“I’m afraid, Mr. Smith, that your monkey has cancer,” the vet informed me.
“Cancer?” I echoed. “Poor CoCo.”
Poor Coco nothing. Poor me was more like it. The damn baboon was a pain in the ass from the get go. And I’d trained my fair share of animals in the past to know a troublemaker when he came my way. As I saw it, he had what was coming to him.
“Yes, poor Coco,” the vet said, shaking his head back and forth. “But the news isn’t all bad,” he added.
“No?” I said. I felt my jaws clench in anticipation. “There’s something you can do for him?”
“There is a new treatment. Simian radiation it’s called. Cheaper and faster than chemo, and with significantly better results, usually.”
“Usually?” I latched on to that, hoping beyond hope that I and not CoCo would beat the odds.
“Well, sometimes it kills them.”
Please, if there’s a God up in heaven, I thought, but instead said, “No, let’s go for it.” In truth, I had little choice. The owner of the circus, Mr. Cobbs, would’ve had a cow if I hadn’t tried to save the beast. Trouble or not, CoCo was a moneymaker. The kids lined up around the block to get a close-up look at him. See, CoCo was no ordinary monkey. No sir, CoCo was a giant of a baboon: easily twenty pounds heavier and a good several inches taller than the average, which is how he ended up at a circus in the first place. None of the zoos wanted him. Seems he scared the other baboons something fierce.
“Fine then,” the vet said. “Leave him here and we’ll start the treatment immediately. I’ll call you in the morning with the results.”
“Thanks, doc,” I said, shaking his hand. Then I turned to look at CoCo. “Bye, sport. And don’t worry, everything will be fine.” CoCo responded by promptly defecating. Then he flung his feces at me. Luckily, I was used to this and ducked just in time. The vet was not so lucky. “Sorry, doc, guess he’s nervous,” I said, and then quickly hightailed it on out of there. If I were lucky, I wouldn’t be returning.
Of course, if I were the lucky sort, I wouldn’t be an animal handler for a two-bit circus. As luck would have it, I did get my wish, though. But then again, so did CoCo.
“Mr. Smith,” came the voice of the vet on the opposite end of my receiver. It was eight the next morning. “It’s Coco.”
“Is he…dead?” I whispered, then prayed.
“What’s that supposed to mean, doc?”
“Well, the radiation treatment went fine, but when we checked in on CoCo this morning, he was gone?”
“Gone? How? Don’t you lock the front door when you leave?”
“Well, yes, we do, but CoCo didn’t go out the front door.” Uh-oh, I thought to myself. This can’t be good. “CoCo broke the lock off his cage, threw the cage at the window, and left that way. We searched the neighborhood, but nobody’s seen him. It must have happened early this morning, but rest assured we’ll find him. We also notified Animal Control, so it shouldn’t take long. Stay by the phone, I’ll be in touch.”
The phone, unfortunately, stayed in touch with me about a minute later.
“Smith!” boomed the voice of my boss. “Get over here immediately. We’ve had an incident with CoCo…” Then his voice trailed off and I could hear CoCo’s familiar grunting in the background, followed by a series of screams. Then the phone went dead and I could feel the blood drain from my face.
“Fucking monkey,” I said, and then ran outside.
The trail of carnage was easy to spot. CoCo had already been to his meager quarters, which were now a shambles, and his cage was crushed beyond recognition. CoCo had always been powerful, but this seemed impossible. I assumed that the saying, “Whatever doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger,” must hold true for baboons, as well.
Just then, I heard a moan coming from the corner. It was Mr. Beepers, one of the more popular clowns the circus employed. He was bloody, but otherwise alive. I ran to his side.
“CoCo,” he moaned, as I cradled his head in my lap.
“CoCo did this?” I asked and he nodded. I looked around again. The monkey had completely trashed his former digs. Nothing was left in one piece, including, the way it appeared, Mr. Beepers.
“Something’s…not…right…with…him,” he managed to gasp. Tell me something I don’t know, I thought. Which, he then did. “His…eyes.”
“What about his eyes?” I asked.
“Glowing. Yellow. Mad.” A gurgle of blood escaped from his lips and then Mr. Beepers was no more.
“But CoCo has brown eyes,” I said to myself since, for all intents and purposes, there was no one else around to hear me. Or at least that’s what I thought.
“Had brown eyes,” came a voice from the doorway. “CoCo’s eyes are quite yellow and glowing now.” It was Charlotte, one of the acrobats. “I saw him ten minutes ago. He was devouring one of the ostriches.”
“But CoCo’s a vegetarian,” I protested, though I knew it was futile.
“Was a vegetarian. Just like he was a brown-eyed baboon. And just like he was merely an asshole, but now is a raving one to boot. And let me tell you, it’s not a pretty sight.” Then she reached over, took my hand, and led me outside.
