Deborah Dansante – The Lives Of Dinosaurs

Daddy told Mama she would have to take the monkey back. He showed her a letter from Sinclair saying they would shut us down if business didn’t pick up. Mama reminded Daddy how she never wanted a gas station but that after Daddy told her how he’d prayed and all, she had given in.
Mama explained how the monkey had been left behind probably by some military family that was being transferred overseas. Mama suggested Daddy increase our Church of Christ tithe as soon as possible. She said the monkey had made its own way into the churchyard and that’s where she found it in a basket by the door; she couldn’t recall the exact details due to all the extra excitement that day. Daddy shook his head from not knowing and then he gave in.

Daddy made Mama promise she wouldn’t teach her monkey tricks or dress it up in frilly diapers, He warned her that it would be an abomination in the eyes of God if she was to give the monkey a human name. Daddy said he also wished Mama wouldn’t teach the monkey to drink orange soda like the Indians did their bears up on the Reservation. Mama said she thought the Cherokee weren’t left much choice and that Daddy shouldn’t judge things without knowing.

Mama taught her monkey to pump gas. She would thread its tail through the handle of the assembly and then push it off the back of a car. Before too long the monkey was jumping off all by itself and people were driving out of their way to buy our gas.

Daddy complained that people made fun of him for having a monkey. Mama said they were just jealous. She explained to Daddy that sometimes it took an outsider to fix things. She reminded Daddy about the mysterious ways of how things are sometimes.

One morning a 1961 Ford Country Sedan Wagon pulled into the station and took off with Mama’s monkey. The driver didn’t even wait for his Dino soap. I was inside getting one for him when I looked out the window in time to see the monkey slide its tail through the top of the back windshield. The monkey had wrapped its tail around the door handle. I thought the monkey might free itself but as it happened that year model of the Ford Country Sedan was made so the handle had to be turned in order for the glass to come down. Mama’s monkey only ever knew how to pull; her monkey never did learn how to roll.

I brought a paper apron home the next day. It was for Mother’s Day. The girls in our class had glued flowery paper towels together with ribbon. The idea was to tear off each layer towel as it got dirty. The idea was to always have a clean apron on. I explained this to Mama as I tied the ribbon around her waist. Mama told me right then that she might like to live somewhere else for a while if I wouldn’t mind. She promised to send postcards.

Mama held my hand as I ran alongside her car. She let go when we reached the highway. She tossed a photograph out onto the ground and then waved a slow keep-on-truckin’ finger as our car disappeared around the curve.

The photograph was of a young girl wearing swim fins. Her browned legs were dangling over the hood of a car. She was smiling.

I stuffed the photograph into my pocket and walked home. I had to get ready for school the next day. It was the Summer of ‘68 and there were lessons to be learned.