Fiction — September 29, 2016 11:00 — 1 Comment

Baby and Gorilla – Lynn Levin

A new Spiffycuts has opened in town. They need someone to walk around the shopping center in a gorilla suit to spread the word, and I am the man for the job. Pay is off the books, less than minimum wage, a temp job, but I’m not choosy. My drug arrest makes it hard for me to pass a background check, and Spiffycuts hasn’t asked too many questions.

On my first day, I shuffle to the back room where they store the towels and shampoo. The manager suits me up in my fur costume. One of the stylists fastens the yellow pinney that says “SPIFFYCUTS GRAND OPENING” in front and “CELEBRATION SPECIALS” on the back. I pull on the grinning gorilla mask.

“Hey, everyone, meet our newest associate,” calls the manager. I practice my welcome wave as I big-foot it through the salon.

“Tell me I’m not going to leave here looking like him,” jokes one lady.

“I think a vampire would attract a better class of customers. Don’t you?” says another lady like she’s a marketing expert or something.

I respond in character with some grunts and strike a fashion pose. Yeah, mock this big hairy beast all you want. He’s going to do his monkey job and then wash dishes at the Greek diner afterward with the caballeros. I am practically a caballero myself, not very documented and working for cash.

I have a lot going for me as an ape. I like the outdoors, and it’s April, so not too hot in the costume. The suit has a big plastic chest that makes me look mighty. Inside the big black pecs, my heart’s a flat tire. I have a court date and a lame public defender. I could get sent upstate. Possession and receiving stolen property. Not that bad, but enough to fuck up the rest of my life.

Pointing to the announcements on my yellow pinney, wearing my big ape grin, I stroll up and down the shopping center, which also happens to be a drug hotspot. I see some of my old user friends. They have no idea it’s me in the gorilla suit.

“Hey, Harambe,” jeers a junkie named Weezer. “Where’s Cecil the lion?”

I continue on my rounds, past the pizza shop, the pretzel place, the pay-day loans place, the hardware store, the urgent-care clinic. I wave to shoppers. Some wave back. Some even check out Spiffycuts.

You learn a lot about people when you’re an ape. And the kids. Don’t get me started on the kids. Some scream in terror when they see me. One kid hugged me. One kid kicked me. I acted wounded and wiped my gorilla eyes. “Be nice to the gorilla,” the mom said. “There’s a person in there.”

Not that I see her very often, but with my mom it’s always, “Grant, are you going to meetings? Grant, are you going to jail? Grant, are you still on methadone? Are you going to be on methadone for the rest of your life?”

So it’s my last day as a gorilla. I’m waving my fond farewells to the shoppers when a teen mom appears. She’s bug-eyed, jumpier than a grasshopper, higher than a drone. She’s swinging a pink-and-blue-flowered diaper bag on one arm, and in the other arm, football style, she’s carrying a tiny baby. Then she swings the diaper bag too high and twenty, maybe thirty, small wax paper bags fly out of her satchel. Plus a couple of diapers. She falls to her knees, puts the baby on the concrete, and scrambles to pick up her dope.

“What are you looking at?” she says. Her gaze is like the muzzle of a gun.

I hold out my arms for the baby and give what I think might be a gorilla daddy coo. I huff. I coo again. The girl figures out that she can give me the baby. It’s a baby boy. He’s wearing blue. He’s crying now. I rock him. I’ve never felt so sad in all my days, or so human.


Lynn Levin lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. A poet, writer, and translator, she has published work in Hopkins Review, Boulevard, Cleaver, and other places. Among her books is the poetry collection Miss Plastique (Ragged Sky Press).

One Comment

  1. Michelle Moore says:

    I’m a long-time fan of Levin’s poetry and prose. This story is yet another example of her quirky, emotionally thwarted, yet sympathetic characters who, in attempting to deal with their existential crises, show us something about ourselves and what it means to be human . . .

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