The Fear of Monkeys - The Best E-Zine on the Web for Politically Conscious WritingThe Vervet Monkey - Issue Forty-Three
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Vervet Monkey  from Christiano Artuso The Vervet Monkey is native to much of Southern and East Africa, being found from Ethiopia, Somalia and extreme southern South Sudan, to South Africa. They inhabit savanna, riverine woodland, coastal forest, and mountains up to 4000 m. They are adaptable and able to persist in secondary and/or highly fragmented vegetation, including cultivated areas, and sometimes are found living in both rural and urban environments. They eat a primarily herbivorous diet, and live mostly on wild fruits, flowers, leaves, seeds, and seed pods. They may also take advantage of bean, pea, young tobacco, vegetable, fruit, and grain crops and animals such as grasshoppers, termites or eggs and chicks. They have black faces and grey body hair color, ranging in body length from about 40 cm for females who weigh between 3.4 and 5.3 kg, to about 50 cm for males who average a weight of 5.5 kg. The species exhibits sexual dimorphism; the males are larger in weight and body length and may be recognized by a turquoise-blue scrotum. When males reach sexual maturity, they move to a neighboring group while females remain in their groups throughout life. Separate dominance hierarchies are found for each sex. Male hierarchies are determined by age, tenure in the group, fighting abilities, and allies, while female hierarchies are dependent on maternal social status. A large proportion of interactions occurs between individuals that are similarly ranked and closely related. Between unrelated individuals, female competition exists for grooming members of high-ranking families, presumably to gain more access to resources. These observations suggest individual recognition is possible and enables discrimination of genetic relatedness and social status. Interactions between different groups are variable, ranging from highly aggressive to friendly. Furthermore, individuals seem to be able to recognise cross-group vocalisations, and identify from and to which monkey each call is intended, even if the call is made by a subadult male, which is likely to transfer groups. This suggests the members within a group are actively monitoring the activity of other groups, including the movement of individuals within a group. In addition to behavioral research on natural populations, vervet monkeys serve as a nonhuman primate model for understanding genetic and social behaviors of humans. They have been noted for having human-like characteristics, such as hypertension, anxiety, and social and dependent alcohol use. Interestingly, a juvenile scream elicits a reaction from all mothers, yet the juvenile's own mother has a shorter latency in looking in the direction of the scream, as well as an increased duration in her look. Further, mothers have been observed to help their offspring in conflict, yet rarely aid other juveniles. Other mothers evidently can determine to which mother the offspring belongs. Individuals have been observed to look towards the mother whose offspring is creating the scream which suggests a theory of mind. In groups of vervet monkeys, infants are the target of a tremendous amount of attention. Days after an infant is born, every member of the group inspects the infant at least once by touching or sniffing. While all group members participate in infant caretaking, juvenile females that cannot yet menstruate are responsible for the majority of allomothering. Spiteful actions are extremely rare in the animal kingdom. Often, an indirect benefit is gained by the individual acting 'spitefully', or by a close relative of that individual. Vervet monkeys have been observed to destroy a competitor's food source rather than consume or steal it themselves. While energy is being lost on destroying the food, an advantage is obtained by the individual due to an increase in competitive gain. Although according to the IUCN its conversation status is of "least concern," they are used for biomedical research, and many people living in close proximity to vervet colonies see them as pests, as they steal their food.


The Chorus of Furies


J. Paul Ross


With her papa's voice rising into the cold November air, Cricket looked up from her pink rubber boots and wished she could go home. She didn't like this parade: it was too noisy, there were too many shaking fists, too many pointing fingers and too many people jabbing their signs into the dark gray sky. They were making scary faces and yelling things no one was supposed to say and as a line of banners moved in front of her, she almost pulled her woolen cap over her eyes and plugged her ears. She wanted it to be quiet, wanted it to be warm and turning from the crowd marching down Main Street, she wanted her stomach to no longer feel heavy and tight.

"Don't get too close to the Mexicans, sweetie," her papa warned. "You just stay beside me and don't forget to do what I asked, okay?"

Cricket nodded but kept the cardboard square announcing, "NEBRASKA NOT A WETBACK COLONY!" by her feet.

It had been given to her by a stranger but with its corners twisting in the winter breeze, she'd been unable to lift it high and straight or waggle it like her papa had shown her. It was too big, too flimsy and since she didn't want to make her papa angry, she cowered behind his leg and hoped the signs around them would go on distracting him.









Clumped in groups and each caught up in their own dance, the signs wobbled and bobbed, and though she was already reading books meant for second-graders, none of them made any sense to her. Some were handwritten, many weren't in English and whenever one of those appeared, the yelling from the sidewalks would grow. It would rumble across the concrete, its tone would become deep and gruff, and when the signs finally moved past, the almost breathless roar would make her cringe.

