map Monkey Business

by Karen F. Williams

Published in Issue No. 236 ~ January, 2017

It wasn’t yet six in the morning when the doorbell rang, but I was already awake and dressed and had the coffee brewing. Susan, my best friend from childhood– known as Susie back then– had talked me into having a joint tag sale today. I like going to estate and tag sales, but had absolutely no interest in hosting one. “Give me one good reason,” I had said. She gave me three: her mother had recently passed, her kids were going off to college, and my husband and I had recently separated.

“We both need to clean house,” she insisted, “literally and symbolically. You, especially, need to get rid of the old and make room for someone new in your life. Trust me, it’ll be cathartic.”

Tequila is my preferred means of catharsis, and I asked why we couldn’t just donate our unwanted stuff, get a tax receipt, and go for margaritas and dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant.

“I’m not talking about getting rid of junk. I want to sell my mother’s dishes, some of her vintage pottery and glass, some of my own collectibles. I don’t know, I’m thinking about that antique icebox in the dining room, and maybe the mission table in the hallway, too– you know the one– which brings me to the fourth reason,” she said. “I need money for new hardwood floors.”

Susan always had a knack for making me see things her way and even managed to convince me that my house, with its spacious garage and driveway, would be the ideal venue. We spent the next few weekends organizing, pricing, and running ads for today’s sale, so naturally I expected to see her this morning. But never, ever did I expect to see the monkey coat.

I didn’t actually see him– the coat, I mean– but when I opened the door and saw Susan cradling what looked like a zippered body bag, I knew he was in there. A white bakery box dangled from the fingers of her other hand.

“Morning,” she said, pushing her way in and letting the bag slide off her arms and into my own. Without even the courtesy of a glance, she blew past me with a brisk nonchalance and headed for the kitchen. “God, that coffee smells good. Come on, we have to hurry. I got us pastries and danish.”

I knew she was avoiding eye contact because she didn’t want me to see the guilt in her eyes– or maybe she just didn’t want to acknowledge the shocked disapproval in my own– but all of it caught me off guard and I staggered back under the unexpected weight and shock of Monkey in my arms. “Oh, no Susan. No. Please tell me you’re not selling Monkey.”

“No, actually I’m not selling monkey,” she answered with a mocking attitude. “I’m selling a fur coat. Period. End of discussion.”

“Great. A fur coat with homicidal tendencies. This is just great.”

“You know what? You need to chill. Seriously. I don’t know what it is lately, but things make you way too uptight. I think that’s why Steve left you.”

Left?” My mouth dropped open in disbelief. “He didn’t leave. How could you say that?” I said, following her into the kitchen. “You know we both decided to– ”

“Whatever. Listen, we don’t have time to argue, okay? Let’s just sit and eat something before I get a headache.”

Following orders as usual, I pulled out a kitchen chair, sat with Monkey draped across my lap and stared incredulously at my friend as she took two cups from the cabinet and poured us coffee. At forty-five her hair was still long and beautiful, although Clairol helped to keep it brown these days, and her newly acquired character lines lent a sensual maturity to her still-attractive face. But peering out of those dark eyes was the shrewd and mischievous ten-year-old I knew all too well. As I stared, wondering when she’d muster the nerve to finally look me in the face, the coat began to weigh on my thighs. No, not weighpress. And then came the emanating warmth– a cognizant warmth, if that makes any sense– the sort of warmth that comes from hugging a friend you haven’t seen in a very long time. The sort of hug that says, It’s so good to be with you, I’ve missed you so much!

Monkey’s sudden heat gave me chills and my hands began to tremble as our unexpected reunion catapulted me back in time to a stormy Friday after school some thirty years ago.

We had been on our backs, lying sideways on Susie’s twin bed, our feet resting up against the paneled wall. Lightning flashed, rumbles of thunder moving closer in the distance, and foreboding clouds hastened the coming of twilight so that everything in the room sat in shadows, save for four white socks sliding around the wall. We should have been doing homework, but instead were talking about ghosts and ghouls and the usual suspects associated with the day’s meteorological activities. Before long, our conversation had turned to a scientific debate.

