So, there’s a new Wizard of Oz out, just in case the first one didn’t fill your childhood with night terrors about green witches and flying monkeys. That movie gave me the beejeejees when I was five, and it still does. The Munchkin songs make the hair on the back of my neck stand up and I’m pretty sure the Tin Man is a thinly veiled alien, looking to obtain a human heart for purposes other than feeling love. I never felt entirely comfortable with the green witch, though as I got older she became less terrifying and I actually felt a little sorry for her. I have always been scared poopless of the flying monkeys, and always will be.
I had a bad experience with a monkey when I was about four, and I’ve harbored ill feelings toward the filthy creatures since.
I’ve mentioned before my Dad was quite the outdoorsy type, and when I was little he took me to all manner of wild and unfriendly places to fish, shoot the guns, or just bash around in the woods for fun. (Apparently my Dad didn’t feel complete without a raging case of poison ivy.) We spent many hours on the Ocmulgee River and always visited the same bait shop before our adventures. There was a tiny spider monkey in a cage on the front porch of the shop.
My Dad usually kept me close to him, but for some reason on this particular day I was left outside with a bag of potato chips and the monkey. There was a big sign on the cage that said, DON’T FEED THE MONKEY, but I was a little kid and I didn’t read signs back then. My Dad probably told me not to feed the monkey, but I was a little kid and didn’t listen to half of what he told me.
The monkey did cute little tricks and lured me over to the cage, and while I fed him a steady stream of potato chips, he cooed and did funny little things. I had my face directly on the cage when I ran out of potato chips, cooing back at the monkey and admiring his sweetness. When I turned to throw the empty bag away, the monkey’s little hand shot out like a bolt of lightning and grabbed a handful of my waist-length hair. He twisted his wormy fingers up in it and started banging my head on the cage, causing me to scream and cry with great urgency.
My Daddy appeared instantly and the man who owned the place was right behind him. I could tell Daddy didn’t know what to do, he was a hunter and an outdoors man, but he was always kind and gentle with animals. He only killed what he ate, never for sport. I knew he wanted to grab the monkey by the neck and kill it, but he was soft-hearted and hesitated. He whipped out his Buck knife.
“You make that monkey turn loose of her, or I’m gonna cut his hand off!”
About that time, the wad of hair gave way and the monkey screeched in victory as I ran to my Daddy. The horrible little animal did a horrific conquest dance, ran over to a pillow in his cage, lifted it up and added my wad of blonde hair to a heap of human hair he had stashed underneath it.
I was pretty sure my Dad was going to strangle the owner of the shop, and so was the owner of the shop.
“Look Mister, they’s a sign on that cage. Can’t feed that monkey, he’s mean.”
“He ripped my daughter’s hair out.”
“Yer crickets is free. Now keep her away from that cage, ya hear. Let’s go fill yer box. Can’t feed that monkey, he’s mean. They’s a sign.”
My Dad was a reasonable man, and knew there was a sign, and had probably told me not to get near the monkey, so he took the crickets and his half-bald kid and went fishing. And now I hate monkeys and have an irrational fear of them. Planet of the Apes is not even a option for pleasurable viewing in my home or general vicinity.
This all ties in, I swear.
We were riding through Kansas, and I had been drooling on myself from boredom for about 10 million miles, because Kansas and Indiana both seem to be the most boring states in the world to drive through, and take longer than a trip to the equator to get across. I was balefully staring out the window when I spotted it, way across a field in the distance.
“Oh. My. God. It’s a flying monkey.”
“I was waiting for you to see it.”
“You knew there was a flying monkey and didn’t tell me? What the hell?! How long has it been lurking there? What the hell?”
“It’s a black ultralight.”
“It’s a black, ultralight, flying monkey that’s going to eat our faces off.”
My head started to ache in the spot the evil spider monkey tore my hair loose from. “I need to lay down.”
“Babe, it’s an ultralight, a little kite-plane. It’s OK.”
“Yeah, it’s perfectly fine until the evil witch makes the flying monkey swoop down and tear a chunk of my hair out. My hair is a piece of art. Robin works hard on this. I can’t afford to have a bald spot — I just got bangs cut. And if that thing poops on your truck as it’s circling us, it’s going to burn straight through the hood into the engine and cause us to crash. They’re evil. Evil poop burns through anything.”
“You’re right. You need to lay down. For a long time. And be quiet.”
“I’ll be quiet forever when the evil monkey brutally murders me. Oh look, is that an ultralight? Dang, it’s awful cold for an ultralight.”