The Howler Monkey
The Howler Monkey is among the largest of the New World monkeys. They
range in size from 56 to 92 cm, and like many New World monkeys, they
have prehensile tails. They have a short snout, and wide-set, round nostrils.
Howlers eat mainly top canopy leaves, together with fruit, buds, flowers,
and nuts and have a lifespan of 15 to 20 years. They move quadrapedally
and do not brachiate, usually holding on to a branch with at least two
hands or one hand and the tail at all times. They very seldom leave the
trees, rest about 80 percent of the time and are considered the least
active of all monkeys.
"How do I know that God loves me?"
I ask my Sunday school teacher.
Mrs. Hawthorn should know.
She's so old she probably knew
I take that back--I don't want to go to Hell,
but it's kind of funny.
It's an exaggeration.
That's my new word.
It's a pretty long one.
"Well, Gale, just think of all you have," she says.
"Your parents and your sisters".
"And my dog," I say.
"And your dog," she agrees,
but she hesitated--
I caught her by surprise with that one.
"He's my best pal," I say.
"Oh," she says.
"I can tell him anything and he won't rat on me.
He never hates me.
He won't lie to me.
Oh, sure, sometimes he disobeys me,
but he's not evil like a person can be."
"Oh," she repeats.
"Well, God has given you a faithful friend," she says.
"Well, God didn't give him to me," I say.
"We got him from the pound."
Giggles from my classmates.
"Well, we did," I say.
"He needed a home and we gave him one.
"Well, that was kind of you," Mrs. Hawthorn says.
"It was my parents' idea," I say.
"They want me to learn responsibility.
So I feed him and brush him and we play
and I teach him tricks. He can sit, lie down,
shake, and roll over almost all the way
if I help him. Is that cheating?
Cheating is a sin. I don't like sin.
I don't want to go to Hell."
"No, that's not cheating," she says.
"You're helping a poor dumb animal, that's all.
"Well, he's not so dumb," I say.
"When he needs to go outside
he scratches the door
and when he wants to come inside,
he does the same.
On the other side of the door, I mean.
That's pretty smart for a dog."
Mrs. Hawthorn says, "Alright, children,
who else among us has a pet?"
"I do," says Ruby Leach. "I've got a cat.
Her name is Muffy. She's got long whiskers."
"Just like you," I say.
All the children laugh.
Mrs Hawthorn says, "Gale, that's a sin."
"Oh, damn," I say. "I'm sorry."
"Gale, that language is inappropriate.
That's another sin. You'd better leave now."
"Yes ma'am," I say. "I guess I lost my head
and please don't tell my parents about this
because it will piss them off royally."
I'm gone before Mrs. Hawthorn can say anything else.
My dog's waiting behind the mobile home where we have class.
He runs up. "Hello, you son of a bitch."
Gale Acuff has had poetry published in Ascent, Ohio Journal,
Florida Review, Poem, Maryland Poetry Review, Adirondack
Review, Danse Macabre, Worcester Review, South
Dakota Review, Santa Barbara Review, and many other journals.
He has authored three books of poetry: Buffalo Nickel (BrickHouse,
2004), The Weight of the World (BrickHouse, 2006), and The
Story of My Lives (BrickHouse, 2008). He has taught university English
in the US, China, and the Palestinian West Bank.