“Dead people’s hair does so keep growing,” Susie kept insisting.

“Does not!”

“Does so!” A white-socked foot slid over and knocked my own foot from the wall.

“Does not,” I retorted, my juvenile faculties challenging those of my contemporary’s. “Only living things grow. Everybody knows that!”

“Oh yeah? Well, I can prove it!”

We turned our heads to look at each other and I saw that challenging glint of mischief in her eyes. When Susie said she could prove something, she always managed to do just that. Her eyes narrowed. “The hair on my Aunt Selma’s monkey coat grows… and it’s dead.”

My eyes widened. “A monkey coat?”

“Wanna see it?”

Visions of us traipsing through a graveyard with raincoats, flashlights, and garden shovels raced through my head. But in reality, the journey took us no further than the deep cellar of her parents’ Dutch Colonial.

Susie didn’t wait for my answer. Springing off the bed, she ran out of the room and I scurried behind, chasing her down the hallway and past the kitchen where I could smell and hear the sounds of something good cooking. I’d been invited for dinner and to spend the night.

Susie’s mother must have known her daughter was up to no good, because just as Susie put her hand on the doorknob to the basement, we heard the whack of a wooden spoon against the kitchen counter. “Susan! You stay away from that, that… basement! Do you hear me?” she warned in a voice that failed to mask her sudden alarm. What she really wanted to say was stay away from that monkey coat because, yes, it does grow and, yes, it does have very strange and angry ways.

The monkey coat….

We waited until after dinner, until the storm had passed, until a car horn beeped and her mother left to see a movie with friends, until her father began dozing in front of the television. Susie put a finger to her lips, opened the basement door and motioned for me to follow.

Down the steep, creaky staircase we crept, the damp air growing heavy with the scent of the cedar trunk in which lay the proof of Susie’s claim. It was dark when we reached the bottom, and I followed cautiously as Susie led us through the shadows and over to the trunk. A bare light bulb hung overhead. She jumped, catching hold of the white string tied to the chain, and pulled.

“I come down here to visit him sometimes,” she said, slowly raising the lid of what now resembled a tiny coffin. And there, filling it like a sleeping vampire was a huge mound of black hide.

Overhead the light bulb swung back and forth, back and forth, casting moving shadows over the monkey’s glossy fur and giving it the illusion of breathing.

I swear I heard it breathing.

“Touch him,” Susie ordered, flashing me that all too familiar grin that always accompanied her successful defiance of parental authority.

“Go on,” she repeated when I hesitated, “Touch him.”

I wanted to, but paralyzing me was a potent mixture of emotion. Part of me was scared stiff of the exotic occupant of that trunk, another part giddy with excitement. I loved animals. I had two dogs, a cat, and an iguana at home, but this was the closest I’d ever come to petting a monkey.

With an impatient huff Susie grabbed my hand and placed it on the fur. It felt stiff and cold at first– not unlike my hand at the moment– but as I began to pet it my fear dissipated, soon replaced by a terrible sadness for this unlucky animal heartlessly slaughtered in some unholy jungle. Until Susie whispered in my ear, “Monkey killed my Aunt Selma four years ago.”

I recoiled and jumped back, half expecting the monstrous monkey to leap and lunge and sink its headless, jawless teeth into my arm.

This made Susie giggle, and she covered her mouth for fear of waking her father. “My mother thinks he killed another lady, too. The wife of the furrier who made the coat. That’s what they call people who make coats out of animals– furriers. Did you know that?”

“Uh-uh,” I shook my head, my mouth hanging open in wonder.

“My uncle told my mother the lady keeled over while she had it on. But don’t worry,” she assured me, “he won’t hurt you. You love animals like I do. Monkey knows that.”


