass.
Harry hollered and gave chase but the monkey ran into the gents then swung out the window, club still clutched in one tiny paw, shrieking its love for crisps down the icy street.
‘Guess we ought to be going,’ Norman said, downing the last of his pint and standing up.
‘Yes, on your fucking way,’ Harry growled, looking down at the bloody mess behind the bar as he wrapped a towel around his bleeding hand.
‘Happy new year, Harry,’ Stanley said, slinging their empty glasses onto the bar.
‘Piss off, Stanley.’
‘Well, that was better than Mrs Brown’s Boys,’ Norman said, chuckling.
‘Shall we grab some cans and see the new year in on telly? What is this coming one? Year of the monkey?’
Norman tipped his head back and laughed until he cried. ‘Aye. Think it is. Think it is.’