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8. AT A DISTANCE
“Today,” Mary proclaimed, “shall be quite the day.”
“Why’s that?” her father asked, half-reading a newspaper.
“I’m going to the same zoo again . . . that that monkey that came to our house by accident . . . lives in.”
“You’re going to see if he’s there?”
“Yeah—I don’t suppose he’ll remember me. After all that’s happened, I’d rather he didn’t.”
Her father replied, “Don’t worry about it. What is there to be scared of? He’s behind a fence. There’s no way he can infect you with a fatal disease again. He’s just a bad, unruly monkey. Anyhow, that was years ago.”
Mary thought about how foolish she was to be nervous, and her mind then trailed to those long-ago memories. He was a fine monkey, Mikey was. He absolutely adored her, and at the time, Mary couldn’t have asked for a better companion, she supposed. He never ceased to ignite her curiosity—how on earth did he learn to pour tea? She had learned later that he was quite acrobatic too, according to the zookeepers. She and her father had visited the zoo a few times; although her father couldn’t stand Mikey, he did not deny her a few trips.
“Even so,” Mary thought coldly, “I was childish—selfish even—to have pined over losing him so. I almost died from monkeypox because Mikey kept bothering me, and I was way too kind to him. Silly how I obsessed about him. It will be interesting if he recognizes me at the zoo today.”
“Mary,” her father broke in.
“Yeah?” Mary said.
“You’re talking very strangely. ‘After all that happened?’ Nothing ‘happened!’ That animal will just always be unruly and aggressive. He will long have forgotten you. That experience should have taught you a thing or two about how to handle such aggressive animals anyhow. Why do you have to go today?”
“It’s for a school assignment.”
“Well, if Mikey sees you, I advise that you not go near him. You’re clearly not safe around him.”
“Not . . . safe?” Mary frowned.
“I’m listening to what you’re telling me. You cannot, ultimately, deal too well with crazy animals like that one. You let them climb all over you. Remember that iguana that kept sticking its tongue in your ear at your aunt’s house? Remember that pet rat that started chewing off your hair to make a nest? I had to keep you from taking scissors to your hair for it! And with the bond you and Mikey had, it will be impossible for you to resist letting it take advantage of you again.”
Mary listened grimly. Not safe. Impossible. Really?
“I can’t believe you are still thinking about that animal after all these years,” her father went on. “I would have let you keep visiting it more often if you really wanted, but you and I both know what was best for both you and the monkey. Monkeys belong in the wild, or with other monkeys. I was like you too, Mary. I had a pet dog once that I let have its way until it tore up almost everything I had.”
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