“I don’t know.” She shrugged. “He just does.”

“How’d he kill your Aunt?”

“Squeezed her to death.” Susie lifted the heavy coat and slipped into it. This made me take another step back. “Aunt Selma had tons of fur coats. My Uncle Max is rich. He imports stuff and used to travel to the Ivory Coast. Do you know where that is?”

“The coast?” I thought for a moment. “California?”

“No, stupid. Africa!

“Africa?” I didn’t dare take my eyes off the oversized coat that hung lifelessly on her tiny frame.

“Anyway, Uncle Max used to bring her back all sorts of furs and diamonds. That’s all Aunt Selma ever wanted. Furs and diamonds. So one day she comes here right from the airport with this box, right? She was really excited about showing off the monkey coat because she said none of her friends in Manhattan would have anything like it. So she has coffee with my parents, and then puts on the coat and starts walking around our living room, showing off and twirling like a model in her high heels– like this, see?”

Susie imitated her aunt, standing on tippy-toes and almost tripping over the bottom of the coat. “My parents didn’t like it and told her so. My mother said she felt sorry for all the beautiful animals that get killed by poachers in Africa. My father wondered if it was a mother monkey who was killed while someone stole her baby for the pet trade, but then he decided the coat was so big it must have been a boy. Even I told her that monkey seemed very sad. Aunt Selma laughed her head off like we were telling jokes, like it was the funniest thing she’d ever heard. She said animals don’t get sad. She said we were anthrop… anthro… I don’t know, she used some big word.”

“Anthropology?” I offered.

“Yeah, anthropoligizing, I think. Anyway,” Susie went on, shoving her hands deep into Monkey’s pockets and continuing to act out the role of Selma, “my aunt starts twirling and spinning and saying that the coat’s a little big on her, but with a sweater underneath it will be fine. And then, all of a sudden, she stops and moves her arms across her chest and says, ‘Gee, that’s strange, maybe I don’t need a sweater after all… for some reason it fits perfectly now. It’s simply perfect!’ I remember her saying it just like that– it’s simply perfect!– because it’s about the last thing I ever heard her say before she croaked.”

Susie paused just then and giggled. “Wait,” she said, smiling down at the sleeves and rubbing them. “He’s warming up,” she said affectionately. “He likes it when I tell his story.”

I didn’t dare speak. But with a little more nerve now, I voluntarily buried my fingers in the monkey fur. The basement was chilly, but Monkey was as warm as could be.

“So,” Susie went on, “Aunt Selma wore the coat home, and a little while later the phone rings. I could tell by my mother’s face that something was wrong, so I picked up the extension in the other room and heard my aunt’s voice. She could barely speak. At first I thought she was whispering…but then it sounded more like wheezing and gurgling. She kept saying she needed help… that she couldn’t get out of the coat. My mother got really upset and started yelling, ‘Take it off, Selma, for God’s sake just pull it off!’ And Aunt Selma kept saying, ‘Tight… too tight… squeezing… me.’ That’s how she said it. Then I guess she dropped the phone because she dropped dead.

“The doctor said it was heart failure, but me and my Mom knew Monkey killed her. My Dad didn’t believe it, but that’s why my Mom asked Uncle Max if she could have the coat. So she could keep it from killing again.” She petted her sleeve. “Can you blame him, though? Poor little monkey-wonkey.” Susie let the coat slide off her body. It slipped to the ground, content or at least on good terms with Susie, I speculated.

“Your turn,” she said. I held my breath as she approached me. “Oh, come on, don’t be scared. I can tell he’s gonna like you.”

I don’t know if I trusted the monkey or my best friend, but I stood like a scarecrow, arms out, and let her put the coat on me. Its dead weight came to rest on my small shoulders.

“Now look at the sleeves,” Susie instructed. The black hair, silky and jagged, hung about three inches past the end of the sleeve. “My mother once cut the fur even with the sleeves, and two months later it was long and shaggy like it is now.” She went over to her father’s work bench, came back with scissors and trimmed the hair even with the end of each sleeve. “You can have this if you want,” Susie offered.

