I'll just entertain myself

Reply Thu 3 Jun, 2021 08:14 am
As time dwindled until Earl approached his retirement date, he began to notice that the chimp in the near cage had taken to staring at him. It was an impassive stare, but Grape’s penetrating eyes sometimes made him feel he and the ape were establishing a connection. He had known the poor fellow in passing for over twenty years, without once coming in contact. His duties bypassed the animals, along with the heartless tests and nasty products, and for that he was grateful. It was almost as though he shared none of the guilt. Grape’s stares were undoing that.

In the final days at Harval Enterprises, he took to visiting Grape at his cage. Sometimes their hands would touch while holding to the bars. The chimp’s facial expressions were complexly sociable in those encounters. They always ended in a wrenching appeal from the intelligent brown eyes. He knew what was meant. It had him wrestling with his scruples in the immediate hours of arriving home. On the eve of the final day, he purchased a blue corduroy jacket and a brown fedora. He placed these items near his billfold and car keys when he unloaded and began to prepare for bed.

At work, he made a final round to say his goodbyes. He knew he was not about to be missed. He was one of the generic faces about the building but went through all the motions anyway. Then he paused before the chimp cage. After looking around, he undid the latch and coaxed Grape to come out. The chimp needed no persuading. He bounced out. With Earl’s help, he slipped into the blue corduroy jacket and allowed the fedora to top the ensemble. The two held hands and calmly walked out of the exit. Earl felt amazed nobody sounded an alarm, or noticed, at all. They went across the parking lot in the same manner: as though they were invisible. Earl folded his arms and sulked when Grape pushed into the driver’s side. After he withheld the key long enough, Grape moved over to let him operate the car. It was the first hint that Grape might not be pliable and pet-like, after the way of a dog or cat.

Earl held the door for Grape to enter and they together walked through the home, a monstrosity of the Cold War, with thick walls and windows that could not easily get blown out and a bomb shelter in the center of the building. Earl had paid to have it air-conditioned. After Grape had a look at his own room, they went to the kitchen to engineer a meal. The ape began grabbing the fruit from the fridge, while Earl heated an oversized bowl of leftover spaghetti. It was to be that they would never agree on what to have for any meals. As they cleaned up the mess and were moving to the living room, to have brandies and turn on the TV, Grape made certain moves that startled Earl.

“Here, then,“ he said, puzzled. “Are you holding out on me? Do you know sign language?”

He repeated the query, using signs.

“Yes. I am quite fluent at signs,” the ape signaled back. “I had no clue you might yourself be proficient.”

Henceforth, when chimp and sapiens converse, herein, it will be written in the English language, to simplify, but they will, in fact, be signing.

This is wonderful,“ Earl proclaimed. “You must tell me about yourself, over the brandy.”

They both were energized by the day’s happenings, buoyed by the newfound ability to communicate, and sat until the wee hours, drinking and swapping experiences. Sleep came only an hour before dawn’s breaking.

Earl felt ashamed, as a sapiens, to know Grape’s history, how he came to be kidnapped from his mother and transported to this country in a box. Then he and a dozen other bonobos, sold, to become slaves to human industry. Poor fellow, he endured thirty years’ injury and degradation, before he walked out with Earl. Now, he explained to Earl, he felt a great release that left him restless. He hoped Earl understood if he had to go for future long walks, in the dark hours, with the city slumbering. Earl replied that he understood perfectly and that he did not object.

The nightly outings were initiated several hours later. Grape donned his corduroy jacket and fedora and discreetly slipped out of the neighborhood. Earl tried waiting up for him, but tired of sitting alone and had long gone to bed by the time he returned. “How was your excursion?” he asked him the next morning.

“It was exhilarating, to walk, unfettered in the coolness, with no cages in the future, no one to bully me, ever again. Intoxication, my friend. And I have you to thank for it.”

Earl had converted the bomb shelter into a mini pistol range. He and Grape practiced taking shots at tiny targets for a few hours per day. Grape’s shots always went wild. Earl felt for him, but he considered that human coordination could not be bested. One day, when he had his back to the ape to clean up a mess, he caught through side vision Grape shooting straight and true, in rapid-fire. But when he turned fully toward him, Grape reverted to the old clumsiness. He thought, “Hmm.”

Earl vowed to make certain he provided all the delicacies and goodies a chimp loves to eat. He provided several bottles of brandy. All was harmony and a sense of growing contentment. He was a little surprised when Grape came home wearing a black turtleneck and indigo stocking cap. Where was the blue corduroy, the fedora?

