The Stories

Shock the Monkey – Part 1: Blinded by the Light

Explanatory Note: This is the first installment of a multi-part saga I scribbled many years ago. I don’t think I’ve ever shared any of this increasingly-twisted tale on Bonnywood, but I may be mistaken. In any case, enjoy…

  So, we woke up on a Thursday, startled to discover that the morning light creeping in the windows was far brighter than it should have been. First of all, I’m not a morning person, so the mere intrusion of the light was bad enough. I’m never mentally prepared for this daily slap in the face. But when the slap has an extra helping of retina-piercing whiteness, you know something is wrong with the world.

  I lay there in the bed, refusing to move or accept the fact that it was time to get up. I would have willingly promised anything to anyone for just five more minutes of slumber. Anything. And considering the number of eye-opening things I’ve done in my life, this is a really big bucket of anything.

  Just above said bed is a very wide but not very tall window. I’m sure this particular window design has some type of name, but I don’t know what that term might be. (I dropped out of the one interior design course I took in college because I could not bear the thought of the professor sporting yet another one of his wretched sweater vests. They were horrid, and I am absolutely certain he never had sex with anyone, ever.)

What I do know is that it’s difficult as hell to find curtains to fit this opening. Over the years, we’ve had to be very creative in our choice of window treatment options. Some ideas are okay, others have failed miserably. Even with my usually-trustworthy gay genes, I have not satisfactorily conquered this damn portal to the world in an artistic manner. I thought the window was clever and fetching when I bought the house. I stopped thinking that a long time ago.

  I also know that our cat, Scotch, is fascinated with this window and lives for the act of jumping up on the windowsill at the crack of dawn, and then pulling the curtain back so that even more light spills onto my hissing, non-impressed body. (I’m totally in agreement with vampires on this bit of business. Daylight kills. The neck-chewing? Not so much.) On this particular morning, Scotch was especially exuberant in his ritual, ripping the curtain as far open as he could, flooding the room with white light.

  That oddly-bright light. What was up with THAT?

  I sighed. Then I made the painful flop and roll to my left so that I could look at the alarm clock. I always perform this action while praying to any listening deity that I had somehow awakened early, and I could therefore pass back out for at least a few more minutes. Most of the time, of course, my dreams are shattered. In fact, I’m usually already way late (having beaten the snooze button into submission) and I have to scramble, tearing through the house in a mad frenzy.

  But this morning, I had time to spare. In fact, it was considerably early, miles to go before I weep about rejoining the human race. So where was all the extra whiteness coming from? And why was I being forced to think about color-saturation (or the lack of) before I’d even had coffee? This was cruel and vicious, and I was not a fan.

  I finally throw back the blankets and stagger out of bed. As is typical, Scotch has leapt down from the windowsill and is now perched by the side of the bed, awaiting praise for his skillful manipulation of the weird-window curtain. As is also typical, I’m not yet to the point of complete body control (and after a certain age, you never are), and one of my renegade feet stomps squarely on his tail. Screeching ensues, followed by a feline thunder-run to the other end of the house, trailed by hissed epithets and rogue cat hair in the air.

  Why do cats do that? Why do they get right up under your feet, positioning themselves in the exact spot where the possibility of pain is at its prime? I don’t get that. You would think, especially after several years of physical and psychological trauma, that a cat would learn certain things, such as “don’t get too close to Daddy when he’s getting out of bed”. But no, he’s right there underfoot, painful stomping occurs, and then we have drama and vengeful retribution that lasts for hours.

  [Editorial Advisement: For some unknown reason, I suddenly switched from mostly-past to mostly-present tense with my verbs at this point. If you are someone troubled by such an abrupt transition, please take your favorite sedative or two to minimize the outrage. And maybe a nice margarita, even if it’s early morning, story-wise.]

  As Scotch takes out his anger in another room by ripping an innocent throw rug to shreds (“What have I done to deserve this?” the rug asks, flatly), I turn toward the weird window and gaze outside. My eyes widen in surprise as I realize that the front yard is completely covered in snow. What the hell?

  This is Texas. We don’t get snow. Okay, we do, but not like everybody else. We get just a mere dusting of the white stuff and the entire state shuts down, with everything cancelled. (Except for football games. You must have football games in Texas. Otherwise, the state will wither up and die, with no valid reason to exist. It’s in our Constitution, sure is.)

