Monkey in the Dumpster - A Parable
"I want that thing gone, ONCE and FOR ALL!"
Mrs. Procell screamed as she slammed the dumpster lid shut and scurried down the hill toward the house.
Mr. Procell looked over his spectacles and shook his head impatiently as he put his newspaper down gently upon the patio table and prepared for battle. They were going to have it out again, just as they have had it out over this same topic two or three times a week over the past few months. "Having it out," by definition, meant that the infinitely more stubborn Mrs. P was going to beat Mr. P into submission.
Mrs. P scrambled up the porch stairs trembling and gesturing wordlessly toward the blue dumpster at the edge of the property. The shock of what she had seen seemed to have sucked all the words right out of her, although this definitely wasn't the first time, by any means.
"Darling," Mr. P said calmly, "I don't know why you insist on torturing yourself like this. I pay good money to hire people to haul the garbage up the hill. There's no need to subject yourself..."
"That's not the point!" Mrs. P shrieked, her grayish brown hair still standing on end from the fright she had taken. "If I feel like taking the garbage up the hill because YOUR hired people don't do it properly then I should be able to. Now act like the male of the species you're supposed to be, and get rid of that thing!"
If there was one way that Mrs. P could get a rise out of the maddeningly stoic Trevor Procell, it was by touching upon his male-hood. This was a particularly touchy subject for the Councilman, because the opposition media commentators frequently liked to attack what they viewed as his "overly feminine" regard for nature and also for the poor and downtrodden of his own species. Even the stand up comics of a decidedly "liberal" bent liked to crack jokes about his "bleeding heart" and "tree hugger" attitude. By playing this card, Mrs. P had struck a nerve.
Nevertheless, Mr. Procell was the very soul of restraint and self-control. Maintaining his superb poker face was much easier because of the thick fur on his face, which quite adeptly hid the rush of blood that Mrs. P's taunts had caused to surge upward. Even so, Mrs. P could literally smell his angst and seemed intoxicated by it, which may have been the real reason for her ill advised trip to the dumpster and the accompanying theatricals.
"Now darling," Mr. P said. "These are a protected species, as I've told you several times, and you just can't go snuffing them out as if they were cockroaches on the kitchen floor."
Mrs. P crossed her arms sassily. "Yeah, and who is responsible for that, Mr. Tree Hugger! If it wasn't for you and that bleeding heart of yours, maybe these things wouldn't have the run of the place like they do! Now go and get rid of it! I don't care how you do it, just get that thing OUT OF THERE!"
It was with great reluctance, therefore, that Mr. Procell
abandoned his teacup and newspaper on the patio table and with heavy heart trudged his way up the hilltop where the ugly blue dumpster stood. Why he didn't have that damned eyesore removed and placed discretely behind the trees at the rear of the property was beyond him, but Mrs. P with her peculiar, often self-contradictory quirks liked it there and insisted on it staying where it was. Probably the reason it remained at its current position was because she enjoyed shaking Mr. P out of his morning tranquility and watching him make the exhausting uphill treks on these futile pest control missions which never accomplished anything. Mrs. P was a good, devoted wife, Trevor Procell tried to convince himself, but she most definitely had a sadistic streak!
Although this scenario had been played out at least a dozen times during the previous weeks and so far nobody had been been harmed; neither rational, sentient being or dumb brute beast, it was nonetheless with great caution that Trevor eased open the lid on the dumpster and slowly peeked over the brim. Not to his surprise the monkey lay there shamelessly atop the plastic rubbish, sprawled out comfortably upon its belly, exposing itself in all of its bald whiteness. Mr. P wondered how these things could make it through the winter in this near naked state; with only a thin splattering of fur on the cheeks, chest, and what any self respecting Procyon would refer to as the "private" regions.