"I don't get why these people are so upset," her papa told the gray-haired man next to him. "Alls we're asking them to do is carry an ID. 'Course, I bet half of them would be back in Mexico already if the sheriff raided the packing plant instead of doing those penny ante busts at the apartments across the street from me."

"Yeah, but guess who owns the sheriff?" replied the man. "The plant owners. The same ones who brought the pachucos here in the first place. The same ones who own the mayor and the city council and everyone else. FIGHT THE ILLEGAL ALIEN INVASION!"

"I'm with you there," her papa replied.

Cricket didn't like this man. His eyes were glassy and he smelled bad. He swayed when he stood and worst of all, there was a shiny flask in his pocket.

Before she hid it in the trash last year, her papa had had one of those things and today she was scared he would drink from the one the man was carrying, scared it would change her papa into the person she had to hide from--the one who hollered, the one who cursed, the one who showed up to make things bad. She didn't want things to be bad again--the way they were when her papa lost his job and they had to leave the house with the green grass, the way they were when her mama went to live with another family and love someone else's children.

"I used to be a knife sharp at the plant," her papa went on. "Yep, applied right after high school. WHEN YOU JUMPED THE FENCE, YOU BROKE THE LAW! 'Course, once they brought in the tacobenders to break the union, I-"

"Really? I worked there for a bit, too. Gam tables 'til I hurt my L4. But this was in the old days when you could support a family working there and didn't take your life in your hands just walking onto the kill floor. WHAT PART OF ILLEGAL DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND?"

Wiping her nose, Cricket tried not to think of her mama for it always made her cry and it was getting too cold to cry. Her cheeks tingled, her breath came out in thin puffs and she wondered if tears could ever freeze on a person's face or make their lashes grow icicles. She giggled at this and covered her mouth because grownups got upset if you smiled when they were angry; and since they all seemed to be angry today, she lowered her head and began to stomp the leaves in the gutters until their remains were like broken potato chips.

"I'm just so tired of these illegals getting away with it," the gray-haired man continued. "MAKE YOUR TAMALES SOMEWHERE ELSE! But with our political leaders too afraid to do anything, we the people are gonna have to do it for them. We're gonna have to stand up and pass Prop 23. If we don't, nothing'll get done."

"Damn politicians," her papa spat. "Hell, the only one worth anything is Governor Brewster and I thought she was the same as the rest until I saw her on the debate last night."

"She did make a couple of good points. 'Specially the stuff about liberty not being--PROTECT AMERICAN JOBS, NOT MEXICO'S!"

The marchers were starting to yell back and, huddling deeper into her papa's leg, Cricket saw her neighbor, Mrs. De Luca waddling up the sidewalk.

Immediately, the little girl smiled. She jumped up and down and clapped, stood on her tippy-toes and waved because Mrs. De Luca was her very best friend in the world; she was the one who baked gingerbread cookies with white frosting for Christmas, the one who braided her hair for school pictures and she was the one who let Cricket sleep on her couch when her papa came home with his footsteps unbalanced and clunky. She knew things would be better now and she gazed up, excited to tell her papa of the woman's arrival, excited to finally have someone to keep her company.

But then she saw her papa drinking from the gray-haired man's flask.

A clear droplet oozed from the corner of his mouth to his chest and with Mrs. De Luca jostling closer, her pale, wrinkled face twisted in a frown, Cricket's stomach sank and she waited for her papa to finish before tugging on his coat.

"Hold on a minute, honey," he coughed. "NO MORE FREE RIDES! Me and--"

"But it's Mrs. De Luca."

Her papa wiped his lips. "It's my neighbor," he told the man. "We both work at the Wal-Mart. She's lucky though; she's a cashier while I have the pleasure of being in the warehouse: a quarter the pay I used to get and double the beaners."

The man whistled. "A job's a job, right? YOU'RE NOT ABOVE THE LAW, PONCHO! And let's face it; it's either there or the plant--and the plant don't hire white folks no more."

"You said it," her papa growled. "DON'T REWARD CRIMINALS!"

"Mr. Hantz!" Mrs. De Luca said, pushing her way between the policemen and the crowd. "Just what are you thinking, exposing your daughter to this weather?"

"BE SCABS IN YOUR OWN COUNTRY! Aw, she's tough. She can take it. Besides, I'm showing her the importance of standing up for--"

"What you're doing is showing her how to catch pneumonia. Come on, pumpkin, it's way too cold for your skinny bones. Let's get you away from here."

Not wanting to leave her papa and unsure what to do, Cricket gazed at her boots.

"Are your toesies getting chilly?" her papa asked, tugging her ponytail.

