Friday, February 12, 2016

Monkey See, Monkey Do

In honor of The Year of The Monkey, I am sharing this chapter from my 2009 novel Shades of Luz. Considering how the world economy is moving into another recession, I think this passage about dart-slinging monkeys picking stocks is particularly poignant, but what do I know. On the other hand, neither does your so-called financial advisor.

Ahem, Dartboard Theory, Is It?

We were greeted by a fellow in a grubby lab coat. His name was Gus and he chaperoned the dart-slinging monkey room. Two humans, but only one monkey, were allowed in the room at any given time. This was strictly followed so as to prevent too much mammalian mimicry. The object was to keep things as random as possible. The monkeys were kept in holding cells, but they had a beautifully painted mural of St. Tropez or Lagos.

Gus coached through the Plexiglas. On the outside of the door two numbered ladders hung by copper thumbtacks, one ranked the monkeys and the other ranked the trainers. The term trainer was really a misnomer, but who was I, at that point, to make a stink.

Newspaper clippings lined the walls. Rudy, last year’s crackerjack, watched over his monkey, Nietzsche. Rudy’s name topped the ladder outside. He had good rapport with Nietzsche, the lone Rhesus of the lot. Nietzsche made three quick dart tosses each a foot apart from each ticker symbol. Rudy waited behind the masking tape on the floor, the line of demarcation where a monkey needed to stand in order to make his toss. Nietzsche gave his trainer a high-five.

Nobody knew what boomers would boom at least for a week although short-swing breakouts happened by market close. Boomer, referred to a stock that was going to bust through its resistance level and soar into a new stratosphere. No guarantees, but this was the accepted premise. There was no tickertape of any kind in the room. According to Gus, the monkeys might grow smitten with the flashing glow of certain ticker symbols and thus skew the random element driving dart board theory. It occurred to me that even if the monkeys were drawn to a glowing symbol that didn’t mean they weren’t going to tag that respective stock. Stereoscopic vision or not, the monkeys didn’t see such blurry newsprint from their vantage point.

A note on random. It was widely accepted that any stock could bolt into its own orbit, plunge into disrepute, or mosey ad nauseam sideways without a care in the world. The point being, that no cocksure dweeb could cook enough data to prove that his theories rocked the pure and accidental.

“Charlie, you and the new guy are up,” Gus said.

We waited by the door until Rudy came out with Nietzsche. Gus pulled Nietzsche by his fury digits and led him to his holding cell.

“Should we wait,” I said.

“Nah, let’s warm up,” Charlie said.

“What do you mean?”

“We’re getting fresh monkeys,” Charlie said, “Maybe even a couple
that have never tossed a dart before. We’ll need to break them in.”

No sooner did Charlie finish cracking his knuckles did Gus return with two new monkeys. One was a snow monkey the other was a
macaque. Charlie tossed a couple of darts, neither of which stuck to the wall. His monkey almost seemed to be laughing. Actually, it was pretty funny. Charlie’s tosses sucked. The first one didn’t even reach the wall. The second was a creampuff, an underhanded toss tail-first against the wall.

“Okay, enough,” Gus said.

He knocked on the Plexiglas then made a slicing motion across his
throat with his right hand.

“Give it a whirl, Benny Boy,” Gus said.

With that, I clutched my darts. I was afraid I’d prick myself and didn’t look at my hand. Darts was never my bag. I tossed all three with quick snaps. Each one hit the wall with a ping, the second one dead center of a ticker symbol. It didn’t matter which part touched. It counted. A bull’s eye, on the first try, must have been dumb luck, but it still felt

I couldn’t quite make out what Gus was saying behind the soundproof glass, but I saw his mouth curl into an O. When I pulled the second dart from the wall I noticed I’d hit the letter O, right in the hole. For some reason this made me flinch.

My monkey followed me to the wall and tugged my pant leg. I didn’t hand over the darts till Gus tapped the glass. My monkey almost jerked them out of my hand. At least, it seemed that way. He made three quick chucks. Each landed within a close range, as if he were trying to hit the same mark. Two of them actually did.

When I escorted my furry friend out, Gus put his hand up blocking me from crossing the hall’s threshold.

“You know, you’d be disqualified because you didn’t set him behind the line.”


“They always need to stay behind the line,” Gus said, “No exceptions.”

I then looked down at the masking tape on the floor and shrugged my shoulders.

That night I dreamt of great apes, monkeys, and prosimians. I was a hominid trapped in a mud bath and the apes tossed stones, nuts, anything and everything at me; couple of them busy sharpening spear points. A whole pile lay there waiting for my nose as its bull’s-eye. They picked them up and flung them at my head and when they cracked, egg dripped all over my face.

Woke up in a cold sweat. Took a hot shower with a brand new loofah sponge and scraped off dead and itchy skin.

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