4. STAY AWAY!

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Submitted Date 08/24/2018
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“This has got to stop.” Mary looked wide-eyed at her stern father. A monkey, whom she and her father had rescued over a week ago, sat cheerily on Mary’s bed. “How many times do I have to explain it to you? The more it gets near you, the less able you’ll be to get well. It’s infested with disease!”

“He’s my friend,” Mary said. “I don’t have anyone else to play with.”

“He,” her father responded, “made you have this disease. He is why you’re bedridden. He does not stop insisting on escaping his cage to pester you, and you don’t seem capable of keeping him away.”

Mary looked down at her pox-ridden hands—monkeypox-ridden, in fact. She had never met an animal like her pet Mikey. He not only was a wonderful and interesting companion, but brought her tea and let her read to him. There wasn’t a better pet in the world! Yet—she knew her father was right: if Mikey didn’t stay away, she could not possibly heal from the monkeypox he had given her.

Mary felt another wave of exhaustion rush over her.

“I should not even be arguing about this,” her father went on, half to himself. With gloved hands, he picked up the wriggling Mikey and went downstairs to put him once more in the cage.

Mary closed her eyes once more, and thought, against the apparent wracking of disease upon her body, of how lonely she’d be without Mikey. Surely the days would be bland and far too quiet without him. Surely she’d never meet a monkey like him, to whom she had now had such an attachment. Where on earth did he come from? The circus? Africa? How did he get to their house one stormy night? Did he know other tricks besides serving tea? And of course, how sweet he was! Mary frowned, greatly troubled. Even so. She slowly slipped off into sleep.

When she woke again she looked up and saw the leaves of the trees gleaming phosphorescent green against a cloudless afternoon sky. The walls of her room were streaked with the setting sunlight. Not long after, her father came upstairs again with a tray of dinner.

“Here you are,” he said pleasantly, setting it on Mary’s lap. “Are you feeling okay?”

“Yeah,” Mary answered. “The fever’s gone since yesterday . . . Where’s Mikey?”

Her father replied, “Downstairs still. I’ve put up a few advertisements around, but I’m going to take him to a zoo in a couple days.”

“Which zoo?”

“The one about an hour from here.”

“Can I visit him?” Mary asked. Her father shook his head.

“You can find a better pet to keep. An hour is a long way to go, and I don’t have all the time and energy to take you there too often.” At least Mikey was still in the house! “And stay away from him while he’s here,” her father advised. “He needs to not be so attached to you. Let him look forward to being with his own kind.” Stay away! Stay away?! Who else was like Mikey? How could she do without him? Mary nodded unhappily.

“You’re right,” she said, and her father kissed her on the head.

“Don’t worry,” he smiled. “You’ll be fine. You will find better friends than a disease-ridden monkey!”

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