Sunday, March 21, 2004


While gathering up an armful of sheets and pillowcases to take downstairs to be laundered I looked out the bedroom window and saw some monkey scouts in the garden, the fast and daring teenager type, then heard them whoop softly to their distant companions up mountain: hey come on down, the coast is clear! I ran downstairs and out onto the deck with the armful of laundry and completely nonplused the marauding beasts: What in monkey hell is that up there jumping around?

They couldn't figure out what I was, they had never seen anything like it, nor did their monkey myths include such an archetype: a giant marshmallow, a talking cloud, a large potato, what. This rendered me completely ineffectual as a monkey disperser, so I went back inside, shed the laundry then ran back out and presented myself in toto: then the simians knew who it was. Oh yeah, that guy. They didn't even begin to amble. Teenagers. I grabbed some rocks. He's serious. They took off. Slowly.

Fortunately Kaya and I had yesterday harvested the early shiitake, which must have upset some very apish expectations and might have been what they were whooping about. But this was not a time for complacency. All was not resolved. Later while I was again upstairs I heard a pretty fierce monkey fight on the other side of the house. I went to a window and looked out: it was a monkey mother and her kid disagreeing on the simian equivalent of the kid wants his own car. The answer was definitely no.

The kid ran off by himself across the rice paddy in a Rebel Without a Cause kind of self-indulgent lope and through sheer chance, that's the way these things happen in life, he almost fell over a pile of potatoes the farmer had discarded into his rice paddy as compost, a monkey discovery equivalent in human terms to about three hundred thousand dollars.

The adolescent monkey did a few silent and I would swear righteous eureka leaps then adolescently picked out the two biggest, best potatoes and took them off to the grass at the side of the paddy to roll around and play with until they were clean, then he went out into the middle of the road and sat down to eat them, the fool. The elder monkeys saw him, added two plus two, ran to the heap of potatoes, took potatoes and merely rubbed them with their hands to clean them and ate them on the spot as fast as they could, the youngster never got another potato, he went off dejected into the woods. Three hundred thousand dollars, just like that.

This was all just prelude to the cloud of monkeys that not long after passed like a vast red-faced brownness through our little patch of blue sky. There were toddler monkeys playing like crazy up in the tall oak trees full of sunlight, running up and down the dancing branches playing monkeytag on the bouncing bare limbs like on a playground, while the elders hunkered down in the bamboo looking at me and wondering where their next free shiitake was coming from. It was clear what an endless task it was, raising all those kids without a job, without a steady income, no pension and only one decent all-weather outfit, but it was also clear that my little patch of land was just a speck of their vast multimountain territory, so why were they always hanging around here? I threw a rock at the sentry on the roof, then walked around whistling and hooting, expressing my human nature.