“From what I can gather,” she began as she led me around the camp. “CoCo arrived back here sometime around six this morning. The lion keeper said he heard his cats roaring and went to check it out. He found CoCo feasting on one of the smaller lynxes and scared him away with his whip.”
I gulped as Charlotte pointed out the remains of said lynx. CoCo had, apparently, done quite a job on him. Then, she led me to the main ring.
“CoCo must have come here next. And judging from the devastation, he must have been royally pissed.” This was a massive understatement. The ring was nearly torn down. CoCo had ripped apart every freestanding piece of equipment, leaving it all in a tattered rubble. He even managed to gnaw halfway through one of the supporting beams, causing the tent to dangerously lean to one side. Now, granted, baboons have large and powerful incisors, but this was ridiculous. It would have taken a herd of baboons to get that far into a beam that big.
“And why didn’t Mr. Cobbs call the police?” I asked, though I already had an inkling.
“Our illustrious leader didn’t want the bad publicity. A rampaging baboon wouldn’t do much for ticket sales.”
“Apparently,” I said. “But what’s CoCo been doing the last couple of hours?”
“Well, since Mr. Cobbs told us all to lock ourselves in our trailers, that I couldn’t rightly say. I only came out when, from my window, I saw you wander over to his tent, and I figured you might be able to help. I can tell you, from all the racket out here, that the news can’t be good. By the way, how did you not hear any of this sooner?”
Actually, I am a rather sound sleeper, but that was helped by the bottle of champagne I consumed in celebration of my monkey’s possible demise. Guess that’s what happens when you count your chickens before they hatch. Still, Charlotte was right about one thing, if anyone could help, it had to be me.
“Go back to your trailer, Charlotte. I’ll see what I can do,” I said and she obeyed.
Then I went searching for the culprit. The lynx and the ostrich were not CoCo’s only snacks. Gone were three dogs, one emu, most of a zebra, a miniature pony, and lord only knows what else. In CoCo’s wake lay a pile of bones as far as the eye could see, leading up to Mr. Cobb’s trailer. That’s when I remembered our phone conversation from a few minutes prior. Or lack of a conversation, that is.
Tentatively, I inched my way closer to the front door that now lay broken on the ground. I looked around for a weapon of some sort and found a large piece of wood. Then I went inside. It wasn’t pretty. CoCo had already eaten most of my rotund boss’s torso and was now munching on his arm. It was all I could do not to lose it, but I knew I had to retain a semblance of control if CoCo was going to be tamed.
That, unfortunately, wasn’t going to be an option. As soon as I walked in, he looked up at me and I could sense, immediately, that I was going to be dessert. And, yes, CoCo’s eyes were indeed glowing yellow, as I’d been warned. I guessed that the radiation had something to do with it.
“Fucking experimental treatments,” I said. CoCo looked at me and gave, what I assumed, was a laugh. Neither my piece of wood nor myself was going to be any sort of match for this radiated monkey. But that’s when I had a new thought on how to handle the beast. If he was hungry, I was gonna feed him. I figured if a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, a baboon could be similarly reached.
I ran first to the horse trainer’s trailer. Thankfully, he had what I needed, as we had no guns at the circus and a tranquilizer dart might piss CoCo off even more. Next, I ran to the food storage unit. I knew there’d be plenty of what I needed there as well. And then I sped back to Mr. Cobb’s trailer. CoCo was now munching contently on a leg. He growled when I reentered, but otherwise stayed in place.
Slowly, I handed him a banana. He looked from the leg to the fruit and decided that a banana was even better. He grunted and grabbed it from my hand. He downed it in about a second. Luckily, I had more. Much more. And ten minutes later, he’d eaten my whole stash, which was easily sixty bananas; sixty bananas each with a horse tranquilizer pill embedded inside. I wasn’t taking any chances.
CoCo’s yellow eyes started going woozy soon after his feast, and a minute later, he was unconscious. Now, normally, sixty tranquilizers would kill any monkey. But nothing was normal about that day, and certainly nothing was normal about CoCo. In any case, he was soon to be out of my hands. Animal Control had followed his trail right to Mr. Cobb’s door and they handled things from there.
It took four men to lift him into their van. And each twitch of his hand sent my nerves to rattling. Luckily, he stayed asleep the whole time. What would it take to kill him, I thought, if sixty tranquilizers merely knocked him out? Still, I was glad he was on his way out of the circus and my life.
My happiness, unfortunately, was short-lived. News broke a few hours later that a rampaging baboon was destroying the greater downtown area, and eating everything in its wake. Someone tried to coax him into a police van with a bunch of bananas. That someone was promptly eaten. CoCo was nothing if not a quick learner.
Soon thereafter, I packed my bags and hopped the first train I could find. I too am a quick learner; and I knew that, sooner or later, CoCo was gonna come back home. He wasn’t going to find me there. And as for simian radiation therapy, I prayed they hadn’t come up with a pachyderm version as well. Then, God help us all.