This is a long-ish flash fiction story (1300 words) that started as a misread prompt on Chuck Wendig’s blog. It was supposed to be about a “Man who owes money to some bad people”, but I misread money as “monkey”.
So here it is, my story about a man who owes a monkey to some bad people. Enjoy.
Charley’s thighs itched, his eyes tingled and he was unbearably hot and he knew “the shakes” were probably just a few hours away. The monkey he bought two days ago jumped into the back seat and pulled down the seat belt and Charley was sure he heard him fart. He didn’t need this shit, just as he had decided to go clean.
He’d bought the monkey from a guy who usually sold snakes, spiders, scorpions and shit like that to debt-collectors who prefer a method more subtle than knee-cap cracking. It was a capucin monkey, grey with a black spot on the tail, and was calmer than Charley thought monkeys were supposed to be. He ate from his hand right away, and Charley thought it was the funniest thing he had ever seen.
Through some carelessness on his own part, Charley had caused the death of Rumor’s last monkey, an old, mean chimpanzee called Nails. Rumor had him outfitted with a Hannibal Lechter mask and used him to scare those he perceived as his enemies. He was not happy when it was discovered that it was Charley’s knife Nails had used cut himself open.
It had been a mess. Nails was crazy from the captivity and the drugs they gave him, and Rumor’s crew often laughed as he would alternately bash his head against the cage and sit in a corner and jack off in his own shit. When he got his hands on the knife he cut himself, mostly his left hand but also his belly. He bled to death. Maybe it was for the best.
Rumor said Charley owed him a monkey, and the calm way he said it, with no emotion in the eyes at all, told Charley that he better find a monkey fast.
The capucin sat in the back now and looked out at a twilight Detroit passing by, abandoned buildings mostly. He looked at Charley in the rear view and seemed to smile. For a fleeting moment Charley thought of Sandra, who he hadn’t seen in years. She must be, what, thirteen now? Last time he saw her he was fighting with her mom, an argument he was actually glad he lost. This was no life for a kid. She had cried, and reached out to him with her little hands.
Fucking monkey, he thought. He had no right sneaking into Charley’s heart like that.
“Sorry buddy,” he said to the monkey’s reflection in the rear-view mirror. “You gotta go live with Rumor. He’ll take good care of you.”
“Here we are,” Charley said as they pulled up in front of Rumor’s building. The streets were dark, the city turned the streetlights off a while back. A group of Rumor’s men stood outside, openly selling drugs. It wasn’t like the cops would come even if anyone were crazy enough to call them. Charley scratched his thighs, long strokes with bitten nails against the jeans. But his itch wasn’t there, not really.
“I’m just going to give you to a friend,” Charley said to the animal in the back. “Then I’ll drive far away from this place. I’ll get clean and maybe, in a few years, I’ll get to see my Sandra again.”
The monkey stretched out a tiny hand and then made a gesture, moving its fingers to its mouth.
“Oh, are you hungry?” Charley pulled a paper bag from under his seat. “Here, there’s probably a few fries in there.”
Maybe he’d get a job on a forklift. He’d listen to music all day and move things around in a storeroom. He’d go home and play poker with new friends. He’d have Sandra over on weekends.
Clean. Just give Rumor the monkey and get out of here.
The monkey was eating moldy fries from the bag, single fries held with both hands. It looked at him with big eyes and seemed fragile and lonely.
“Ah man,” Charley said. “I can’t give you to -”
A sharp knock on the window interrupted him. One of Rumor’s men was knocking against the window with a gun.
“If you ain’t buyin’ you better move… Charley? Fuck man, you look like shit.”
“Yeah,” Charley answered. “I ain’t had a hit since yesterday.”
“Well come on in then, your moneys good here.”
“Yeah, I ain’t staying I just need to…” he scratched his scalp, felt like ants having a beach party just under the skin on his head. “I just need to get this thing to Rumor.”
“What? That is the monkey you got for him? He ain’t gonna be happy. It won’t matter though, I hear he’s gettin’ himself a tiger now. Just go in.”
Charley reached back and stretched his hand out towards the monkey. It looked confused for a moment, blinking its eyes at him, but then it climbed his arm and settled on his shoulder. Tiny fingers stroked his ears for comfort.
They went in, getting a share of stares and chuckles along the way. Two guys stood in the stairwell on the floor below Rumor’s, but they let Charley pass, grinning to themselves.
Once inside Rumor’s apartment Charley relaxed. He was just a few minutes away from getting clean. His sister waited in a house outside the city. His future held vomit, shakes, cold towels and cramps, he knew this, but on the other side of that was freedom. Drugs had taken as much from him as they could.
“Look at this,” Rumor said in his thick Nigerian accent, pronouncing it “loog-a-dis“. He was a tall, thin reed of heartlessness. “That monkey has the ugliest thing growing out of its ass I is ever seen.”
The others around the room laughed, and Charley felt mighty stupid. Why hadn’t he just driven on, taken the monkey with him? The room was filled with a thin smoke, and the light was a dull brown, like it was coming through a coffee filter.
“Give it here” Geev at he-ar.
Charley stepped towards Rumor and held out his hand. The monkey crawled behind Charley’s head and peeked at Rumor.
“You fear me, little monkey. Clever.” Cle-vah. Rumor’s voice was like the echo of a fired cannon. Rumor moved, lightning-quick, and grabbed the monkey by the back of the neck.
“Charley,” and Charley’s heart pumped iced motor oil. His whole body seemed filled with snakes, squirming between his muscles. “This you bring me instead of Nails?”
“I’ll take it back, Rumor. I’ll.. I’ll get you a bigger one, or a bear.”
“Too late for that, Charley. The monkey’s already here. You paid your little debt.” The monkey had real fright in it’s eyes, and fought to get free.
What have I done? Charley thought.
“I know it wasn’t your fault that Nail’s died.” Rumor said. Charley’s eyes widened. “I just wanted to see what you would do. And you brought me a clever little friend. You can go now Charley.”
Charley was relieved, but couldn’t bear the thought of the monkey in Rumor’s hands. He would not have a pleasant life. “So, can I have the monkey back, then?”
“No, Charley,” Rumor said and examined the animal, which looked even smaller being held up by the tall man. “But tell you what.” He reached into a pocket and pulled out a little bag. Before Charley could say anything Rumor had tossed it towards him and he grabbed it and held it up to the light, a small bag with a thimblefull of light-brown powder.
The snakes in his body all rose to attention, the ants in his scalp stopped their little party and his eyes watered.
Clean, he thought.
Rumor tightened his grip on the monkey, and it let out a little yelp of pain.
Fuck it, Charley thought.
Charley heard the monkey shout for him somewhere, but the wonderful heat in his veins drowned it out, drowned everything out.