The Monkey Trap
Kyle Bradley Cassidy
A cage is still a cage, even if you can't see the bars.
Crazy people. There's crazy people and dying mice in the zoo today. I see the crazy people milling about outside, preparing for the big race which starts in the zoo, continues down Zoo Avenue and ends somewhere in L'Harris Park. These people are wearing black and pink spandex. Their wives or husbands are holding the cellular phones, beepers, and laptops. They huddle in the cold along the sidelines.
I see the mouse when I go into the monkey house and close the door behind me. Michelle is already in there, wiping marmoset footprints from the glass with a squeegee--an operation of pointless repetition. The mouse, in misery with broken legs, seems prophetic. It lies in the crack of the windowsill, trying to hide itself behind the packet of roach poision, dragging its hind legs. One of our vicious little primates has bitten through its spine.
The monkeys pound at the glass, furious over its escape. The tiny faces of the golden lion-headed tamarins are vestibules of rage. Their open, screaming mouths are filled with tiny needle-fangs; their voices are piercing squeaks. I point the mouse out to Michelle and she tosses it into the trash can like an orange rind. I frown and wonder if it hurts to be flung onto a pile of straw and monkey shit when you have a broken spine.
"If you can't stand death," she says, climbing into the marmoset exhibit, "get out of the zoo." She throws the squeegee into a bucket and bangs a pan of Purina Monkey Chow and cut fruit into the cage before closing the door. The primates chatter and gibber.
"How's your life?" I ask. Michelle's got a new boyfriend in Baltimore.
"Boring as hell," she says, ignoring the animals leaping around behind her. "When you turn 28, your life gets boring." She opens another cage and I sit down on the floor against the wall.
The tamarins won't touch the apple that she has hung in their cage from a string.
"They think it's a trap," she says. "The last time they saw food on a string they were in the jungle."
The marmosets swarm over their apple, taking tiny wedges out of it like a school of piranhas. But the tamarins stare at theirs like cave men looking at an automobile engine. They rush it, yammer loudly, and run away.
"You either eat the apple, or you don't," she says to the tamarins. "It's not a trap."
"Anymore," I say.
"It's too late for them to realize that it's a trap or it's not a trap. It doesn't matter anymore. They can't get any more trapped, but they can't get back either. It doesn't matter."
"They have these monkey traps," says Michelle, looking into the exhibit. "It's like some food in a jar attached to a tree, and the dumb bastards'll stick their hand in the jar and grab the food, but when they make a fist, they can't get their hand out of the jar. They're stuck as long as they're holding onto the food, and they're too stupid to let go of it. You can catch them like that." She throws a handful of grapes through the partially opened window, closes it, and locks it.
"Stupid, aren't you?" she says to the tamarins. They hang back at the top of their cage.
Michelle puts the squeegee and bucket away. She hoses down the floor, which is awash in dead and dying crickets. The crickets are escaped monkey treats that have eaten the roach poision. I wonder how many poisoned roaches the monkeys eat.
We shall always be the victors. The ones we don't want, we kill. The ones we do want, we put in a cage.They will be the representative sample of the ones that we kill.
Michelle and I walk outside. The race has started, and the stampede of DuPont-employed, health-minded yuppie Delawarians are running down Monkey Hill in the DuPont-Wilmington 5K Run For Charity.
They run past the background of their parked BMW's. The sprinters come first, down the cobblestones, following the cop on his loud black-and-white Harley Davidson. Then come the runners, lean and old and taunt. Then the joggers: the careless men in round glasses pushing flourescent, aerodynamic three-wheeled baby carriages with hydraulic shock absorbers, the women in need of sports bras, carrying their walkmen, listening to Paul Simon or George Michael. Then, finally, there are the stragglers: the old men who came for the free beer running in polka-dotted boxer shorts, the 70-year-old woman, out of place, with an aged Bette Davis face coated with makeup, garish red lips, huge dangling earrings, hair jutting out in twin, carrot-colored pigtails.
Michelle is standing next to me, watching. She takes off her gloves.
"This is what I have to look forward to," she says. "This is middle age in Wilmington."
"No," I say. "Not for you, it isn't."
Kyle Bradley Cassidy (email@example.com) lives in Philadelphia with his lovely wife Linda and her 28-pound cat Thunderbelly. He has been a frequent contributor to InterText. He also has a great collection of fountain pens. (Bio last updated in 1996.)
InterText stories written by Kyle Bradley Cassidy: "Circles: A Romance" (v2n6), "What Are You Looking For, China White?" (v3n2), "The Nihilist" (v3n3), "The True Story of the Gypsy's Wedding" (v3n5), "Bread Basket" (v3n5), "The Monkey Trap" (v4n5), "This is the Optative of Unfulfillable Wish" (v6n1).
InterText Copyright © 1991-1999 Jason Snell. This story may only be distributed as part of the collected whole of Volume 4, Number 5 of InterText. This story Copyright © 1994 Kyle Bradley Cassidy.