My goal is to post some short fiction every Friday. Hence the name, Friday Fiction. I was always a reader, but I didn’t consider myself a writer until much later. A long time back, my brother and I wrote a number of stories about Cousin Larry (it’s a long story) which we sent to another brother as a private joke. We had stories of Larry as poems, horror, detective, children’s stories and everything else we could think of. I’ll go into this more in a later post, but this was what started me writing. This is, I think, a funny science fiction story. I hope you enjoy it.
An Executive Level Companion Primate
After the time machine crashed, stranding him in the year 2156, Larry decided to get himself a monkey. He’d seen them advertised on the video-boards outside of town, genetically altered monkeys that, they claimed, made excellent companions and domestic servants. He’d never had a domestic servant before, but, since coming to this time, he’d been lonely and needed a companion. He thought that a monkey would fit the bill nicely.
The store was located on the old side of town in a high rise office building. Back in his time, Larry remembered, this was the high rent district. Now, with energy rationing, the elevators were shut down and most buildings could only rent out the lowest floors. Larry took the stairs up to the fifth floor and searched until he found suite 5105. The sign on the door read: Primarily Primates – ring bell.
Larry hit the button and waited. After a minute the door opened a crack and a man stuck his head out. He had a long scraggly yellow beard and was missing several of his front teeth. A corncob pipe hung loosely from the corner of his mouth. Larry pegged him right away as a follower of Hillbilly Chic. It was one of the things that had thrown Larry when he’d first come to this time. For fashion, people dressed like groups from different times in history, or as figures in fantasy. He’d come across Quakers, Aborigines and Vikings. He’d seen surgically enhanced goat-men and environmental activists with real grass growing out of their heads. Hillbillies were hot now.
“I … I’m here for the monkeys,” Larry stammered.
“Well, why didn’t you say so? Come on in, cousin.”
Larry’s guess was confirmed as the door opened. The man wore a faded flannel shirt with suspenders, torn dungarees and no shoes. “We don’t get many people coming by. Most of our business is done on the Vertu-net.” He stuck out his hand. “The name’s Xavier. But you can call me Clem.”
“Uh, I’m Larry.”
Clem flashed a gap-toothed smile. “Welcome, Larry. So, what kind of monkey can I interest you in?”
The room was a converted reception area, the walls painted a deep jungle green and covered with pictures. Larry noticed that the air was scented with what smelled like licorice and lilacs, but it didn’t quite cover up the animal smell. “I don’t know,” he said. “I just want a monkey.”
Larry looked at the pictures on the wall. There were simians of all types: monkeys, baboons, orangutans and apes. Most were engaged in some sort of work or leisure activity. Some were dressed in human clothes – some in coveralls others in dresses or tuxedos. It was strange, but somehow comforting, to see them acting so human. They looked almost like real people.
Larry smiled to himself. This is the right idea, he thought. It would be nice to have a funny monkey around. He could dress it up in different kinds of clothes and it would dance around and act silly. Having a monkey would make him feel better and not think about home so much. Larry laughed when he saw a chimpanzee dressed in a cheerleader’s outfit.
Clem leaned in and leered. “Pretty nice, eh? I can see you’re a Lady’s Man. I think we have just what you’re looking for. Very discreet of course.”
“Oh, no! You’ve got me wrong! I’m just looking for a regular monkey.”
“Oh.” Clem looked disappointed. “Well, we got all kinds.” His face brightened. “Let me guess, you’re looking for someone to keep you company, help out with the chores and so on, right?”
“Uh, sure. That sounds good to me.”
“Come right this way.” Clem gripped Larry by the elbow and steered him out of the reception area and down a short hall. He came to a door and stopped. “I can tell that you’re a man of taste and refinement. It’s top of the line for you, right?”
Without waiting for a reply Clem opened the door. “Here he is. Mr Bon-Bon. This is your top of the line, primo primate.”
Mr Bon-Bon, a large orange haired orangutan with Ben Franklin glasses, sat in a chair behind a small desk. As they came in he looked up and flashed his teeth in a humorless grimace. “Good morning, master. Good morning, sir. How may I be of service today?” He spoke haltingly with a slight British accent.
Larry’s jaw dropped in amazement. “He speaks English?”
“He also speaks fluent Italian and a little bit of French. He’s perfectly suited for…”
“No, I mean he talks.”
“Of course he talks. Why wouldn’t he?”
“I’ve never seen a talking monkey before…”
Mr Bon-Bon jumped up on the desk, banged his fists onto his chest and gave a fearsome grunt. “Excuse the interruption, sirs, but when I am in the room it is impolite to speak of me as if I wasn’t here.” He climbed off the desk and lumbered over to Larry and Clem. With the knuckles of his right hand resting on the floor, he stood in a tripod position and looked up into Larry’s eyes. “Not only do I speak, but I can also sing — when the feeling moves me – that doesn’t mean I’m going to sing for your amusement. I have my pride you know. I also play chess, cook gourmet meals and play classical piano.” He scratched his underarm. “And for your information, sir, I am not a monkey! I am an executive level orangutan!”