  So, for me to be viewing a front yard that is completely covered in snow, with no tufts of dead grass showing whatsoever, it’s a clear sign that something major, indeed, is taking place. The world has shifted on its axis. “Holy cow,” I mutter, reverting to an Oklahoma colloquialism because it’s still early and my brain is not fully engaged enough to conceal my past.

  Scotch peeks around the corner of the bedroom doorway, his curiosity piqued by my exclamation. Is Daddy proud of my handiwork with the curtain? Did Scotch do good? He slinks into the room, in search of a tasty reward of some kind, just as I am stomping out of the room on the way to my office. As usual, I’m not really paying attention, and once again there is unexpected abuse of his freakishly-long tail, followed by more angry shredding of innocent floor coverings. (“Again with the clawing? Have you considered taking advantage of those special gummy bears from Colorado?”)

  I race into the office and sign into my work laptop, an action that I typically avoid as long as possible on a regular day. Once I’m hooked into the buzzing network of the behemoth corporation where I toil, I kick off the chat application and immediately start pinging my co-workers. What’s going on? Who drove into work and who didn’t? How bad is it? Tell me!

  My eyes continue to widen as the field reports start filling my screen. Nobody in our group has made it to the office yet, although some are trying. Travel advisories are being posted and the schools might be cancelled. That’s all I need to see. I’m not leaving this house any time soon. I get to work from home today. I’m so happy I could spit. (More Oklahoma, still not fully awake.)

  Nothing thrills me more than not having to go into the office. It’s just a beating, having to find something decent to wear, fighting the crazed Dallas traffic for over an hour, and then dealing with certain co-workers that make me want to claw my face. (“Why are you and your idiocy allowed to walk the streets of this planet without supervision? Get out of my cube!”) Besides, it’s a proven fact that I get a lot more work done when I’m still in my pajamas.

  So now I’m actually in a good mood, dancing around the house as I put on the coffee and searching for a few nibbly things to munch on (working from home means you get to snack all day, another bonus). I praise the fat, wet flakes falling from the sky, thanking them for this lovely gift of non-travel.

  Then my partner walks into the room, looking very sad and requiring my attention. (It briefly crosses my mind to wonder where he has been throughout the first part of our story, but I’m really not all that invested.) He has a frowny face, because he still has to drive into the office, as his company believes you must be visible to be productive. I discreetly turn my happy dance into something less-obnoxious (“I had a cramp and was trying to shake it out, swear”) and I offer my sympathies. I know better than to make a big deal out of my less-restrictive work structure, because this will only lead to tension and turmoil in the relationship, and that’s a speed bump I’d rather drive around, if at all possible.

  After some supportive commentary and counseling, we eventually get him bundled up and headed out into the snowfall. As soon as I can no longer see his car through the thick curtain of flakes showering the road, I’m once again running all over the house, belting out 70’s songs while sliding across the wood floors in my socks. Scotch the cat wisely remains hidden during these festivities, because my dangerous feet are moving too quickly for proper tail management and protection. He’s a bit simple, but he does have a rudimentary survival instinct.

  And thus goes the day, with me being amazingly productive simply because I’m not sitting in a cubicle and exuding an attitude about having to sit in a cubicle. From time to time, I stand at one of the windows (not the damn skinny window, mind you) and I admire the snowfall. When you don’t have to be out in it, snow is really pretty, albeit a bit monochromatic.

  Then, around noon, I start to get a little concerned about this pretty snow. Because it’s not stopping. It hasn’t stopped for hours. There’s already a good four or five inches on the back patio table. If anything, it’s snowing even harder. Something’s not right. It never snows this much in Dallas.

  I call Partner in his office, wherein, presumably, security cameras are tracking his physical presence and thusly authorizing he gets a paycheck . “What’s going on, what are you hearing, how are the roads, have you seen the weather reports, where’d you put that new Madonna CD?”

  Partner patiently waits for me to take a breath, then: “It’s getting bad. The roads were okay when I drove in, it wasn’t sticking yet, but now it is.”

  I glance out one of the front windows to confirm this. It’s doing more than just sticking to the road. You can’t really even tell where the road might be. “I think I better go to the grocery store.”

  Partner’s not sure why this is necessary. “I just went to the grocery store. We shouldn’t need anything.”

