What Monkeys Do
In the early morning, before the Folger’s coffee percolates, the eggs sizzle in the frying pan, the white Wonder bread pops with an enticing whiff from the toaster, Marta and I jump up and down on our parent’s bed. Papa’s wall-shaking snoring ends with an abrupt snort. Mama’s large eyes open wide like peas bursting out of their pods.
After a lion-like yawn, Papa says, “Jump you, monkeys! Jump!”
Marta frowns and stops jumping. I keeps jumping, peering down at our parents. They sit up in bed, side by side, with their backs against the large wooden backboard.
Momma’s soft gaze catches my eyes. “It’s OK, Mateo.”
“Jump!” I shout. Marta takes my hands and we jump together in unison, eyes bright, glowing like the sunlight cascading, like waterfalls, with orange hues through the windows, wide smiles filled with gaps from our missing baby teeth.
Marta’s long hair rises and falls like a speeding horse’s mane from a TV Western, I think, the thick dark strands glistening like crows’ wings in flight, lifting higher and higher until out of view, lost somewhere beyond the high ceiling, swirling as if populated with clouds.
Papa claps until his claps sync to the rhythm of our leaps. His broad hands and big-knuckled fingers pat one of Momma’s hands. Ever so slightly, she bristles then claps, smiles, one front gold tooth glimmering like an autumn moon.
“Jump, monkeys! Jump!”
“Pedro, really,” Momma says with tone of disapproval.
“But Sinovía they are monkeys. Look at them jump, leaping like monkeys!” His eyes never stray from us. Suddenly, the bedsprings feel less bouncy under my feet.
“Monkeys? I don’t see any tails. Do you?” We stop jumping.
Papa’s almond shaped eyes squeeze into snake eyes.
Before Papa can answer, I shouts “Horsey! Let’s play horsey!”
“Horsey, yeah! Let’s play horsey, Daddy,” says Marta. She flops down beside Papa, flinging her arms around his neck. Momma reluctantly nods.
With a quick flourish, Papa scoops up Marta, swings her on his back, and they bounce onto the floor. Marta squeals. “Giddy up, horsey!” She digs her heels into his sides as if she is wearing spurs. He whinnies. They race off, maneuvering his steps into halting stomps, trotting around the bedroom, weaving around the bed, rearing at intervals so far back that Marta has to grip hold of his neck with all her might.
I watch, with rapture. “My turn, my turn!”
Papa keeps romping around the room with Marta, not casting a glance at me. “My turn, when is it my turn?” I consider Papa’s poor hearing and shout, my voice much louder than before, a volume ringing in my own ears, making me cringe.
“Pedro, Pedro,” Momma says. Papa stops. “It’s Mateo’s turn.”
“What, OK, but we were having fun.” He sighs then plops down on the edge of the bed, tickling Marta’s feet until she drops back. Seeing my chance, I bound onto his Papa’s back. “Come on, pony. Let’s ride!” With a slight grunt, for I am heavier, and then a whinny, we are off, galloping around the room, I wave one hand in the air, as if it were swinging a cowboy hat. “Whoopee! Whoopee!”
Papa and I romp around the room and then speed down the hallway. Cootie, our tabby cat, close to the door, scurries away, nails scraping across the floor, and then Papa and I make our way out the front door. Mom throws Marta on her back and they race to catch up. I squint into the suddenly much brighter, clearer sunlight. My heart is as full as the sails of the sun as we all stomp, whinny, and race each other around the silver maple in the front yard, the silvery undersides of the leaves shimmering in the breeze, tiny silvery hands clapping inside of me.
Mario Duarte: "I am a Senior Academic Advisor at the University of Iowa and a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. My poems and short stories have appeared in aaduna, Chicago Literati, Hinchas de Poesía, Huizache, Pank, RavensPerch, Slab, Steel Toe Revie, Storyscape, and Typishly, and more work is forthcoming in Lunch Ticket and Pilgrimage."