picket fence

When Ian started to simmer down (beset by a Dis-ease that had no name) his mother commenced a stint of silent invocation… ‘Oh my God! Oh my God! For the love of Sweet Jesus, PLEASE don’t let there be anything wrong with my precious little man!’ …since something indeed was amiss (‘modified,’ at any rate); a symptom, of what ailed her son, had already surfaced. With his head clutched to her bosom (in hopes that wildly pounding heartbeats might undo the ghastly damage), Evelyn bit her lower lip then risked another peek. Bracketing her youngster’s tear-streaked cheeks (with feigned dispassion), she inspected, once again, the cause for her alarm… only to re-conceal it in her palpitating breast… ‘Oh my God! Oh my God!’… helpless to affect maternal equanimity.


Dad, having retreated to the living room, his services seeming superfluous (one munificent care-giver, for a child who appeared to have suffered not a solitary scratch, ought to have been plenty), returned…

… as Ian, prompted by panic (mostly his mother’s), prepared for a blubbering encore…

… while Ann looked on annoyed that her account went disbelieved.

"What is it now?" With a football game in progress, Adam was loath to be distracted—though a glance from his wife meant the team played one fan short.

"We’re going on a little trip downtown, take the kids for burgers, after dropping by the you-know-what with you-know who."

"I do?"

She mouthed, ‘the hos-pi-tal,’ while indicating Ian with her jawbone.

"McDonald’s?" came a muffled voice from deep in Evelyn’s cleavage; Ian, indisposed by… something, felt no pain; he just felt…

… ‘weird,’ Ann read her brother’s thought (completing it, as usual), impatient with his bawling and his chronic loss for words. Lunch sounded great, but first things first; she wanted quick corroboration that the monkey in the trash was not a "flight of fancy."

"What’s the trouble, Sport?" Dad crouched beside his sniveling offshoot, endeavoring to dislodge the face from Mom's consoling cleft. "I’ll dress and get the car!" was Adam’s shocked response to Ian’s eyeballs.

"Wow!" Ann likewise took a gander. "They’s so pretty!" she enthused, upon intent examination of her brother’s amber irises.


While trapped out back in the garbage, Geezer underwent a parallel transformation: mangy coat restored to its pre-contagion luster; crooked teeth grown less unsightly, gums now shed of pus and foul-smelling spit; shoulder blades relaxed, their proper posture reinstated; even cuticles, black as a coal miner’s, whitened to crescent moons. He was a new monkey, fit as a fiddle, in the pink, hale and hearty, right as rain, and, irony of ironies, entombed in an airtight trash bin—a canister of fumes and decomposing nastiness. What a way to culminate completion of his mission! Instead of a hero’s welcome, he was no doubt bound for burial in some landfill grave. Or such were Geezer’s gripes before a pelt-upraising suction signaled what he dearly hoped would spell reprieve, as the lid overhead was jimmied off, an O of sky made visible—blocked (bad luck again), eclipsed by a HUGE silhouette… that proceeded to jostle his hideout with the force of a point-10 earthquake! Geezer, diving for cover, rode out the tremors inside a milk carton (cow curd fouling his refurbished fur tip to tail), until tumbled, topsy-turvy, onto a plane of frosted asphalt… come to rest, at last, post kick from the litterbug’s boot.


"Coming. Coming."


Footsteps thumped past Geezers refuge in the refuse. A "beep" preceded an automatic motor’s hoisting "hum"—overlapped by "clicks," a metallic "clunk," then tight-throated "whinnies"—whereupon a "roar" erupted, a hot "humph" belched, and brain-cell-smothering smoke filled the wake of some god-awful juggernaut… followed by more footsteps (these pitter-patterish), a second stint of "clicks" and solid-state "clunks," then finally both the air and the coast were clear.

On a beeline bound for the backyard’s breach (cum mole hole sunk to China), Geezer scampered, dived, and collided with himself—as reflected by a frigid mirror, his sole escape route now a frozen-over puddle of inch-thick ice. Pounding at his milk-sopped self with fists, to no avail, the martyred monkey snarled and sneered, then once more sought shelter… taking his cue from a paper boy, whom he followed round the house, to witness Sunday’s News left wedged, half way, through the front door mail slot. No more invitation needed, Geezer sprinted, jumped, and with a surreptitious wiggle, dropped to the foyer floor—safe and sound and warm (alleluia!)—on its Oriental throw rug.


Less inclined to celebrate was the amber-irised twin. Ian’s most conspicuous symptom prompted quite a stir when it had finally drawn attention from the E.R. staff (to whom anything shy of a gunshot wound was trivial). Little did they realize then (or after diagnosis) that this half-pint patient bred a virus bound to scourge the entire world, or that the youngster’s ‘suspiration’ spells (spasmodic since admission) had precipitated scores of spores already. Before his case had earned so much as a smattering of "Gesundheits," its containment was an opportunity missed.