I nodded excitedly. What kid wouldn’t want to take home monkey fur?

“We’ll come back down in a month from now and I’ll prove to you that I was right.”

The coat hung heavily, lifelessly on my tiny shoulders, and I secretly wondered if my best friend’s imagination might border on the insane. But then it came to life and grabbed me so quickly and without warning that I gasped with fright like a mouse caught in the constricting coils of a snake.

Somewhere over the right side of my chest I began to feel a strange heartbeat… THUMP-thump, THUMP-thump, THUMP-thump… a heartbeat I knew couldn’t possibly be mine, because my own heart had been pounding over on the left side for quite some time now. There came a pressing sensation just then, like a cat kneading my chest, and then the kneading moved around to my back and I stiffened and arched in response. He held me in his grip, kneading his way up to my shoulders and then down, up and down, and then through the sleeves, giving my arms the constricting sensation of a blood pressure cuff, first on one arm, then the other.

I must have yelped at some point, because Susie quickly put a finger to my lips. “Shhh, you’ll wake up my father. Just breathe… relax, just breathe,” she coached me. “Monkey won’t hurt you, he just needs to find things out about you. He’s got to figure you out, then he’ll let go.”

And he did. He let me go.

Putting on that coat was like taking a lie detector test. Monkey probed, investigated, interrogated. I swear I felt him inside my head. And then, just as Susie promised, he let me go. I’d passed his test.

I kept Susie’s secret and never told anyone about the coat. Who would have believed me, anyway? My reward for keeping quiet was visiting Monkey whenever her mother left for the movies or for mahjong. After petting and grooming Monkey, we’d play one of our favorite records and dance with the volume turned low. Slipping into the coat and her mother’s high heels, Susie would lip-synch to Sweet Caroline and put on quite a show. Susie loved performing. So did Monkey; his fur always bristled when I clapped and applauded.

For a long time we faithfully kept our forbidden play dates with Monkey. And they might have continued indefinitely if Monkey hadn’t gone and killed Billy Driscoll, the boy next door.

One day in October on our way home from school we passed Billy’s house and saw a bunch of neighborhood kids gathered in the driveway in front of an open garage door. It wasn’t until Billy called to us and the other kids turned and parted that we glimpsed the magnificent, but unfortunately gutted deer hanging from the ceiling.

“Hey!” Billy yelled when he saw us. “Ya wanna pet Bambi’s mother? My Dad shot her while Bambi watched. Ha-ha! I saved her guts for you in a pail.” And then he proceeded to stick his head in the animal’s thoracic cavity. “You like my new hat?” his voice echoed.

“Aww, that’s disgusting,” all the other kids said in unison.

Susie and I ran screaming all the way to her house, but the next day during homeroom, she got up from her desk and walked over to Billy’s. His seat was right in front of mine. Susie looked at me as if to say, watch this, then bent over and gently whispered in his ear, “That dead deer’s nothing next to my gorilla coat.”

“Yeah, right,” he blew her off. “You are a gorilla.”

“I’m serious. I bet you never saw a gorilla coat.”

“You wish you had a gorilla coat to match your gorilla face.”

“Then I guess wishes come true because I do have one… and I can prove it!”

Until now, Monkey was associated with two deaths, but there was no proof he’d actually caused either one. Although Susie would never admit it, I believe she saw Billy as the perfect subject, an easy opportunity to test her hypothesis. And really, Billy was the perfect guinea pig. Ask any teacher, any kid in the neighborhood, any parent on the block– they all would’ve said he had a mean streak. Whether he was shoving smaller kids in the crowded stairwells, capturing and dismembering beautiful butterflies in the schoolyard, or throwing rocks at neighborhood cats, everyone knew he had a cruel nature.

In retrospect, inviting Billy over was a bad idea. A really bad idea.

