Friday, April 9, 2004
A Short Story
illustration by Brianna Jordet
The greasy glass door whooshed shut behind me and the familiar thrift store smell rolled over me like a wave. Mildewed books and rancid tennis shoes are repugnant to some people, but to me, they smell like springtime at the marsh. I crept like an assassin through the record and book section, senses electric, rifling through the merchandise with the jaded expertise of a New York art collector. Nothing but the usual Herb Albert records and jelly-stained paperback copies of Go Ask Alice. A slow day at the Goodwill can be a very disheartening experience, one that may drive a person to the brink of shopping at Barnes and Noble, or worse yet, Media Play. Thank Goodness my sense always returns before I reach that point.
I rounded the corner by sporting goods and electric appliances and paused awhile by a garish black velvet painting of a sad looking brown haired little girl with oversized eyes. Lighten up, little girl, life is for living.
I almost turned and missed it, just then. But then I saw it.
It was magnificent.
If you've ever owned a sock monkey, you know of their mystical powers.
First of all, anything monkey-related is preferable, everyone knows that. Even the most sour of all life haters can't help but laugh the first time they are actually in physical proximity of a chimpanzee wearing disposable diapers. Of course, they remember themselves again instantly, and pull their grimace of self-pity back in place again, less someone notice that their mask has slipped.
I held up the remnant and appraised its age. It seemed to be a vintage Vietnam era sock monkey. I felt like Leaky, stumbling on the archeological find of the century.
A portly Goth rocker stepped up behind me, like a vulture sensing a fresh kill.
"Is that a real sock monkey?" I felt her breath in my ear.
"Ummmm..." I stalled. Got... to... think...
"Wow, I haven't seen one of those in years... Is it a real sock monkey?"
"Uh... no. It's a cheesy reissue. Probably originally sold at Dayton's." I lied, through a politician's smile. That was close.
It had been a long time.
Where ya' been, sockey, old boy? I remember my Grandmother whipping these babies out of thin air for our speculation and delight like they were standard issue survival equipment.
"What? Do you don't have a sock monkey?" I remember asking classmates, completely aghast at the negligence of the adults in their family unit. I thought everyone did.
I made it to the cash register without breaking into a run, a virtual portrait of composure. I paid the filthy lucre and hit the street running, waving my sock monkey in the air like a coveted tournament trophy.
Sure, I could have gone to Target and bought a brand new one. The new ones are a good indicator of society's subconscious wish to change, but they are just not the same.
In the same token, you can go to the art supply store and buy modeling clay, but it won't smell as good and bake up as impressively as the kind made with bread dough and egg dye in the kitchen on a rainy autumn day as the Parakeet warbles and WCCO crackles in the background.
I realize that owning a sock monkey at my age will probably raise some eyebrows and maybe even land me on a government list somewhere, but it is worth the risk. His smile is kind and his eyes betray a sublime wisdom that one normally associates with the Dalai Lama or Dick Cavett. One look into that inscrutable face and I am magically transported to the aforementioned kitchen, 4 years old and completely oblivious to the evil that men do. That's a lot of mileage out of one monkey.