Based on the theme ‘The Death Of A Stuffed Animal’
Monkey’s different. He talks to me when no-one is around. Sure, he’s made of cotton, and his brown fur is wearing thin with age – I’ve had him since I was a kid, after all. But he’s survived the years well, even after I entrusted him to my daughter, and she grew up and forgot about him. He’s back home with me now, and he still talks to me.
He likes to sit on top of the piano when I play, just bobbing to the rhythms of whatever it is I feel like playing. His smile might be stitched on, but I know when it’s real.
“How was the last chemo?” I ask her. I know what the answer will be, but I always ask.
“Rough,” she sighs. I can hear how weak she is even on the phone, and I wince.
“You’re tougher than you think,” I say. “You were never one to back down from a fight.”
She laughs a little. “Thanks, dad,” she says.
“Did you finish the fudge?” I ask. She’s always loved fudge – the proper butter ones you can only get from sweet shops.
“No, sorry,” she says. “Thanks for sending it but I’ve been too sick.”
For some reason that hits me hard. This is the first time she’s had to leave the fudge. I look over at the new box I’d planned to send.
“Don’t worry,” I say. “Fudge is the least of my worries.”
She laughs again.
Monkey is on my lap now, and I’m just stroking his fur. He’s tired after all his running around and climbing.
He turns to me, and I suddenly realise just how worn he looks with age. I realise he probably can’t see too well now. His plastic eyes are scratched and a little chipped. He asks me what will happen at the end. He says he’s been alive for so long, and he doesn’t know what’s there for him after the end. It’s unexpected, and it makes me feel like I want to cry.
“There’s plenty left,” I assure him. “There’s adventure, there’s other monkeys, there’s gardens and trees as far as you can see.”
I hold him, tiny in my hands, and we imagine together. His worn cotton is rough. I tell him that his soul is like a little grain of sand that goes to join the others one day, to make a beautiful beach. He seems to feel better, looking out of the window, then lying down and falling back to sleep, but I still feel his sadness, and it’s heavier than it looks.
My own body is showing signs of age now. Knees aching, back stiff. It’s cold out here, and I’m not listening to the pastor reading from the bible. I’m just looking at that coffin, at my daughter, wondering why she’s not coming back. Why can’t I hug her or see her or talk to her anymore?
It’s confusing, and horrible. There she is, just the other side of that thin wood. She’s so close, but now they’re putting her underground forever, and then nobody will see her again.
He’s sitting on top of the coffin. He’s going with her. He told me he had to, so I put him there. When they finally lower it down into the hole in the earth, little Monkey is on top, and I watch him disappear from view, his smile stitched on and unreal. He doesn’t say anything. He only talks to me when no-one is around.
It’s cold out here. When I get home I think I’m going to play the piano for a while.