Susie made him promise to come alone that Friday after dinner and not to tell anyone about the gorilla coat until he’d actually seen it– then he could brag all he wanted, she told him. After her mother left to play mahjong and her father settled into his easy chair, we snuck Billy in through the back door and took him down to the basement.

Susie didn’t even have to ask him to try the coat on. Grabbing Monkey the moment he saw him, he shook and roughed up the coat enthusiastically. “Wow. You weren’t kidding. This is so cool,” he said. “I think I’ll borrow it for Halloween and be a caveman, a Neanderthal.” Then he put it on and with a grunt and a roar beat his own chest. “Hey, I know– I’ll be King Kong for Halloween and one of you can be– ”

But Billy didn’t finish his sentence and he didn’t make it to Halloween. He didn’t last two minutes. Suddenly he stiffened, gasping for air, his beady blue eyes fixed on us and leaking with terror. And then it was over. Just that fast.

“Bad boy, Monkey! Stop it right now!” Susie yelled, slapping and pulling at Monkey as we both tried to get the coat off. But Monkey was too strong. He wouldn’t let go, wouldn’t budge. When he did finally relax, it was too late. Billy was dead. We ran upstairs screaming for her father.

The coroner ruled his death natural, cardiac arrest caused by a congenital defect. He assured Billy’s grief-stricken parents as well as Susie’s own distraught parents that it was no one’s fault; there was no way the family could have known about his condition, nothing anyone could have done to save him.

Throughout it all, Susie’s mother never uttered a single word to us about what had happened. Every time she opened her mouth to yell at Susie, it seemed her anger was too much, her screams too big to fit through her throat. Instead she just glared at her daughter. For weeks after the funeral she glared and glared.

I don’t remember if Susie was actually grounded, but Monkey sure was– forever. Immediately he was transferred to a maximum security facility– an antique armoire in one of the guest rooms, the brass skeleton key hidden from Susie– and there he was forced to remain in solitary confinement.

The years passed and we both grew up. After high school Susan met the young man she would soon marry, and when she did she left home and Monkey was never mentioned again. Most families have skeletons in their closets. Susan’s family had a monkey in theirs.

The subject remained taboo, and for the next three decades her mother maintained the role of jail warden, keeping Monkey under lock and key until her death last year. And now? Now here we were, two grown friends with a childhood secret, a moral dilemma and a tag sale about to start within the hour.

The caffeine from my morning coffee wasn’t helping to steady my hands. “Have you tried him on?” I inquired in a soft voice, so as not to agitate Susan.

“No! What for? What’s your point?” She was wired, as though she’d had a triple espresso at Starbucks before coming here, and looked at me with something approaching disdain. “And stop saying him,” she added.Stop calling the coat a he. It’s a fur, it’s an it.”

She shook her head and drank her second cup of coffee. “I knew you were going to get crazy on me about this whole thing, so last night I thought long and hard and decided that if we sell the coat we’ll donate fifty percent of the proceeds to a humane organization of your choice. How’s that? I’ll have a tax write-off, a little money, and the sale of the fur will benefit living animals. Is that acceptable? Do we have a deal?”

I gave a heavy sigh and shook my head. “He’s dangerous, Susan. He killed Billy Driscoll. He killed your aunt, you said so yourself… and that furrier’s wife in Africa, and who knows who– ”

“He didn’t kill Billy. Billy’s heart killed Billy. Besides, if you think he’s done so many bad things, it’s about time he did some good.” She drummed her nails on the table. “I thought you might want to donate money to a chimp sanctuary, like the Jane Goodall institute, or maybe some sort of gorillas-in-the-mist rescue group– would that make you happy?” she asked, trying to placate me the way a mother would a small child. “How about it, huh?”

“Why not do what your mother did– keep him as a macabre family heirloom, locked safely in a trunk where he isn’t a danger to others.”

Susan crinkled her face at me. “You make him sound like some sort of serial killer.”

