Category Archives: fiction

The Monkey and The Weasel

‘Round and ‘round the mulberry bush

The Monkey chased the Weasel

The Monkey thought ‘twas all in good fun…

 

“Stop!” goes the Weasel.  “There’s got to be a way that we can make a deal here.”

“Weasel!” replied the Monkey.

“That’s right, I am Weasel.  Now, are we just going to run around this stupid bush again and again until something unfortunate happens to one of us?  Because I’m not interested in ending my story any time-”

“Weasel!” interrupted Monkey.

“Yes,” sighed Weasel.  “Now, I notice that a fellow your size has to do quite a bit of stooping down to get around these bushes.”  Monkey sat down with a shrug and began to fidget with his toes.  “I may have something to offer you that will help.”  Weasel reached deep into the bush and pulled out a large floppy hat.  Monkey scratched his belly and looked quizzically at the foreign object being offered.  “You put it on top of your head,” explained Weasel patiently.

“Why?”

“So you can walk through the bushes with your head held high, and this marvelous hat will keep the branches from smacking you in that handsome face of yours.”  Monkey grinned and Weasel continued, “You will be bigger and taller and you won’t have to be so careful of where you walk.”  Monkey accepted the gift and placed it on his head.  He stretched his back to stand as straight as he could, puffing out his chest proudly.  He looked ridiculous, even for a monkey.  Weasel beamed with satisfaction.  “Now you can look around as you walk and enjoy the scenery far and wide…  or turn your attention to chewing on your shoulder,” which was what Monkey was doing.  He looked up innocently.

“Thanks Weasel!”  And Monkey bounced off into the forest without a care in the world, shaking bushes and breaking branches as he went.

So Monkey lived, always wearing his fancy floppy hat and walking tall through the forest.

“Weasel!” exclaimed Monkey upon seeing his friend some time later.

“Monkey, hello,” answered Weasel sunnily.  “Looking good mate!  How have you been in your dapper chapeau?”

“Weasel, I can’t see up!  That Bird swoops down and steals the fruit right out of my hands!  Squirrel drops things on me when I pass beneath him!  Everyone laughs and makes fun of me.”

“Monkey, Monkey, Monkey.  They’re all just jealous of your newfound swagger and style,” Weasel surmised.

“I’m hungry and dirty, and it’s all your fault!”  Monkey began chasing Weasel around the mulberry bush again.  Weasel dove under the cover of the lowest branches, squirming all the way to the trunk where he knew Monkey could not fit in his big floppy hat.  Monkey screeched in frustration and beat at the bush uselessly.

“Now, friend, listen to me,” Weasel pleaded from his leafy sanctuary.  “If you will just calm down I can teach you a trick that will fix your troubles, I promise.”

Monkey plopped down dejectedly.  “Fine,” he pouted.  Weasel crawled with caution out of the bush and brushed himself off.

“What you need is a house, somewhere to be protected from all those jealous, uncouth beasts.  Look here Monkey,” and Weasel began breaking branches off of the bush and stacking and tying them together with ribbons of bark.  Monkey did the same and in no time they had assembled four strong walls and a roof made watertight with interwoven leaves.  These they erected in the nearby clearing and Weasel invited Monkey into his new shelter.  “Now you can eat and sleep and the other animals can’t bother you at all, you see.  You can even grab extra food when you have a chance and store it inside to eat later.  The others will be very jealous indeed, but what can they do?  What can they do to this proud, handsome Monkey who is safe and sound in his very own house?”

So Monkey lived, hanging his floppy hat by the door of his very enviable home.

“Weasel!  Weasel!”  A forlorn Monkey cried out into the forest before long had passed.  “There you are you scoundrel!  I see you hiding in there!”  Weasel emerged from the thicket in which he was napping.

“Yes Monkey, what is it now?  Is everything alright in your sturdy chateau?”

“Oh Weasel, nothing is right!  They’re all so jealous of my house that no one will talk to me anymore.  Rabbit snuck in while I was out and ate all my food!  Spider and Bat keep trying to move in whenever I’m not looking.  Last night Bear came and shook the walls so hard while I was sleeping that I jumped up and ran scared all the way across the woods before I knew what happened!  I can’t live like this!”  Weasel pondered this for a moment.

