The Porcelain Monkey

Posted: March 23, 2013 in MiB Hates Us All, The Great Writing Competition-of-sorts


[The title for today’s piece comes from a Warren Zevon song – if you don’t know who Warren Zevon is, drop everything and go YouTube/GrooveShark/whatever it is you kids do these days to listen to music him. Go. Now. I’m not even kidding – I’ll wait.

Ok, you’re back? How fucking awesome was that? Anyway, I chose today’s title because I am a huge fan of Mr Zevon – I even named a character in the piece after him. Ah, the piece… just a word of warning: it’s kinda sorta a total departure from my usual style. Part of today’s challenge was to write in a different style/manner, so I did. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad. There is no such thing as a 2-hour orgasm, a good Bieber song or my lesser work. If you’re searching for one of those things, you’re shit out of luck. So, without any further ado…] 

Long ago, back when the grass was green and the earth was clean and mobile phones were yet to fuck up communication between individuals, I lived in a small house on the outskirts of a small town in the middle of nowhere, USA. Those were the days, the golden days, and as I sit here today on my deathbed, sipping hot chocolate whilst awaiting Death and All His Friends, my mind wanders back to those days of good and old.

I remember a lot of things from those days. I remember drinking cool lemonade on the porch in the sunshine and swimming down by the creek with my brother and roasting marshmallows over the crackle of an open fire and occasionally dropping one in just to see what happens some nights. But one thing I remember particularly vividly from those days of old is the porcelain monkey.

The first thing that I remember about it is that it was ugly as fuck. Hideous, misshapen, grotesque even; it nevertheless had centre stage on our mantelpiece, fucking up what in my opinion was a rather quaint and dainty living room. I never felt comfortable with that asinine ape in the room; I always felt as if it were watching me when I wasn’t looking, and so I always kept my eyes firmly planted on it even when backing out of the room, an action which once earned my uncle’s question of “Is he retarded?”

My father brought the porcelain monkey back from a tiny village in Vietnam where he said it was gifted to him by a monk on the banks of the Mekong. He was a good man, my father, but a weak one, and he brought back with him from Vietnam nothing but the porcelain monkey and a lifetime’s worth of regret as well as an acute case of loneliness and frustration. He loved my mother dearly but did not always succeed in showing it, so he gave the porcelain monkey to my mother as a token of his devotion – in the middle of the monkey’s chest, right over its heart was a painted rose, and he told her that if he ever forgot to bring her flowers all she had to do was look at the rose on the monkey. It was supposed to symbolize their love as in “it would last for a lifetime” or some such shit, and I personally thought it was a cheap way out of ever buying flowers again which are already essentially fucking free, but waddya know, she treasured that thing as if it were the Holy Grail itself. Then he killed himself two months later, leaving his suicide note under the monkey and his entire net worth of twelve dollars. I was the first to find it. I was eight. It was one of the first things I read after learning to read.

Anyway, back to the story at hand: about six or seven years after that, things had just about gotten back to normal and our situation could be described as okayish. I was doing alright at school, my younger brother Warren had just learnt to ride a bike, my mother was happily whiling away the days working at the café down the road; life was good. Granted, the fucking monkey was still up on the mantelpiece, and my glares directed towards it were matched only in intensity by the glances of utter devotion and love it received from my mother. She adored that monkey endlessly, as if it was my father’s living memory himself; I suspect my hatred towards it was probably for the same reason.

One day my brother and I were throwing a tennis ball around the house despite it being a gloriously sunny day outside because we were kids and thus programmed to be stupid. My mother was baking something in the kitchen. You can see where this is going. Warren had just thrown the ball particularly hard at me and since I had and still do have the motor co-ordination of a hamburger, I completely missed the catch and received a faceful of furry ball – hopefully for the last time ever. Now temporarily blinded in one eye and thus even more hampered in my ball-throwing abilities, I nevertheless blasted the ball back at Warren who was now doubled over in peals of laughter in front of the mantelpiece. Warren, being the slimy git that he is, dodged the ball – which was totally unnecessary because I, having the aim of a constipated blind man, missed him completely. The ball curved mid-air and then, as if time itself had slowed, gently smashed into the porcelain monkey.

When all was calm and the shattered silence returned, I looked down at the damage and saw that fucking monkey lying on the rug, cleft in two. Warren looked at me, eyes wide in fear.

“Maybe she didn’t hear it…” I said, not believing the words as they left me.

No such luck. All mothers have an ingrained radar within them that tells them immediately when their kids are fucking around. She stormed into the room still peppered with flour, rolling pin in hand, looking for blood. Honest to God, I thought we were deader than Disco; the look on her face would have sent shivers down FDR’s spine. And then she saw the porcelain monkey lying in two on the rug. And then she just knelt by the pieces and wept.

She sat there on her knees, tears streaking through the flour on her face, looking almost as broken as the object of her grief. She was muttering something under her breath and I discovered myself straining and craning to catch her mumblings only to hear her repeating the words “No no no no…” over and over and over again.

It is a strange and painful thing to see your mother cry.

You find yourself feeling lost and despondent and hopelessly empty, and you feel the drops running down your own face like someone else’s tears. But mostly, you just feel numb, coupled with twinges of hate, and that is what I felt – absolute numbness coupled with hatred for myself, for my father, and most of all, for that stupid fucking monkey.

Suddenly I felt myself walking over to the monkey. I picked up the halves, hated and beloved, each in a numb hand, and walked over to her. It was as if I couldn’t control myself, as if she was pulling me towards her, as if all I needed to do was put my arms around her and hold her oh so tightly. But I didn’t. Instead, I lifted her chin gently and looked in her warm, wet eyes and said:

“All things can be broken, Mum. Things fall apart. They break. Everything breaks sometime. The only thing that doesn’t break is love. I love you. Warren loves you. He loved you. And that can never be broken.”

And then I hugged her. And then Warren hugged her. And then even our Hispanic maid Esmeralda who did not speak a word of English but had watched the entire scene play out and was blubbering something in Spanish came over and hugged her. And then our big gay moment was over, and our mother was smiling again through the tears, and everything was okayish once more.

The porcelain monkey is still up on the mantelpiece and remains there to this day. But between the two halves is a thin, almost invisible line of glue – a reminder to all of us that everything breaks; only true love lasts forever.

[Ok, so that’s it. Totally different from my usual subject matter – hell, this one was about love. I mean, you can’t get any further from “hate” than that. Maybe Nutella. Nobody hates Nutella. Anyway, that was part of the challenge and so I wrote – don’t expect anything like this in the future…

I based the idea for this piece on a story I read nine or ten years ago in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book at Exclusive Books. I don’t know which one, but I felt compelled to release this info, lest some twat accuse me of being a twat.

Neither of us won today because we couldn’t decide on a winner. Which brings me to my next point – we need an impartial judge, preferably literate, who is willing to spend 10 minutes of their time reading two pieces of awesome writing and choosing a winner. If you are interested, tweet me @MibHatesUsAll. I can’t believe I just typed those words. Fuck. Stay tuned for tomorrow’s topic and piece. Thank you. That is all] 

© 2012-2013 All Rights Reserved


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