We're happy to present two substantial goodies this month: a new short story from Gary Every and an artist profile of Squid contributor Rocky Kelley. Enjoy!
The Monkey and the Coyote
by Gary Every
Bob Kitteridge came to Sedona, Arizona during the Great Depression. He and his brother Buddy left Oklahoma in a motorcycle and sidecar, fleeing the horrors of the Dust Bowl, giant sand storms, plagues of grasshoppers and jackrabbits. They had no idea where they were going; the brothers only knew what they were leaving behind – abject poverty. You know you are poor when you and your brother and everything you own fit onto a motorcycle and sidecar.
Broke and hungry, they found work with a circus for a short time, travelling from small town to small town. The job didn’t pay much but at least they got fed, although sleeping near the animals was always smelly and unpleasant.
One day the ringmaster gathered everybody in the circus: clowns, acrobats, jugglers, lion tamers, bearded ladies and strong men. Everybody, including the Kitteridge brothers, stood in the center ring while the ringmaster revealed that the circus had gone bankrupt. “I am afraid,” the ringmaster announced, “that I do not have the money for your last payday. You are free to take anything you like.”
Always keep an eye on the clowns. Before the ringmaster could even finish his last word, the clowns were already scurrying about and looting anything worth stealing before anybody else could get to it. They were vicious.
Bob Kitteridge sighed. “It seems like I’m always hungry. How about some food for the road?”
The ringmaster offered, “How about a popcorn machine?”
“Won’t really fit on a motorcycle,” Bob replied.
“I know just what you boys need,” the ringmaster said with a showman’s smile. The ringmaster disappeared behind a row of wagons. An elephant trumpeted. A dancing bear roared and soon the ringmaster was walking back to the two Kitteridge brothers, holding something small and furry. He was holding a monkey, a small type of ape actually, called a gibbon, with a gold collar and leash. The ringmaster extended his arms and offered up the circus monkey.
Bob exclaimed, “I don’t want to eat a monkey!”
Buddy said, “It’s a pet.”
The ringmaster shrugged. “Whatever.”
“No way,” said Bob.
Buddy Kitteridge reached out towards the ringmaster and the monkey leapt from the ringmaster to him. The monkey scrambled up Buddy’s outstretched arms to the shoulder before leaping from one brother to the other. The monkey settled onto Bob’s head and placed a wet loud kiss on his cheek. Bob blushed.
“Glad that’s settled!” the ringmaster announced, clapped his hands and was off to negotiate with his next former employee.
Then the little ape attempted to make mad passionate monkey love with Bob’s ear. “Aaah!” Bob screamed as he pulled it off. He tried to give the circus monkey back but the ringmaster was already involved in a heated argument with the bearded lady and it just seemed better not to get involved.
The three of them, the two Kitteridge brothers and the monkey, loaded everything they owned onto the motorcycle and headed west. It was a tight fit with the sidecar loaded high but it wasn’t the monkey’s fault. Out of the three of them, the monkey had by far the least amount of luggage, with just the gold collar and the leash.
The monkey loved to ride the motorcycle. Whichever brother was driving, the monkey loved sitting atop the driver’s shoulders. When the monkey was really happy he would chatter constantly. The monkey especially liked it when the motorcycle went really fast. The monkey would chatter for hours, tail whipping behind him in the wind.
Bumpy gravel roads frightened the monkey. The motorcycle would begin to bounce and the monkey would shriek. If the tires fishtailed even the slightest bit the frightened monkey would screech and place both hands over the driver’s goggles.
“Clear the ape,” the driver would command.
The passenger would rise up from the sidecar and remove the monkey paws from the driver’s goggles. The motorcycle kept rolling westward.
Their first night in Sedona the three of them camped alongside Oak Creek. They had arrived in the dark of night and had no idea that it was Sedona they had been heading towards all along. In the morning, when they awoke it was to the brilliant rays of sunrise shining upon the softly sculpted red sandstone cliffs of Sedona. The red rock glistened beneath the rising sun. Orioles sang as they migrated through the fruit orchards. It was beautiful.
The monkey was the first to crawl to out from beneath his blankets. The monkey picked up sticks and stirred the embers of the fire. Both brothers had attempted to teach the monkey how to make a campfire, thinking that it would be a useful skill. Since the monkey was always the first one awake anyways, if he could learn to make fire, then it would be an easy next step to teach him how to put the coffee on. Luckily for our species, the monkey never quite got the knack of fire.
Suddenly a look of terror crossed the monkey’s face. The stricken monkey shrieked, leapt back beneath the blankets, and hid between the two brothers. The brothers sat up, startled wide awake, just in time to see a hunter walk by with a rifle over one shoulder and a dead coyote slung over the other.
The two brothers noticed the dead coyote was lactating and searched for her puppies. Over the next hill they found an orphaned baby coyote. The two brothers adopted her on the spot.
The circus monkey and the coyote grew up together. They became the best of friends. The monkey was the boss, the one who came up with all the plans. The coyote tagged along, enjoying the mischief they created. For many years, through the Depression to the end of World War II, visitors to Sedona would stroll through uptown, turn a corner and discover a monkey riding on the back of a coyote. The monkey turned his golden leash into reins and with a gentle tug, the coyote would rise up on his hind legs, howl and then drop back down, racing away while the monkey held on for dear life.