“The real trouble,” he opined with a haughty air, “is the company you keep.  Lower orders, as they say.  Someone needs to put them in their place.  It’s been a long time coming, it has.  And you know what Monkey?  You may be just the one to do it!”

“Oh no, not me,” said Monkey peeking out from under his floppy hat.

“Oh yes, you,” replied Weasel convincingly.  “Who else around here can walk so tall and proud?  Who else is so clever to live in a big, fine house?  That Bear and the rest are nothing but stupid beasts.  They need someone to call the shots, so they’ll know how things really are.”

“But me?  How?”

“You just need a way to control them. Hmmm.  I know!  Ah, it’s so simple!  We must cut off your tail.”

“M-my tail?”

“Don’t worry Monkey.  Don’t you trust me by now?”

“I guess so, but-”

“But nothing my friend!  Watch.”

And without further debate Weasel darted around Monkey.  Monkey yelped and jumped, but it was too late; Weasel had bitten his tail clean off and was twirling it around

with dark glee.  He explained, “Now your tail has become a lash.  Anyone who steps out of line can be put in their place.”  With a flick of his wrist he cracked the air with Monkey’s tail.

“Oh, no.  I couldn’t do that, not ever!” Monkey fretted.

“Well you may have to!” snapped Weasel.  “But if you prefer, it also works as a leash.”  He spied Squirrel eavesdropping from behind the stump of the old bush and deftly flicked the leash at him.  It wrapped around Squirrel’s neck and held fast, despite all of his struggling.  “Now you’ll do as I say!”  Monkey flinched as Weasel yelled at his captive.  Squirrel’s eyes and shoulders sank as he saw that he had no choice but to obey.  “You see Monkey?  Now if Bear shakes your house again, you can make him fix it for you himself, bigger and better than ever.”  Weasel jerked Squirrel’s neck cruelly with the leash.

“Weasel, I wanna try now,” implored Monkey.  Weasel gave Squirrel a stern warning about running away and removed the leash.  He handed Monkey his tail.  Monkey took a tentative step toward the cowering Squirrel then quickly spun to face Weasel.  “You Weasel!  I’ll show you!”  He snapped Weasel with the lash and began to chase him around and around the stump of the old mulberry bush, whipping andcracking his tail at the rascal.  Weasel tripped and fell and Monkey wrapped the tail around his neck, holding him tight until he gave up fighting and cringed pleadingly.  “It works, Weasel!  It really does!”  With that he tied the other end of the leash to the stump and Weasel was stuck.

They left Weasel there for a long, long time, to think about the trouble he had caused Monkey and the others.  Bird swooped down to steal the food that Monkey had brought.  Squirrel threw acorns down on him from the treetops.  Bear came by to shake the leash at night.  Rabbit and Spider and Bat walked by to laugh at him every day.

So Monkey lived, storing food in his house to share with everyone and never missing an opportunity to show off his fancy floppy hat.

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Pike’s Story

 “…his very own room, where his supper  was waiting for him, and it was still hot.  The end.”

“Are monsters gonna get me?  Where do monsters live?”

“Oh, monsters only live in stories.”

“And they want to get out?”

“Hmmm.  Maybe some of them want to, but they can’t.  Don’t worry. “

“Thanks Daddy.  G’night.”

 

In a house on a hill down in upstate New York, under the bed of a sleepy head given the name of Willie Farsted, hid an open book.  Laying flat under socks and trucks, somewhat torn but still very bright, page five and four gave life to a huge birthday party of silly monsters, dancing and cavorting with streamers, balloons, confetti and kazoos, banners and presents and a big red birthday cake.  Laughing and yelling and singing and hooting, all of the monsters pink purple yellow and green, round and square and with tufts of weird hair were so pleased to be in a story with such a fun party going on.  All the monsters, that is, but one.

Tucked in the crease between page five and four sat a lone figure, sullen and brooding on a stool by the door.  Less cartoonish than the others, he looked almost a man, with vague eyes, sunken grey cheeks and long-fingered white hands.  His name was Pike.

Pike sat on his stool, annoyed, his impenetrable gloom shielding him from the careless fun all about.