The little girl nodded.

"Well, her apartment is warmer than ours so I guess it'd be okay if you went with Mrs. De Luca for a bit. I can--THIS IS OUR COUNTRY, VATO! NOT YOURS!"

"But," she whimpered.

"Don't worry, I saw a few guys from work earlier and I'll get a ride from them, okay? The parade's almost finished and when it's done, I'll make you a big bowl of hot--GO HOME AND DON'T COME BACK! CAN YOU HABLA THAT, ESE?"

Again, Cricket nodded but remained where she was.

"Go on," her papa ordered. "I'll be home in no time." When she still didn't move, he smiled and patted her head. "Do you have the money I gave you for the bus?"

Checking her pocket, Cricket gave another nod.

"See. I told you you wouldn't lose it. DEPORT 'EM ALL! Now can you tell Mrs. De Luca thank you?"

Cricket sniffled a timid "thank you" and she soon found herself being tugged through a maze of faded blue jeans and old work boots, worn coats and frayed shirt cuffs. She tried to keep her papa's tall frame in sight but it was quickly lost amid the other adults. And after Mrs. De Luca took the sign from her mismatched mittens and dropped it to the ground and they had made their way to the bus stop, she looked up at her neighbor. She wanted to tell her she didn't think her papa would be coming home until it was very late, wanted to let her know, to warn her that when he did come home, it would be the other man, her other papa. She tried to talk but the words wouldn't form and all she could do was squeeze the old woman's hand.


"Damn it! Where's my keys?"

The clump of boots woke Cricket long before her papa's shouts did and with his curses filling the air on the other side of the door, she curled up and wrapped her arms around her legs.

She'd been on Mrs. De Luca's couch for most of the night, hoping her papa wasn't drinking from the flask. She'd prayed he would come home and laugh, wished he would draw pictures with her or play Monopoly but when his slurred yells thundered down the hall, she knew he wouldn't do any of those things. She knew he would be in a bad mood and she would have to be quiet and maybe even hide. She would have to be invisible and tomorrow, when he scowled out the window, a cup of coffee in his shaking hands, she would have to do her best to take care of him.

"You stay right there," Mrs. De Luca whispered. "I'm going to tell him you're staying with us, okay?"

"But . . ."

"You sit tight and don't worry. I'll handle your father." Then with a sigh, the old woman opened the door.

"Hello, Mr. Hantz," she said. "In case you were wondering--"

"Did ya hear?" her papa bellowed. "The wetbacks rioted."

"Yeah," another voice said. "They tried burning the courthouse! A bunch of us are getting together to--"

"I'm sorry, Mr. Murphy," the old woman interrupted. "But I was informing Mr. Hantz of where his daughter--"

"The courthouse?" another person roared. "I heard it was the mayor's office!"

"No. It was the police station," someone new added.

"Really?" Mrs. De Luca snorted. "The police station? There wasn't anything on the news and besides, for the last three hours, we've been listening to Mr. Jansson's snores through the wall. He's a volunteer fireman and--"

"Aw, screw him," someone else barked.

"Yeah, he coulda taken off when you--"

"No, I saw him leave and he was in a rush--probably to the fire is my--"

"I saw him too. He . . ."

More voices joined in and Cricket barely heard the click of their apartment's lock and the sound of her papa's boots going inside. She didn't know what he was doing but she wanted to tell her neighbors to go away. She wanted to tell them to leave her and her papa alone but with everyone in the hall talking, the words merely stayed in her throat.

"Did you notice how none of them are partying to their mariachi music? It's eleven p.m. on a Saturday. When was the last time you--"

"Probably pissing their sombreros cuz they're scared the cops are--"

"Aw, the cops ain't gonna do nothing. Not with the plant--"

"He's right. With the holidays coming, the plant can't afford--"

"I heard they're going to Columbia for workers."

"Columbia? Jesus Christ, I ain't worked in a year and they're hiring--"

"Why are you surprised? Remember what the governor said? Freedom doesn't--"

"Take it easy, Mr. Cole," Mrs. De Luca put in. "I'm no fan of the Mexicans either but--"

"But what?" another man snarled. "You and Artie were doing real good until they broke the union. He was the best kidney popper there and if it weren't for the Goddamn browns you'd still . . . Hey, John, whatcha got in the gas can?"

"Whadda ya think I got?"

"Oh, my God!" Mrs. De Luca cried over a burst of gleeful shouts and applause. "Just what are you planning to do with that, Mr. Hantz? Mr. Hantz! John! Where are you going?"

