17 October 2007

Byron, the Cocktail Party Monkey


In our tall brown brick building
There are dogs, there are cats,
Bowls of bright fish,
One stick insect, some bats.
Jesus lizards, canaries
– In fact, dozens of pets
We’re the only apartment
without one, I bet.
We have no pets at all,
Not a cage, not a hutch.
We live quiet lives.
We don’t get out much.

One Sunday morning
Somebody rang.

“Thank heavens you’re home!”
our downstairs neighbor sang.

“I need a small favor
And mind, you don’t have to
But while I’m away
Something needs looking after.

I need a vacation.
You both understand.”
Then we noticed a monkey
Was holding his hand.

He said, “Don’t say no yet.
Hear what I have to say.
What will happen to Byron
While I am away?”

He said, “Monkeys need company
It’s how they’re designed
“Left to his own devices
He’ll forfeit his mind.”

The cops’ll be called
And they’ll find him like that
Hanging out of a window
To hurl his own scat.”
We live quiet lives.
just as we said.
But the life of a monkey
Hung by a thread.
We made room for his bed
And Byron moved in
With a crate full of personal stuff
and his gin.
“You’ll get on well enough
though he’s set in his ways,
I’ll be back to collect him
In 21 days.”
For a time Byron stared out
On 17th Street.
He declined a banana,
Too distracted to eat.
Byron paced back and forth
As the daylight was waning
As if he was thinking
As if he was planning.
He dove into his crate
And he fumbled about
Then he turned the thing over
And emptied it out.
With his arms full of stuff
He’d been rummaging for
He marched into the kitchen
His foot closed the door.
We bent close to listen
As something was stirred.
There was chopping and slicing
Appliances whirred.

We peeked through the door
We couldn’t resist

He was standing there, sprinkling
Saffron from his fist,

Concocting hors d’oeuvres
With a dollop and dab
“Oh, my God,” we said,
“what’s that he’s steaming – blue crab?”

We rushed outside at once,
knocking all down the hall
“A monkey’s been cooking!
And we can’t eat it all!
Good thing it was Sunday;
most people were in.
“Please come out,” we begged, “please.
“Bring a fork and tuck in.”
When we got back home
Byron let us to know
The soufflé he had made
Had one minute to go.
Just at that moment
Guests began to arrive

The twins from 4L shuffled in
And they sighed.
Just as whey-faced and wan
As if somebody’d died.

We said, “How are you both?”
They said, “Nothings the matter.”
Then they drifted like smog
Toward the roast turkey platter.
The pair from 8B said,
“Let’s not get excited.
It’s hardly exclusive
if the riff-raff’s invited.”
The 6Rs came in shyly,
As welcome as fleas
On account of their baby,
Wee Screamy Louise.
5W sneered and said,
“Children are hell.
If that were my daughter,
She’d be down a well.”

They stood there like Stonehenge
Easter Island, the Sphinx.
Not a moment too soon
Byron mixed up some drinks.
Byron handed 5W
a peach aperitif
And while she drank everyone
sighed with relief.
As for Screamy Louise,
Byron dripped in one drop.
Than he stirred up her milk
and he screwed on the top.

The mother cried, “Stop!
Is that drink alcoholic?”
“Never mind,” said the father,
“she’s cured of the colic.”
The twins emptied their glasses
They brightened and beamed

One tackled the turkey
Less glum than he’d seemed.
The other said, “Give the knife here,
Let me carve!
You’re slicing too slowly.
We’ll certainly starve.”
“Are you giving offense?’
“Are you taking?”
“I might.”
They repaired to the street
for a blood-stirring fight.
5W announced,
“While dear Byron decants,
I will favor you with
an interpretive dance.
“Remember our honeymoon?”
8B rejoiced.
And right then and there
they fell straight to the moist.
“Pipe down!” yelled the Super,
I barely can stand it.
I’m having a migraine
The pain is gigantic!”

Byron gave him a drink
And he left off his panic.
“Where’s my ladder gone now?”

The super demanded
to paint our apartment
two coats, single-handed.

Our apartment was crowded
We couldn’t fit more
After 9T arrived with
some sailors on shore
There was singing and wrestling
Upholstery tore,
15E wept with joy, 12Z started to snore
8B gathered dust bunnies right there on the floor
Byron held one last drink,
It was fizzy and grand.
But the place was in chaos
So it stayed in his hand.

Suddenly, there
In the midst of the crush
The guest from 1A
Raised a hand and said, “Hush.”
“I know I’ve had
several powerful drinks
Yet I think I now know how my Rottweiler thinks.”
All the rest knew things, too, so
Before they could forget,
They all hurried home
to attend to their pets.
Byron tried to hand off
the last glass to somebody.
Just then in came the twins,
Breathless, toothless and bloody.

“Goodbye, thank you, Byron.
You’re a tough act to follow.”
When they left, Byron tipped the glass up and he swallowed.
was the last guest on line
He said, “Thank you, I had
such a wonderful time.
Cocktail party monkeys
Are so chic and refined
Come and work in my restaurant
If you have a mind.”
As we kissed him goodnight
on the top of his head,
We made Byron swear off
Any parties ahead.
We’re quiet, we don’t get out much,
As we said.

Yesterday, the phone rang
After more than three months,
Byron’s owner said, “Sorry,
I couldn’t call once.

“I miss his martinis
His highballs are swell
These foreigners
can’t mix a drink quite as well.

“Say, do me a favor.
Send Byron to France.
Buy him a ticket,
I’ll pay in advance.

“I’d give anything
For just one ginger gin float.”

We thought we heard those last words
catch in his throat.
So we said we’d be sure
to leave Byron a note.

The End.
Thanks for lending me your scanner, Jonathan.