I am a man who likes order and routine and I keep to one every day. I arise at 6.00am, toilet, have two large glasses of water, drag the dog around the block for 56 minutes, shower and catch the bus into the city to my place of work.
At the Ministry of Planning, which is work, I use the identity card with the better picture of me to swipe into the building. The first card I had displayed a picture of me in the act of sneezing, so I looked like I was having a seizure. I had asked for a replacement, but I was told cost cuts had stipulated that only one photo could be taken.
“But I look like I am having a seizure” I had complained.
“It looks fine to me,” said the Photographer. “You should see Mitchel’s. He had a cold at the time and there’s this huge oyster hanging out his nose.”
Anyway, that’s where I work.’
Being the first to arrive, I turn on the lights, start up my computer, fix my cereal, and eat it while I clear through emails. During this time, Bert, the Security Guard does his first morning round. He is grumpy and talkative. A big man with a stupid face and he is the only one who finds anything he says interesting.
I can hear Bert’s awkward lumbering steps approaching and he is eating; it’s a doughnut. I try to look busy hoping he will walk on, but the steps keep coming. I know exactly what he is going to say.
“Hey, Geoff,” that’s me “did you go home last night, or did you sleep here.” That’s it. That’s what he says every morning.
“No Bert, I didn’t sleep here. I get here at this time every …”
I had just looked up and couldn’t complete the sentence. Bert stood before me. I mean I thought it was Bert. He had the same voice, was wearing the same uniform that I am sure he never washed and he had this stupid grin on his stupid face. Except it wasn’t his face. It was the face of … of ….
“You’re an Ape.” I heard myself say.
“Who you calling an Ape?”
“What? … Why? … What the …” I swear I was shocked. There I was looking at a large monkey. Bert was a monkey. A monkey who was eating a doughnut.
“What’s the matter Geoff? Why are you looking at me like that?”
I looked around hoping it was some kind of joke being played on me. Co-workers in hiding, under desks, smothering their giggling faces so I wouldn’t hear.
As hard as I looked I saw nothing out of the ordinary, except for Bert the monkey. A talking monkey.
“Geoff, you look terrible, I don’t know what’s wrong. It must be that really bad flu that’s going around.” His big, hairy hand touched my forehead and quickly moved away. “Yikes, you’re one hot cookie. You should see a doctor. Have some water here, Geoff.”
I was feeling a little queasy and my mouth was dry. Bert even smelt like a monkey. Not that I know what they smell like, I haven’t been to the zoo that often, but he had that animal smell: moist, earthy, wild. I needed some water.
I picked up my glass and drank deeply. I looked up at Bert and then everything went black.
“Geoff… Hello Geoff … Geoff, can you hear me?”
I heard the voice, but even more so, I could smell the air and I was afraid.
“Geoff Madder? … Mr Madder, I am a doctor and I am here to help you. Can you hear me?… Geoff?”
I slowly opened my eyes and there was another hairy beast. Its eyes were formed into a concerned looking squint, trying to appraise the situation. He was wearing a three piece suit and tie under his white lab coat, a stethoscope hung about his shoulders. Where was I?
“Where am I? And who are you?”
“Mr Madder, I am a doctor. Brian Wilson; Dr Brian Wilson. My office is just around the corner from where you work at the Ministry of Planning. Bert brought you here when you appeared to have fainted. … Tell me, how are you feeling?”
“Dizzy, really dizzy and not sure what is going on. You look like a … how can I say this?”
“You look like a monkey, a damn ape.”
“Oh, dear, it’s as I expected.”
“Expected? What did you expect?”
“It’s just this damn virus that has been going around. You’re the third person I have seen with this severe strain of it this week. It’s called Simianitis, a virus with the weirdest side effects I have ever seen. People suffering from it actually claim that people they know appear to be monkeys. I have never seen any…”
“But it’s true, you look like a monkey to me.”
“Well that’s the darn thing about it. You should only get that side effect with people you know. Have I ever seen you before Mr Madder? “
“Not that I know of, Doctor.”
“Well then you must have a very strong variant of it. So, here’s what I am going to do. I suggest you go home, right away. Do not contact your office or anyone there. We have been asked to keep this totally under wraps to ensure there is no panic. Not even your wife must know. Do you understand?”
“Geoff, you must act normally at all times. Do you understand?”
“Yes.” it was for the good of the country, for the good of the people. After all I was a member of the government. A senior member of the Ministry.
I got home. I didn’t see any side effects of my virus while on the bus home. I entered quickly and locked and bolted the door behind me.