The beast tensed and its hairless back arched upward. The brute was shaking badly but it was not out of fear, because the expression it directed toward Trevor was decidedly casual and unconcerned with this particular disturber of the dumpster, who it had already defied many times. Instead, the animal's attitude could have been one of hopeless resignation, like what the fugitive feels in knowing that the inevitable will occur but not knowing exactly when. For an incautious moment Trevor thought he perceived a glint of intelligence in the beast's pretty blue eyes, but he chose not to pursue this observation because as he leaned in further the monkey seemed to coil itself up dangerously, a bit like one of the rattlesnakes Trevor was required to have removed from beneath the porch from time to time. Trevor had publicly repeated on several occasions that these monkeys were completely harmless if left to their own devices, but he could also sense that they could be quite dangerous if provoked. He did not wish to do any provoking whatsoever, despite Mrs. P's rants and threats of spousal abandonment.
"Hello, little fellow," Mr. P spoke gently. You had to speak gently to these animals, so as not to appear threatening. Poor little bugger, he thought. What happened to all of its friends?
The monkey looked directly at Mr. Porcell, and Trevor was sure he saw an expression of resentful scorn upon the hominid's face, as if it didn't appreciate being spoken to like a child. Of course this was completely preposterous; these were just dumb, simple brutes, a fact that had been scientifically proven over and over again. Most likely a firm, convincing tone was what was really needed to dislodge the beast from its comfortable nest.
"Now look, friend," Trevor spoke with a slight growl that was not really menacing at all, even though it pretended to be. "You've made yourself comfortable here for quite awhile, but you are scaring the wife, and I need you to SHOVE OFF!"
Mr. P's voice stairstepped its way up several levels toward the end of this command and he backed away from the trash bin in anticipation that the creature would take fright from his authoritative tone, leap loudly from the bin and scurry away to the safety of the woods.
As it was the monkey just lay there as comfortably as ever, and instead of bolting it lifted one arm and extended a middle finger upward in Mr. Procelle's direction.
Now that's a peculiar gesture, Trevor thought. I've never seen that before. What particular evolutionary function could it possibly have? I'll have to ask Jim over at the Biological Institute. Probably nothing. Probably just a meaningless, reactive, completely random movement.
"All right you surly fiend," Trevor proclaimed, feeling frustrated as he tried to remember that he was the Grand Councilman, not this hairless ape in the dumpster. "I'm going to leave this lid open for a while, and when I come back I expect that you will be gone for good. I'm giving you fair warning, friend. The consequences could be severe."
With these half-hearted words the defeated Trevor retreated back down the hill toward the house, wondering what he was going to say to the missus. Yeah, I think it bailed out dear, I really think it's gone this time. Poor little thing looked really scared.
As he rehearsed these completely unconvincing lies Trevor was saved by a text message on his cell phone. The Grand Raccoon Council was being called in for an emergency summit and Councilman Procell was expected there within the hour. "Thank God," Trevor muttered. Dealing with belligerent, back biting councilmen was infinitely better than dealing with his belligerent wife and her incomprehensible, incurable anxieties.
Halfway down the hill, as Trevor was tucking his cell phone away, the lid on the trash receptacle slammed shut loudly behind him. It was a discomfiting sound, reminding him of when the clumsy undertaker had closed the lid too hard on his father's coffin. But all it meant this time was that the monkey in the dumpster had ignored his dire warnings and gone back to sleep.
The splendid skyline of the Raccoon Capital City of Masquivis
opened up before Trevor as he was hurriedly transported to the council meeting. He rode in a limo behind the safety of bullet proof glass and was ringed in by two husky ring-tailed bodyguards. The Councilman could not help but chuckle at his own play on words, although his incongruous smile produced absolutely no reaction from the stone-faced guards.
Although Councilman Procell was a steadfast champion for the rights of bushy-tails such as the members of his security detail, he couldn't help but feel a twinge of smugness as he reached out for his latte with his own sleek, slender prehensile tail. Out of politeness he usually tried not to use his tail like this when around tail-challenged compatriots, but in his preoccupation with the events at the dumpster he had quite forgotten his manners.
The awareness of his inappropriate tail acrobatics coupled with the view of the city with its magnificent skyscrapers unconsciously spurred Trevor to recall, with a twinge of pride, a broad outline of the history of Raccoon civilization as he understood it.
