Story: Monty Escapes from the Zoo – PART 1

PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3 - PART 4 - PART 5

Zoos are not always evil places. In fact the zoo which Monty lived in was very nice. He had plenty of space to swing about in, the keepers fed him the juiciest bananas a monkey could hope for, and the visitors didn’t throw stones at him or poke him when he was a sleep. Sometimes they’d laugh at him when he scratched himself or yawned, but he didn’t really mind. He found them as funny as they found him, with the strange way they chattered to each other, their tailless bodies and their silly laughs. Life in the zoo was interesting with plenty of other animals to talk to. The lion told him how he had once prowled the savannah, chasing antelopes. The snake told him how he had once slithered through the amazon jungle. The giraffe told him about its long neck and how she had used it to find leaves other animals couldn’t reach. They all said the same thing. They had enjoyed the freedom and exhilaration that came with life in the wild, but now that they were older they didn’t mind too much being stuck in the zoo. Life was more boring, but it was also safer and easier.

This made Monty sad because he had been bred in captivity. He had never swung through the jungle; he had never fought over the best bananas with other monkeys. In fact he didn’t even know another monkey; he was the only one in the zoo. He began to even wonder if he was a monkey at all. Was being a monkey about who you were or what you did? Could a monkey who had all his bananas picked for him really be a monkey? The closest thing he had to a real experience of being a monkey was listening to the stories of his mother when he was younger, listening wide-eyed as she told him stories about monkey troops dodging through jungles, avoiding the predators which hid in the undergrowth, sipping at streams when they thought that nothing dangerous was lurking around.

So Monty decided that before he grew too old he would escape from the zoo and try and find his homeland. The right moment came early one Saturday morning. The keeper had come to give Monty his food. As he was turning to leave he slipped on a banana skin, and went flying into the mud. Taking his chance, Monty leapt through the door. With the amazing agility only a monkey possesses he darted through the shocked crowd, leaping on heads and on benches until he reached the gate of the zoo. He climbed over it, and went off on his quest.

Zoos are not quick to let go of their animals and town councils are not overly keen on animals from the jungle being let loose inside the city. So there were many searchers out for Monty. He found quiet places to rest during the day where he was sure no one would find him, in deserted warehouses and the likes, and travelled at night swinging silently from lamp post to lamp post. He tried to find out where the port was, where he could find a ship to take him where he needed to go, but to no avail. The city was bigger than he had thought possible.

One day he was resting in a shed in the garden of an abandoned house, with weeds that had grown everywhere and where there was junk lying around. The boy who lived next door, Joe, was playing football with one of his friends, who accidentally kicked the ball over the fence into the garden which Monty was in. Leaping over the fence, Joe went to find the ball. Once inside the garden he was intrigued. The house had been deserted for months, after the old lady who had lived there had had to move to a nursing home because she could no longer cope on her own. In her last years she had not been able to clean and tidy, and both her shed and her house were full of things which showed a glimpse into her past (as well as old newspapers and rubbish). Joe had never known her very well, as after the pain she had been through losing her husband to a heart attack she had kept to herself. His mum had told him stories though of how she had been a lovely cheerful woman in her younger days, singing in the church choir after she had retired from work, and always helping out in the community, organising cake sales and funfairs for children. She had kept some of this during her later years, every now and again giving Joe a bit of money (which she always thought was worth a lot more than it was) for sweets, but living in a house full of good memories of people you have loved, when you are the only one left, is not an easy thing, and the loneliness had got to her.

Joe entered the shed and leafed through photo albums, pictures which the old lady had drawn, (she had been an artist), old jewellery, and other things with important memories attached which the lady had stored in there. Joe felt a bit guilty looking through her things as he knew it was not really his place, but his curiosity got the better of him and he carried on.

Meanwhile Monty was stuck behind two cardboard boxes desperately wondering what to do. It was clear that the boy would keep searching until his curiosity had been satisfied, and that would probably not be until he had searched the entire shed. Monty decided he would have to make a break for it. Wriggling his toes and fingers, he prepared himself, and then leapt for the exit. Unfortunately for him, Joe’s friend Aaron had chosen that moment to come looking for Joe. Opening the door, he slammed it right into Monty who collapsed on the ground.

“What the….?!” Both boys looked in shock at the monkey lying unconscious on the floor. Aaron was the first to react, moving forward cautiously and prodding Monty with his finger. More confident now that he realised Monty was unconscious he laughed and prodded the monkey again, this time in the face. Still Monty lay motionless.

“Why are you doing that?” Joe asked, irritated. Usually he didn’t question Aaron’s strange tendency to humiliate things weaker than himself, but he felt upset by the old memories of the apparently once happy lady who he had only ever known as reclusive. He and his friends had used to make jokes about her, mocking her forgetfulness, laughing at stories of how she had turned up at the corner shop in her pyjamas, or had rung the police to report that her husband was missing, when he had been dead for five years. Now these memories seemed guilty and poisonous, and his own shame made him seeing Aaron poking a defenceless animal angry.

“Leave him alone!” Joe said, pushing Aaron away forcefully. Shocked, Aaron glared at Joe. For a moment Joe thought Aaron would hit him, but instead he shrugged and turned for the door. “Alright then. I’m going to go home. Have a nice time with your new friend.” He offered Joe his best sneer and walked off.

Joe shook his head, and looked at the monkey which lay motionless at his feet. With his new found kind spiritedness, he went back to his house and poured a jug of water and grabbed a bunch of bananas for when Monty woke up. Taking them back to find Monty still motionless, he continued his search of the shed picking out photo after photo, memento after memento. There were old toys and figurines, old china, a gramophone and some records. Wrapped up and tied together with a plastic band was the most beautiful painting, a watercolour picture of a jaguar surrounded by deep green jungle foliage. He unravelled the picture and looked at it in wonder.

Monty began to stir. He put a hand to his head which was aching painfully. He lifted himself up and looked around. Immediately he caught sight of the beautiful painting. All his pain forgotten he began talking excitedly: “hoo hoo haha, hoohoo haha!” Shocked, and a little bit frightened, Joe stayed still. Then Monty grabbed the painting from him and began to dance around ecstatically, pointing at the picture. Joe was shocked. It was obvious that the monkey was trying to communicate a message to him, though it defied all the laws of everything he’d ever known.

“You want to go and see a leopard?” Joe asked, half expecting the monkey to reply. But Monty only looked at Joe with disbelief at his stupidity, and being more careful he point at the trees and bushes which surround the jaguar.

“You want to go to the jungle? Where you came from?” Joe asked. Monty nodded his head and became excited again, leaping around, pulling objects down from around the shed. Joe watched him with a baffled curiosity. Then in a moment of inspiration he said “I’ll help you. I’ll help you get to the jungle.” Monty gave a screech and leaped onto Joe to express his gratitude.

PART 1 - PART 2 - PART 3 - PART 4 - PART 5