The Fear of Monkeys - The Best E-Zine on the Web for Politically Conscious WritingThe Patas Monkey - Issue Sixteen
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The Patas Monkey, photo from Christian ArtusoThe Patas Monkey is distributed over semi-arid areas of West Africa, and into East Africa. The ground-dwelling patas avoids dense woodlands and lives in more open savanna and semi-deserts and, perhaps as an evolutionary response to the high adult mortality rates associated with this strongly terrestrial lifestyle, has a remarkably high reproductive rate. The patas monkey feeds on insects, gum, seeds, and tubers, a diet more characteristic of much smaller primates, and they grow to 85 cm in length, excluding the tail, which measures 75 cm. Adult males are considerably larger than adult females and some of them can reach speeds of 55 km/h, making them the fastest runner among the primates. They have several distinct alarm calls that warn members in the group of predators. Different alarm calls are given by different group members and certain alarm calls indicate particular predators. Unlike other primates, patas monkeys rarely take refuge from predators in trees. This is most likely the due to the relatively sparse tree cover in patas monkey habitats. While patas monkeys usually run away from predators, both male and female individuals have been observed to attack predators, such as jackals and wildcats.




Carol Smallwood

(Excerpt from Lily's Odyssey (print novel 2010) published with permission by All Things That Matter Press. Its first chapter was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award in Best New Writing.)

I'd kept my past a secret because to say anything would've been disrespectful to my aunt and uncle who I'd been taught to believe were God's representatives on earth. Also, I wanted to live a normal life, be a good mother and telling them about Uncle Walt wasn't something I felt I could do--even after finally putting the picture together like a dot-to-dot puzzle.

It was Dr. Bradford who urged me to reveal my past by saying, "The main thing is you will no longer have to carry the burden of secrecy. You will have freed yourself to go forward. Like I've said, you can be anything you want to be. People don't know you here."

But after I'd told I didn't feel free but as if I ruined everyone's picture of me--that I'd lived with the secret for so long that it had become a part of who I was.

I'd written to my oldest relative, and told her about Uncle Walt. She wrote back advising me to ask God to forgive him. Another relative wrote, "We all have crosses to bear." And the others to whom I revealed my story sent me religious cards and then I no longer heard from them.

I wrote to Aunt Heidi too. She didn't believe the books I cited, what the counselors had said, writing back that she didn't know "how I could have believed such a thing."

After that, I only heard from her rarely and when she did respond, she didn't answer any of my questions, but did say several times, that her parents had never abused her and Uncle Walt. It never occurred to me that they had, though I was always a bit afraid of my reserved grandmother dubbed "the ice queen." My grandfather was just as proper but had a lurking humor in his eyes. Now, however, Aunt Hester's repeated denial left me wondering.

Aunt Hester was the first one I told in person, though I was reluctant to speak to her about it. She had been there all those years, and as a little girl, I'd reached out to her only to be rebuffed. I dreaded bringing it up now, but knew I had to for my own sake, as Dr. Bradford had said.

I said to her, "I've wanted to tell you many times about Uncle Walt when I was a child. He didn't treat me as a child but as a female to do with what he wanted and I've been told it was incest."

We were at lunch, after shopping at Marshall Field's. I suppose I thought that would make her feel more comfortable, although maybe I was trying to comfort myself. But as I expected when I'd rehearsed telling her, Aunt Hester's mouth and eyes narrowed. She didn't interrupt me, but instead got an embarrassed look, as if what I'd told her was in bad taste. I said I'd wanted to tell her the truth for years, and her embarrassment changed to an expression I'd never seen. I ended, simply, by saying, "Uncle Walt showed no consideration for me as a person."

"You never wanted for a thing and we provided you with clothes and an education." And, she added in her hushed church voice, "We always took you to church."

I knew what it meant to be in denial, and I knew Aunt Hester, so her reaction shouldn't have surprised me, but like in the past, I kept hoping she would change.

She looked at her watch then and said, "I want to go and buy that Hummel figurine, the one with the girl carrying the broom." She insisted on paying the bill and said, "I'll request prayers for you from the St. Joseph's Indian School apostolate of prayer. They do so much good work with Indian children," nodding three times as if to the Holy Trinity.

I don't know if I would've told Mark, if not for the fact that I was afraid to visit him and his wife in their new house because I'd feel compelled to repot all his plants in larger pots and worry about whether his children's pets were getting the right care. I could now see how post-traumatic stress disorder was self-perpetuating: I feared seeing something that wasn't getting the right care but, avoiding situations, like not seeing Mark, made me feel abandoned.

He answered my e-mail, saying that my past was "insightful" and that I was coming up with conclusions that "employed a lot of psychology." In high school when he was taking psychology, Mark had said "Mr. Olds said he'd known a woman who people started calling nuts and she became nuts."

I'd nodded and said, "I can see how that could happen."

"He also said if water was thrown on your face when you were very thirsty and couldn't get any, it could drive you nuts."

I could also see how that could happen.

When he visited me, and we were in the kitchen as I washed the dishes and he dried, he said, "I remember Dad pushing you around and yelling at you."

I sensed that he wanted to ask questions but I wondered if he preferred the Norman Rockwell version of his past. Or maybe he couldn't thoroughly accept what I'd told him because I hadn't gotten everything clear enough in my mind. How much more hadn't I uncovered yet? Would it have been better not to tell? Was I still confusing Cal and Uncle Walt?

But I was about their age, in my thirties, when my time bomb went off and the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder began. If they had to face the past without the benefit of my knowledge, they'd be at a disadvantage.

I told Jenny when we were returning after a shopping trip and probably wouldn't have spoken so freely if I hadn't been driving and was able to keep my eyes on the road.

She asked, "Did anyone else believe it happened?" When I related what Caroline and Susan had said about Uncle Walt and Cal--"They're out to crack you"--and that when I'd told Cal, he'd agreed that Uncle Walt could have done such a thing, she merely stared at the road ahead. Out of nervousness, I went on to tell her some of what I'd read about abuse, and as I did, I became angry, and it bubbled over into swear words she'd ever heard me say. Was this what Dr. Bradford meant about repressed anger?

Jenny didn't mention my reaction when I brought the subject up again afterward. I was calmer then, and explained how seeing her have children had triggered more of the past. Having talked about the abusive treatment I'd suffered at Cal's hands, I told her I didn't want her to feel I was asking her to give up her image of Cal and Uncle Walt as her father and grandfather.

It was hard telling her because I remembered how necessary it was for me as a girl to have a good opinion about men in my life. Given the situation, the irony could be that I'd done too good a job of hiding things. The way I was perceived, as a result, no doubt made me sound less credible now. When my children were growing up, Mark had once asked me what it meant to be schizoid, after I picked him up at Cal's, during that period after the divorce when we had split custody. In fact, after the divorce, they, like everyone else, saw me as the one who'd destroyed the family because I was, as Uncle Walt would've termed it, "not running on all cylinders."

As I fought the feeling of abandonment, I wondered what life would've been like if I hadn't stayed in Nicolet City to be with them. The final irony could be that I'd only heaped more trauma on them as well as myself by joint custody.

Carol Smallwood's books include Women on Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching, foreword by Molly Peacock (McFarland, 2012) on Poets & Writers Magazine list of Best Books for Writers; Divining the Prime Meridian (WordTech Editions, 2014); Bringing the Arts into the Library (American Library Association, 2013). Carol has founded and supports humane societies.
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