Larry took a step back. “I’m sorry, I didn’t…”
Mr Bon-Bon grunted, picked a bug from his fur and ate it.
“Oh don’t worry about him.” Clem glared at Mr Bon-Bon. “He gets grumpy in the morning.”
Mr Bon-Bon pounded his chest again. “If I’m grumpy it’s…”
Clem reached into one of his overall pockets and grasped a silver cylinder. “And nobody likes a grumpy monkey. Do they Mr Bon-Bon?” Mr Bon-Bon looked at the hand in the overalls and backed away.
“What’s that?” Larry asked.
“This?” Clem smiled, holding the cylinder. “Sometimes you just have to show the animal who’s boss”
“Is that really necessary?”
“It works for me,” Clem said. “Right Mr Bon-Bon?”
Mr Bon-Bon grunted.
Clem smiled at Larry. “See?” he said. “He’s really a sweetheart. I think he likes you”
“I don’t know…”
“Sure he does. He likes you. Don’t you Mr Bon-Bon?”
Mr Bon-Bon grunted and gave a half-hearted wave.
Clem put his hand in his pocket again. “I said, don’t you Mr Bon-Bon?”
Mr Bon-Bon looked up from where he now sat in the corner. “Sure, I like the man.” He snarled
“See? What did I tell you? You two are a perfect match.”
“Well, I don’t know…”
Clem draped his arm over Larry’s shoulders. “Listen, Lonny…”
“Larry, the monkey likes you. You like the monkey. What’s it going to take for me to put you two together today?”
“I was really looking for something smaller.”
“Sure you were. But it would be a mistake. Anything you get is going to seem like a compromise when you compare it to Mr Bon-Bon.”
Larry scratched his chin. This hadn’t gone like he’d expected at all. The monkey was much bigger than he’d planned on. With his small apartment it would make for close quarters. And it was hard to imagine living with a talking monkey – especially one with such an attitude. But then again, the attitude was understandable. Anyone would get an attitude if he had to deal with someone like Clem, who probably mistreated him horribly. It was obvious that Mr Bon-Bon was afraid of him. If he was in a better environment, with someone who treated him better, Larry was sure that the monkey would act friendlier. He did seem to be smart. And it would be nice to have someone to talk to, maybe play games with.
“Well, I don’t know if I can afford him,” Larry said.
Clem reached into an overall pocket and pulled out his auto-formulator. “Larry, this is your lucky day! We’re going to find a way for you to afford this monkey.”
Larry nodded and tried to feel excited.
They made the deal for a lifetime deduction of 4,300 consumption credits per month. It wasn’t until later that Larry wondered if the lifetime pertained to him, or the monkey. The payment was more than Larry had anticipated, but Clem had assured him that having an intelligent monkey like Mr. Bon-Bon would actually put more money in his pocket by decreasing his stress and increasing his productivity. Larry wasn’t sure he believed him, but it was better than being lonely.
Larry’s apartment was in a subterranean warren in the central city. The encapsulator going down was crowded when he returned home with Mr Bon-Bon, and he got some strange looks from some of the other tenants. But no one said anything and they were able to make it to his apartment unchallenged.
Larry put his eyeball up to the scanner to open the door, then turned back to Mr Bon-Bon. “I’m sorry we got off to a bad start earlier,” he said. “I hope there aren’t any hard feelings. I want us to be the best of friends.”
Mr Bon-Bon glared at him. “Oh yes, master. Just get me a pile of straw to sleep on and don’t beat me too often, I’m sure that we’ll be great friends.”
“Oh, no! I’d never beat you. Why would you think that? I’m not that kind of a person at all.”
Mr Bon-Bon scratched himself and smirked. “You called me a monkey. You’re no different.”
Larry slumped his shoulders as the door slid open. Even in his own time he’d had trouble making friends. He so wanted this relationship to work. But how could he make the monkey like him? The idea came to him as they walked through the door. “I know,” he said, “You’re probably hungry. Can I get you something to eat? I think I’ve got some bananas.”
“Bananas?” Mr Bon-Bon snorted. “Do you think that’s the only thing I eat? You think I’m a monkey, and all I eat are bananas?”
“No. That’s not what I meant. I just thought you might be hungry, and I remembered that I had some bananas.”
Mr Bon-Bon grunted. “Well, I’ll eat the bananas, but that’s not all that I eat. In fact, I have a very refined palate. I consider myself to be an epicure. Right now I have a taste for something French.”
