Up in the trees


We've been living in our new house ( "The Country Manse") for five months now. For the first time in our lives, we have an actual patio which extends into the back yard, and with the addition of some furniture from Kmart, it is the nicest place to be that I have ever owned (or rented).

The backyard is an inconsistent blend of grasses, mosses, and low shrubbery which clusters around our four cypress pines and a massive seed-pod-littering catalpa tree. Our property is separated from our neighbors' by dense strips of forest maybe thirty feet wide but packed to the brim with maple trees and blue spruce.

This lush foliage is home to about a dozen species of birds that we've been able to identify so far. But sometimes when I'm sitting out with a glass of wine and some brie, something heavier than a bird will crash through the leaves above me. And my eyes will lurch up from my book and dart about from tree to tree, searching for what could be making that sound.

Now, before I let the tension build up too much, it's a squirrel. It's always a squirrel. I mean, what else could it be. I live in Connecticut. There are no other species of arboreal animals. I've checked. No interesting airborne lizards, or those snakes that know how to jump between trees. I suppose it could be a human. Those guys can climb, if they've been treed by something big, like a mother-in-law, or inflation.

But no, seriously, it's obviously a squirrel. And it's not going to even be a particularly remarkable squirrel. It's going to be one of the three adorable but fairly anonymous Eastern gray squirrels that live in the nearby little forest. So why, every single time, do I insist on IMMEDIATELY looking to see what on EARTH that could be making that noise in the trees!?

After some hours of soul-searching, I realized that I am expecting it to be a monkey.

I'm not joking, a monkey, a real monkey. In that moment when I hear the crashing, the thought that causes my head to jerk upwards is, "Oh dear God, is it a damn monkey?"

I'm serious. And I think of it as a "damn monkey", like they're SUCH a nuisance, ALL the TIME crashing through the trees they are.

In that moment, I'm a little afraid, but it's an expectant, tired fear, like the fear you get when you see the third wasp in the living room that day, and now you're sure you have a nest in the walls. Like, "Jesus, again?"

Because monkeys are terrifying. Let's just get that clear. They have adorable faces when you can find the bastards sitting still on the ground. But when they start tear-assing through the treetops, screeching and hooting at each other (because they're natural-born conspirators, always conspiring, even in transit), all fifteen or whatever of their climbing limbs working in concert like a goddamn hairy octopus to propel them forward as quickly as possible, they turn from "adorable" into "death-minded hell-beast" pretty fucking quick.

So it is not my fear at the thought of monkeys that surprises me. That's perfectly reasonable. It's the fact that monkeys are even on the table as a possibility. And so completely spontaneous and subconscious. It's not like my wife and I discuss about how weird it would be to have monkeys in the trees. It's not like there's a movie I might have seen about a New England guy who suddenly gets monkeys in his backyard.

(Other than Jumanji... Oh shit.)

Just somehow, through some mysterious organic cultural process, I became primed to be on the lookout for monkeys all the time, whether I'm in the rain forest or not. Constant monkey radar blanketing the landscape.

It's completely without reason. It'd be ridiculous if it wasn't so much damn fun, to be a jungle warrior, always primed to defend his home.


New wheels