Monkey Eve


Monkey Eve

by Nellya Burdan


Chapter 1

When I was a girl we had three dogs, two cats, and several chickens, each of whom managed to get on with their lives without putting too many demands on us humans. They were low maintenance, unspoilt, and we fed them leftovers. Back then where we lived, there was no such thing as pet food, and often people themselves didn’t have enough to eat.

Ever since I was a child, I used to love to go to the zoo. The sight of the exotic animals from all over the world mesmerized me. There were animals from the African mainland—zebras, giraffes, lions, hyenas, and pythons—and from the North—polar bears, grizzlies, penguins, and albatrosses. The sight of donkeys, ponies, horses, hamsters, mongooses, and especially those “desert vessels,” the camels that were brought from Central and Far East Asia, captivated me. But most of all, I loved the monkeys.

It must have been interesting to observe me as I stood in front of the monkey cages, imitating the expressions on their faces. Waving my arms in the air, I growled, jumped up and down, and generally made a fine spectacle of myself. Most of the time, my attempts to attract their attention were ignored, but sometimes I was rewarded.

One day a monkey came up right up to the bars and bared her teeth at me. She pursed her lips into a trumpet, and proceeded to assault my ears with a blast of high-pitched screeching that didn't stop for several minutes. I was crushed, but the monkey made her point. She turned away and went on with her business, scratching her chest and stomach as she examined every little patch of hair on her body.

The little monkey continued to sit with her back to me. My feelings were hurt and I felt like crying! There was a stinging in my eyes, and I used the sleeves of my sweater to brush away the tears that welled up in my eyes. Then I had an idea how to fix the situation, to encourage the monkey to leap from one corner to another by hopping on the swings; I wanted to hear the happy noises and see excitement in her eyes. 

I ran to the nearest concession booth and I bought several chocolate-covered ice cream bars. As I ran back to the monkey cage, the ice cream began to melt, so I shaped the wrapper into a cone so as not to lose a single drop. To my relief, there was not a soul by the cage. I ignored the sign that read, please do not feed the animals! My heart was pounding in joyful anticipation. “Look what I have for you,” I said to the monkey, trying to keep my voice as calm as possible. There was a pause and no reaction from the monkey. “Please,” I continued quietly, “don’t you want to try this?”

Then the monkey turned her head and gave me a look that said, “Oh no! It’s that girl again!” But then she spotted what I held in my hand. Her nostrils twitched even closer to the bridge of her nose, and her lips broke into a wide smile exposing a set of yellowish teeth. I felt I could read her thoughts: “Hey! What’s this? Ice cream? Allright!”

Carefully, grasping the wire mesh with the toes of her arms and legs, she inched closer to me. Our eyes met. Gaining confidence, she dipped her slender fingers in the ice cream and licked them clean. She liked it! Before long, she was alternately using her left and right hands to scoop up the ice cream and lick off the sweet, sticky mush.

My delight was boundless! The wave of excitement and joy spread, and soon both adults and children gathered to watch and guess whether the monkey would eat the wrapper or not. She did! To everyone’s joy the monkey grabbed the crumpled wrapper and stuffed it behind her cheek. As she jumping inside the cage, children held out their hands, trying to entice the monkey with offers of a leafy branch, a sweet, a cookie, a half-eaten apple, and other delicacies. The monkey, however, continued to clench and unclench her sticky fingers, visibly puzzled by the unfamiliar sensation.

Out of nowhere, a zookeeper appeared. It didn’t take her long to realize what had happened. Using a rubber hose, she washed the monkey’s face and hands, as well as the hair on her chest and belly. Then, after filling the drinking bowl with fresh water and putting out some fruit, the woman gave me a reproachful look. She began to tell me how dangerous it was to give human food to the animals, that they could get sick or even die. The other people begun to walk away. No one likes a lecture! I listened, afraid to raise my eyes. I was embarrassed for what I had done and what I really wanted at that moment was to become invisible.

Most of all, I was praying the monkey wouldn’t die. Perhaps that fervor prepared me best for what was to follow. Of course, back then I could never have imagined that a monkey could become a member of my family. I have learned since that you must be very careful what you wish for.

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