“Who is that? Darling is that you?” The voice came from the lounge room. My wife. Sarah. She was home. Someone I knew. Very well. Act normal at all times.
“Yes, it is me, Sweetie. I finished early. Thought I would surprise you.”
“Oh how nice.” She came out in this really lovely skirt above which was a bright yellow blouse. I had always like it and she looked so well in it with her hairy arms and legs on display and a fetching, coquettish smile on her face. Well, fetching to another monkey I would say.
She approached me and put her arms around me and kissed me long on the lips, “Well, you have surprised me darling. Allow me to return the favour? mmmmm?” And as she kissed me again, I felt her hands fumbling expertly at my belt and before I knew it my pants were around my ankles.
I kept telling myself to act normally, act normally. This was really my wife, it was just the virus. Everything was the same as normal, just some of the visuals were different. In bed I felt my hands holding her tight, pressing against her hairy back, her backside humping up and down wildly. I could see it there in front of me as she lay naked, on top grunting with a delight I don’t think she had ever expressed before.
“Oh, Geoff … Oh, OH, OOOOOOH ….Geoff … GEOFF…..GEEEEOOFFF!!!”
Now there was a ringing in my head; loud and continuous and piercing.
“Oh, what the fuck!! Who the fuck would that be?” she said.
I realised the ringing was the doorbell. She looked at me smiling sweetly and softly whispered “don’t you move. I’m not finished with you yet.”
“I’ll be here, Sweetie.”
There were muffled voices, my wife sounded unhappy. The door to the bedroom opened slightly, “There are a couple of guys from work asking to see you. I’m just going out for a little while. Will you be okay?”
“Oh, yes, oh, yes, yes, all good. No problems. I’ll be right out.” I think it had been the first bit of good news in my favour all day. I was so glad to have been interrupted that it didn’t matter at all that the two who had come from the office, Simpson and Blake, appeared to me as monkeys as well. I welcomed them gladly. They talked about a document for me to sign. I can’t remember what it was about, something to do with an old banana plantation that was being bulldozed for the construction of residential apartments. I heard words coming out of Simpson and Blake’s monkey mouths but my mind wasn’t putting them together in any meaningful way.
I was just grateful that something so inconsequential had allowed me to escape the bedroom. I still loved my wife; I just had a visual of her now that would remain with me for the rest of my life.
I signed the papers and then escorted my colleagues to the door and wished them a good evening and that I looked forward to seeing them in the morning.
I also found a note on the dresser from my wife saying she would not be home tonight as she had gone to the country on an emergency visit to her sick mother. Strange. It was strange. She hadn’t mentioned it before. But the relief I felt reading it was better than any explanation.
The next morning, I decided to break my routine. I slept in for another hour, then walked the dog and showered. I took my time to get ready. I even turned on the television and let the news mutter away in the background while I dressed.
I wasn’t paying that much attention, but my ears pricked up when the news reader started talking about a banana plantation where plans for a large residential development had been overturned.
“In an about face from previous planning direction” went the blonde female newsreader , “documents signed last night by Geoff Madder from the Ministry of Planning have stopped the development.”
The front door lock turned and the door opened. “Hello darling, is that you still home?”
It was my wife. A weight sank into the pit of my stomach. “Yes, it is Sarah, I’m just getting ready to leave. How is your mother?”
“She’s so much better, I’m so glad I went ….” but I heard nothing else she said. On the television they had cut away from the newsreader while she still read over the visuals.
“It appears that Mr Geoff Madder signed over the authority of the Banana Planation to a group of monkeys currently in the care of the Centre for Higher Learning that has been trying to breed a smarter Simian for over 10 years with absolutely no luck at all.”
The screen had cut to the group of monkeys in the yard sitting around directly looking at the camera. “As you can see,” continued the newsreader “this lot is about as intelligent as a barrel of monkeys, but they sure have won the lotto with all those bananas.”
I looked at them and they back at me. There was Bert, Dr Brian Wilson, Simpson and Blake, and, yes, there was my wife Sarah jumping up and down for joy.
“So what did you do last night? I missed you.” Sarah had come into the room and sneaked up behind me. She hugged me close and I could smell her perfume. She nipped at my ear as the camera slowly panned into my monkey wife.
“You know what?” whispered Sarah coquettishly, “seeing that you have surprised me, maybe I can give you a little surprise. What do you think?”
The camera continued to pan into a close up on my monkey wife. She turned and looked directly at me and laughed and laughed and laughed. I can still hear it. I hear it every day.