“Why must I be stuck here amongst these fools?” he groaned.  “There must be some more horrible place for a monster to be.  There must be more terrible and monstrous things to do and be, all more befitting the dignity of a creep such as myself.”

He sat and he thought and he squinted and schemed, racking his brain for some way out of his silly book.  How he longed for graveyards and dungeons and fiery pits!

“Look at you squeaking, chortling buffoons!  Disgraceful!” he’d rage, but the ridiculous party was too loud and carefree for anyone to pay heed.  Pike was alone with his dark thoughts.  He dreamed of escaping his pages and rattling bassinets, or unplugging all the alarm clocks on a Monday morning, whatever sort of mischief he could find to make.  And someday, just maybe, a little closet of his very own, where he could wake to the sound of a good night kiss and know he could look forward to a good night’s skulking. 

Oh what fiendish fun could be had!  There were no limits to the awful things that Pike pictured himself doing, if he could ever get out of that crease between page five and four.

He sat, gazing past his celebratory prison, staring at the bottom of the bed.

Pike would have gone mad, perhaps even mad enough to join in the fun, if not for a fantasy, a daydream he held tightly in his grayish heart behind his long-fingered white hands, and any time the pages were shut and the party was dark and muffled around him, he would dream this dream:

It’s dark.  Silent.  The book hasn’t been opened in ages, then…

Violent jostling.

                                        Voices.

                                                           Footsteps.

                                                                                 Blinding light, and, slowly coming into focus,

                              a fresh young baby.

The baby squeals and gurgles its approval of the boisterous scene depicted on the pages.  Drool splatters, running down the edge of page four.  The clumsy child bends the book backward, cracking the spine, and there is Pike, vague eyes peering out from the reversed crease.  The baby stops, transfixed.  Pike knows this is his only chance.  He summons every wisp of existence he has and asserts it, punching through the barrier between being and non-being with a tiny, reality shattering “boo.”

As if a whisper takes a shallow breath and whispers in turn.

“Boo.”

“Ha ha!  Boo!” the baby answers.  And with that, Pike had leapt from his pages and crawled deep into the baby’s mind.

Oh, the whisper that should have held its breath!

The broken book is soon disposed of, but the mysterious image of Pike is solidified as a common theme in the imagination of the child.  Pike is daydreamed of and dwelled upon.  As years pass he is doodled, giving him frequent tastes of being without the indignity of that chaotic birthday carnival.  Pike still wishes for more corporeal methods of malfeasance, the ability to loosen handrails perhaps, or to drain brake lines, but when the child is tossing in his sleep, Pike is living it up as the centerpiece of various emotional dreambursts.  Sometimes he plays the vile villain (with a natural flair), sometimes he is forced to be the adventurous hero, but usually his role is that of an indistinct, grey everpresence, a sullen fog through which other dream play is attempted.  As the child grows, carrying this grey under his consciousness, he himself becomes indistinct, grey.  People see him as somber, spooky.  He never seems quite comfortable in a crowded room, and if there happens to be a stool by the door, well…

People feel the melancholy radiating from him.  They say he has an “old soul”.  The child’s parents interpret his detached behavior as an indicator of an artistic temperament, choosing to see his slowfog dreaminess as a subtle sensitivity.  They give him creative outlets, trying to draw him out of himself.  They cannot know that it is Pike they sense, lurking.  When the boy is sent to a privileged school for artistic temperaments, it is Pike that is the grey smudge in the foreground of every charcoal landscape.  It is Pike that is the inadvertent minor chord at every piano recital.  It is Pike that is the ancient ennui in the eyes of every portrait.  No one can grasp what is different about this sad boy.  All along, it’s Pike…

Nearing adulthood, the boy-who-was-never-alone-with-his-thoughts veered his creative training toward the modern era, throwing aside his pencils and brushes for cameras and editing software.  He becomes passionate about his new art, producing an incredible number of films in college and earning acclaim for adept use of light filters and, in the words of one professor “an uncannily vivid use of grayscale.”  By the time he leaves school, mega-film conglomerates are lining up to fund his first major professional works.  The first of these, an arthouse-horror piece, is sketched around an unnamed figure with sunken grey cheeks…