The old woman's pleas shrank down the corridor and Cricket was left to listen to the sound of her neighbors either bolting their doors or joining the heavy, syncopated thump of marching. Footsteps came, then vanished and she sat and waited. She waited for Mrs. De Luca to return, waited for things to grow quiet but when she heard the noises in front of her building, she finally rolled off the couch and pulled on her rubber boots. She took her coat from the hook on the wall and retrieving the hat from her pocket, she walked cautiously into the hall and toward the stairs.


Outside, the nighttime's chill made her nose run and catching her breath, she went to find her papa in the groups of men standing around in baseball caps and denim coats. Their collars flipped up, they were shifting nervously on the grass and mumbling to themselves but Cricket didn't pay attention to their words. She knew her papa had to be close and eventually, she noticed him with another group of men, nodding to the Coughlin Apartments across the street. He was clutching the red plastic jug he used to fill their space heater and Cricket tried to make her way to him, squirming between the men with the narrow looks in their eyes and their voices gravelly and harsh.

"And I saw on TV they was bringing diseases. Leprosy and--"

"What gets me is the drugs they're--"

"And where there's drugs, there's gangs. I coulda swore it was gunfire I--"

"I'd be gone in a heartbeat if I could afford--"

"Why should we leave? This is our town and our country, not--"

"We gotta stand up for ourselves. The governor was right: a patriot can never--"

"Ah, screw the governor! She's nothing but another politician. Hell, give her enough cash and she'd PROBABLY PROTECT 'EM!"



Suddenly, there was the crash of a shattering window and for a few moments, it was silent. Nothing moved and no one spoke until a small cheer rose from the crowd. It scared the little girl and she was a few feet away from her papa when she saw his arm swing and a rock fly from his hand. Another crash echoed, another cheer soared and instantly, the building's curtains began to shut and the lights started blinking off one-by-one.

Then another rock was thrown.

Then another . . .

And another . . .

And when the sound of breaking glass came yet again, a new cheer broke out--this one loud and shrill. It peaked and sank, and it had almost faded when suddenly, a burning stick twirled in the sky. It floated, it spun in a tiny circle and then hit the building's liver-colored bricks and fell to the ground. A moan went up and another glowing form--this time made up of nothing more than a small flame--hit the apartments. It was a bottle and exploding against the wall, it covered the building's front doors in fire.

Yet another cheer went up and more rocks were thrown, more windows were broken and with each tumbling pane, the cheering grew louder.

They next threw soda cans and bottles, pieces of broken concrete and tufts of grass. Tree limbs were snapped, dumpsters were toppled and soon, the red, white and blue signs proclaiming, "Be Safe, Reelect Brewster" and "Protect Your Job, Support Prop 23" were being ripped from the ground.

By now, the street was filled with raised fists and pointed fingers, people were scowling and yelling, but even over the noise of their voices, Cricket could hear her papa. He was giving orders and drenching sticks and paper in the liquid from his red plastic jug and once again, her chest felt heavy. She wanted to run, to hide but she couldn't and with nowhere to go, no one to help her, she could only gape as sign after burning sign was hurled toward the building.

Most bounced off but a few made it inside the windows and within minutes, the walls were flickering, narrow flames were peeking above the sills and charcoal plumes were gliding into the air. The fire was orange and red and gold, and its dirty smoke made Cricket gag. It stuck to her clothes and her skin and it changed the salty flavor of her tears.

Her world blurred from within those droplets but she could still make out the darkened forms of the people inside. They scurried back and forth. They appeared and disappeared, and each time they returned, the flames brightened and continued to spread. They spread until they lit up the entire block and there, under its glow, Cricket could see her papa dancing in a rain of embers. Waving his arms, he was patting neighbors on their shoulders and nodding; and along with everyone else around her, he was smiling cruelly and filling the clouded air with laughter.

Wild and raw, she'd never heard laughter like that before. It seemed to crawl up from every angry throat, flow past every sneering grin and hang in the breath of every person there. She could almost feel it prance amid the falling cinders and leap between the shadows and she tried to plug her ears but it was too loud; it overwhelmed the crackle of flames, it muffled the distant wail of sirens and it drowned any cry of protest. It soared while parents lowered their children from windows gushing smoke and it washed down every nearby street and every surrounding alley. It howled and it shrieked and it filled the neighborhood with its song. It had become part of the fire, part of the night and as Cricket watched tiny bodies fall with their hair igniting in yellow halos, its sound only grew.

J. Paul Ross is a graduate of Metropolitan State University of Denver and a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. His fiction has appeared in numerous online and in print magazines and journals including, The Antioch Review, Border Crossing, Falling Star Magazine and La Revista Literaria Centroamericana. Currently, he is working on a novel set along the Pan-American Highway. "The Chorus of Furies" was previously published in Clarion Magazine, No. 20, 2017.
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