ten weeks later . . .
The television was showing commercials. The images would change on the screen many times a second. As a result, the otherwise dark living room of Johnny the monkey boy was filled with stroboscopic multi-colored light.
Johnny and Stella were sitting on Johnny's old couch. They watched good looking monkey boys and girls on the TV drink a lot of Crazy Monkey Cola. When the characters on the screen weren't passionately drinking cola, they performing acrobatic acts which demonstrated their talents and lifestyles involving extreme sports. Johnny wasn't swayed though. He remembered all too well the last time that he went to the store to get a Crazy Monkey Cola. Since returning to his normal life, he had not once wanted a single sip of what had previously been his favorite beverage.
The monkey boy had discovered though that he still very much like the taste of beer. He was even having one now while watching the week's episode of The Oprah Show.
Johnny put his arm behind Stella and gave her a little squeeze. She looked at him with big eyes as if startled to be reminded of the real world. Then she smiled a big, big smile at Johnny. "How are you doing?" she said.
The content monkey boy smiled back at her. "I'm doing just fine," he said.
Things with the monkey boy and girl had been good since Johnny's return. She had moved down to Summer City to be with Johnny and also to try to get a job as a manicurist. She was happy that he was back to his normal life, and she often said things like, "I'm so happy that you're home," or, "You have no idea what it was like being hauled out of the audience of the Oprah Show and I knew it was you the minute I saw the commercial for the show on the TV," or, "I really love you, Johnny." She also frequently talked about her visions of a good manicurist business.
The monkey girl leaned over and kissed Johnny on the cheek. Johnny sighed happily and then looked back at the TV. Extreme sports actors were now chewing gum with faces that looked like they were attached to bodies having very good sex.
Johnny reached for his beer to discover that it was empty. "Mm," he said to the empty tin. "Hey," he said, standing up. "I'm going to go get another beer — do you want anything?"
"Can you be an angel and get me a beer too?" Stella asked.
Johnny slowly walked into the kitchen. "Angel," he thought to himself. By the fridge, Johnny stopped and looked out of the security bars to the night sky. The stars were so pretty. He sighed as he looked up, and closed his eyes for a moment.
The monkey boy remembered the last visit he had had from the angel, just a couple days after he'd escaped from the monastery . . .
The angel's appearance came as unannounced and as unexpectedly as every other time she had dropped in on Johnny. She floated above the monkey boy (who had been just about to go over to his computer to surf the internet), her arms crossed. A small smile was on her mysterious face. "Well," she said. "Well, well, well." She giggled. "Who would have thought that you had it in you?"
She gently came down to just above ground level and looked Johnny right in his eyes.
"I'm proud of you for finally taking matters into you own hands, Johnny," she said after regarding the monkey boy for a few moments. "To be utterly honest, I didn't think you had it in you. I thought you'd be in that god-awful monastery for the rest of your monkey days." She frowned. "I thought you were doomed to never question your situation — to never think or act for yourself. To never be true to yourself." She gently laid a hand that felt rich with weird energy on Johnny's cheek. "To have you challenge yourself in such a way almost gives me a small shining ray of hope for you."
"Thanks!" Johnny said.
She grinned mischievously. "Remember," she said, "I said almost." Then she giggled again, and gave the monkey boy a quick hug.
Then she said that because she was so impressed with how he had grown and changed that she was going to cure him bowel cancer. "You are?" Johnny asked, shocked.
"Duh!" she said, with mock exasperation. "I only left it this long in the hopes that your hardships would teach you some important existential lessons."
Then she laid her shimmering hands on Johnny's chest. Her eyes closed in concentration. Johnny soon felt a light warmth spread through out his body. After a couple moments, the angel opened her eyes. Her face was close to Johnny's. She stared deeply into his eyes.
"I am sure we will meet again some day, Johnny," she said. Her eyes were so gentle that the monkey boy's heart felt overwhelmed.
"Thank you," he said. "Thank you for everything."
"Shhh," she whispered. Then she leaned a little bit closer and brushed her lips against Johnny's.
"Goodbye, sweet monkey boy," she said in a voice that Johnny heard only in his mind, even as the angel disappeared from view in a fog of shimmering golden energy. Then she was gone and the room was still.
"Goodbye," Johnny said to his empty living room. Then he wiped at some tears that were welling from his eyes.
Johnny popped open one of the beers, and stood in the kitchen, mulling over the angel's visit, and those weird first few days home. It had been hard to settle back into his daily routine at first, and he had been constantly worried that someone from the monastery was going to discover him and take him away again.
But that had not happened.