First there was the event known as "The Great Explosion, " or "Big Bang," as some called it for short. Although Raccoon scientists still debated what caused this apocalyptic event several thousand years in the past, it was generally agreed that nuclear fallout from the explosion caused several mutations among the Raccoon population that resulted in their present domination of the animal kingdom. The first of these were the broad pelvis and angled thigh bones that enabled upright walking; adaptations that freed up the paws for greater dexterity when manipulating objects. From there it was only a matter of time before an opposable thumb with greater grasping ability was selected, and this gave rise to the tool development that catapulted the Raccoon to the top of the evolutionary dog-pile. The superior brain had always been there, Procyon lotor had just needed the advantage of these morphological characteristics to give it the tools it needed to reshape the planet.
The most recent step in continuing Raccoon evolution had occurred roughly a thousand years ago with the appearance of a prehensile tail that was like a third hand capable of grasping. Although they were greatly outnumbered, the Prehensiles quickly dominated the bushy-tails, as they were still sometimes derogatorily called, even though LA, or "Legacy appendage," was the more acceptable, politically correct term.
The Prehensiles turned the bushy-tails into a subjugated slave race and it had taken hundreds of years for them to throw off the yoke of Prehensile oppression and achieve equal rights. Nonetheless they remained second class citizens who were typically discriminated against and sometimes racially profiled by the police for whatever crimes may have been committed in the vicinity. In spite of Constitutional protection, it was still a largely unjust system.
So the Prehensiles were still firmly in control of the government and society in general, but they were slowly and steadily being deselected in favor of the bushy tails. For centuries the impoverished bushy-tails had been deliberately kept ignorant by the Prehensiles, and this lack of education about the advantages of population control made them breed like...well, like raccoons. Broods of four Fatherless newborn raccoons were constantly seen following around some ragged, bushy-tailed baby-mama through the poor areas of the city, whereas the exclusive, patrician areas of town were largely devoid of the spectacle of frisky, noisy kits. It was a sad truth for Trevor, but his kind was doomed to perish from the planet.
As Trevor became lost in his reverie, as this noted great thinker was wont to do, the limo pulled up before the council towers and he was shuffled out by the bushy-tailed bodyguards. As he made his way through the building's heavily guarded underground corridors, a noise from his cell phone alerted him that he had a text message. It was from his wife, and he doubted it was just reminding him to pick up a dozen eggs and a gallon of milk on his way home. It was most certainly about that confounded monkey again. Damn electronic leash, he cursed.
The message read: Pedro just warned me that the monkey is still napping in the dumpster. You didn't do anything, did you? Well listen, my love - It's the monkey or me! Come home with a real plan to get rid of it or don't come home at all.
That damned monkey in the dumpster again,
Trevor pondered. Didn't one of the nine elected councilmen of the Republic of Procyonia have better things to think about than how to rid his garbage pail of unwelcome pests? Since the appearance of the monkeys their extermination had become Mrs. P's pet project and no matter how sympathetic Councilman Procell's public pose was in front of the animal rights activists, his sweet spouse could simply not be distracted from the crusade of running these foul vermin off of her property.
The painful part to Trevor was that it could have all been avoided. It was largely his fault for welcoming the monkeys there in the first place. The infestation had started one night as he stood on the back porch contemplating the full moon, as many a sage and philosopher has done since the beginning of sentient life. He was looking for that spot on the Sea of Tranquility where the first "small step for Raccoon," had taken place, the one where only a handful of top officials, such as himself, knew the truth - that the astronauts discovered that someone had beaten them there first, leaving one of those strange, starry Atlantean banners that archaeologists had found scattered across the Earth, as well as several sets of inexplicable, impossible paw prints in the gray lunar dust.
During his examination of the lunar orb something stirred in the swampy ground behind the house and in the darkness he beheld a pair of eyes that were full of the light of the moon.
Until that point Trevor had never seen a Homo sapiens outside of a zoo. Hominids were largely confined to the wild, and even though Trevor had heard news reports that the monkeys were slowly making inroads into the edges of suburbia, toppling over trash cans in the darkness and eating pet cats for breakfast, he largely dismissed these stories as paranoia stirred up when one bipedal omnivore encroaches upon the territory of another.
Nevertheless, the undeniable upright form of a hominid that was all dangling arms and bare, glowing white skin crept up from the swamp toward his house. It was a little fellow, most certainly the lost or overly daring kit of some worried Monkey mother waiting frantically out there in the dark woods. The creature was definitely real, not the product of his paranoid fancies.