  “We need to stock up. What if we get trapped here for a while? What if we can‘t go anywhere? How will we survive without food?” (Nothing’s ever medium-range with me. It’s either complete boredom or mass hysteria.)

  Partner sighs. “But we HAVE food. And this isn’t a blizzard. This is not ‘Little House on the Prairie’ where Pa has to save the cows.”

  As usual, I’m not really listening to him, instead rummaging through the pantry and the refrigerator, checking the inventory. “There’s got to be something we need. Oh my GOD! We only have half a jar of mayo. See?”

  He grudgingly remembers something else. “Oh, and onions. We need onions for the pot of beans I was going to put on.” (Pot of beans? Who’s referencing “Little House on the Prairie” now? But I hold my tongue, after biting it.) Then he gets more into the spirit of things, once the purchase of consumable goods has become more palatable to him. (Food shopping is fun! Even when it’s somewhat pointless. In actuality, we have enough food around the house to last until summer.) “And if I take a personal day tomorrow, I could make us a big ole breakfast. Grab some eggs and sausage, too.”

  Well, that simply settles it. If you need eggs, you must do something about it. I am officially on a mission. I’d best get going.

  Stupidly, instead of immediately running out the back door to help Pa with the cows and chickens, I check the work laptop and discover that the chat application is lit up like brake lights during rush-hour traffic, with every one of my contacts flashing red. Not a good sign. I quickly realize that a major, impromptu conference call is going on, one that has been deemed important enough that some critical participant is going to make judgmental notes about my possible non-participation.

  Conference calls make me insane, especially calls where some High Priestess has deemed that every department in the company must be represented, even if your organization has nothing to do with the issue at hand. These things take forever. The roll-call alone is at least thirty minutes as people deal with unfamiliar mute buttons, dying cell phones and the inevitable twit who lets his dog bark in the background throughout the entire call.

Turns out, as it usually does with such things, that 97% of the people invited to the call were not needed for the issue, will never be needed for the issue, and the hours-long black hole created by the non-need for the massive conference call has caused every department in the company to fall behind in their daily commitment to customers. America doesn’t need to worry about foreign countries taking away their business. They need to worry about inept Americans not knowing how to run a company.

  By the time I finally escape from that crap, it’s three in the afternoon. The patio table snow gauge is showing at least seven inches, and the still-falling flakes are bigger than ever. This is insane. I ping my work peeps that I need to hit the store real quick, I’ll be right back. Then I run jump in the car.

  Little did I know that the doors of hell had just creaked open…

Click here to read the next installment in this travesty…

Previously published, considerable changes made. I realize this might seem a rather benign opening, with not much of substance happening, but the setup is necessary for what follows. Just stay tuned to this channel and make sure you have enough eggs for breakfast…

41 replies »

  1. A good beginning, Brian, and I’m looking forward to hearing of the hell you encountered on the way to the store. Did you drive into a zoo by mistake and scare the simians? I think you should have been looking for a Peter Gabriel CD, though…

    Liked by 4 people

    • Interestingly enough, the Dallas Zoo is not that far from our dwelling. But I didn’t go anywhere near it during this ordeal, so the simians were safe throughout the saga. And at least they had dependable electricity powering their habitats. Wait, did I just jump the shark with the foreshadowing? We shall see…

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m terrible about switching verb tenses and not even realizing it. There are so many instances of me pulling something out of the archives, reviewing the dusty story, and wondering “do I simply not have any consistent focus at all”? My high-school English teachers must be weeping in shame…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Years ago I lived near Lake Charles, LA and there was a storm that put a glaze of ice on the roads. Everything shut down. Being from North Carolina where snow is still somewhat rare, I was still amazed at the reactions. I can only imagine where your story is going..

