The Ape / The Return of the Ape – Eric Thralby

Inspired by “The Cape.”

In the wind of the beach, I climbed into the gorilla. 

Its skin hung down like an immense human cape.

               –Ben Crowley

The Ape 

My father always knocked on my door. ‘Perchance, the ape is in?’

He opened my door and helped me into the costume. He beat a drum and said, Ladies and Gentlemen… The Ape. 

I tumbled, I dragged my knuckles, I oogabooga’d. 

I left school and learned to operate the roller coaster. We too, at our county fair, had an ape. He stalked the children and stole their bananas. He wore a tie and could stand on a ball.

Once, the ape attacked me. He pinned me to the ground under the scrambler. He spit a long stream of candy through his mask and into my mouth. ‘Welcome to Stan Land,’ he said. His name was Stanley, the Ape.

‘I’ve seen the ape,’ I told my father over the phone.

‘Again?’ he said.

‘Yes,’ I said.

He said, ‘God, gotta love the ape. What’s he say? Oogabooga?’

‘Yes,’ I said. 

My father’s voice became small. ‘Your own ape’s here, you know. Just getting dusty.’

The Return of the Ape  

When the circus burned down, I found work selling peanuts. 

Here on the boardwalk people purchased day-old sardines in order to feed the pelican, sticking their arms up to their shoulders into its throat. Patient old bird.

Unfortunately, there was a balloon man. 

‘What do you say I fold you a big banana?’ he said.

‘No,’ I said. 

The balloon man had a secret. ‘I have a little son.’

‘I will not patronize an ape,’ I said.

‘Here he is,’ he said.

His little son tumbled and hooted like a monkey. He could balance on a ball. 

He was everything an ape should be. But with no costume, he was just an ordinary boy. 

I called my father on a phone by the pier. There was a long pause at first. I could say nothing and my father only muttered confusedly into the phone. Finally, I gave him the truth. 

‘Oogabooga,’ I said.

When my father arrived in a cloud of dust and his sky-blue van, I introduced the balloon man to my father and the balloon man introduced my father to his little son.

My father hunched and crinkled a small paper bag. ‘I’ve got something here for you, my boy,’ said my father to the boy.

My father removed the ape from the paper sack. It was like a real animal. Its feet dangled as they slipped past the edge of the sack. ‘Do you think maybe he can try it on?’

The balloon man took the ape suit from my father and pressed his thumbs into it as if assessing its quality. ‘Boy,’ was all he said. 

The boy climbed into the ape, then stood on the ball.

We stood around the small ape on the ball, going around and around, rocking the planks of the boardwalk. The boy rolled off the ball and into a summersault. He hooted and hollered, heavily tiptoeing and tickling his own underarms. 

The two fathers enjoyed it so much. They slapped at their thighs and thumbed away tears. A crowd gradually drifted in like the tide, the pier creaking under its weight. 

In all the excitement, I finally escaped. 

Captain by trade, Cpt. Eric Thralby works wood in his long off-days. He time-to-time pilots the Bremerton Ferry (Bremerton—Vashon; Vahon—Bremerton), while other times sells books on, SellerID: plainpages. He’ll sell any books the people love, strolling down to library and yard sales, but he loves especially books of Romantic fiction, not of risqué gargoyles, not harlequin romance, but knights, errant or of the Table. Eric has not published before, but has read in local readings at the Gig Harbor Candy Company and the Lavender Inne, also in Gig Harbor.

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