“I took these after somebody carelessly left them hanging out. They hide me from prying eyes. I lost my other clothes.”

By day, Grape snoozed a lot. But he and Earl had their sessions, in which they ended the dichotomy of chimp-sapiens relations. If they could make the world pay attention. “They won’t. They can’t,” Grape said, bitterly. “You are the lone exception. I despise the rest of you.”

“Don’t,” Earl pleaded. “There are others like me. We are not alone.”

But the chimp was intractable, this day. He drank extra brandy and produced from somewhere a great black cigar. In the late night, when he went out, he did not even look at Earl. Approaching Earl in the morning, he produced from a secret stash a Rolex. As he bestowed it on Earl, he explained, “A present. A token to apologize for my surliness last night.”

Earl studied the watch silently. How could he accept obviously stolen merchandise? At the same time, he reevaluated his acceptance of those late-night excursions. He gave Grape a candid stare-down. “What’s going on?”

“Just me getting something back for all I’ve suffered,” Grape said, unconcerned, flippant, even.

He said nothing, then, not wanting to have a fight with his bonobo friend. But he wished the chimp would stay home, after this. One morning he awakened to find the house full of chimps. “Meet Louis, Sprout, Clack and Eether,” Grape said. “I broke them out of Harval.”

“I think I’ve seen some of you, before,” Earl said, dubiously.

“They don’t sign,” Grape informed him. “But, they will pick it up, in time.”

They went through all of the brandy in about two hours. The house began to stink from tobacco. Earl was doubting the wisdom of bringing any of these chimps home. It was not long before he determined Grape to be training his gang for crime. The ape dressed them up like Mexican banditos, as he had seen them in Treasure of the Sierra Madre. It was his duty to report them. But he had become afraid.

For a few weeks, the loot piled up. The chimps spent their days communicating in chimp, drinking brandy and ignoring Earl altogether, except when they needed him for a run to the store. Grape had become the Edward G. Robinson of the apes. All followed him slavishly.

Early one morning, Grape came hastily in from a night out. He had his gun drawn and he immediately smashed out the window glass near the entrance. He put his head in the hole and thrust out his pistol. After busting off three shots, he made his way out the back door. Meantime, Louis, Sprout, Eether and Clack had scattered among the tree limbs that grew about the property and were keeping a group of cops pinned down with their gunfire. The situation devolved to a stalemate, until a swat team arrived like a military assault team, with armored trucks and the firepower of an army. The swat officers wasted no time blowing the trees to splinters and making bloody messes of the four bonobo outlaws.

Earl had barricaded himself inside the bomb shelter. It was not until he realized the cops were employing a battering ram on the door he decided to come out. “I’m not one of the bandits,” he shouted as he pulled back the bars and undid the locks.

“Lie down on your stomach, with your hands behind your head,” he was commanded.

By the time the door swung open, he was in full compliance. “Don’t shoot me, please. I’m a victim.”

It was three full days before Earl was sent home from the jail. It took three weeks for him to make a semblance of normalcy about the house. He paid a tree company to clear out the busted up trees. They mostly had to be taken completely away and the stumps ground. At last, he sat down to watch TV and sip his brandy. At precisely half-past seven in the evening, he heard furtive knocks at the door. He felt a presentiment and was not surprised at all to find Grape on his porch. They stood for a minute, each eyeing the other suspiciously, and Earl stood back for the gangster chimp to enter.

Earl poured him a drink and they sat down in the great stuffed chairs to catch up on each other. “How have you been doing out there?” Earl pondered.

“Eh. They are totally inept, trying to find me. I could hide under their very noses the rest of my life. But I grow weary of the games. That’s why I’m here. I need you to help me.”

“Help you do what?”

Grape now wore a gray sweatshirt. And a pork pie hat. He pulled off the hat and looked pleadingly at his former friend. “Help me get to New Jersey.”

That request hit Earl like a frying pan to the head. “What? Just - What?”

“I can jump a ship there. Just get me in the city limits. I will take it from there.”

“How many sapiens did you kill?”

“Five. Why do you want to know?”

Earl sat in his chair, picked up the drink he had been nursing, before Grape’s knock. “I want to know more about your attitude. Do you intend murdering more sapiens, after I help you?”

“Of course. They killed my friends. It’s blood for blood, now.”

