Thursday, November 25, 2010
Once, when I was seven or eight, or eight or nine, my family was driving interstate to visit my cousins for the school holidays. Because my dad had a pathological hatred of school holiday traffic, we were going the back way – not the scenic coastal highway, but the drive-for-ages-and-see-nothing-but-semitrailers-and-squashed-kangaroos inland highway. Also, this meant that my sister and I had been woken up at 4 am, bundled into the backseat of the car with the dog between us, and expected to shut up until at least dawn.
Anyway, we were in the middle of nowhere, disoriented, and sleep-addled. Maybe it was northern New South Wales. It was where the dry scrub and Brahmans had given way to green grass and dairy cows, but I don’t know where. And that was when we saw it, a hand-painted sign on a rusty gate:
For sale: monkey
It was a magical moment. It was like something out of a book, or the beginning of a PG movie that will result inevitably in primate shenanigans in the dining room of an exclusive hotel. It was a fantasy come to life. It was an epiphany. I thought: I must have that monkey.
I tried my usual pet-shop bargaining tactics. They had never worked before, but had to this time. I needed that monkey more than I’d ever needed a kitten or a puppy. Kittens and puppies just grew up into cats and dogs. A monkey was awesome forever.
I would feed it/look after it/train it/bath it/mortgage my soul to pay for it, and everything and more.
“We are not getting a monkey,” said my mother when she sensed the car slowing.
Was she serious? How often in life did an opportunity like that come up? It was certainly unprecedented in my short span of existence. It’s not as though wherever you went you were turning down offers to buy monkeys:
No, thankyou. I have a monkey at home.
Not today. I’m saving up for a sloth.
I am a member of a Monkey of the Month Club. This month they are sending a marmoset.
“We are not getting a monkey,” my mother said, more firmly this time, and my father put his foot on the accelerator.
I looked out the back window as the magical sign receded. I spent the rest of the trip trying to convince my father to turn the car around, and thinking evil thoughts at my mother.
Decades later, I still think I was right and she was wrong. Come on, we could have had a monkey! Sometimes I think we’re not related at all.