Put on your monkey suit
When I was a girl I dreamed of marrying a dashing man who would, on occasion, whisk me away to elegant dinners, fancy vacations and romantic weekend getaways. I found my dreamboat, but the reality isn't exactly what I'd imagined.
This fact clearly hit home not long ago when we were leaving for a party and I actually heard myself say, "Don't forget your monkey suit." Unfortunately, this wasn't a glamorous wife's loving reminder to her better half to pack a tuxedo. No, I was asking my husband, quite literally, not to forget his gorilla costume.
In hindsight, there is no one to blame but myself. I bought the outfit a few years back as a Halloween costume for my personal King Kong. He showed his appreciation by building an elaborate Empire State Building out of refrigerator boxes, with cut-out windows lit from within, and complete with a climbable ladder and Barbie-sized Fay Wray. He was in his gorilla glory all night long, and when the party was over, the suit went into a trunk.
A year or two later, the monkey costume was liberated at a family party when my husband put it on to terrorize our older nieces and nephews. They just laughed at his apelike antics. It was our daughter, then 2, who was traumatized by the sight of a monkey man jumping out of a tree in her backyard and running from window to window dragging his knuckles on the ground. Yes, that's the dashing gent I married. Clearly, he missed his calling with Barnum & Bailey.
After that, the suit went on hiatus for another long while. Then, about a year ago, we were trying to do something special to surprise the students at our daughter's school. They were working hard to read for a combined 1 million minutes. I suggested my betrothed don the gorilla costume again. The plan was that he would show up at a school assembly, announce that the kids were "Bananas about reading!" then pass out bananas as a reward and monkey around for a bit.
Ah, if only it was so simple. Performers are a fickle bunch, and before he would agree to this gig, he had a few demands. After the unfortunate terrorizing of our daughter, he decided the monkey would be less scary to young children if: 1. It wore clothes, and 2. It rode a bike.
Now this was getting complicated. I arranged for him to have a school T-shirt large enough to fit over the furry costume, but the only bike we had was toddler-sized. Stumped for a solution, I broke the bad news.
"No problem," he shrugged. "That will work."
Had he taken leave of his senses? I had a very bad feeling about this. How would this 6-footer ride a teeny, tiny bike in a gorilla suit, mask and gloves?
"Leave that up to me," he said confidently.
I warned him that there would be hundreds of children — with thousands of breakable little fingers and toes — sitting on the gym floor. This was a recipe for disaster.
"It's not a problem," he said. And I could tell there was no room for negotiating. He was riding that bike.
After working out how he would make his entrance, I told my husband he was to ride straight into the gym, and then take the microphone and say a few words.
He looked at me like I had gone mad.
"The monkey doesn't speak," he said.
Assuming he was kidding, I continued explaining the script. When I was finished, he repeated himself, "The monkey DOES NOT speak."
Now I could tell he was taking this personally, and to be honest, both he and his furry alter-ego were starting to scare me a little bit. So I didn't argue.
The day of the assembly shone bright and clear, and when I got to school, he already was dressed and hiding near the gym with his ridiculously small bicycle.
"How's it going? Are you sure you still wanna do this with the bike?" I said one last time. The monkey did not speak. I assumed he was getting into character.
Inside the gym, excitement was running high. The principal was standing near the door where the special mystery guest was to enter. When his big moment arrived, I saw my husband rolling down the hallway on the bike. He was doing it! It was working! Why did I ever doubt him? Just then, he tried to fit through the open double doors. Because the bike was so low, one of his knees crashed into the center divider in the door. The bike wobbled unsteadily and almost crashed into the principal. She clutched her walkie-talkie and hopped out the way just in time. But our hero persevered. He righted the bike, gave the metal horn two loud honks, and pedaled safely past the surprised and delighted young crowd.
As the kids cheered wildly, he jumped from the bike and took a sweeping bow. Watching the spectacle, I could ask myself only one question: How lucky was I to have married the dashing guy in the monkey suit?
And the beat goes on.
Kris Ferrazza is a former reporter, assistant editor, copy editor and columnist with the Courier newspapers. She lives in Waldoboro.