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I’ve got popcorn (with yummy caramel covering it), a large beverage, and I’m all set to hear the next installment. Is it wrong to feel a bit smug? I KNOW what is coming, even though I’ve never heard this particular tale of yours. Because in the past Utah, particularly northern Utah, is snow ville HELL. Even in southern Utah (which being near the border of the state is really sort of Arizona or Colorado or New Mexico), I remember the winter of ’77 and walking to school in the rural town to which I was banished after dropping out in the BIG school where my parents actually lived. Walking through a literal tunnel of snow, piled at least six feet deep (it was over my head anyway) on each side where the plow had made a sort of walking path. No cars could get through that mess, although some testosterone-laden fool probably tried in one of those 4×4 truck things. The point being that we’re used to snow up here. Now of course it doesn’t snow. Not often. Climate change is responsible for a lot. I do hope you at least threw on a coat before dashing to your vehicle. And maybe some warm socks.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m glad that you have adequately prepped yourself with a stock of satisfying refreshments, as this tale is a bit long in tooth. In the dusty archives, there are nine episodes, and I’ve only briefly scanned some of them, but I’m already aware that there are a few scenes that need a bit more substance. So who knows where I will take this thing in its current incarnation.

      And whilst I can’t quite grasp the Utah-angle of piled-snow madness, I can certainly relate to multiple feet of snow changing the course of life in an instant. My hometowns of Tulsa/Broken Arrow are only five hours north of here, but it’s a completely different world, winter-weather-wise. There, we could get slammed by the whiteness and miss an entire week of school. In Dallas? The citizenry are stunned if the comparatively-paltry half-inch of snow causes the students to miss half a day. Everyone completely loses their minds.

      It’s very prescient that you mention “hope you at least threw on a coat before dashing to your vehicle” because… well, you and your caramel popcorn should stay tuned…


  4. And don’t forget storm chips. When snow storms are in the forecast here, everyone needs chips for some reason. Honestly this is true. So true that one company actually packages chips labeled as storm chips in the winter. Creative marketing at its best. They sell like hot cakes.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I can certainly understand the panic, as both Partner and I have a borderline-mania for chips. We always have a huge stockpile in the pantry, and if said stockpile was ever under a weather-based threat of being depleted, we would most likely require therapy… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Since English is my second language, and I had grammar shoehorned into my brain through my ears, verb tense changes can be annoying. But, now that I’ve gotten older and know that there’s much, much bigger problems out there, it doesn’t matter a whole lot any more.

    Now, about that snow … do I hear the nascent sounds of snow tire-less sliding on sticky wet snow surfaces that involve speed and a lack of driving experience in these conditions, Gracie? 😉

    Liked by 3 people

    • I can certainly understand the importance of verb-tense consistency whilst learning second languages, as I studied French for many years in my younger days and I’ve been studying Spanish for the last several years. An unexpected tense-change can completely throw me off, with even a single letter that doesn’t feel right causing me confusion…

      And your premonition about wetness and sliding es verdad, mon amie. Stay tuned…

      Liked by 1 person

    • I prefer The Boss’ version as well! Now if we can only get Madonna to cover Shock The Monkey. On second thought, I better be careful what I wish for, I’m not sure I (nor the monkey) are prepared for that video 🤔

      Liked by 2 people

    • Jim: To be fair, I only added “blinded by the light” to the post title at the last moment, for a bit of spice and a reference to the whiteness of the snow. But it’s also fair to say that another Springsteen lyric (with a slight mod) could apply to an upcoming installment: “Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to slide..”

      4FabFriends: Now I won’t be able to sleep at night until I get to see Madonna’s “Shock the Monkey” video. So many possibilities…

      Clive: And your thought would be somewhat right. But somewhat not… 😉

      Liked by 3 people

  6. Uh oh, looks like go-cart Mozart forgot to check out the weather chart to see if it was safe outside.  I can’t wait to tune it to see what additional punishment you get from Scotch (the cat and/or the libation) if and when you make it home from your white knuckle drive to pick up provisions (isn’t that what they are called in a crisis)?   

    Liked by 3 people

    • I just have to say that your comments always entertain me greatly, even if I’m not quite certain which of the Fab Four you might be. (I suspect Karen, as we are forever bonded over our Trapper Keeper reflections, but I may be mistaken.)

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yup, nailed it, the bond of theTrapper Keeper is as strong as the velcro on it’s flap.  Of course, given the current state of our union, I have been considering changing my name as it is almost as embarrassing as the screeching sound of said velcro peeling apart during the deafening silence of study hall.  I originally thought I would go back to my early 20’s bar name, Leanna Randolf (those were some good times!) but perhaps I should stick with the Fab Four theme.  Although Ringo does have a nice “ring” to it, I was thinking more along the lines of Charlotte.  Or maybe Samantha?