The film, “Grey Me”, is an enormous success, both critically and financially, earning  the man-who-once-answered-“boo” millions of fans, the reverence of his Hollywood peers, and permanent creative freedom.  Sequels are a foregone conclusion, and in each film can be found a shady character with vague eyes, or long-fingered white hands reaching out of the shadows…

Each movie is a bigger smash hit than the last.  Younger and younger audiences clamor.  There are offers to put the iconic image of Pike on lunchboxes, breakfast cereals, but the filmmaker resists.  Now he makes each new project scarier and more disturbing.  In spite of this, because of this, the public fascination grows.   Before long, the image of Pike has supplanted all previous bogeymen in the collective imagination.  He is seen in every cemetery, heard in every night wind’s howl, felt under every bed.  And his legend continues to swell, until he inhabits the cold shivers and dark quakes of nearly every human child in the world and he is as real and undeniable as the night itself…

It is at this point in the dream, every time without fail, at this zenith of presence, that the book is opened and the murmurs of all the silly creatures surrounding Pike rise to again jar him out of his fantastic calm and stain his perfect black night with their childishly bright colors.  His loathing swells beneath his frozen frown as he realizes that he isn’t real after all, and he yearns for a roar, a scream he cannot produce.  A child’s face looms, but Pike has no existence to assert.

So he sits and he broods on his stool by the door,

deep in the crease between page five and four,

under the bed of young Willie Farsted,

Down in old upstate New York.

G’night.


a Conversation

The Poet is perched on the rocky shore, pen in hand, puzzling over a notebook. His long frazzled hair and open shirt blow in the salty breeze. He muses, “What is the way to measure a man?”

The Candidate smoothes his dark suit, strikes the speechmaker’s pose. “It is difficult. All men are equal, yet not all make equal use of their talents.”

The Samurai is practicing kata on the sand above. “Self-discipline is the beginning of all merit,” he says. His controlled slashes are nearing the Poet’s head.

“Self-discipline?” asks the Poet, trying to shoo him away. “Self-denial you mean. A man’s capacity for life must be gauged by his capacity for awe, his ability to behold beauty.”

“We must take caution, though, in trying to measure men,” says the Candidate with quick, decisive gestures that make the Samurai spin and roll away. “There is no way of accounting for a beholder’s level of appreciation. Measuring men may be impossible.”

The Poet cries, “Then we must measure the impossible! And we will judge those whom deny life!” He thrusts his feathery quill at the Samurai. The Samurai parries nimbly and they fence upon the rocks while the Candidate orates at an imaginary podium.

“Each does what they are able,” says the Candidate. “That is the basis of our society.” The samurai scoffs and cuts open a sleeve of the Poet’s shirt. The Candidate continues, “A skilled man who will not work. A smart man who will not think. An eloquent man who will not speak…”

The Samurai yells at the Poet, “A strong man who will not fight!”

The Poet, running away, answers, “A living man who will not love!”

“These are the tragedies of our time,” finishes the Candidate. “The fear of discovering our limitations paralyzes all of humanity.”

The Samurai kneels, tired of toying with the Poet. He murmurs from a meditative trance, “In the end, only honor will distinguish men from beasts.”

The Poet leaps over him playfully, singing, “What notion of honor? All duty is born of the heart!”

The Candidate lifts a baby, kisses it. “Honor is addressing our debt to our forefathers.” He sets the child down among a dozen others.

The Poet storms toward him, fists clenched, eyes ablaze. “They left us with a debt to pay? Damn them!” The Candidate shrugs sympathetically.

The Samurai answers in a low and even tone. “It is not a debt that can be repaid. It can only be passed on.” The babies crawl all around him.

The Poet turns toward the ocean and takes a deep breath. “So what is the way to measure a man?”

The Candidate shrugs again. “Perhaps a man can only measure himself,” he says.

The Samurai stares at his sword. “The measure of a man is how much of himself he is willing to give.” He sinks the blade deep into his belly. He gives it a quick twist and slumps to the ground. The infants crawl away, up the shoreline. The Poet drops to his hands and knees and follows. The Candidate stands over the Samurai, gazing out across the ocean.