In 2013 I was asked by the non-profit Primate Rescue Center to contribute a story to a benefit project, Panels for Primates appearing on its Act-i-vate website. I based my piece on a skewed view of a beloved childhood favorite, H.A. and Margret Reyes’ Curious George. And knowing that my old friend John Byrne had a soft spot for animals, I hit him up to supply the illustration.

Sorry, George!

The Curious Little Monkey

The curious little monkey lived in the jungle in Africa. He was a good little monkey who spent his days swinging through the trees, eating bananas, and playing with the other little monkeys.

One day, he saw a man in the jungle wearing a big straw hat. The man watched the little monkey swinging through the trees and thought, “I will take that little monkey home with me.”

Knowing how curious little monkeys can be, the man dropped his big straw hat on the ground right where it could be seen and hid himself from sight behind a big tree. As the man knew would happen, the little monkey was curious, having never before seen a man or a hat. He dropped to the ground and looked, curiously, at the hat.

The little monkey was curious why the straw hat had been on the man’s head, so he picked it up and put it on his own head. The hat was so big, it covered the little monkey’s head so that he could not see or hear.

That was when the man grabbed him and shoved him into a sack.

The curious little monkey’s screams of fear echoed through the jungles.

His monkey mother had taught him the dangers of being curious about lions and leopards and hyenas and cheetahs and wild dogs, but she had never warned him about man. Now he was trapped in a sack and being carried away from the jungle by one of them.

By the time the other little monkeys who heard his screams came scampering along, the man had carried him far away.

They would be curious what happened to him for a long, long time.

* * *

The curious little monkey awoke aboard a big ship sailing on the ocean. The man in the big hat had released him from the sack and told him that he was being taken to live in a zoo in a city on the other side of the ocean. The little monkey was sad to leave the jungle and the other little monkeys, but very curious about his new home.

The man sent the little monkey out to play on the deck of the big ship. He happily clamored up the great mast and swung from the many ropes that hung from it. The sailors laughed and playfully chased him here and there, to and fro. He was given bananas and strange, sweet treats to eat, and at night, the man in the big hat tucked him into a soft, warm bed where he would sleep and dream of the adventures that lay ahead in his new life.

When the big ship arrived in the city on the other side of the ocean, the man in the big hat took the little monkey by the hand and brought him home to a house painted yellow like a banana. There, the little monkey was fed a big meal and put to sleep in a cozy bed. He was so happy in his new life that he had already forgotten the other little monkeys he had left behind in Africa.

The next morning, the man in the big hat telephoned the zoo that was to be the little monkey’s new home.

What a wondrous device, the little monkey thought curiously, and, as soon as the man in the big hat was gone, he climbed up on the desk and began to play with it himself. He pushed the little buttons and gibbered his little monkey talk into the part that he, like the man, held up to his face.

“Yes, yes? Who is this?” shouted a voice from the part that he held up to his face.

“Ook oot!” answered the little monkey.

“Screeecchh!” he screeched in his little monkey way and hung up the phone.

The little monkey had telephoned the police station!

“Dear oh dear, someone is in need of help!” cried the police operator.

The police operator checked her computer and saw where the call had come from. She believed it was a real emergency. She did not know it was just the curious little monkey being curious.

She radioed a police car and sent it racing to the house painted yellow like a banana.

A thin policeman and a fat policeman ran into the house, but instead of finding someone in need of help, they found the curious little monkey.

The curious little monkey thought it was all a game and, laughing in delight, tried to run away from the policemen. But the fat policeman was not playing and, pulling his Taser from his holster, shot 500,000 volts of electricity into the curious little monkey, dropping him to the floor, convulsing and screeching before the world went dark.

* * *

“Okay, double check the readings and let’s reset to go again,” said the man with the white coat and big glasses.

The little monkey woke up and was curious why he was strapped to a table in a room that reeked of medicine and urine. He was catheterized and his head hurt where the man with the white coat and big glasses had drilled holes through his skull to insert the electrodes. He remembered the man with the big straw hat taking him on the big ship sailing on the ocean where he had played with the sailors and been given bananas and strange, sweet treats to eat, and the cozy bed in the house painted yellow like a banana where he had been put to sleep, drowsy from the big meal he had been fed…

But that was not real.

In his fear, the curious little monkey had dreamed this wondrous adventure of a new life, far from the jungle and the other little monkeys to escape the horror that the man in the big hat had taken him to endure.

In real life, men did not come into the jungle and trap curious little monkeys in sacks to bring them to the city to roam free for fun and play and adventure.

In real life, freedom was found only in the jungle, with the other little monkeys, as far away from men in big straw hats as possible. In real life, men put them in zoos or in cages or strapped them to tables and drilled holes in their heads in which to insert electrodes in the name of something they called “science.”

“Very well. Up the voltage to the next stage for a ten second jolt…”

The little monkey was curious why anyone would want to keep hurting him, until it hurt too much to be curious about anything anymore.

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1 Comment on The Curious Little Monkey

  1. Travis says:

    Ohmiword, this breaks my heart!!

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