“Preferably something with truffles and cream sauce.” Mr Bon-Bon sat back on his haunches and scratched his armpit. “If you really wanted us to be friends, you’d find me some good French food.”
Larry swallowed hard. “Well, I’ll see what I can do.”
Larry took a hover-cab over to a small bistro on the far side of town. An order of phaux pheasant in truffle cream sauce set him back nearly a full weeks pay. But it would be worth it, he kept telling himself, if this helped him and the monkey become good friends. He thought about ordering something for himself too, but he was already running low on consumption credits.
By the time he got back to his apartment, he was hungry and tired. The smell of the pheasant from the takeout sack made his stomach growl, but he still couldn’t help smiling as he opened the door. This is a breakthrough, he thought. This would prove to Mr Bon-Bon that he was serious about wanting to be friends.
When he came into the room, Mr Bon-Bon was stretched out in Larry’s favorite chair, the holi-vision turned up a few notches too loud, a laugh track blaring. Mr Bon-Bon grunted as he glanced up. “It took you long enough. I nearly starved waiting for you.”
They ate their dinners while watching the holi-vision. Mr Bon-Bon licked his fingers with pleasure after he slurped up the last of the sauce. Larry, after finishing his meal of cold crackers while sitting on the floor, wondered if he’d made a good deal after all.
The next few weeks settled into a pattern. Larry would go to his job at the Department of Recent History (he was an acknowledged expert on American life in the late twentieth century), work until five thirty, and then return to his apartment in the evening and take care of Mr Bon-Bon. Larry hadn’t realized how much work a monkey could be. Mr Bon-Bon was a finicky eater. He only ate restaurant meals –quadruple portions of the most expensive food. He required constant grooming, and his personal hygiene was atrocious. The first night Mr Bon-Bon complained about how the couch sagged in the middle and his back hurt in the morning. After that Larry slept on the couch and from then on Mr Bon-Bon slept much better.
A week after Mr Bon-Bon moved in, the landlord came by to visit. Some of the neighbors had complained about the smell coming from Larry’s apartment. He reminded Larry that there was a no pet clause in the lease. Larry explained that Mr Bon-Bon wasn’t a pet, but an executive level companion orangutan. The landlord didn’t buy it, and Larry had to cough up an extra 1,200 consumption credits per month or face
Money was running tight. After a month Larry had to take a part time job as an usher at the Odatorium just to keep up with the bills. When he got home, he still had to attend to Mr Bon-Bon’s needs, so he had to sacrifice his sleep to fit everything in. But it still wasn’t enough. While Larry was away, Mr Bon-Bon spent his time watching the holi-vision, ordering things off of the consumaholic channel, and charging them to Larry. Then, when Larry tried to talk with him about his behavior, Mr Bon-Bon insisted on answering in Latin – or at least Larry thought it was Latin. By now Larry had decided that having a monkey wasn’t all it was cracked up to be.
Some evenings, when Mr Bon-Bon was acting especially ornery, Larry fantasized about taking him back. But those thoughts were usually fleeting. It wasn’t the monkey’s fault, he thought. The poor creature didn’t know any better. And besides, even though things weren’t perfect, at least he wasn’t lonely. He could put up with it, he thought. In time the monkey would change, and then they’d be friends.
But the final straw came one night when Larry returned home from his second job, feeling miserable. He dragged himself into the apartment, near exhaustion. He hadn’t eaten anything that day except for a soft banana at lunch time – his stomach growled so loud that he felt like answering back. His back hurt from sleeping on the sofa and he felt like he was coming down with a sinus infection. His senses were assaulted when he stepped into the apartment. Tribal music blared from the air-eo, lights flashed and a deep bass vibration made the hair on his arm dance. But most of all it was the smell. With the sinus infection, and working at the Odatorium, Larry’s sense of smell had been muted. But this was too much, a repulsive, overpowering smell of rotten eggs and feces. Mr Bon-Bon was in the middle of the room, dancing. Eggshells covered the floor, the yokes and whites mashed into the carpet in a gooey stinking mess. In the middle of the sofa, Larry’s bed, stood a huge steaming pile of ape dung.
Larry lost it. All the frustrations of his life – being trapped in the wrong time, with a dead end job, no friends, no money, and especially the frustration of living with an inconsiderate, vile monkey – came to a head. He did something that he hadn’t done in years. He screamed. “That’s it! You stupid ape! I’ve had enough. You’re filthy, you’re ugly. You don’t belong in an apartment, you belong in a zoo! No, not a zoo, a zoo is too good for you. I’m taking you back tomorrow.”
Mr Bon-Bon stopped dancing and began to plead. “Please, master. I’ll be better. Don’t take me back to him. He’ll beat me.”
“I don’t care if he beats you. I don’t care if he stuffs you and hangs you over his fireplace. We’re done!”
“But I thought we were going to be friends.”
