Our ninth issue is thirty-six pages of very short shorts, illustrations, and a truly strange comic strip which confuses and delights us. As with previous issues, it sports a silkscreen cover, hand-stitched thread binding, and smells vaguely of citrus. It’s available now for four bucks.
He stole my drink the first day. I was green then. I was having a good time. I didn’t know that the monkeys were waiting for me to get up and take a swim. Floating in the warm water of the lagoon, I looked up to see the largest one of them skittering across the sand. He took a leisurely sip of my fruity rum drink. When I yelled at him, he looked right at me like he knew me and was trying to figure out my name. The fur on his face was gray, and he had a paunch compared to the other monkeys. He chattered back and carried the souvenir coconut cup to the top of the tall wooden fence bordering the resort.
The next day when I went to swim, I made eye contact to let him know that it was just fine with me if he took the rest of my Hurricane. This was the closest thing to a friend that I’ve ever made on vacation. It was natural that I would take my problem to him. Behind me, on the third floor, my wife was watching me from the balcony. She had just broken some news. This trip was to ease the telling and to make it up to me all at the same time.
“Monkey,” I said, “things have not been good lately. Truth be told, not for months and months. I didn’t know why but now I do.”
He was a good listener. He didn’t need to tell me that the same thing had happened to him or that he saw it coming like one of my friends at home would. His flat face seemed to take it all in.
“She is waiting for me to be mad or cry or go up there and take it out on her. Not forgiveness yet. She wants me to take part in some sexual theater.”
I motioned to the bartender and he sent a waiter out to take my empty cup and bring me a new full cup. The monkey looked bored and I was scared that I was losing him. Finally one of the Spanish women sunbathing in front of me went into the water. He came down and took her drink. She cursed in Spanish and splashed at the Monkey. He went back to the fence.
“It’s good you got a drink. I don’t like to drink alone. Did I tell you that I know the guy? He’s a friend of mine. Small consolation now but I slept with a few of his girlfriends in college. I had the courtesy not to let him ever know it. Monkey, we will never have that problem. We have a simple and uncomplicated relationship. It is based on a mutual appreciation of rum.”
My telephone started to whistle.
“It’s her, Monkey. She is growing impatient. She’s hot and bothered. She thinks I’m being a baby about this all. I’m not even sure why we are here. I hate the beach. We could have done as well at the Holiday Inn off the interstate. I used to suggest that just for fun. You know spice things up. It was only $39.99 with a coupon. She thought it was a waste of money. We could have pretended we were the couple having the affair. Of course, she knows what it would be like now.”
“Is she still looking out here? I don’t want to turn around and let her see that I care. You don’t have these kinds of problems do you. You’re probably the alpha male. You get what you want. I haven’t had a blow job in years. Not that I like them that much but it seems like a respect thing. Lord knows I did the other. Sex is simple for you. A lady shows you her hind quarters and a few minutes later everyone is back to picking lice off each other. No books to read. No worrying about whether or not she is attracted to you or fretting that you might be a lousy lay. I’ll tell you what. If I go up there, she better be on her knees. She better give me everything she gave that asshole. What we need is a total sexual accounting.”
“I think you rolled your eyes at me. I didn’t know monkeys did that.”
“I could call him, Monkey, and tell him he is a son of a bitch. Tell him I don’t want to be god parent to his children anymore. Tell him about my sloppy seconds he had back in college. But everything seems petty. Everything the cuckold can do. Look, the Spanish women have taken off their tops. If she was here, I’d have to pretend that I didn’t notice. But Monkey I’m going to take a particular pleasure in noticing these. They look like freedom. They don’t do anything for you do they Monkey. You are not from a puritanical species. Nudity doesn’t do it for you.”
“I’m going for a swim, Monkey. I have to take a piss. You can finish this one. You know it would be polite if you bought a round every now and then.”
I passed the women and nodded to them. They didn’t register anything behind their gigantic bug eye sunglasses. I walked into the water waist deep and made a warmer spot in the warm, warm water. Of course, I couldn’t go back to my chair right away. I had to stay out there and make a show of it. Swim a bit back and forth in the perfectly clear water. I floated on my back, closed my eyes and felt the sun on my face. When I came back, the women had their backs to me and were tying the strings of their bikini tops with expert speed. I wondered if it was me but I looked out behind the hotel and saw the black clouds rolling towards the lagoon. When I got to my chair, I motioned again to the bar hut, and they brought out another drink. The waiter pointed to the clouds and said, “Storm will be here in a few minutes.”
The monkey was alone now, eyeing my drink. He started pacing unsteadily across the top of the fence. He was drunk too.
“You are way over the legal limit, my friend. How much do you weigh? Twenty? Thirty pounds? You should have stopped with the first one.”
He showed me his teeth, a cross between a human and a cat mouth, and then he fell off the fence. I got up from my chair and walked over a few feet from where he fell. He was passed out like a college kid at a fraternity house. I had the strange desire to tuck him in. I took the towel off my shoulders and started to put it on him when I felt a hand on my shoulder.
The bartender said, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you. He bit some Swiss tourists this year who were messing with him when he passed out. He gets mean when he gets drunk.”
“Like a person.”
“Frank, what are you doing?” my wife said.
I looked up to the balcony where I thought she should be and then back to her on the beach. She was wearing one of the thick green hotel robes.
“You know you aren’t supposed to wear those out of the rooms.”
“They don’t care, Frank.”
“I’ve made a friend. You say you hate how quiet I am on vacation. Monkey, meet my wife, Lois. Lois, meet Monkey.”
She turned to the bartender, “Don’t serve him anymore this afternoon.”
The bartender nodded and went back to the hut.
“We were having a contest. I won.”
“I’ve been waiting for you. Are you coming up?”
I looked back at the monkey. I wished he were awake and could tell me what to do. In the quiet seconds that I contemplated an answer, the rain came down, big drops the size of small frogs hitting my back. Lois ran to the hut and watched me. The monkey twitched a few times and tried to wave away the rain. He opened his yellow eyes and shrieked at the sky before flinging himself to the fence top. The trees shook and he was gone. I carried my watery drink across the sand and up the stairs to the lacquered bamboo paradise of our suite.
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