In the cool of the evening during the summertime, the monkey and coyote engaged in ritual. Every night, the coyote would walk out of town with the monkey on his back. The coyote would stroll slowly, the way coyotes do – sort of sneaky, taking back roads and alleys. The coyote would gradually exit the town and gently climb the red rock slopes until they reached the forest. Then the monkey would leap off the coyote’s back and begin doing what monkeys do best. The monkey would climb trees, scavenging for food. The monkey would return with fruit, nuts, lizards and eggs. With the monkey atop his back, carrying the food, the coyote would climb a peak with a tremendous view of the sunset. The monkey would dismount and they would share their dinner.
After dinner, the stars would come out. The coyote would kneel so the fat little monkey could climb back in the saddle. Perched atop the coyote’s back, the monkey turned his canine steed this way and that, pointing the coyote at a specific star. The coyote would howl. Then the monkey listened for an answer. The monkey would gently steer the coyote, tugging on his ears, and like an astronomer aiming a telescope, the monkey would point the coyote at a different star, peering down the long canine snout as if it were a sniper’s scope as he zeroed in on a specific constellation. The monkey would gently tap the coyote’s sides with his heels and the coyote would howl – calling to the stars. Then the monkey would cup his hand to his ear and listen to the heavens for an answer to his prayers.
Sedona has long had a reputation among the UFO-inclined and I am here to tell you every word is true. The space aliens used to come to Sedona all the time. They were searching for intelligent life. The flying saucers searched and searched, people gasping with every UFO sighting.
Then the spaceships found the monkey. After all those years the monkey finally had gotten a response. A giant beam of light shot down from a spaceship, illuminated the monkey and sucked him up into the sky, plucking him right off the back of the coyote. The coyote looked bewildered. A second beam of light dropped from the sky and enveloped the coyote before the tractor beam pulled him into the mothership. The monkey liked what he saw of the spaceship and hitched a ride. The coyote tagged along.
I don’t think the space aliens will return. All those people paying for UFO tours are getting ripped off, chasing yesterday’s news. The UFOs were here looking for intelligent life. There has not been any sign of intelligent life here since the monkey left. It is why the monkey left in the first place. It is why the UFOs are not coming back.
The monkey and the coyote still fly across the universe to this day having wonderful adventures. The coyote, because I believe canines all across the universe behave exactly the same, is probably sitting at the window, panting and smiling as he watches the marvels of the cosmos pass by.
It comforts me to know that somewhere in outer space a rocket ship is hurtling along at a hundred million light years an hour when suddenly it hits a patch of comet debris, forcing the starship pilot to cry out, “Clear the ape.”
Artist Feature: Rocky Kelley
We met Rocky when he was the Artist Guest of Honor at Armadillocon in 2015. Since then, we've been honored that he's twice created custom illustrations for stories at Space Squid, to stunning effect ("Reflections" and "Act of Consumption"). We're pleased to showcase some of his other work for you this month.
Rocky writes, "My work is the result of witnessing that rare moment when a dream passes through a seam in darkness, and rests with reality. What never was... is transformed into what always will be."
About the Creator
Gary Every is an award winning author who has two science fiction novellas in print: The Saint and the Robot and Inca Butterflies. His book Shadow of the OhshaD is an anthology of the best of his newspaper columns including award-winning stories such as "Losing Geronimo's Language" and "Apache Naichee Ceremony." As a poet he has been nominated for the Rhysling Award seven times.
World's Shortest Creator Interview: Gary Every
If, due to some very poor logistics, you had to survive several days in some random tropical wilderness, what would you do to find food, and what species would your imaginary companion be?
I do a lot of camping and adventuring and there have been trips where I needed to forage to stretch supplies. So drop me down in your random wilderness and I will take my chances. As for my imaginary companion I want a beautiful human from another planet. Let her have blue skin, red hair, green eyes and this is the important part... give her a prehensile tail.
If your brain were an extinct animal or mineral, what would it be and why?
If my brain were a mineral it would be silica but that is what makes petrified wood. I live only a couple hours from the Petrified Forest National Monument and love to hike there, walking the backcountry. Looks like you are exploring the moon of a distant world.
When I read the question my first idea was that my brain would be a fossil, something which gave the impression of being a certain creature that long ago had changed form. In some ways it is more colorful and in other ways more rigid.
About the Artists
Rocky Kelley is an award-winning artist whose paintings and illustrations have appeared internationally. Magazines, galleries, shows, Neiman Marcus Christmas catalogs, and even the David Letterman Show have featured his art. Rocky’s work is eclectic as he works in many genres. Kelley often includes hidden images and visual puzzles within his compositions. This extra dimension has earned him the appreciation of both clients and fans around the world.
Kelley received the Director’s Award at the World Fantasy Art Show and he has served as guest of honor, consultant, speaker, demonstrator, and panelist at countless conventions and shows. A book featuring his paintings and drawings is currently in the works. Those interested in booking him for events, or commissioning him for book covers, illustrations, and paintings may contact him through his web site or on Facebook.
Our very own D Chang is a designer and game writer from Austin, Texas. His short fiction has appeared in Avast, Ye Airships! and the Cryptopolis science fiction anthology, and he has a janky retro JRPG on Steam. He does the Space Squid illustrations, editing, and other squid stuff.