"Come here little fellow," Trevor urged with an outstretched arm. His extended hand caused the little monkey to quicken its pace toward him, but when the creature reached the porch and was greeted by only an empty raccoon paw it snapped its teeth, growled, and barked out something that was remarkably similar to an unprintable but very popular raccoon curse.
"Oh I'm sorry little guy," Trevor apologized as he realized his error, but after retreating into the house, visiting the kitchen, and then coming back out onto the porch with a morsel of food in paw, he found that the little monkey had vanished again somewhere out in the dark swamp.
Several nights passed as Trevor waited patiently on the back porch with a bag of bread in his hand, until at last one night the monkey came back with two of its brothers and the trio burped, farted and fought one another as Trevor fed the ravenous bunch out of the paper sack. Not that much different than us, Trevor thought with fascinated scorn.
For several weeks the monkeys continued to visit Trevor's back porch, coming in about an hour after sunset. When Councilman Procell's work took him out of town the hominids learned to bang on the window glass until Mrs. P came out. At first she too found them curious and delightful and took up the feeding task with enthusiasm, but things took a turn for the worse when one evening the adult male showed up. He was that very same rude, surly monkey that later took up residency in the dumpster.
This brute was bigger and hairier than the rest, and after his instinctive caution abated he was also more demanding than the others. Led by their oversized sire, the little gang of scavengers went through two loaves of bread per night, and Trevor came to regret his largesse.
The neighbors were also complaining about these nocturnal garden invaders. The widow down the road reported that half a dozen were nesting in her attic. Wildlife officials showed up to trap the brutes and then transported them dozens of miles away by helicopter, but they found their way back. Eventually the widow contacted a pest control company of rather ill repute, and the attic infestation was cleaned out using methods that the widow would not disclose.
Meanwhile, on Councilman Procell's property the monkey problem got worse. Mrs. P's attitude toward them grew more negative on a daily basis. They dug up her flower bed and emptied her bird feeders. They actually left the seed feeders alone, but cleaned out the suet and the oranges she left for the woodpeckers and the orioles.They also greedily sucked up the hummingbird nectar by figuring out how to unscrew the lids on the dispensers. All of this was of mere annoyance value, but Mrs. P's breaking point was finally reached when the monkeys shit in her bird bath one night.
It wasn't just the Procells that were having problems. A neighborhood watch convened in secret, and one night as Trevor reclined peacefully upon his porch he could hear the baying of hounds carrying across the dark swamp. He knew it meant that one of the humans had been treed and he could not quite successfully ignore the dark implications playing out in his conscience. What could he do? In spite of the noble, enlightened intentions of Raccoons such as he, a species always found a way to do an end run around accepted conventions and eliminate competition.
The next night it was only the Father monkey that came back for bread. He looked frazzled, tired, and defeated. In spite of his better judgment Trevor fed the poor beast, and the human repaid him by taking up residence in the dumpster the very next day.
"The Raccoon Council will now convene!"
the head of the governing body of the Raccoons, Consul Latro cried out as he pounded the gavel in the chamber atop the highest skyscraper in Masquivis. The Consul was appointed for one year but constitutionally he really did not have much more authority than any of the other eight, except in time of war. In any case Consul Latro's appointment was significant because he was the first bushy-tail to hold the post, a fact that he skillfully took advantage of with the majority bushy-tail community to increase his personal power at the expense of the other eight. Any slight against him in Council was played out in the media as a full frontal attack against the bushy-tails as a whole. For this reason this enormous, hulking, vulgar cigar-smoking brute had gained far more authority than the others were comfortable with, and the patrician Prehensiles that still made up the majority of this Politburo of the Raccoon Nation anxiously counted the days until his consulship was over.
The bushy-tail politicians were the most vehemently vociferous in their outcry against the hominid threat. The tenuous inroads they had made toward political respectability seemed threatened by the appearance of another apparently intelligent omnivore. So even though any decently educated Raccoon knew that the humans were simple-minded, instinctive brutes that could never adapt to civilized society, the mere hint of a possibility was multiplied to dangerous extremes of paranoia by cunning, devious politicians such as Latro, who had learned how to skillfully play this political instrument.
