"Fly, motherfucker, fly,' said Trent. He always made comments like that --dramatic but not exactly appropriate to the situation. Myrlene and Trent watched the little monkey scamper into the woods.
The whole thing began about a week before, when Myrlene had been perusing the City Paper on a boring Saturday morning. Myrlene remembered that Trent was still in bed when she saw the ad in the "Pets" section for the Spider Monkey:
"Lovable Spider Monkey needs a caring home. PLEASE -- I am desperate to find a new home for Ronald -- partner allergic."
Most ads listed a dog, cat, gerbil, or another conventional pet. At the top of the "Pets" section Myrlene noticed another disturbing notation:
"ALERT FOR THOSE SEEKING TO SELL OR DONATE ANIMALS -- laboratories and restaurants specializing in rare cuisine are known to answer these advertisements. Please use care when deciding on a new home for your pet."
Even now, years later, Myrlene can't explain why the ad had such a powerful effect on her, knowing only that its effect, and consequent action, changed her life.
She and Trent had been married for six years. They met in college. After dating for three years no one doubted they would marry soon after graduation. They had been listed as "Best Couple" in the Sig Ep yearbook -- Trent the fraternity President, and she the Captain of the soccer team which had made it to the final game of the conference tournament her senior year. Myrlene crossed the stage at graduation to an unusual amount of cheers, and she knew a lot of that was because of Trent. He and his buddies knew everybody, and her inclusion into their little circle of privilege made her college experience far different than it would have been without him. Since then, things had been okay too.
Myrlene thought this way about the Spider Monkey:
First, it was irresponsible to get such a pet in the first place if you lived in an urban setting. Of course, a baby spider monkey would be so adorable and intriguing that Myrlene understood the temptation. But anyone with half a brain would know that the money would grow and assume, in large part, the habits and temperament of a wild animal. Dogs and cats were bread for domesticity, and Spider Monkeys were not. Not only that, the inevitable dispute that would arise when a partner or kids came into the picture should have been obvious before. Myrlene felt anger towards the owner of the Spider Monkey. She didn't know what the monkey would look like exactly, but she figured it was probably like the monkey in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Second, monkeys were intelligent. She assumed that Ronald was smarter, and more emotionally capable, then a dog or a cat. Out on her balcony, waiting for Trent to awake from his hangover slumber, Myrlene cried for Ronald. Now, she marks that morning as the day she realized her life was kind of fucked up, although, of course, no such revelation really occurred at the time.
She and Trent went back and forth about the monkey. That first night, while out to dinner with friends, Trent made a joke out of the whole thing.
"Myrlene wants to get a pet monkey," he told Billy and Jill. "Maybe you can throw her a shower Jill." Trent laughed. That really was the thing. Trent wanted to have kids, and she had been stalling on the point. To Myrlene, it seemed, as horrible as it was to admit, sort of permanent.
"Maybe he will take after you, Trent," said Billy. Anger surged inside Myrlene at the flippant parallel between the spider monkey and her potential offspring with Trent. "I hope not," she replied curtly away and sipping her drink.
The next week she went to look at the spider monkey. Ronald occupied a rather large cage in the corner of Millie's apartment. Millie was moving in with her girlfriend soon, and the girlfriend could not tolerate Ronald. Millie opened Ronald's cage and he ran out, making a few quick circles around the coffee table before landing in Millie's arms.
"He's really adorable," said Millie. "And smart. It breaks my heart to get rid of him but I don't know what to do."
Millie and Myrlene walked Ronald around the neighborhood. Millie used a chest halter that allowed Ronald to run part of the way up trees but not too high.
"He wouldn't run away," she said. "But it might take me a while to coax him down. Plus, the homeowners association says I have to keep him on a leash." Myrlene watched Ronald closely as he ran back and forth on the sidewalk in front of Millie. He moved fast and made a little chattering sound. A few neighborhood kids called out, "Hi, Ronald," as she, Millie, and Ronald went by.
"It's not possible, babe," said Trent, his attention focused mostly on NBA conference championship. Myrlene herself has some interest in the game but, at the moment, had a job to do. She had already agreed to take Ronald, and had to convince Trent to agree -- preferably by getting him to believe he had thought of the best points and arguments supporting Ronald's acquisition.
"You said it yourself Trent. The monkey will be smarter than a dog, easier to train, and will be able to do things like open the frig and get you a beer," Myrlene said.
"I said that?" said Trent. Myrlene had never been that good at these discussions, often finding herself, in order to support her position, needing to insist on a fact which, if she really thought about it, never happened.
"Well, whoever said it, it's true. You should see him Trent. You'd love him," said Myrlene. Again not so sure.
"We're too busy, babe," said Trent. She hated how he called her babe. He began to do it only a couple of years before, and Myrlene figured he picked it up from one of the annoying hipsters he worked with at the investment banking firm. They probably called each other "babe". Myrlene hated the way Trent had accustomed himself to the life of a typical cheesy businessman. In college, he hadn't played golf, used fake tanning gel, winked at people a lot, or called anyone babe. Trent, at that point, made a comment that changed their lives forever.
