Sunday, March 06, 2005


This morning as we were returning from our walk, me last as usual, as I ambled from the road into our drive I heard the unmistakable screech of a monkey fight in the forest not far up mountain. I figured I'd better go out back and check on the shiitake logs, make my presence known, assert my alpha-maleness as it were, which I did forthwith.

But when I got there all puffed up with alpha characteristics, I saw a small male already there, down by the lower gate, watching from a respectable distance the actions of his boss, clearly the simian alpha male of the troupe, who was already examining the logs the way pawnbrokers used to examine my watches, until he saw me and loped insouciantly off to the adjoining property, clearly having some knowledge of property law. The young male followed.

They waited there sort of checking their watches till I went into the house, but I didn’t go in. Instead I went to my arsenal and got out some of my AMBMs (stones), which I lined up prominently on the deck railing; I then just stood there waiting authoritatively.

While the furry underlings began to forage for rotten fallen acorns, withered grass roots and the like (it was breakfast time), the alpha just squatted there and gnawed some gravel while watching me in the covert fashion of monkeys, which is pretty overt in human terms. Still, his wanting me to think he wasn’t watching my every move told me he knew he was in the wrong - but only as long as I was there. When I went into the house, i. e., disappeared from his reality, he’d be back in the right again, quicker than you can say Garden of Eden. Thus operates the simian conscience, which still has its ancient echoes in our own, that now and then harks back, especially in kids, to the simian level.

So there we were, two consciences, cautiously watching each other, aware of our territorial rights, one with a college degree, one with a forest degree, one gnawing gravel, one hefting gravel, until at last when his dozen or so kids began to complain about the food he blinked and battle was averted. He turned and led the troupe up into the forest, screeching the simian equivalent of “Let’s go somewhere that isn’t so crowded.” Then I too headed for breakfast, pondering the roots of conscience…

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