“Isn’t he?” I shook my head and looked away. “I wish your mother were alive so I could tell on you. She’d have an absolute fit if she knew what you were about to do.”

“What I’m about to do is sell a wonderful, hard-to-come-by fur coat. That’s it. That’s all. I have no jurisdiction over what happens to the buyer. If Monkey wants to bring the wearer to justice– or whatever the hell you think he does– well then, that’s his business, not ours. Besides, we were young kids with vivid imaginations. I think we made ‘Monkey’ our imaginary friend.”

“Oh, come on, Susan– here, put your hand on him, he’s warm. I can feel him breathing on my lap.”

“Well, get him the hell off your lap!” she snapped, springing up like a jack-in-the-box and rushing around the table at me. She raised her hand as if to reprimand me with a smack, but instead snatched the body bag from my lap and draped it over the other chair. “There! Is that better? Is he breathing NOW?” she asked sarcastically and sat back down.

“You don’t have to yell,” I said under my breath. “You know it’s your own guilt that’s making you irritable.”

“Like I said,” she raised her voice again, “it’s Monkey’s business, not ours.”

I nodded in consideration of the notion. “Monkey business,” I repeated, our eyes finally locking in a deadpan stare.

I don’t know why, but suddenly I felt a horrible case of the giggles coming on. Maybe it was the disgusted look on her face, maybe my mounting nerves that needed an outlet… or maybe knowing that Monkey might murder again. If he did, Susan and I would be considered accomplices. Of course, it would never hold up in court, would it? I had a vision of Susan being cross-examined on the witness stand, the monkey coat on a chair next to the defense attorney, the prosecution asking Susan to describe the nature of her relationship with the furry and long-dead defendant. Suddenly, the whole damned thing seemed impossibly funny. I tried to keep a straight face, but the oh-so-serious furrow in Susan’s brow started me heaving with internal laughter. I tried to suppress it, but my mouth twitched uncontrollably until finally I broke out laughing. Susan’s frowning face only made me laugh harder, and for a moment I couldn’t catch my breath.

Elbows on the table, Susan held her coffee cup in both hands and regarded me with a deadpan stare. “Let me know when you’re done,” she said.

I struggled with my hysterics for another minute because knowing you’re not supposed to laugh always compounds a simple case of the giggles. “I’m done,” I finally squeaked, pulling tissues from the box on the table to wipe my eyes and blow my nose.

“Good, because we need to open the garage and set up.”

“Okay.” Sniffling, I reached for another tissue and blew my nose again. Susan waited until I had regained my composure, and then raised her cup in a toast. “Here’s to our sale… and to old friends.”

I cleared my throat and raised my own cup. “And to Monkey.”

She frowned but nodded in resignation. “To Monkey.”

Our cups clinked. “And his business, don’t forget,” I added.

Our sale was a huge success. Monkey had many admirers, but it wasn’t until the end of the day that a white BMW passed by, slowed to a stop, and then backed up. Two women got out, a blonde sporting a Gucci bag, the brunette with a Louis Vuitton. The blonde was immediately drawn to monkey, the other to the vintage coat rack on which his hanger hung. Shaggy, black, sleek, his hair glistened beautifully in the autumn sunlight. Amazing. That coat looked like new.

Susan winked at me and got up to join the women. Talking anyone into anything was her forte, not mine. But when Susan took the coat from the hanger and helped the blonde slip into it, I could tell that Monkey was about to sell himself. He sure was handsome… absolutely charismatic.

The woman sank her hands deep into his pockets, talking to her friend and twirling in the coat much as I had imagined Aunt Selma twirling when Susie told the story of her untimely demise.

“It’s monkey. Can you believe this? Monkey fur,” the blonde said to her friend. “How do I look?”

“Gorgeous. I can’t get over this long, jet black fur. It’s so exotic… incredibly sexy.”