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Ah yes, the southern snow freak out. I remember it well from our days below the Mason Dixon. Our neighbors relied on us Yanks to be the voice of reason… and to shovel them out since we were the only people who owned one.

    Liked by 5 people

    • It’s just amazing how people lose their minds down here when a single snowflake falls. It’s not like it never happened before. But I guess there’s just a lot of long-term memory loss with these folks. Which would explain why they keep electing the same Republicans who have screwed them over multiple times…

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Wow, it seems a big snow storm. It is a little house on the prairie after all. I wonder who’s creaking open the door? Hmmm, your neighbor or Scotch, the cat?

    I like vampires for their neck chewing–so wicked and so bloody. How about their longevity? I mean they can live forever which is a curse disguised as a blessing. LOL.

    Liked by 4 people

    • It turned out to be one of the worst snowstorms we’ve had in many years, and this state is just not prepared for such things.

      I’m also intrigued by the concept of vampires, but I don’t think I have the skill set for that type of life. I would feel too guilty about the neck-chewing. And the longevity would be fun for a while, but once you’ve done everything there is to do in the world, what do you do then?

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Brian what year was this? I believe I was in Dallas that same day at a telecom conference and the Cowboys had won the super bowl the day prior, it was a Monday and Barry Switzer was the coach of the Cowboys. I was with my cohort in crime as it was me and my fat ex-con sociopathic boss at the time who, it so happened, when he wasn’t working was a hoot to be around. We were in downtown Dallas and you know Dallas has a suck ass excuse for a downtown, although in later years I do recall it going through a bit of a Renaissance. What I also recall is that the geniuses in the DOT had put the salt down before the snow had started falling and ran out. The mayor had to call the mayor of somewhere in Oklahoma to have more salt delivered to clear I-10. But I digress. We wandered, bundled up because if the temperature drops below 70 in Miami Beach, you hear the echoes of the 70+ old Jewish lady set, “Sylvia, get out the mink, it’s gaw-juss out! But oh my gawd, it’s chilly. What do you mean your minks at the cleaners? Go bail it out!” And so we were prepared with gloves, hats, parkas, etc. having heard it might snow before we got on the plane out of MIA. And the airports had closed so there was no way of getting out, either from Love Field or DFW the stupidest most passenger unfriendly layout of any airport ever invented except for the Start Wars land rovers that are at Dulles in Washington. American Airlines is neither American nor an Airline, Talk about misnomers.

    So we wander around bundled up looking for a drink and food.And no one is on the streets.The downtime is more deserted than ever, but too cold for tumbleweeds we normally see rolling around the grassy knoll. And into a club – where Lo and behold was a big band playing in a strip mall sized club and the band lined the wall on the left and the seats with red lit candles on the tabes were on the right so we grabbed a drink, listened to a set of 40’s big band music and wandered into the best steak restaurant in Dallas at the time. It was us and another table of six – Barry Switzer, the offensive coach and four ladies of the evening. As we ate in the back room and ordered some of my very favorite wine and stoked up a couple of smuggled Cuban heaters, we wandered over to the bar where sat Barry with a hooker on each knee. My brother, who I no longer speak to this being one of the reasons, was a Dallas Cowboys fan. So I got a menu and proceeded to ask Mr. Switzer if he’d “mind signing the menu to Scott, my brother who’s a huge f—-“ and before i could get the word fan out of my mouth he had his tongue in mine and said after I was mouth raped by a coach who lasted one season who extracted his oral penis from my now tasting a little like the vomit that had just come up in my mouth a little, said “for a kiss I will, darlin’” and he pulled a black sharpie from his shirt pocket and signed the menu.

    I spat on the floor in front of the ladies and said I hope he’s paying you a lot because he tastes like I imagine a donkey’s ass might after a bender in Tijuana. And I turned and huffed out into that snow and slipped on my ass in the parking lot. Menu in hand. Fast forward to about 5 years later and I am seeing my brothers “new apartment” and I look around for the framed menu (of course I had it framed for him after that ordeal.) And he said, “Oh, that, I gave it to cousin Jonathan.” And I said your apartments really small and smells like old pizza. And I left, This time not falling on my ass but walking to my car and getting ready to leave Florida for a move to Houston. It couldn’t have come soon enough.

    Liked by 2 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.