DAY ADVENTURE WITH MONKEY FROM SERVER BY STEPHEN MORAN
Scott awoke to a headache that morning and to a feeling, which grew by the moment that the day promised disaster. This feeling crawled down his spine as he dressed and shone dull and limp through his parted blinds. Glancing out the window at the sky, part of which lay hidden inside dense fog, Scott wondered whether he should pass on his weekly trip about town. He shook his head in displeasure and closed the blinds. Entering the bathroom, he scrubbed his face with a washcloth and decided against taking a bath.
He grabbed his backpack, which was prepared the previous night as usual. The contents were fresh in his mind: one notebook, three pens, a copy of The Metamorphosis that was dutifully well worn and marked by dirt and sweat, and a half pack of cigarettes, one of which he lit as he closed the door behind him. Walking down the stairs took effort. His legs were stiff from sleep and long hours at the restaurant the previous day. A thought popped into his mind as he emerged from the entryway into the cool mist. I should have stayed in bed.
He shook his head, again and not for the last time that day, as he walked the down of the driveway and disappeared into the fog.
“Crossing guard. Check. Construction workers. check. Will they ever finish remodeling that bar?” he said out loud as he walked toward the bus stop.
Staring into the fog, he wondered if there were time to purchase cigarettes before the bus arrived. Will the bus be early?
He stepped from the curb, making his way toward the store. He watched for the 56 bus, but he knew his decision to be final. Entering the store, he took a place in line.
“What will I work on today?” He fingered the change in his pocket impatiently, struggling to grasp hold of a thought, which amounted to pulling a thread, the correct thread from a piece of cloth. The thought ran from him, laughing, laughing, and laughing.
“Can I help you, sir?”
The clerk, a short fat woman with thinning hair, was forcing a smile at him through chubby red cheeks.
“Sorry.” He paid for the cigarettes and left the store.
He walked into the fog, which seemed to grow thicker by the moment. A smile rose upon his face when he noticed a lady waiting, huddled out of the mist under the bus stop. At that very moment, he heard the bus, which was not yet visible, coming loudly and quickly toward him. His legs moved as his lips formed into a circle.
“Damn.” He leaped from the curb into the street. The bus emerged from the fog, and for a moment, he ran parallel, losing ground each second, with his lungs protesting the sudden demand for oxygen. He looked up with confusion on his face and came to a halt right there in the middle of the street.
“Did I really see that?” Scott ignored the car horn blaring as its driver waited for him to move. “Did I just see a monkey on the 56 bus?”
He arrived in downtown some fifteen minutes later, being out of breath with the beginnings of a foul mood creeping over him. Pushing through the crowd of the plaza, he sat in front of Post 25 in need of rest. He scanned the faces of those waiting and emerging from buses and exhaled deeply. He felt the anxiety as the light mist fell steadily over his eyes.
“Today feels wrong.”
He closed his eyes and once again tried to catch runaway thoughts, ones which always seemed to escape his grasp. An image fluttered in his mind of a woman he once knew, talking, but he could not hear the words or see to whom she spoke. The image slipped away into the pool, into the deep, and gone to join all the other lost scraps, scenes, and bits of ideas. His mind centered upon the routine of the day: lunch with the hot dog man, an hour or two writing at the arcade, a visit to the bookstore, and ending at the bar where he would reward himself with a pint. He smiled. The routine provided comfort.
He walked through the plaza again without a glance at the financial buildings and stopped at the traffic light. The arcade laid to his left, and the spot the hot dog vender set up his cart laid to the right. Traffic crawled through the intersection, and Scott grunted impatiently for an opening. The light turned red, and he ran to the other side, rounding the corner to a familiar sight. The silver gray metal of Bob’s cart was shielded from the elements by a large dotted umbrella. His spirits rose as he approached. The routine took shape, not disturbed by missing the 56 and that damned business with the monkey.
“Hey, Scott, you’re a little late today,” Bob said as he neared the stand.
“I missed the fifty-six.”
“The bus was late. Again.”
“Tell me about it.” He reached into his pocket with a reassurance to feel the crisp dryness of folded money against his hand, for he never lost his paranoia of forgetting lunch money at school all those years earlier.
“What will it be today, Scott?”
“I’ll take two with mustard and a soda.”
“Coming right up.”
Bob busied himself with the order. Scott watched him work, admiring Bob’s routine. First, he placed the bun on a piece of foil, opened it with tongs, used another set of tongs to place the hot dog inside, and followed by a swipe of mustard. Bob wrapped the two with another piece of foil gently as to not rub off the mustard and place both inside a paper bag. The entire process took less than ten seconds.
“Oh, the usual I guess. Except for the monkey,” Bob said. He betrayed not a bit of surprise or shock in his voice, not the slightest sign that what he said might be unusual.