Consul Latro paced in anxious, calculated silence behind the podium as he worked an unlit cigar between his teeth. Smoking in public places was prohibited in Masquivis, and the council chambers were no exception. The Consul's enormous, overstrained overcoat seemed to have been tailor made to barely cover his exceptional girth, which added to the impression that he was hideously, frighteningly huge.
"You wonder why I have convened this emergency meeting," the Consul began, "and quite truthfully it is with a heavy heart I am compelled to report that the hominid threat is much more severe than we first suspected."
Here we go again, Councilman Procell thought with a carefully suppressed sigh. The ever present hominid threat. Does this brute ever think about anything else? He suspected, and quite rightly, that Latro was using this so-called hominid threat to gather dictatorial powers unto himself, and the scary part was that most of the Raccoon community, Bushy-tails and otherwise, were falling in line behind him. For fear of being shouted down, Trevor quite honestly was afraid to denounce the bullying brute of a bushy-tail for what he really was. He knew that the bulk of this governing body quietly agreed with his own opinions about the consul, however, and Trevor wished that someone else would hurry up with this denunciation so that he could safely join in.
"As you know," Latro continued, "the hominids have been making inroads. Although nobody disputes that they are innocent enough creatures when safely displaced from Raccoon society, the human population has now increased to dangerous proportions in the wild, to the point that they have invaded suburbia. In fact, certain sympathetic but unfortunately misguided Raccoons have taken to feeding them, which certainly increases their boldness and the danger that they represent."
As he made this last statement Latro was looking pointedly at Councilman Procell. How in the hell can this thick-headed blob know what is going on within the confines of my private estate? There was no doubt that the bushy-tailed demagogue had his fat fingers everywhere.
"Up until now this threat has been downplayed by those who, for kind-hearted, completely procyonarian reasons have thought it advisable, no doubt for the long term health of our planet's fragile ecosystems, to protect the hominids. But I think it is absolutely clear to everyone that humans and Raccoons cannot live side by side, for the good of both, and that is the long and short of it."
Consul Latro reared back his fat, fuzzy head, took an imaginary puff on his cigar, and waited for the reaction.
"I don't think anything is absolutely clear,"
a soft, unexpected voice from the corner of the room said. The voice belonged to Councilman Luther, a rather gaunt bushy-tail who was the most recently elected member of the council. Luther was the Yin and Yang opposite of his fellow busy-tail Latro; being all reticence and meekness versus loud bombast. He rarely said much and preferred to distance himself from the others by camping out in one corner of the chamber, as if camping alone in the wilderness.
Trevor was more than a little surprised to hear opposition coming from this quarter. After all, a bushy-tail was a bushy-tail and they were known to be a rather tightly knit, circle the wagons, highly defensive bunch.
"Excuse me?" Latro replied, tilting his cigar upward in a pose that seemed to have been rehearsed for intimidation factor.
"You operate on pure conjecture and speculation," Luther said. "I don't believe you have ever really met a human. I don't think any of you have. I'm sure all of you are familiar with my story, I don't think anyone rises this high without thoroughly researching every dirty detail of the lives of potential rivals, but I lived among the humans for several months. You call them monkeys to make them sound like dirty beasts, you call them hominids to produce an effect of scientific detachment as if they were some virus in a Petrie dish, but I call them humans. I call them humans because the sound of the word sounds comforting and warm, and that is exactly what I feel for them."
"As you know," Luther continued, "I was involved in a pretty severe mountain climbing accident in my youth. I tumbled down from a glacier, broke my leg, and was left for dead by my raccoon climbing companions. It was a tribe of humans that pulled me out of that crevasse and nursed me back to health. You call them a pack or a troop to make them seem like simple brute animals, but tribes they are in the true anthropological sense of the word, if you choose to research that. Anyhow, the tribe fed me and they protected me and made me feel like a brother. They would also sing to me, and this perhaps was the true source of their healing, because the singing healed everything that was broken in my soul."
