I, Chimp

by Peter Coomber


A tale from my second book of short stories This Never Happened Too ISBN 1230001947298, available from those wonderful Kobo Bookstore people at a price that won't cause too much damage to anybody's piggy bank.

If you like this story, you might also want to check out I, Chimp - The Great Escape which can be found in my third collection Painting By Numbers ISBN 1230002550619, similarly available from the wonderful Kobo people at a price that piggy banks won't squeal at.

It wasn't the bars and the wire fences that worried me, it was the in-house entertainment. I mean, there's only so many things you can do with a tyre tied to a tree branch: swing on it; push it; swing upside-down on it; bite it. For a chimp with a high degree of intelligence and a well-developed imagination, a tyre-swing is not an ideal form of stimulus.

I needed to express myself: creatively; artistically. That's how I got into painting: I started daubing on my compound walls. Still-life at first, then I expanded my range to include landscapes. I got into self-portraits (there being no one else to form an image of), but when I became bored of these I angrily began to do abstracts. (Oh, I really got into abstracts.) Because of the material I was using for paint, all of these art forms came under - what I called - my 'brown' period.

Appreciation from the zoo keepers didn't follow: "Reg, that chimp's been wiping its shit on the walls again. Get the hose out and clean it off."

Sacrilege! My Fudge Number Two was jet-washed into oblivion. The same thing happened to my Chocolate Box Selection Number Four. To a keeper, it might have looked like a smear of dark-brown excrement on a whitewashed wall but, by varying my diet (no bananas one day; more leaves and insects another day), I had introduced nuances of colour; shades, subtle in their brownness.

Nobody gave me any paint to work with.

They didn't give me any paint; instead they brushed off my creations and gave me a beach ball.

They gave me a beach ball because they thought I was bored (I was! I was!), and when that didn't work (there's only so many things you can do with a beach ball: roll it; throw it; bite it) they put a female chimp in my compound. They are strange people: keepers. The female chimp started to groom me while I was painting, then tried to get my attention by crouching forward and showing me her bottom. Interest took over; I held my thumb up, towards her bottom, found my scale and began to paint her pose. But the shades of brown couldn't capture her vivid tones of red and pink or subtle mauve. The female chimp became bored with her pose and wandered off to bite the beach ball, and the keepers got the hose out and cleaned the walls again - they didn't want visitors to see my Young Female On Heat.

I guess they were getting worried about me because one morning they decided that they wanted to examine me. They fired a tranquilliser dart at my neck (bastards! why didn't they just ask me to come along?). I woke up in a white room, feeling groggy and sick; the walls were swimming; the bright light hurt my eyes. I was lying on a bench; my body full of tubes and there was a whole bunch of wires attached to me from a machine near my head. I pulled out the tubes and peeled off the patches, sat up and looked around the room. In the corner of the room, on a desk, a machine stood: a typewriter. 'If they don't like my paintings, perhaps they'll let me write?' I thought. Just as I was jumping over to the desk, the door opened and two white-coated attendants entered. "Shit, the monkey's awake!" they shouted to each other.

I gripped that machine tightly as though my life depended upon it. The two of them couldn't prise me from it: eventually they gave up. "It's only an old typewriter. Let him have it." When they released me back in my compound I still held my prize.

The vets and the keepers are happy now that I've stopped daubing on the walls. What I have been doing instead is teaching myself to touch type - using hands and feet. Today, my writing career begins. Today, I feel the first tendrils of inspiration reach out to me; something historic - a play! Today, I sit back on my tyre and type:

ACT I SCENE I. London. A street.

Enter GLOUCESTER, solus


Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious summer by this sun of York;

And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house

In the deep bosom of the ocean buried...

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