This morning my family and I are swimming with dolphins. That’s assuming we were all able to drag our lazy butts out of bed and make it to our port of call destination on time. Here’s to hoping.
This piece was written as an entrance exam into a writer’s course. I had since filed it away and didn’t think about it, although it has always held a special place in my heart. One, because someone thought it was good enough that I was worth the time and effort of the course. Two… well, you’ll have to wait till the end of the story to find that one out. Without further ado…
They had finally gone. Although a mere couple of days had passed, it somehow felt like MONTHS since the neighbors built that giant cage in their backyard. Nevertheless, the moment was finally here and my chance to take a peek was upon me. Like any seven-year-old kid, I had to know what was inside.
Casually walking over to the old wooden fence, I lifted the loose board in the corner and quickly slipped through the narrow gap into the back corner of my neighbor’s yard as I had a hundred times before. Sitting silently still for a moment, I stay hidden safely crouched behind a thick wall of shrubbery. It had always been my favorite hiding place when I wanted to escape from everything and everyone. This time was different, though. This time I was moving past my safe place. I would venture beyond the bushes and actually cross to the other side of the yard for the first time.
I took a deep breath and slowly crawled alongside the shrubbery. It was a warm, summer afternoon and I could feel the heat bearing down on my back. It didn’t matter. I was already sweating with anticipation. Nearing the end of the bushes, I notice several rows of ants leading to and from their hole in the ground. A little ant highway, so wild. I imagine that I can hear the faint sounds of their tiny footsteps. Of course I don’t let such details concern me now for the time had come to make my long journey across the yard. I quickly run the plan through in my head. Like a lightning bolt I will blaze to the backside of the oak tree in the middle of the yard then jet over to the large woodpile next to the cage.
I was ready. The absolute perfection of my plan had me so excited. Three, two, one… I leaped from the bushes. Rrrriiiippp! Not even two seconds into the plan and I hit a snag… literally. The shirt my mom had given me after months of begging caught the end of a branch and nearly tore in half! Well, it was too late now. Standing in the open I had to carry on. I ran straight for the tree and backed myself against it. After a moment I slowly peered around the trunk. The area was clear. Looking back over at the woodpile and beyond I could see the cage suddenly begin to jiggle. My curiosity swelled.
Using the tree as a starting block I burst into a run. As I approached the woodpile, I threw myself into a slide thinking this would somehow be less conspicuous or perhaps speed up my arrival. After wiping the grass and dirt from my jeans, I stood up for the moment of truth had arrived. I walked around the woodpile toward the backside of the cage. Slowly coming into view was something big, dark and hairy. Cautiously, I moved closer. Without warning the beast inside whipped around and vaulted directly toward me. Startled, I jumped back, thinking I was about to be eaten alive. But as I slowly opened my eyes, I found myself face to face not with a big scary beast but the most adorable chimp I had ever laid eyes upon. Not a hideous creature at all, but Curious George himself!
As I stepped up to the cage, the chimp looked pleasantly surprised to see me. I felt a smile tug at the corners of my face as it wrapped its fingers around the bars and moved its face right up to mine. I couldn’t resist the temptation any longer. I had to pet him. That’s what kids do. They pet cute, fuzzy and cuddly things. Pushing my fingers through the bars, I began to rub the chimp’s fur. For a brief and beautiful moment, the world disappeared and everywhere around me was a white light… not because I had finally completed my quest but because Curious George had sunk his teeth into my fingers! The pain shot through me unlike anything I had ever known before. Pulling away from the cage, I ran. Ran away from the source towards the fence, tears streaming down my face. Foregoing the scenic route, I dove under the bushes, vaulted over the fence only to come falling into my father’s arms. My hero had stepped outside having heard my cries. Safety at last. I may have swallowed my tears that day as my dad put me down on my own two feet but I was never going to forget the painful lesson I had learned. Clearly, in future adventures, I will need to be more careful and respectful of the implied rules.
That evening I graciously gave my Curious George books to my younger sister as a very early Christmas present. Mom was so proud, having raised such a giving daughter. Dad just laughed.
Can you guess what other reason makes this story special to me? Yep, it’s a true story. I was probably four or five years old, and was the one who slipped through the fence into the neighbor’s yard to get a better look at the monkey in the cage. And yes, it didn’t end well. But here we are years later and I have a fun story to share. The kind you don’t hear every day.
Now, Mickey Mouse might be one heck of a nice rodent, but he charges up the wazoo for internet connection while on the high seas, so I won’t be responding to any comments until my return after the New Year. But I welcome your thoughts all the same.