Friday, May 3, 2013
Every Which Way but Clyde by MP Johnson
When he presented the costume in all its orange-furred glory to Tani, the look on her face upset him. She didn’t say a word, but her frown said everything. He wanted to rip her trembling lips off and poke her teary eyes out.
“Now you listen to me,” he said, tossing the ape costume on her lap. “I go to work every day to keep a roof over our heads and put food on our plates, and now I’m asking one thing from you and I don’t want no backtalk.”
“Do I have to wear it all the time, dear?” she asked, defeated.
Jackson sat on the couch next to her and wrapped his arm around her. “Not while you cook. I don’t want any fur in my dinner.” He winked and handed her a book – The World of Orangutans. “Now you know how I feel about buying books, but I bought this one and it cost good money, so I want you to study it, you hear, and do all the things orangy-tangs do.”
“Okay, dear,” she said.
That night, when he got home from his four-hour shift at the gas station, he found Tani-tan in costume, studying the book.
“Just what I was hoping to see,” Jackson said, pulling a package of Oreos out of his lunch pail. “I brought you a treat.”
“Oh,” she said.
He could see her confusion through the eyeholes of her ape mask. “What’s a matter? Didn’t you read in there about how much orangy-tangs love Oreos?”
“Well, no,” she replied. “It says they like fruits and leaves and bugs, and they’re strong enough to rip a human’s arms off.”
He raised his hand threateningly. “I told you no fucking backtalk, didn’t I?”
“I’m sorry, dear,” she said, closing the book and setting it aside, ready to take what she had coming.
Jackson lowered his puncher. “Aw hell. Let’s go out and have us a good time.”
She hopped off the couch and walked toward the door like normal, which infuriated Jackson. She must have seen him angering up, because she quickly switched to a more ape-propriate stride.
“Yee haw!” he shouted.
They climbed into his pickup and he cranked up the classic country music. Driving around with the windows down, the wind in his hair, the moon shining on his little ape sidekick’s fiery fur, he felt good, real good. Fulfilled, in a way.
“I’m gonna call you Clyde,” he said, slapping an Oreo in her paw.
She made an “ooo ooo” noise and Jackson’s heart lit up.
Things got even better when he saw a pair of bikers stopped at a red light up ahead. He hit the gas so he could stop beside them.
“You know what to do,” he said to Clyde.
She looked out the window and “ooo ooo”-ed at the bikers, who laughed and peeled away when the light turned green.
“Now why did you go and do that?” Jackson asked, frustrated at the realization that she hadn’t read nearly enough of that damn book.
“What?” she asked, making things worse with her regular voice.
“You’re supposed to whip bikers the bird, damn it!”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t see that in the book.”
“You didn’t even read that book.”
“I did. I swear I did!”
Jackson pulled over and shouted, “Get out!”
“No, dear, what are you gonna do?”
“Just get out and stop talking. Orangy-tangs don’t talk.”
She “ooo ooo”-ed and jumped out of the truck. He met her at the curb where she cowered. There was one way to find out if she really had read the book, if she really respected him and followed his orders. Surely, she would know this ape trick. He raised his pointer finger and aimed it at her chest like a pistol.
“Bang!” he shouted.
He waited for Clyde to fall backward and play dead, but she didn’t. She just stood there, not doing a damn thing. He couldn’t tell if she was being resistant and disrespectful, or if she really was confused. As much as he wanted to put her in her place, he could see she was trying. She had the costume on. She was grunting just right. He had to give her one last chance.
“Okay,” he said. “Show me what an orangy-tang does.”
She scratched her furry head in thought. Then she charged him, hitting him in the chest with all her weight, which wasn’t much, but enough to knock him down, caught off guard.
“What are you doing?” he asked, as she sat on top of him, clubbing him with her fists. He tried to move, but she had him pinned against the concrete. She grabbed him by the wrists and pulled fast and hard, ripping his arms from his sockets.
Jackson screamed as Clyde “ooo ooo”-ed and hopped off down the road, clutching the severed appendages as they sprayed blood in her wake.
MP Johnson's short stories have appeared in more than 25 underground books and magazines, including Bare Bone and Cthulhu Sex. His debut book, The After-Life Story of Pork Knuckles Malone, was recently released by Bizarro Pulp Press. He is the creator of Freak Tension zine, a B-movie extra and an obsessive music fan currently based in Minneapolis. Learn more at www.freaktension.com.
Copyright MP Johson
Artwork Remedios Varo