“A monkey?” Scott asked, suddenly not feeling well.
“Sure. About ten minutes ago. Bought two dogs with mustard. Left me a nice tip too if I may say so.”
“Really.” He felt the blood drain his face.
Scott turned and walked toward the arcade. His mind raced, but he could not begin to say what he felt.
“That damned monkey again.”
He walked without looking across the intersection, not a care for oncoming traffic, lost in his thoughts.
He stood. The stairs were dark, beckoning to his right, and let the noises of the street wash over him before he climbed the stairs. He placed a foot on the first stair and hesitated. He was filled with a feeling of dread he could not explain, and as he stood there holding his warm paper bag, he knew. He knew but did not want to admit the truth, not even as he rounded the corner that brought into the view the balcony he knew so well. He stepped out onto the balcony to see the monkey looking up at him with traces of mustard on its mouth.
Scott stood silently, realizing at once that the monkey sat in his usual seat, and wondered to himself, “Can this be a coincidence?” He shook his head, knowing. Had he not known after the business with the bus and with Bob? Had he not known the very moment he woke up that morning with an inexplicable feeling of dread? He walked to the other side of the balcony away from the monkey. He sat down, not in his usual seat he reminded himself, all the while watching the small animal sitting in the spot he called his own for a year.
He unwrapped his lunch, still watching, seeing black fur surrounding tan face with eyes that were large, furtive, and black. The mouth was still chewing upon lunch, and small, human-like hands scratched a spot behind its large ears. The eyes bothered him. Every few moments, those blank and empty eyes locked with his own.
“What?” Scott asked.
Silence. The monkey kept scratching.
“You’re sitting in my seat, ruining my day. You should at least have something to say for yourself.” Further silence with the only response being the honking of horns from the street below and the squeal of brakes.
“Say something.” Anger flashed over Scott’s face. He finished his lunch and threw the remains, brown bag and foil wrappers, into his backpack. He rose, not knowing or thinking what to do, but once on his feet, he ran with loud slapping steps toward the monkey. The monkey jumped over the balcony and onto the street below before he covered half the distance between them. He stood in silence, not seeing the young woman who watched him from the stairway.
“Who are you talking to?” she asked.
Confused, he looked at her. She looked young with hair bleached blonde and cascading over her shoulders and her blue eyes gazing up at him in awe.
“Why, I was speaking with that damn monkey,” he said, looking at the place the monkey jumped, nimble and sure, from the balcony.
His mind spun, and he pushed by her, running down the stairs and out into the street. He fought to settle himself, mumbling obscenities under his breath without realizing as he walked on toward the bookstore.
“This can’t be happening,” he said to himself over and over again. He fell silent as he reached the corner. The bookstore was to his left, and the bar was straight in front of him.
“Decisions.” To visit the bookstore first or to buy himself a pint, he wondered. “What will the monkey do?”
He looked up at the bookstore but saw nothing. He went into the bar. Once inside, he saw no sign of the monkey. He smiled as he sat, knowing he’d bested the beast.
“Just change your routine a small amount. Do not worry.”
He ordered a pint and settled into thoughts that did not include the monkey.
He left the bar in good spirits, feeling happy with himself. No monkey can ruin my day. He opened the door, which led to a flight of stairs. He bounded up the stairs two at a time. He entered the bookstore, placed his backpack with the cashier as required, and spotted a volume he found to his liking. He approached and took the book, a complete volume of Kafka’s short stories, from the shelf. The volume, a well-worn hardcover, felt good in his hands.
“Look at what we have here.” He set the book back on the shelf. “I’ll get that before I leave.”
He walked down the aisle, rounding the corner, and went into the bathroom.
“I’ll buy that book, and I’ll take a trolley over to east side. Maybe, I’ll get a coffee or cappuccino.”
He left the bathroom relieved, always preferring to have a plan set. He rounded the corner to see the monkey holding the volume of Kafka. The monkey stared at him with teeth showing and laughed. The monkey, with the volume in his grasp, jumped, scratched and laughed in high pitched shrieking laughter.
“No!” Scott yelled. No longer able to brook the monkey’s taunts, he lunged at him.
The two rolled on the floor, wrestling for the volume. The books and shelves fell in their wake.
“Give me the book!” he screamed, feeling the fur between his fingers.
“What do you want with it? Haven’t you done enough today?” Scott yelled as his grip on the book slipped.
“Sir!” “Why?” “Sir!” “Sir!”
Scott stopped. The clerk with her brown and beady eyes looked down upon him. He turned his head, seeing the store in shambles, bookcases overturned, and pages ripped from volumes strewn about the aisle. In his hands, he felt the same sure firm solidity of Kafka, and around him, he saw nothing of the monkey in the ruins.