The Boy and the Monkey
Veeraswamy Krishnaraj
                The Boy and the Monkey

Monkey on a neem tree barring its teeth to the tormentor.

Playing with the monkey. You play with a monkey; you become a monkey. 5/16/2016

It was a dog day afternoon in Podunk. My parents were taking siesta. There was no fan. Even if we had one, it had no value. It stirred up the hot air. No one saw or heard of AC in that blessed town. The heat was stifling. The streets were deserted. The barefoot souls took shelter from the scorching sun. The mud roads and the tar roads were too hot for the bare feet. The feet left indentations on the tar. It was that hot. A stray dog took shelter in the corner of veranda of the house opposite to where I lived. The woman of the house threw an old worn-out shoe at the dog, which scampered out of there wailing and keeping its tail between the legs. Poor soul. The dog ran because it could not keep the legs on the hot terra firma long enough to walk. Where it went, I did not know

I was out in the backyard because I had nothing else to do. I watched the mosquito larvae periodically come up to the surface of the stagnant open sewer to take a breath and go back in. The department of sanitation sent men to empty the larvae-infested sewage into a wooden bullock-drawn barrel-cart and spray oil in the sump to starve the larvae of life-sustaining oxygen.

Every day at the precise moment, a macaque (commonly called monkey) showed up on the roof of the next house to enjoy the shade of the adjoining Margosa tree (Neem tree = வேப்பை) in the backyard of the property, owned by my uncle. The Spanish tile roof under the tree was cool enough for the placid monkey to take rest on its red rump.

The macaque paid no attention except follow me with its eyes. Bored I am, in the heat, one day, I took a stick, flourished and twirled it far away from its muzzle. It bared its teeth. That should have been my clue to call it quits. No way I would quit, come hell. I continued my antics, looking at the simian in its eyes, which was perceived as threat by the animal. I did not know until years later that eye contact meant threat. It bared its teeth more ominously. I still won’t give up. It jumped on me and bit me on the finger, retreated back on the tile roof and disappeared. By that time, I was on the mud floor struggling to get up.

My parents took me to a doctor. He gave me an injection on my tush and dressed the wound. Luckily, I did not lose the finger. I am one of those rare individuals bitten by a monkey. I still have a scar on the terminal phalanx of the right middle finger.