Grape poured himself another, extra tall, brandy, and he quaffed half of it in a single gulp. “But you don’t have to worry. You’re my friend.”

As sympathetic as Earl still felt for the plight of bonobos and all other victims of animal exploitation, it seemed Grape had crossed into an irreversible territory and become a threat to apes of all kinds. “Murder is wrong,” he said. “Inter-species murder is no exception. You have intelligence. Let me appeal to you to consider an alternative. Go public with your story. Seek acceptance, via social media. It may lead to your being confined at a sanctuary, but there you would be protected and live with other bonobos. You need me as the only intermediary between you and sapiens.”

“How much can I trust even you, Earl? Your very protoplasm cries out, ’Save the humans from this mad chimpanzee.’ What I want from you is a ride to Atlantic City and you to let me out on a dark street, in the vicinity of the casinos. My guns can kill at least a thousand before they get me. My sense of justice will settle for no less.”

“You’ve become a monster.”

“An elusive and clever monster. I will be honored forever as the animal who successfully fought back.”

As the conversation continued, Grape kept his grip on the pistol in his pocket. Earl knew the chimp would not hesitate to use it. Keeping a wary eye on the human, Grape sidled to his bedroom door. “Help me out,” he demanded.

Peeping inside, Earl counted three assault rifles and many thousands of rounds of ammunition. He sighed, weighted down with guilt, sadness, desperation. “It’s not for us to decide who dies,” he whined.

“I have made the decision,” Grape insisted. “It’s not even your concern. All I want from you is a ride.”

“The gravest mistake of my life - Taking you home.”

“I took your pistol from the drawer, long ago,” Grape announced solemnly. “If I can’t get you to help load this stuff in the car, I will lock you in the closet, until I need you to drive.”

Earl helped load the car. Then, he said, “Let’s make you up a disguise. The police know to look for a chimp like you. I have a grey string mop for your head. I can work some steel wool into your facial hair until it looks like a human beard.”

Earl’s grey suit jacket and a brown derby finished off the disguise. They shared a final brandy, each staring in the other’s eyes, probing for weakness, or treachery. “I shall miss the quiet times with the brandy,“ Grape admitted.

Grape buckled himself in, but Earl’s seatbelt was broken and he had to drape the strap over a shoulder to fool the cops. A few minutes later, they were cruising through town, driving east.

The traffic was quiet. The one time Earl spotted a cop car, he chose not to approach it, figuring to do so would trigger a deadly gun battle. They wended along the coast, eventually encountering the draw bridge that, once crossed over, would let them on the major highway that could get them to Atlantic City.

The car encroached on the bridge, to find the traffic arm shutting down traffic so that the sections of bridge could part and a barge with attendant tugboat could glide beyond. It meant a twenty-minute pause for the autos.

As the bridge sections parted, Earl made his fateful decision, to sacrifice himself for the possible thousand sapiens Grape planned to murder. He was no hero. His mind had gone on autopilot and he no longer was in command of his actions. Instead of braking for the traffic arm, his foot pressed hard on the accelerator.

“What are you doing?” Grape gesticulated wildly. “You don’t stand a chance of beating that bridge.”

“Don’t be silly,” Earl said, smiling. “Of course I do.”

The bridge inclined more and more steeply, on each side, as the car picked up speed. It came to the end, becoming airborne, making a nose to other bridge-half collision that folded the car back on itself. Earl’s airbag failed to deploy. Grape’s airbag exploded, killing him with shrapnel, almost instantly. Earl felt himself propelled through the windshield and he somehow rolled onto the bridge top. He tumbled a long way down the incline before the bridge operator made the sections begin to close up again. It surprised Earl to wake up in a hospital bed, for he had given himself up for dead. It took a long time before he could trust other species again, even dogs. He spent his remaining years watching TV and drinking his brandy alone.
Reply Thu 3 Jun, 2021 03:07 pm
So Good.
Reply Thu 3 Jun, 2021 05:54 pm
Thank you. It was a fun piece to write.
Reply Thu 3 Jun, 2021 06:06 pm
Reply Thu 3 Jun, 2021 06:15 pm
Thanks, Ragman.
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Reply Thu 3 Jun, 2021 10:10 pm
Posting a story this way helps me iron out some wrinkles. I just noticed one error here and corrected it on my blog.
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Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2021 04:24 am
I have to drive into the city in a few minutes. I hate it, but it should be the last such drive. We are fortunate that the rain has subsided. Yester evening it rained so much that I had water standing where it rarely has stood the 29 years I've lived here. I will probably be home around noon. Central time.
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2021 04:51 am
Curious as to why it will be the last such drive?
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2021 10:28 am
The wife had knee surgery. This is the last time she will need to go. The conditions for driving are atrocious. No way I would do it again without a damned good reason.
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Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2021 03:28 pm
I just can't believe I didn't know this woman from my reading. Here is Wikipedia's version of her life.

