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John Nippolt
Monkey Business
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        The guy next to me was from Laos. He was telling me a story about his auntie who owned a monkey, and our conversation headed into the jungle with stories about chimpanzee gangs leading us down the path. My Laotian friend kept going on about his aunt's pet. "He was really smart, but even though he was a little guy, he could turn on you and become vicious in the blink of an eye."
          I started daydreaming about my childhood and the time I was in the kitchen at my friend Andy's house. We just finished making sandwiches for ourselves, when his dad walked into the room to put his pet monkey in its cage by the kitchen window. I had never seen a real live monkey up close before and I knew nothing about them. Somehow, the monkey managed to escape Mr. Magner's grasp and in a leap, he was on our side of the room, perched on an open shelf above me. The monkey stared at my last bite of sandwich and Mr. Magner warned me with a laugh, "You better watch out John, he's going to take your sandwich."
          I was thinking, "no way in hell is the monkey going to get this," and I said as much to Andy's pop. I tossed the sandwich in my mouth and at that precise moment, the little beast jumped down next to my empty hand, grabbed me by my arm and opened his jaws wide, making like he was going to bite me. In shock, I screamed at the monkey, who, seeing the desired effect from his feigned attack, stuck his little hand in my open yelling mouth, and took that last bite out in one swift moment. He jumped back up on the shelf to survey the situation while happily finishing off my sandwich. That was how I found out about monkeys. I did not like sharp teeth and long incisors. Even at that young age, I knew I would never own one. Not because they are smart or vicious. They are cunning.
          I drifted back into the conversation; the topic was still monkeys. We had moved on to their speed and agility, their grooming habits and their strength.
          Once again, I went back in time and found myself with one of my old chums. We were at a very small zoo in the middle of some redwoods near the California/Oregon border. My friend, Jeff, walked over to the monkey's cage and sidled up next to a monkey about the size of a watermelon. It was sitting on the ground on the other side of the fence, staring out absentmindedly. I repeated my monkey story to my friend warning him not to stand so close to it. He wouldn't listen. Only the cyclone fence separated the monkeys from visitors and I knew better than to get too near.
          I looked on as Jeff reached down towards the monkey keeping his hand on our side of the fence. Without warning, the monkey shoved his hand through one of the holes in the wire fence and grabbed Jeff's hand. Jeff yelled at the monkey while it tried to pull him closer to the fence, its fangs bared. My friend calmed himself and broke free of the animal's grip, but he wasn't done with the monkey. The monkey had gotten over on him, scared him, humbled him and I witnessed it. He would never live it down unless he paid the monkey back.
          We walked away together at first, then Jeff said, "I'm going back." I thought, let's leave well enough alone, I wasn't going to rag my friend about the monkey. It didn't matter now, he had something to prove. I sat on a nearby bench to observe. If anything bad should come about from whatever my friend intended to do, witnesses would agree he acted alone.
          Much in the same way as he approached the monkey before, he sauntered over and put his hand down. The monkey didn't skip a beat. He slammed his little fist through the wire to grab Jeff's wrist, but instead, Jeff whipped his other hand around and grabbed the monkey's arm. He started to pull the monkey towards the fence. All hell broke loose, the monkey's screams were so piercing that he hurt my ears. I was fascinated by my friend's stare when he turned to flash me his triumphant grin. He had the same look in his eye when he stretched out the monkey, as the monkey did when it pulled on him.