Birdspot. On the road. Drawing birds.

A drawing, ink on paper, of Una, approx. 20×22.” Monkey revenge after the jump.

I mostly escaped grade school bullying, but in seventh grade there was one flaxen-haired boy of slight build and evil disposition who, for the better part of that year, joylessly tormented me from time to time. With true instinct he pinpointed me as a geek. I might have reverse pointed-out that having an IQ higher than 85 was not the handicap someone like he might think it is, and that at least I didn’t have the unfortunate tendency to accumulate remarkably green snot around the edges of my nostrils (admittedly not his fault). But I never stooped to that.

Sadly, this boy was in my carpool. So there was no real escape, and he could say mean things about me during the school day and then sit sullenly in the car on the way home, silently daring me to break the unwritten codes of childhood that involve snitching or telling or whining…

Caltech was a block from my school, and I would often head over to my father’s lab there when done with after-school sports to get a ride home. One fine afternoon, the boy asked if he could get a ride home too, and when I the wimp said yes, he walked ten steps behind me over to the lab, never uttering a word and pretending not to know me.

Waiting in the lab for my dad to finish up a few things, I asked the boy if he would like to see the monkey room. I do have to point out that he completely lit up at this point, something I had never seen him do in my presence. Perhaps peace could be achieved. I, very calmly and thoroughly, educated him on the illicit act I was about to do: IF i brought him in there, he would have to be extraordinarily cautious – no backpacks, always stay out of reach of the monkeys (even though they were in cages, a snaking powerful monkey hand had pulled many an arm or hand in to meet long, razor-sharp canines (their teeth are actually ridged in the back) with disastrous and bloody consequence). I dutifully relayed a few stories about how one monkey had bitten off the end of another’s tongue, perhaps a finger on another occasion, and the gory surgeries that ensued. I cautioned him to not make eye contact because it would provoke a riot. I told him about post-docs and undergrads headed to emergency rooms after wrestling with escaped and mischievous rhesus.

He was eager for adventure, so off we went, slipping into the monkey room after peering down the long hallway that terminated with Roger Sperry’s often-open office door to make sure that we were getting in unnoticed. The room was a labyrinth of cages, stacked two or three high, and full of, I don’t know, say forty or fifty monkeys? Betty would know. I cautioned him to stay in the middle of the aisle, and he disappeared into the recesses of the space.

I don’t know when I made the decision to end our ten-minute truce, but once he was completely out of view, I walked up to one of the large dominant male monkeys, looked him straight in the eye, and bared my teeth at him. This caused an almost instantaneous eruption of screaming and cage-banging throughout the entire colony – a noise pretty much impossible to describe. Deafening, certainly, but really pretty scary as well. It was amazing how much those cages could move around when the monkeys were hurtling themselves at you.

The last I saw that day of mr. bully boy was a skinny blond flash running past me and fleeing out the door. He never asked me for a ride again. The bullying ceased.

3 Responses to “june 20”

  1. Now that’s one super fly bully story!!!!
    I think your story is short-film worthy.
    Esp. the ending!
    I can’t believe I never heard that story during the Vermont days!

  2. …and from that day on, when the snotty-nosed bully thought about Catherine, THIS is what he thought:

    But when he dreamt, instead he dreamt of this:

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