Buffalo Calf Road Woman, or Brave Woman, (c. 1844[1] – 1879) was a Northern Cheyenne woman who saved her wounded warrior brother, Chief Comes in Sight, in the Battle of the Rosebud (as it was named by the United States) in 1876. Her rescue helped rally the Cheyenne warriors to win the battle. She fought next to her husband in the Battle of the Little Bighorn that same year. In 2005 Northern Cheyenne storytellers broke more than 100 years of silence about the battle, and they credited Buffalo Calf Road Woman with striking the blow that knocked Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer off his horse before he died.[2]
During the Battle of the Rosebud, the Cheyenne and Lakota, allied under the leadership of Crazy Horse, had been retreating, and they left the wounded Chief Comes in Sight on the battlefield. Suddenly Buffalo Calf Road Woman rode out onto the battlefield at full speed and grabbed up her brother, carrying him to safety.[3] Her courageous rescue caused the Cheyenne to rally, and they defeated General George Crook and his forces. In honor of Buffalo Calf Road Woman, the Cheyenne called the Battle of Rosebud "The Fight Where the Girl Saved Her Brother".

Buffalo Calf Road Woman is documented as also having fought at the Battle of Little Bighorn. There she fought alongside her husband Black Coyote. In June 2005, the Northern Cheyenne broke their more than 100 years of silence about the battle. In a public recounting of Cheyenne oral history of the battle, tribal storytellers spoke of how it was Buffalo Calf Road Woman who had struck the blow knocked Custer off his horse before he died in the Battle of the Little Big Horn.[2] Moreover, in a June 2017 article for mentalfloss.com, Wallace Bearchum, Director of Tribal Services for the Northern Cheyenne, mentions how Buffalo Calf Road Woman was an "excellent markswoman", but it was a club-like object she used and not a gun to knock General Custer off his horse.[4]

After surrendering to the U.S., Buffalo Calf Road Woman, her husband Black Coyote, and their two children were relocated with most of the Northern Cheyennes to the Southern Cheyenne Reservation in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). In September, 1878 she and her family were part of the Northern Cheyenne Exodus, a breakout from the Oklahoma reservation to their home in Montana. Along the way, her husband shot and killed a Cheyenne chief named Black Crane, and their family totaling 8 people was banished from Little Wolf's band of Cheyennes. After this, Black Coyote and two other Cheyenne men attacked two U.S. soldiers along Mizpah Creek in Montana, killing one. Soldiers came from Fort Keogh and hunted the family down, capturing them 5 days later on April 10, 1879. This event became known as the Mizpah Creek incidents. The small group was taken to Miles City, Montana, where the three men including Black Coyote were tried for murder and scheduled to be executed on June 8, 1879. While her husband was in prison, Buffalo Calf Road Woman died of diphtheria or malaria[1] in May, 1879 at Miles City, Montana. When Black Coyote learned of this, he hanged himself in prison. She was also known as Buffalo Calf Trail Woman.[5]
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Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2021 06:11 pm
I once wrote this to spendius.
"Your brain likely buzzes around in your skull like a lonely fly, seeking an out."
Now I wonder if I wrote that line or borrowed it from someone.
Reply Sat 5 Jun, 2021 09:08 am
My latest story has been in the formative stages for weeks. Some say, "Go ahead and write it. You will have to do lots of revising afterward no matter what." They normally might be correct, but if I don't get these characters right at the beginning it's wasted effort.
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Reply Sat 5 Jun, 2021 10:07 am
No matter what or where, it’s still a good line. I can’t say I’m familiar with it.
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Reply Sat 5 Jun, 2021 02:12 pm
Here is a modern take on Asperger's. The way it reads, I fit somewhere in the middle of it and asd.

You may hear a lot of people mention Asperger’s syndrome in the same breath as autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Asperger’s was once considered different from ASD. But a diagnosis of Asperger’s no longer exists. The signs and symptoms that were once part of an Asperger’s diagnosis now fall under ASD.