“We’re never going to be friends,” Larry yelled. “You don’t know how to be a friend. We’re going back tomorrow.”
Mr Bon-Bon begged, he pleaded, he cried. But it was to no avail. Larry’s mind was made up and his decision was final.
The next morning, Larry, with Mr Bon-Bon in tow, stood outside the door of Primarily Primates. He felt a wave of anticipation as he rang the bell. He was almost rid of the monkey, he thought. Just a few more minutes and he’d have his life back. He rubbed his hands together with excitement. The psycho monkey had nearly ruined his life. But now he’d be free. He gave a wicked grin as he looked at Mr Bon-Bon, bent down, shuffling his feet in dread. It’ll serve him right, he thought. They deserve each other.
A moment later the door opened. Larry had expected hillbilly Clem to answer, but the person in front of him looked entirely different. His jet-black hair was greased straight back. He was clean shaven with dark arching eyebrows and a black theatrical cape. To Larry, he looked like an old movie vampire. The effect was complete when he smiled, revealing his pointed incisors. Larry stared at the man’s face. He looked different, but the eyes were the same.
“Clem?” Larry asked.
“Call me Xavier,” he responded. “What can I do for you, cousin?”
Larry pushed on the door and forced his way in. Mr Bon-Bon slunk in after him.
“Look, Clem… Xavier, or whoever you are, I’m returning the monkey,” Larry said. “It didn’t work out at all and I want my money back.”
“Well, of course. Customer satisfaction is our number one priority.” Xavier looked puzzled. “Did you mistreat him somehow? This is an executive level primate, you know.”
“I didn’t do anything. The monkey’s crazy.”
“Well, let me see what we can do.” Xavier walked over to a file cabinet, rummaged around for a moment and pulled out a contract. He studied it for several minutes, turning the pages slowly. At last, he looked up. “Hmmmm, I think we have a problem, Lonnie.”
“It’s Larry. What kind of problem?”
“Clause sixteen, paragraph nine. Maybe you missed this when you read it before.”
“I didn’t read it. What does it say? You told me that if something was wrong I could bring him back and there’d be no problem.”
“Yes, that’s usually the case, but unfortunately it doesn’t apply here.” Xavier snapped the contract so it was right under Larry’s nose. “You see, clause sixteen paragraph nine specifically states that there can be no returns or refunds after twenty four hours. You’ve had your primate for nearly two months.”
“That can’t be right.”
“Xavier shook his head sadly. “I’m afraid it is. But I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’ll let you pick out another monkey and we’ll apply your payment even up.”
“I don’t want another monkey!” Larry screamed. “I don’t want another monkey and I don’t want to pay anymore.”
Xavier shook his head. “I’m sorry. But I’m afraid that’s not possible. The contract clearly states that after twenty-four hours the deal is irrevocable. And to tell the truth, Lenny, I think you’re hurting Mr Bon-Bon’s feelings. If you act nicer to him he’ll be friendlier to you.”
Larry screamed and pounded his chest. But the anger didn’t last long. An all-encompassing sadness passed through him. Why hadn’t he read the contract? Now he’d never be free of the monkey. He slipped down to the floor and cried. He began to sob uncontrollably. His life was miserable, and it would never get better. It was all there in black and white. He was joined at the hip, contractually speaking, to the monkey. All he had to look forward to in the years to come was poverty and dispair.
But then, in a flash, an idea came to him. Maybe he was obligated to pay for the monkey, but they couldn’t make him keep Mr Bon-Bon. There was no way they could enforce that. And if he didn’t have the monkey, even if he was paying for him, he’d still be ahead of the game. No meals to pay for, no extra rent for the apartment, no paying for all the things the monkey bought. No mess, no smell. No monkey. Larry’s misery shifted to joy. He stood up and smiled. “I’m done,” he said.
“What do you mean you’re done?”
“I’m leaving. You can’t stop me. Maybe I’ll have to pay for him, but I’m not going to take care of him. He’s your monkey now.” Larry turned around and headed for the door.
“Wait a minute you can’t leave him here!”
Larry opened the door and stepped into the hall. Xavier followed but Larry kept on walking, out the hall, down the stairs, and he was gone.
When Xavier got back to the office, Mr Bon-Bon was sitting on the corner of his desk. Xavier reached into his jacket and pulled out the silver cylinder. He walked over to the orangutan. “Care for a drink, boss?”
“After that, I need one,” Mr Bon-Bon said.
Xavier unscrewed the top of the cylinder and, using it is a cup, poured a measure from the flask. “That took longer than I expected.”
“I tried everything. I couldn’t get him to break.”
“Well, it’s over now, and as usual you performed brilliantly.”
“Of course. It’s what I do,” Mr Bon-Bon said. He closed his eyes and drank from the silver top. “After all, I am an executive level companion primate.”