Zach was one of my childhood neighbors I often played with. His uncle had a spider monkey, and his parents babysat it while the uncle was out of town. It stood no more than knee high. The little critter mostly kept to himself. We played by ourselves while he played by himself. For the most part, the monkey seemed to ignore his human counterparts.
For several hours we played games in Zach’s living room until my mother came calling. The doorbell rang and Zach’s mom let her in. She walked down the foyer and stepped one foot into the living room. That’s when she saw the monkey.
Mom is not an animal lover. She may like the beasts of the earth, but from a distance. When it comes to direct contact, mom isn’t a woman of the wild. Let me set the stage for this story with a few anecdotes to give an idea of Mom and nature. A good example is when my mother was viciously attacked by her earrings. These ear rings had stones at the end of a small chain. When she turned her head, the stone swung and tapped her on the neck, just below the ear. Mildly concerned that it might be a bug, she swiped it away. It didn’t go away. Instead, the stone regrouped and returned to her neck with greater force. A few quick bounces off her skin created an alarming look on Mom’s face. She swiped again. The offending earring continued swarming around her neck. Convinced she was being assaulted by a beast of the insect world, mom started beating the earring with a panicked look on her face.
It took me and Dad a few minutes to figure out what was happening. She jumped up and continued swatting while we looked to see what was eating at her. I think all three of us realized what was happening at the same time. It was her blue stoned earrings that had launched the assault. Ah, few things are more enjoyable than having a good laugh at someone else’s expense.
My mother also had a great fear of dogs. It stemmed from a childhood incident with a vicious dog. Knowing her fear, I decided to play a joke on her. My sister was just learning to drive and we stopped in a neighborhood to give her a little driving time. When we stopped the car, Mom noticed a German Shepherd sitting on a porch. He seemed mildly interested in us, but clearly wasn’t concerned enough to leave his comfy porch. Dad was going to be in the passenger seat, my sister was going to move to the driver’s seat, and Mom was coming to the back seat with me. I was in the seat behind the driver, so Mom had to walk around the car to the passenger side rear door.
“What if he comes after me,” Mom said.
“He’s not moving,” Dad said. “He won’t even pay attention to you.”
After much coaching, mom opened her door. My sister slipped in as mom stepped out. I couldn’t resist. “Lookout Mom!” I cried out. “He’s coming after you!”
Of course, the dog hadn’t moved, but I knew it would get a response from her. And a response I got! Instead of going around the car to get in, she yanked open my door and leaped in. She landed on top of me. I was sitting on my feet, so her landing on top of me twisted my knee. I cried out in pain and mom shouted for my sister to hit the gas. All she cared about at that point was to get away from the house with the dog.
I lamented my pain, but mom showed absolutely no remorse for causing my agony. In fact, she did the opposite. “It serves you right,” she said.
“But you hurt my knee,” I bemoaned.
She still didn’t seem concerned. As I recall, her final comment was something to the effect of, “Next time you’ll think twice about doing something like that.” Mom was right. I did weigh the risks to me before playing that kind of a trick again.
One last example I’ll share is the incident with the spider. Mom was ironing a shirt and a spider decided the neighborhood was getting too hot, so he evacuated. Mom saw the beast hanging from the ironing board. She later recounted that she was afraid to stomp it. “I was afraid that he would jump out of the way and then jump on my leg,” she said.
We have ninja spiders in Georgia.
A great solution came to mind and she took the spray starch and dowsed the critter. Figuring the spider would stiffen up and die, she went back to ironing. A couple of minutes later, she felt something wet slowly crawling up her leg. The starched spider refused to go down without a fight. Those ninja spiders were tough little boogers.
This gives you an idea of how my mom relates to the animals of the earth. Wild or tame, they are all the same.
Now in Zach’s house, she stepped into the living room, saw the spider monkey, and froze in her tracks. The spider monkey was sitting on a lamp, playing with an ABC block. His back was to the foyer. Though mom made no sound, he sensed her. And he smelled her fear.
For hours the monkey had been playing happily and entertaining himself, while ignoring every person in the house. He always ignored people – except for my mother. The moment she froze, he froze. He stopped turning the block and his face took on a weird expression. Slowly he turned his head and looked at mom over his shoulder.
She took a step back.
He dropped off the lamp and onto the table.
She stepped back again.
He dropped to the floor.
She took another step back.
He took a step toward her.
Mom turned and ran full speed toward the front door. The monkey went crazy. He flew after her like something possessed. Fortunately, mom had a good head start. She pulled open the door and slammed it behind her. Just as the door slammed, the monkey hit it. He had leapt at her and hit the door in flight, narrowly avoiding having his head smashed by the closing door.
Afterward she said her only regret was missing the monkey’s head. I could tell by the glow in Mom’s cheeks that they had formed a special bond. One that will be remembered forever.
Eddie Snipes 2012
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