“Really? Put it on for me,” the woman demanded excitedly. She slid out of the coat and held it so that the brunette could put it on and model for her. “O-M-G. It is sexy. I’ve never seen anything like this. I think I have to have it,” she said to the friend, and then to Susan she said, “I have to have this fur. I have to make a call.”

The friend shook her head and turned to Susan. “If she brings home another fur her husband’s going to kill her.”

“Not if Monkey kills her first,” I mumbled in the background. Susan shot her eyes at me and I looked away.

Four more cars pulled up, and much of what was said after that was lost to my ears. But in between wrapping items and making change for customers, I watched the blonde walk to her car, saw her on her mobile phone for quite some time, and then saw her come back, asking Susan if she could see herself in a mirror. She put the coat on again and followed Susan into my house, probably to the cheval mirror in my bedroom, to admire the monkey on her back.

Ten minutes later they were coming back out. Susan followed behind the woman, carrying Monkey on a coat hanger and waving a check at me. She hung his hanger on the coat rack and walked over with a triumphant smile.

“Wow. That much?” I said.

“Didn’t I say the sale of that fur would do some good? Was I right? Am I always right? So as promised, here’s Monkey’s very generous donation to the animal charity of your choice.” She bent down then, slid a large Rubbermaid tub out from underneath our table and began rummaging through it.

“What are you looking for? Monkey’s body bag?”

“It’s not a body bag,” she hissed. “It’s a brand-new coat bag!”

“Whatever you say.”

She went back with it, worked the hook of the hanger through the top of the bag, and hung the coat back up. I watched as she tucked Monkey neatly inside, smoothing and crossing his sleeves with the flare of an undertaker arranging the black-suited arms of a corpse.

A man’s voice distracted me just then. Would I take fifteen dollars for an eighteen-dollar piece of Depression glass, he wanted to know. “Sure,” I said, but just as I took his money and began wrapping the glass, I caught sight of Susan struggling to pull the zipper from top to bottom. At first I thought it had jammed midway, that maybe the fur had gotten caught, but then I realized it was Monkey forcing his arm out.

Susan shot me a look, her eyes wide with panicked exasperation. I stared helplessly until, with a surge of nervous strength, she pushed the defiant sleeve back inside and quickly pulled the zipper all the way down.

Susan wouldn’t look at me after that. When she returned to the table she took a seat next to me, sitting quietly as the last of our customers loaded their trunks with newfound treasures and waved their goodbyes. The blonde and brunette were the last to leave with Monkey secured in his body bag. I wondered how long it would be before he turned the tables. His new and most likely temporary owner opened the back door of her car and laid him out across tan leather seats.

“Bye, Monkey,” I whispered. “Be a good boy.”

“Stop it,” Susan ordered, but her voice had lost all authority, and I could see the thin fabric of her blouse fluttering over her pounding heart.

“I’m sorry, Susan, but you know I saw– ”

“Don’t say it. Don’t say anything.”

Boy, would she be in big trouble if her mother were here. I knew that she was already regretting the sale, that part of her wanted to jump up and take Monkey back, but I wasn’t about to open my mouth and start another argument. As it was, the suppression of my own conscience had me feeling light-headed, almost giddy again. I regarded her out of the corner of my eye. “Susan?”

“What?” She stared straight ahead.

“Dead people’s hair does so keep growing.”

“Does not.”

“Does wha– ? How can you say that! That’s how this how thing started– me meeting Monkey, I mean. You’re the one who insisted on proving that dead peoples’ hair keeps grow– ”

“Yeah, but Monkey isn’t dead, is he…”

I paused, studying her profile. “No… no, he’s not. Not completely.”

The car’s engine started and we watched in silence as the white BMW pulled away from the curb, coasted down the street, and slowly disappeared from sight.

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Karen Williams is the author of several romance novels and novellas and has published articles on dogs and the human-animal bond, one of which was awarded the Maxwell Medallion by the Dog Writer's Association of America. You can learn more about her work at