Discharged (it would take a day or two for blood work to be finished), Ian, flanked by Mom and Dad and sister Ann, went out for lunch (as promised) to McDonald's and a meal of Big Macs, fries, and shakes. Aside from his incessant fits of germ-disbursing sneezes, Evelyn’s ‘precious little man’ felt perfectly fine. Not so his parents… who felt queasy of a sudden… then infused with apprehension… followed by simultaneous pangs of existential dread.

"Do I?"

"You do! Do I?"

"You do!"

Their findings jointly verified, Mom and Dad, aghast, cast equally amber stares… first at one another… then at Ian… then their daughter.

"Do I gots pretty eyes, too?" Ann asked, surprised that they were leaving (she had scarcely sipped her root beer), pressed to match her family’s haste as they retreated to the parking lot, her question oft-repeated / disregarded until piling into the idling car’s back seat, from which Ann craned her neck to check the rearview mirror.

"No, you don’t, thank goodness," Evelyn finally reassured her.

"Are we going someplace?"

"Yes, we’re going home!"

And so they did, knowing not where else, in the wide, wide world, they might find sanctuary.


Geezer’s search for an ice pick, meanwhile, led him through a maze of amazing paraphernalia, most of which he recognized, at least in passing—technology being known to all, if rarely used by any (the Lab and its support team singular exceptions). Simian society had eschewed Great Ape advancements—out of natural inclination and respect for Life Extant—despite an (undercover) aptitude for bioengineering. Primitivism was a matter of choice—one Geezer rued not making; he instead had volunteered for the Lab’s "Great Endeavor" (whose origin could be traced to the Time of Mung). It was a shock, at first, to divert his mind from the indigenous to the industrious—though it could be said he 'adapted to' rather than 'adopted' the work at hand. In fact, he merely ‘lent’ himself to the Science of Interference… at the cost of being stranded in this MANufactured madhouse, wherein nothing could recall from whence it came. Oh, the rug remembered ‘lambness,’ faintly, the floorboards ‘hardwood treeness.’ But what about the phone and fax, the modem and VCR, the Web TV, PC, and printer whose components were conglomerates, whose materials all were once, twice, thrice, a dozen times removed, their functions bearing no resemblance to any of their origins? Plastics in particular pleaded disassociation. Not a single substance, furthermore, had been consulted, much less thanked. The household reeked of exploitation, every entity made subordinate to the needs and whims and wiles of creatures Perpendicular—"Uprights," they were called in the days of yore.

Big deal; Geezer could run around on his hind legs when he wanted to, if he needed extra height or it was useful to free his paws—as it was now, punching remote control buttons aimed at the Home Theater Entertainment Console, chuckling to himself at its speaker-blurted sounds, its pixel-peppered images flashing across the picture tube. How could Folks be fooled by such abstractions? Of all so-called "accomplishments," one stood out as laudable, in the monkey’s estimation; music was Man’s sole contribution to Planet Earth. And even it lost value when reduced to digital gimcracks—in the name of which was generated VOLUMINOUS waste. Ravenous consumption meant extravagant defecation—an equation hard to refute, reduce, or reverse. And relying upon an enlightened few to reform this trend of the many was like spitting in the path of a rampaging wildfire; nothing short of a Flood would likely douse such appetites… though death by drowning was not the fate in store, thanks to Geezer and his diminutive ilk, whose remedy, sneeze by communicable sneeze, was on its way already (a newly infected couple having stepped aboard their flight) from sea to shining sea (New York to California).


"HA—CHOO!" exploded Adam, as he steered the family car from street to driveway, a sensor activating the garage door’s automatic lift.

"Bless you," Evelyn said, as mechanically, her mother’s mind absorbed with twofold concerns: one for her family, the other for herself. ‘What, dear Lord, could we have done to deserve this calamity?’ she asked in silence. ‘Cope; a wife and mother copes,’ she told herself. ‘Faith, in the end, ensures our prayers are heard.’

Adam, less religious, rushed in the house to get on-line (the next-best-thing to Omnipotence being the Internet).


Finding nothing out of order (Geezer had been careful to cover his tracks) the family soon reverted to their normal goings-on: Adam, after a fruitless sprint down the information highway, returned to his football game; Evelyn, confronting the awful truth in every reflective surface that caught her altered eyes (medicine chest to toaster), telephoned her mother, then each of her three sisters, then her best friend, then her next-best friend; Ian (per instructions) played upstairs in his room; Ann, appointed her ‘brother’s keeper,’ kept the ‘cry-baby’ company… unable to shake her sense that everything had changed.


Without being told...