Said The Gibbon
by Adam Lewis Schroeder
A truck could be heard far away. His eyes left the tired
cigarette and fixed on the furry object in the road. It
was another monkey, a gibbon, with a black coat and white
belly and little white hands so he looked to be wearing
gloves. He tilted his head to study Amin. His fur was crusted
Would it please you, said Amin, to strike a match for
I have nothing of the kind, said the gibbon, I only wait
here for the trucks and I hit the driver with this. The
gibbon held up a ball of faeces that he was shaping in his
hands and grinned at Amin. An acrid heat emanated from the
ball. It smelled very ripe.
Amin realized that this was going to make it difficult
for him to get a ride. A red cockroach struggled to push
herself out of the ball but the gibbon pushed her back inside
with his finger.
Nenek probably warned you about me, said the gibbon. Everyone
says I should take orders from him, but he is happy to watch
while they burn the forest down around him. I wouldnít be
surprised if he had something to do with it! Do you not
have a son yourself who is involved in the cause? A tall
fellow? Iím sure of it!
Amin had no children. He had never even had a wife. His
mother had often encouraged him to drink tea with the parents
of certain girls, but he was sure that nothing had ever
come of it.
Permisi, said the gibbon, but I wonder if now you could
stand in the road, sir, as though you wanted a ride, and
when the truck stops Iíll go right in the window and get
him a good one! Do the trucks recognize my right to govern
myself? No! They want to help themselves to the forest but
they do not want the forest to have any help! Now you please
just pretend you need a ride. This is the beginning of our
movement, sir. It begins with you and I. Poor peasants and
fishermen, jungle flora and fauna like myself, we are victimized
by the men in town and their trucks that reach out to strangle
the countryside, they make victims of us all!
I do need a ride, said Amin.
Thatís the spirit, sir, said the gibbon.
Now the sound of the truck was angry and loud and they
could see the cloud of dust coming around the bend. The
gibbon nodded to Amin and hurried into the jungle, his spindly
arms straight above his head. Amin put the cigarette back
into his pocket, gave a few tugs to tighten the cloth on
his head and straightened up as quickly as he could.
The truck was piled high with ironwood. Amin walked into
the road and waved an arm over his head, but the truck sounded
its horn and did not slow down. Amin waved both arms, hopped
on one foot, and did not move out of the road. He had to
see his friend Pak Arafim! If the driver was friendly he
could soon be in town. The back end of the truck swayed
a little across the road, the logs creaked and the axles
whined, but it stopped in front of Amin. The pain in his
side was suddenly excruciating and treetops whirled past
Aminís eyes. He concentrated, though, kept his feet, and
stumbled to the driverís window.
The driver had a moustache and a lot of fat, and was eating
rice with his fingers. Rice was stuck to his lips and his
cheeks. The truckís dashboard was covered with pictures
of women in revealing costumes, and Arabic phrases. Amin
could not read Arabic, though when he was young his mother
had told him that a boy who could would be the star of the
mosque each Friday. And that every girl would fancy the
star of the mosque. Loud music blared from the cab of the
Watch out, the driver shouted, there is a dangerous monkey
Just then the gibbon ran out of the jungle, hoot-hooting
in his loudest voice with the ball of faeces high above
his head. The driver leaned across the cab and frantically
started rolling up the window. Amin stepped back from the
truck lest the truck speed away and his toes be crushed.
Oh, he was tired. How he wanted to lie down!
Solidarity! screamed the gibbon, and he hurled the faeces
with his long arm. The driver wound up the window as quickly
as he could but still had a few inches to go because the
window was stubborn and old. The faeces lodged in the gap
at the top and the red cockroach fell out onto the seat.
The gibbon put a white-gloved paw to his brow.
Ha! said the driver. He lowered the window and the faeces
ball fell down into his hand. Iím keeping this, you bastard!
he shouted at the gibbon. Youíre not getting this back!
He set the ball on the passenger seat, found first gear
and roared off down the road.
Amin watched the truck pass and the gibbon give chase,
vaulting along on his slender arms.
Terima kasih, pak! shouted the gibbon over his shoulder.
The truck slowed for an instant as the driver looked for
second gear and the gibbon leapt onto the back with the
logs. And as he climbed up to the cab the truck began lurching
across the road, one wheel going up into the grass, creepers
whipping the windows. The gibbon beat on the top of the
cab with his fists. Amin imagined that the cockroach had
wriggled under the tight waistband and was making merry
in the driverís trousers. The truck struggled across to
the other side of the road, the front wheel went over a
rock, and the cab tilted over at a dangerous angle. The
gibbon leapt off into the trees. The truck tore through
the foliage until it toppled over completely, skidded along
in the dirt for a hundred more feet and burst into flame.
Then there was a large explosion and the truck and the logs
were on fire. A column of black smoke tumbled into the sky.
The truck was a long way down the road and Amin squinted
his eyes. All around him, deer and monkeys and clouds of
insects came out of the jungle to see what had happened.
The gibbon strolled onto the road and inspected the wreck.
What has this place become? thought Amin.
Schroeder is cheating on Beckam with us.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: When I wrote the story "Pak Arafim the
Pharmacist" a few years ago there was this lengthy passage
with a talking gibbon that I ended up cutting -- well, 2
or 3 pages may not sound lengthy but at the time I'd only
ever written stories and that was a lot. It was integrated
into the rest of the story in some ways -- the first mention
of Amin's son, the death of the truck driver who's mentioned
near the end -- and though Amin was present for the whole
passage he was mostly just watching the gibbon run around,
and in the context of a 25-page story in which he did something
(however feeble) in almost every sentence, that was too
little Amin. So I cut the gibbon passage and it was the
first significant cut I'd ever made so I was proud of myself.