There are historical differences between the term “Asperger’s” and what’s considered “autism.” But it’s worth getting into what exactly Asperger’s is and why it’s now considered a part of ASD.

Keep reading to learn more about each of these disorders.
Not all autistic children exhibit the same signs of autism or experience these signs to the same degree.

That’s why autism is considered to be on a spectrum. There’s a wide range of behaviors and experiences that are considered to fall under the umbrella of an autism diagnosis.

Here’s a brief overview of behaviors that may cause someone to be diagnosed with autism:

differences in processing sensory experiences, like touch or sound, from those who are considered “neurotypical”
differences in learning styles and problem-solving approaches, like quickly learning complex or difficult topics but having difficulty mastering physical tasks or conversational turn-taking
deep, sustained special interests in specific topics
repetitive movements or behaviors (sometimes called “stimming”), like flapping hands or rocking back and forth
strong desire to maintain routines or establishing order, like following the same schedule each day or organizing personal belongings a certain way
difficulty processing and producing verbal or nonverbal communication, like having trouble expressing thoughts in words or displaying emotions outwardly
difficulty processing or participating in neurotypical social interactive contexts, like by greeting someone back who’s greeted them
About Asperger’s syndrome
Asperger’s syndrome was previously considered a “mild” or “high-functioning” form of autism.

This means people who received an Asperger’s diagnosis tended to experience behaviors of autism that were often considered minimally different from those of neurotypical people.

Asperger’s was first introduced into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1994.

This happened because English psychiatrist Lorna Wing translated the works of Austrian physician Hans Asperger and realized his research found distinct characteristics in autistic children from those with “milder” symptoms.
Diagnostic criteria for Asperger’s syndrome
Here’s a brief summary of the diagnostic criteria for Asperger’sTrusted Source from the previous version of the DSM (many of these may seem familiar):

having difficulty with verbal or nonverbal communication, such as eye contact or sarcasm
having few or no long-term social relationships with peers
lack of interest in taking part in activities or interests with others
showing little to no response to social or emotional experiences
having a sustained interest in a single special topic or very few topics
strict adherence to routine or ritual behaviors
repetitive behaviors or movements
intense interest in specific aspects of objects
experiencing difficulty in maintaining relationships, jobs, or other
aspects of daily life because of these previously listed signs
not having any delay in language learning or cognitive development typical of other, similar neurodevelopmental conditions
As of 2013, Asperger’s is now considered part of the autism spectrum and is no longer diagnosed as a separate condition.
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Reply Sat 5 Jun, 2021 09:43 pm
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Reply Sat 5 Jun, 2021 10:09 pm
It makes me uncomfortable when I see stories everywhere in which a pet, particularly a dog, though not always, gets referred to as the child of the human and the owner's child as a sibling. I do consider the dog an important part of the family, but I'm not his parent. For one thing, a dog's life is much too short. I get overly attached and eventually heartbroken. If it were my child I couldn't take it. I prefer to keep him a dog, not pretend he's human.
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Reply Sun 6 Jun, 2021 05:47 pm
As an old man my greatest complaint is that I wore out my knees walking on concrete walks all day and climbing stairs with heavy loads. Did it 23 years walking as fast as I could mostly. If I had it to do over I would have slowed down even if it made the boss angry. Now I wear knee braces on the more stressful days. Other than that I can't really complain too much.
Reply Sun 6 Jun, 2021 10:12 pm
If you ever become curious about my political philosophy just read up on Thomas Paine, Eugene Debs, and John Brown. I've reached a point where I no longer plan to discuss politics on a2k. Except I will continue to focus on social justice.
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Reply Mon 7 Jun, 2021 03:55 am
Understood. I’m wondering about knee braces myself due to having been a jogger. I tried to avoid concrete as much as I could. I don’t jog much nowadays. Walking is quite enough for me.

Even though asphalt has a bit more give, I doubt it is much more forgiving. I think the human body works better if we walk on dirt. That’s how we made it through evolution as well as we did. Also, that lateral motion while carrying weight (groceries, tools, etc.) is really bad.
Reply Mon 7 Jun, 2021 04:47 am
I'll just entertain myself, that's what wankers say...... Shocked

Well Hiya Ed, it's great to see you back on A2K, bringing a sense of normality back to the place.
Whenever I need a laugh I've always got my go to guy Dave Allen.
He never lets me down.


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