The chamber was silent. Consul Latro's cigar was hanging limply between two fingers at his side. Every pair of masked eyes in the chamber was pointed toward Councilman Luther. "There is beauty in these creatures, these beings," he added. "I have heard them singing to their gods in the starlight. There is no other conclusion than that they are equipped with a soul, just as we believe we are. These are the beings that you would so absent-mindedly exterminate for you own greed and avarice."
"Touching words," Latro said after a long pause.
"You've brought a tear to my eye, but let's face reality." Trevor thought that Latro was stammering a bit, feigning self-assurance even though he had been backed into a corner. The consul had been sucker punched from the blind side but would regain his balance soon enough.
"We have new information from the scientific community," Latro pronounced with the typical air of authority he liked to effect even though he had most certainly never cracked a book outside of the kind with the folding pages in the middle. "It seems the government has been suppressing information from us for several decades now."
"We are the government, what could we be suppressing from ourselves?" some wag across the table said, and there was a murmur of laughter as the atmosphere in the room took a decidedly anti-Latro turn.
"Archaeological studies show that it was the hominids, er, the humans that built the abandoned Atlantean cities many thousands of years ago," Latro said in a garbled voice as the cigar dropped to the floor. He was desperate; reaching and reeling.
Again there was laughter, but louder and more confident this time. "Next you'll be saying that the monkeys built the Pyramids of Egypt and the Great Wall of China!" someone shouted, and the laughter redoubled. Latro had resorted to spewing out the crackpot ideas of late night talk radio hosts and the insomniac kooks that tuned into them. No one of intelligence took these things seriously.
If Latro had been human he would have been beet red in the face by this point, but instead his rising humiliation was made plain by the upturned, curling whiskers protruding from both sides of his elongated nose.
The Councilmen were so distracted enjoying a moment of temporary triumph against this overbearing buffoon that they didn't see him pull a shiny metallic disk from the inside of the podium. "All right," he said, brandishing the video recording in the air for all to see. "Laugh if you want. You won't be laughing after you see this!"
And saying that, Consul Latro played his trump card.
The atmosphere of playful mirth in the room slowly subsided
as the disturbing images unfolded upon the view screen. What appeared at first was a dark night on some desolate Savannah, probably somewhere in East Africa by the look of the fever trees that dotted the moonlit plain. Silhouetted against the sky were half a dozen very large beasts, undoubtedly elephants, that appeared to have been sleeping when the scene was suddenly flooded with a brilliant orange-red glow that made the pachyderms stir loudly.
The monkeys emerged from the left side of the screen. Some were brandishing large torches, and others held the pointed sticks called spears that their Raccoon ancestors of had used for hunting several centuries past. As the Councilmen looked on in stunned, horrified disbelief, the hominids drove the larger elephants back with the flames and surrounded the smallest one, probably an infant, that they proceeded to kill with the pointed weapons.
The scene was terrifying for those gathered, but not because of the bloody slaughter of the baby elephant.
When Latro discerned from the depth of silence in the room that his point had been made, he spoke again. "You see, they have fire. They have dominated fire!"
The vote to reinstate hominid hunting was unanimous; 9 to zero in favor.
Councilman Procell retreated into his private office after the vote.
He felt exhausted, completely worn out. The day had started out crappy with the events at the dumpster and had grown gradually worse. Nonetheless there was a crude sense of exhilaration stirring in his soul that was breaking through the weariness. Something was welling up inside his furry belly that he had not felt since being crowned Junior Marksman Champion as a fifteen year old.
Trevor's darkened cell phone stared up at him blankly from the desk. He picked it up with trembling fingers and dialed his wife.
"Yes darling," he said. "No, I'm okay, don't worry. I know it's a bit strange but...Yes, I got your message dear and...no listen, I need you to do me a favor."
Trevor Procell's own whiskers were quivering now, and it wasn't clear whether they danced to the tune of fear, frustration or some other base, primitive, long forgotten emotion. "Darling, I need you to check in the hall closet to see if that box of shells has anything left in it. No, no...I can take care of it. Now listen. If there's nothing in there please call me so I pick up some on the way home."
"One more thing," Trevor added before he hung up. "Don't disturb that monkey in the dumpster. Tell the servants to stay away too. I want it right where I can find it. What...Oh yes dear, of course I'll pick up a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs. Goodbye."