And Stella had come down for their heartfelt reunion. And Johnny had become reacquainted with his home and the paces of his life. And, soon after the angel's last visit, Johnny had even begun to feel a lot more healthy and fit than he had in a long time.
And every day that had passed, Johnny felt a bit more secure. Yes, he had been a bit frightened when one day he saw an ad that had been placed in the Summer City Times by the Clooney Monastery. "HAVE YOU SEEN THIS MONK? REWARD OFFERED!" it read. But underneath that there had been the familiar picture of the large and cake-wielding Monk E whom all the monks had, for some inexplicable reason, always confused for Johnny.
But soon, the ad had stopped being placed in the paper. The Clooney Monastery had given up.
Johnny passed Stella her beer. He settled into his old couch. Then, relaxing into place, he put his feet up on the cluttered coffee table. When he did so, he was careful not to put his feet on the letter from his grandmother that was still laid out there.
The letter had been very surprising. After the initial expected question of "Why don't you ever write?" his grandmother went on to confess to the monkey boy that his father was not really his father. The monkey boy had already known this of course, due to the angel having told him on so many occasions. But still, it is different to know something that is a little shocking, and then to have it substantiated by one's own grandmother.
Apparently Johnny's mother, his grandmother told him, while still quite young, had taken a trip down to Summer City for a vacation with a group of her friends. It was a monkey girl only trip, so the man she'd afterwards marry stayed behind. While she had been on her vacation, she had met some kind of actor sort at a fancy cocktail party. Drinks had been drunk. And dances had been danced. Abandoned times had been had that night, and, apparently after the twosome had enjoyed some passionate dancing and conversation on a garden patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean, they had gone on to conceive Johnny.
Apparently the actor had sent a few post cards after Johnny's mother had returned, but Johnny's mother had let it all slip away. She had wanted to make a clear break from her past, and she also had not wished for her new son, Johnny, to come to be influenced by the values of Summerland — "The ironic thing being that of course you moved there as soon as you were able to!" his grandmother went on to say in the letter. The monkey boy's mother had also not wished for Johnny's father to discover the truth of his parentage. Which, Johnny thought, made sense. Even if it was not very honest and fair to the man who had raised Johnny as his son.
As Johnny looked at the letter he made a mental note to write his grandmother back as soon as possible. "That's gonna be a doozy to write," he thought.
He was about to start wondering about who his real father could be again, but Oprah came back on the television and was talking to some distinguished guests about landscaping. Her guest explained how he kept his rich clients happy.
"That nail polish that the special guest is wearing does not really match her attire," Stella said.
"Really?" Johnny asked.
"Yup. That's the way it is," Stella said.
Johnny stared at the woman's talon-like claws, and compared them to her clothing. "Hm!" he said. "I guess you're right."
"Damn rights, I am," Stella said. Then she kissed Johnny on his cheek.
As the monkey boy's looked at the people gathered on the stage of The Oprah Show he thought of how very weird it was that he had been on the set of that television show. The monkey boy sighed and took a sip of his beer.
What strange experiences he had had! There had been the scary monastery, the doped-up days of fear, and then after that those days of heady fame, when it seemed like everyone had wanted to speak to him, and know him. Johnny watched Oprah smile and laugh and react to something the woman with the frightening fingernails had said.
Even more curious to Johnny the monkey boy though was the fact that the memories of his extreme experiences had started to seem a little unreal. Like it had all happened to someone else.
"How dreamlike it has become!" Johnny thought. The little detail of his incarceration in the Clooney Monastery were vague to him now. And hardly substantial.
Out of the corner of his eyes — beyond Stella who rests in his arms — Johnny saw how mashed down one of the cushions of the couch was. It looked like a lot of heavy people had sat in that same spot over time, permanently mashing the cushion down. Silly old couch, he thought. Then his mind drew up a metaphor that connected the couch to his fading memories of his monastic days. "Well, I guess sometimes a mind is like a cushion on a couch. Something happens to you, and your mind and who you are gets changed. But my experiences are getting foggy already. They're fading in my mind. So, I guess some times a cushion or a mind just bounces back. I guess I'm glad that my mind is more like a cushion with a bit more spring to it."
Then Johnny turned back to the TV to watch more of The Oprah Show. He took a sip of his beer, put his arm around Stella, and then leaned back comfortably. He sighed a happy sigh and thought of what a lucky monkey boy he was.
Monkeys, he thought. Such profound creatures. Such simplicity. And yet . . .
And yet . . .
George Clooney sighed into his hands.
He recalled a night when he was young. And the monkey girl with her wide smile, and her limitless charm. The night was full of a sense of forever, and the winds off the Pacific felt as soft as a dream.
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