Monkey by Steve Dempsey
Tim in Putney, back against his front door, picked through his keys. He was drunk and so it took him several minutes of fumbling around in the low orange glare of the street light to select the correct one and get into his basement flat. He staggered along the corridor and collapsed through onto the sofa in the living room. Some time later he started. There was a strange earthy bitter smell in the room, like leaves or cabbage. Tim leaned over and switched on the light. It was the latest in Swedish design, like a small umbrella hanging from the ceiling. His mother had given it him but Tim found it annoying.
On the glass table between Tim and the TV, and about the size of a newborn child, was a small monkey. It was sitting hunched over with its knees drawn up. In the indirect light of the lamp, the monkey's beige fur looked almost green and the tufts of white around its black face made its features look even smaller. Its long tail was stretched out across the table and the black tip kept flicking up angrily.
'Shoo,' said Tim, 'Bugger off.' The monkey rolled back on its haunches and stared at him. Its tail swept round into its shadow. It sat there, silently not quite looking at Tim. Tim pressed himself back into the sofa, levered himself up with great effort and scrambled back towards the door. The monkey lifted up its feet and spun round on its bottom on the smooth surface of the table. Feet still up, it bared its teeth, no grinned, at him.
And Tim remembered.
He was only twelve. The school was on a trip to London. Instead of the more fancied, and expensive, Zoo in Regent's Park, they had gone to the small one in Battersea. They had sat round the Peace Pagoda whilst they ate their sandwiches and crisps, throwing conkers at each other and kicking the Autumn leaves into noisy brown clouds. Finally the teachers had ushered them into the zoo. It had cows and sheep. What kind of a zoo had cows? There were cows in the fields all round his provincial home town. This wasn't a proper zoo!
Eventually they found some monkeys. “Green Monkey” the card under the window had said but they hadn't been green at all. Tim pressed his nose against the pane and shouted.
'Oi monkey, want some of this?' He held up a small plastic cup of lime squash, the sort with a foil lid. Now this was proper green, luminous almost. Suddenly the monkey was interested. It dashed over to Tim and pressed the underside of its body against the window. Tim jumped back and his friends laughed at him.
'I show you, bloody monkey. I'll show you green.' Tim held the carton by the window and moved slowly towards the part of the enclosure that was covered in a metal cage. He teased the monkey a few times, hiding the drink under his coat and waiting for it to lose interest before whipping it out again. Finally the monkey could take it no more and started screaming. Tim pulled back the lid of the cup and threw the entire contents over the little creature.
'Now you're green!' he shouted and jumped back. The monkey retreated to a perch and started licking itself but the rest of the troop smelled the sickly sweet drink and came over to investigate. The poor little monkey was deluged by the others, all licking, scratching and biting. When the keeper finally came to see what the fuss was, the monkey had taken quite a beating. When asked what had happened Tim gave the non-committal teenage grunt and shrug and wandered off.
Back in Putney, Tim snapped out of his reverie as he felt a small furry hand coming out of his pocket. The damn monkey had his iPhone. It hopped back on to the table and grinned with excitement holding the phone up in one hand. Tim lunged for it but it flexed its legs and leapt away, up Tim's arm, off his head and onto the light-fitting. It hung there, holding itself almost horizontal with legs and tail, whilst it clutched the iPhone in its paws and chewed at it.
Tim jumped but the monkey just hoisted the phone out of his reach. It had managed to get the back off and the battery dropped to the floor. Tim raced to the kitchen in search of a broom. There was a terrific crash from the front room. He ran back to find the broken lamp in the midst of the shattered table, tiny pieces of glass twinkly in the light from the hallway. With the end of the broom, he manoeuvred the mess out of the way to find the crumpled remains of his phone, the screen cracked, wires poking out of the back and the SIM card bitten in half. Of the monkey, there was no sign.