I walked along with my hands in my pockets and felt something wet on my cheek.

"Rain," I decided quite brilliantly, and dashed under the alcove of the nearest building. I wiped the drop off my face and noticed it was red.

I peeked up from under the alcove and saw another deep red tear floating down through the thick, grey, soupy air. Then I heard the roar of a distant plane and felt the building shake around me. The plane sliced through the haze, leaving a black trail behind, which seemed like a zipper unzipping the sky from horizon to horizon. I could almost see a deep clear blue leaking out through the zipper teeth.

I stared up past the skyscrapers that tore into the haze and left scratches and tears on the sky, and my head was spinning in circles as I tried to figure out where the red raindrops were coming from.

Something was tugging at my pant leg, and my gaze came crashing down from the clouds toward the concrete walk, and landed on a furry brown monkey with a paper cup hat on his head.

The monkey started dancing and twirling, flipping and swirling. He moved so fast, my head started spinning even more than it had been before, and all I could see were splashes of color and motion. Then abruptly, as if the quarter had run out on this monkey-go-round, the creature re-materialized. He just stood there motionless, smiling and tugging on his hat in a friendly greeting, stretching the rubber band that held it under his chin until I thought it would snap.

"Hi," I giggled nervously. Then I noticed the tin can in his hand, and I heard the organ grinder's music somewhere around the corner.

"Sorry," I shrugged. "No money," and I pulled out my empty pockets to prove it to the stern look that washed over the smile which had greeted me.

The furry monkey stepped back with his hands on his hips. He clicked his tongue and spat on my shoes.

"Gee, I said I'm sorry," I stammered.

The monkey turned around in disgust and looked for someone else who liked animals and music enough to appreciate them with something that counted.

Then he stopped and snapped his fingers. He pulled out a rag and dashed back to where I stood and began polishing my shoes.

"Hey, I said I don't have any money," I gasped.

The monkey beamed up at me, pulled out an iron and started ironing my shirt and pants -- with me in them!

"Ouch!" I screamed, but in a flash he was finished and I felt like I was in a plaster suit.

"Thanks a lot," I whispered as I tried to disappear into the building's shadows.

But the monkey walked closer and backed me up against the brick wall. Then my captor pulled off the paper cup cap and leaned closer, motioning for me to bend down. Swallowing, I did as I was told.

"Closer," the wave commanded.

I could feel his hot breath on my cheek. He put his hand around his mouth and cupped it against my ear.

"Hey, you owe me big-time now. So listen up. I've got to go downtown for a while -- continuing education class at the junior college, you know. It's the only way to get ahead in this racket. Now put this hat on and take the cup and fill in for me for a while. The old man will never notice."

I stood speechless while the monkey strapped the cup under my chin and stuck the can in my numb fingers (after he first emptied the coins into his hand).

"Hey, thanks, Chief," the monkey smiled. "Be back in a while."

And he was off. The old organ grinder turned the corner just then.

"Giuseppe," he yelled. "Come on, let's seea how mucha you got."

He pulled my hand and looked in the can.

"You beena stealing from me again!" he thundered. "I'ma gonna keepa my eye on you. Now geta dancin!"

"I..." I started. But somehow I couldn't talk.

"Giuseppe, starta dancin!"

"Oooh, Oooh," I grunted as I hopped around and smiled at the people who passed by.

Nickels, dimes, quarters, and dollars came sailing my way, and I scrambled to pick them up and stick them in the can.

"That'sa my boy," the organ grinder laughed, and he played faster and faster.

Before I knew it, the sun was going down and I could hardly move.

"O-kaaay. That'sa nuff for today. You did a gooda job, boy. It'sa that new dance I teacha you that dida trick. Here's some peanuts," he offered as I handed over the can full of money.

He held out the peanuts and I reached for them. I looked in horror at the hand that I put forth -- it was covered in brown fur. I looked down at my other hand. It was just starting to come in on that one too.

"I've got to get out of here," I gasped, but the only thing that came out was "Oooh, Oooh."

"Psst. Hey bud," I heard from over by one of the buildings. "Come here."

I hobbled over and saw it was the monkey. He was wearing a graduation cap and he had a diploma in his hands.

"Hey, thanks a lot," the monkey whispered. "I'll take over now." He pulled off my hat and took the can. "Hey bud, you need a shave!" he chortled, looking me over.

I stood in the shadow of the building while the monkey went up to the organ grinder, threw the diploma at him, and began yelling in a loud voice.

The monkey tossed the paper cup and the tin can into the organ grinder's hands and grabbed the organ. I watched as they headed down the street, with the ex-organ grinder dancing and "Oooh, Oooh"ing. The new organ grinder winked at me as he played and played, making the old man dance faster and faster, and then they were gone out of sight.

I shook my head and sighed in relief as I noticed my hand was back to normal, and then I sat down on the curb to eat my peanuts.

I leaned back against the building and cracked the first one open.

"HEY! What's going on?" a tiny voice yelled from inside. I stared down at the opened shell and saw a brown nut standing up and waving his hand angrily at me. He was in flannel pajamas and had a wool cap on his head.

"What is it, dear?" a squeaky female voice called from under the unopened part of the shell.

"Nuttin' honey. Go back to sleep," the peanut whispered. "I'll take care of this bozo." Then he turned back to me with a growl. "OK buster...Put that shell back the way you found it, and let us get some sleep. OR ELSE!"

I smiled politely and dropped the pile of peanuts in the corner. I got up and quickly hurried off.

"BETTER THINK TWICE NEXT TIME!" the peanut yelled after me.


Monkey On My Back
( Chapter 15- MP3 song demo by Lyndon DeRobertis)

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