"We're going to have our own little monkey soon, anyway," he said. "I'm gonna knock you up."
Later, Myrlene could not explain her rage at this statement. When Trent said it, he was sitting in the middle of the couch with both feet on the coffee table, spread wide. He smoked a cigar, which, right after making the comment, he took a long drag from while leaning his head back to stare absently at the ceiling. Myrlene stood behind the couch, slightly to the left. They had not been looking at each other's faces while they talked, as they were instead positioned so both could see the TV, an all-too normal arrangement Myrlene detested. Myrlene dropped the glass of orange juice she was drinking, took a heavy deliberate step forward, and knocked the cigar out of Trent's mouth with an open-palmed roundhouse. It sailed through the breakfast nook and directly into the kitchen.
"You fucking shit!" she screamed. "I am so sick of you I can hardly stand it."
Trent stood up and looked at her but did not respond. He was, as he had been in college, pretty intuitive about peoples feelings, unless he was busy trying to imitate the brain dead losers he worked with. It could have been a really heated argument. Myrlene was ready to go, too. But she knew Trent had some good points to make. She'd directly told him, numerous times while they had dated, that she wanted a family. She was 29. It wasn't a surprise that Trent would want to knock her up, as he said. She had a difficult argument, but the fact was, she had changed. Or gotten in touch with the way she had really been before. Or something.
But the argument never happened, because Trent started to cry, a fact which deflated her anger immediately. They hugged in the living room, cigar burning on the kitchen floor and Myrlene wondering how she had become so fucking unhappy.
Ronald turned out to be a handful, of course. He never shut up, and he basically shit all over the place. Contrary to Myrlene's original expectations, Ronald was not more loving than a dog. He was actually pretty selfish. He never sat still, and did not, for example, sit next to her on the couch while she read or calmly sit on her shoulder like the monkey in Raiders. As far as the performance of little tasks like fetching beers from the frig, Ronald really didn't help out much. If he got a beer, or a can of anything for that matter, he usually threw it against the wall. Once he threw a beer can straight at Trent, who caught it and opened it, taking a long satisfying sip. "Thanks Ron," he had said. But it was only luck, because Ronald had not been trying to help out. The worst thing was that Ronald was not fixed, and constantly jerked off. Trent thought it was sort of funny, but Myrlene didn't. Once, while she and Trent were having sex, Ronald tried to, let's say, get "involved." From then on, they had to keep him in his cage during times like that.
They'd only had Ronald a week when Myrlene got a call from Millie, who was crying really hard. Apparently, her girlfriend, who she'd actually only known for two weeks, had decided to keep living with her ex. Would they mind letting her have Ronald back? Millie couldn't believe she had considered getting rid of him because of a girl she had only been out with a few times. Myrlene, although suddenly feeling tremendous relief at the thought of returning Ronald, also felt annoyance at Millie for not realizing that she had more than considered getting rid of Ronald -- she'd done it On the way over to Millie's the next day, Ronald sat in the back and Trent drove.
"I'm gonna miss you, you little peckerhead," said Trent to Ronald. Both Myrlene and Trent laughed. Ronald just chattered away, pacing back and forth on the backseat.
When they got to Millie's apartment, a U-haul truck sat in front, and Millie and a hefty woman were carrying a headboard down the sidewalk towards Millie's front door. Not away from it. Myrlene walked over to Millie while Trent hooked up Ronald's halter.
"Hey," said Millie. She spoke with an exaggerated enthusiasm. She had obviously forgotten they were coming over to return Ronald. The other woman walked inside without speaking or acknowledging Myrlene.
"Beth and I are gonna try to make it work," said Millie, "I should have called." She shrugged, clearly believing that her lame comment had handled the situation.
Trent and Ronald approached. Ronald, screeching happily, Ronald pulled towards Millie, but Trent held him back with the halter. Myrlene then spoke to Millie in a way that she had hardly ever spoken to someone before. It reminded her of the way she had exploded at Trent the week before.
"Make up your fucking mind, bitch," she said.
Millie appeared shocked, replying with something about how she deserved as much dignity as anyone and her feelings shouldn't be discounted so crudely. She then, abruptly, walked off.
Before returning to the car Trent and Myrlene walked Ronald down to the woods next to Millie's neighborhood. He obviously had to go, because he had taken a shit straight into his hand and thrown it against the side of the U-haul truck, a gesture which Myrlene wanted to believe was powerfully symbolic, but, unfortunately, probably meant no more than the beer Ronald had tossed to Trent.
Myrlene did not actually see Trent unhook Ronald's halter, but she voiced no protest when she saw Ronald head for the trees.
"Fly motherfucker, fly," said Trent. They both knew Ronald had no chance. An African monkey on his own in suburbia.
They walked together back to the car together. Ronald put his arm around Myrlene, and she felt very, very, whole.