Short Story: As Much Fun as a Barrel of Monkeys, by Craig Rainey


Short Story: As Much Fun as a Barrel of Monkeys 

by Craig Rainey



He gained consciousness in the familiar confines of his apartment. He knew it was his apartment only because he could see the banister to his bedroom loft and the burgundy accent wall above him. But that was where the familiarity ended. He pulled himself to his feet.

"Ow!"

He played gingerly at the tender spot on the top of his head: a spot covered by hair, matted with dried blood - apparently his own. Because opening his eyes caused him pain, he squinted through narrowly separated eyelids at his surroundings. He groaned at the sight of one of his home theater speakers poking out of the screen of his 72” 4k television. His green leather sofa, loveseat, and lounger were in turn, toppled, ripped and...

"What the hell is that?" he muttered, spitting out small strands of hair…or fur.

As he got closer to the sofa, he identified the smeared matter on the leather upholstery as feces. Upon closer inspection, the overpowering smell which struck him like a blow confirmed the matter smeared on his walls as poop, up to about 4 feet above the carpet.

"Oh my God!"

The previous night his carpet had been beige. The carpet he beheld through aching eyes was a dull spectrum of burnt umber darkening to brown in places. To his horror, the stiff fibers were being jostled by the air currents of the slowly spinning ceiling fan. The mess eddied languorously then settled…millions of individual fibers.

He brought his scratched and soiled hand to his blood-stained lips. He removed a long strand from under his tongue. The long fibrous tendril appeared to be fur. His back stiffened as dread washed over him. As his memories returned, he felt the blood drain from his ears and his neck flushed.

"Please no", he begged, though he already knew.



Slowly he turned. It was a laborious turn of the head, as he trained his diminished gaze upon the spot where his $10,000.00 drum kit should have been. Over the years his dining room had become a drummer's shrine. His custom-made high-end Sonor drum set was now 4 feet of smeared feces and an impressionist sculpture of bristling drumsticks and broken shells. The back wall was torn and littered with jagged, angry-looking broken cymbals, twisted boom stands, and deformed die-cast hoops. The fur blanketed floor embraced the splintered spiny remains of the cherry maple lacquered drum shells. In the center of the debris field was the bottom quarter circle and spiked legs of the 20-inch bass drum, gently cradling a carefully deposited pile of poop.

He would have fallen to his knees had it not been for the liberally strewn mixture of feces and what had been the contents of his refrigerator on his fur-covered floor.  Tears streamed down his filthy cheeks as he made his way towards the front door. If only he could get outside into the fresh air; back to a semblance of the familiar; the sane!

His bare feet…  
his shoes had been removed too… squished and sloshed as he staggered down the short hallway towards the steel front door.

The door was ajar. Silhouetted in the rectangular grey light of the approaching sunrise was a squat wooden…

Like a punch in the face, it all came back to him.

His mind whirled as his memory filled in the blanks.

The week had started like any other. Monday was always a drag. A weekend of heavy drinking and over-eating had bent his shoulders and cast his face with a sickly pallor. His brain had worked slowly with a strained reluctance. As always on a Monday, his main goal had been coffee and the appearance of work behind the antiquated monitor at his workstation.

The gray carpeted cubicle with a grey Formica desk and grey steel drawers housed the impersonal office supplies which bore testimony to the nomadic nature of his job and the listless vagrants who had made that cubicle a temporary home before he had taken the job.

'Downtime. Please, no calls now', he had thought.

The computer screen displayed a single line of text and his headset went live, crackling with the silence of a frustrated prospect who had made the mistake of answering the call.

He summoned his best happy voice.

"Hi, does the idea of saving 50 to 75 percent on your utility bills interest you?  (no pause) Of course it does.  That's why I wanted to call you personally with an incredible offer…"

"Take me off your list, you dick!"

The line went dead as the call ended and the auto dialer busied itself to connect him with a new angry phone call.

This was his life?  He had remembered back to his first week on the job. He had hoped the boring classroom training would never end. But it did. This was the hell for which he had trained. He had shaken his head as he predicted that there was no way he would last through Friday. No way!

That had been three months before. Every day had dawned with dread and dusked with despair. Was it too much to ask for a little fun?

On Friday he did what anyone in his state of mind would do. He deposited his lower three-digit paycheck into his bank account and went home to his apartment where he made the call.

He needed some fun! By god, he would have it! When fun was not readily available, you ordered in.

The fun arrived in the form of the wooden barrel he now saw on his front porch. The heavy barrel had been delivered by two beefy, overall-clad men sporting scruffy van dykes – presumably, to mark where their chins were had they been thinner. They refused to carry the heavy container beyond the entryway of the apartment.

"Sign here", one of them said.

Their expressions displayed their readiness to do battle if he pressed the issue, so he scrawled his name on the form and dismissed the large men with a wave of his hand.

Once alone, he decided to move the barrel where the light was better for releasing the steel bindings. Although he had strained mightily, he had not been able to budge the container an inch. After several long minutes, he had surrendered to the impossible task. With a few more moments of study, he had decided the barrel would be more gainly if the contents were emptied.

With renewed enthusiasm, he had hurried to the kitchen and found his household hammer in the drawer next to the sink above the cabinet door where his plastic ware was kept. He opened the cabinet and glanced at the old drink cups and disposable lidded containers bearing fast food logos. He shrugged then closed the cabinet. He would make a drink after.

He hurried back to the ponderous container and worked at the steel straps.  Slowly he was able to coax the upper steel band until it rose reluctantly above the flat lid.  Finally, he wedged the claw of the hammer under the lid, secured by black-headed nails.  He worked the hammer around the lid until only two nails held it in place.

He had grinned expectantly as he breathed deeply from the exertion.

"What could be more fun than a barrel of monkeys?"

Suddenly, the top had exploded, and he had been thrown backwards, falling to the beige carpeted floor. With a cacophony of screams, a flood of brown furry creatures boiled out of the barrel. What he knew about a barrel of monkeys would be put to the test that night!

A multitude of fingered feet trampled him as they made good their escape. Under the thousands of staccato blows he thought:

'Why would someone want to barrel monkeys? Further, who came up with the idea to do so? Did the fun meter tip depending upon the type of monkey? Were spider monkeys the optimum barrel occupant? Would a chimp be questionable or is the orangutan more agreeable with the confines of a barrel? Was a gorilla the revenge or practical joke method in the barreling community? If it were even possible, it would seem that only one gorilla would fit.'

The roiling simian horde seemed to have answers of their own to his many questions – none of them pleasant.

As the clamor heightened within his apartment, he rose to join the riotous monkeys. His expectations grew as he rallied. The advertisement which had moved him to place the order had been a trite reminder of an old adage. Despite the terror of the unexpected monkey explosion, he decided to have as much fun as a barrel of monkeys.

He got no further than where the hallway met his living room when he had felt a hard blow to the head and his memories had gone dark. 

His last thought, as he slipped into the blackness of unconsciousness, had been that these particular monkeys didn't seem to be having much fun.

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