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By Beth J. Whiting
It was field day at her school and Kathy was less than thrilled. She had a book with her and was planning to read the whole day through. She sat to the side of the playground and began to read. Within an hour the coach came up to her and said, “If you don’t participate in three events, you will lose points.”
Something told Kathy to make a break for it. Were there really three events worth participating in? When the coach was out of sight she ditched school.
Kathy decided to take a detour home through the forest. As Kathy was walking home, she heard a weird sound coming from a pit in the forest floor. She crept to the edge and found a Bigfoot-like creature pacing across the ground.
When it saw the girl, it said. “Don’t be alarmed.”
“I am a man, more correctly was a man. My father did experiments on me and I ended up this way. My name is Steve.”
“Why are you here?”
“I ran away from home. I thought I might survive in the wilderness. It’s been a day out here so far and I haven’t really. Can you do me a favor and bring me some food?”
“Umm. . . I guess. You’re not very young, are you?”
“I just turned eighteen. Not too old. What about you? Thirteen?”
“Aren’t you supposed to be in school?”
“It’s field day. I ditched.”
“Oh. Who wants to be in school anyway?”
“You lived a normal life before today?”
“For the most part. My father was a scientist and he came up with an idea to show just how close the monkeys and humans were to each other. I was his guinea pig. If I had known that this was going to happen I wouldn’t have done it.”
“You seem like a smart guy.”
“I was. I was the top student in my class.”
“And your father threw it all away.”
“Yes, he did.”
When Kathy came home, her mother yelled, “I got a call from school saying that you ditched.”
“Mom, it was field day. Give me a break.”
“No if’s about it. You’re grounded. No television”
“Fine.” Kathy would just have to read more.
Kathy had detention the next day after school. A bully named Fred was there and he was excited when he saw Kathy there.
“What is a goody-goody like Kathy doing here?”
“I ditched field day.”
“Field day. That day’s fun.”
“No it’s not. It’s painful.”
It was well known Kathy wasn’t athletic. She came in last for the mile that year.
“Is this the first time you’ve got in trouble?”
“I threw tantrums when I was younger.”
“Big deal. I’m in here because I got in a fight.”
“Don’t you get in fights all the time?”
“Leave me alone,” Kathy said. “I want to read.”
The teacher came in and demanded silence. They were quiet the rest of the hour.
When Kathy tried to walk home, the bully Fred followed her. This infuriated her because she wanted to track down the Bigfoot creature again.
“Why are you following me?”
“I thought that you might like having someone walk you home.”
“You don’t have to do it.”
“Don’t worry. I want to.”
Great, she thought.
“You forgot to ask who won the fight.”
“Who won it?”
“We didn’t get to that point. The teacher broke us up before we could really get into it. I got detention because I started the fight.”
“What was it over?”
“A girl. Was that the first time you ditched?”
“Sixth grade. That’s kind of late.”
“I’m not a professional like you.”
“A professional what?”
“I’m not a bad boy. I’m just misunderstood,” he burst out laughing.
Kathy shot a glare at him and then turned up the driveway.
“What are you doing?”
“This is my house.”
“Oh,” he seemed disappointed.
“I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Kathy waited until her mother left for a friend’s house before she went to the ape-man. She grabbed some rolls and a plate of a casserole that her mother made.
The monster ate it ravenously. “This is good.”
“What are you talking about? It’s my mother’s cream of mushroom surprise. I’m sick of it.”
“You just take good food for granted.”
“What does your father cook for you?”
“We do take out.”
“Now that’s good food.”
“It gets so boring down here.”
“I’m sorry. There’s only so much I can do. I can’t bring you television or anything.”
“Is your brain being taken over?”
“Why would you say that?”
“I don’t know. You became an ape.”
“No. My brain is still human.”
“How long did those tests of your father take?”
“A month. I started to grow hair all over and before you know it I became an ape.”
She was fascinated.
Before school the next day Kathy rushed to the ape-man and fed him a muffin.
She asked him if there was anything he wanted.
He asked for books, preferably Dickens.
In class Kathy became to wonder about what kind of life the ape and her could have together. She daydreamed. It wouldn’t be easy, that was for sure. They would have to run from the world. But in the end love would conquer all. She definitely had a crush on the ape-man.
A few minutes later, she was rudely awakened by the bully.
“Hey Kathy, what are you doing for lunch?”
She didn’t answer. She always sat alone at the library.
“I was thinking that we might ditch and go to the carnival grounds. I’m paying. I stole some money from my dad this morning.”
“I’m already in trouble.”
“So? I’m always in trouble. What’s the big deal about being more in trouble?”
She remembered that he had called her ugly in the third grade. Perhaps he didn’t remember. He wasn’t really a nice guy and her mother would likely ground her some more. Then again, that wasn’t really that consequential.
They hopped on the city bus and went to the carnival.
She insisted on going on the merry-go-round.
“What age are you? Five? Only little kids go on the carousel.”
She ignored him and enjoyed an enchanting ride on the carousel.
He bought them cotton candy and then he went on about how she had never lived life before.
“You’ve always been caught up in books. I bet you’ve never seen anything interesting before in your life.”
“Oh yeah? I have a secret but you have to promise to keep it a secret.”
As they journeyed into the forest, Fred complained that his feet hurt.
“It’s just a while more.”
When he saw the ape-man he said, “What the crap?”
“It’s my friend. The ape-man. He’s a human who has been turned into an ape.”
The ape-man started to yell at Kathy for bringing an intruder.
When the boy saw the ape talk, he started ran for it.
Two hours later when Kathy turned on the news at home, she saw that the ape man was on the news. Newscasters and a crowd were there.
The newscaster said, “Local scientist Albert Tummins recently turned his son into a monkey, but is actively looking for an antidote. He’s grateful to Fred Ross for finding his boy.”
Not even, thought Kathy, ungrateful that he snitched and got the credit.
A week passed in school with Kathy avoiding and ignoring Fred.
She went to the house of Steve, the ape-man, and asked to be let in.
The father said, “So you’re the girl who fed my boy?”
She smiled, “Yes I am.”
“I see. I’m grateful for what you did but I don’t want you around my house.”
“You’re just a kid. Only twelve years old.”
“What does your son say about it?”
“He told me to tell you that when you came.”
Kathy walked home miserably. She sat alone at lunch the next day.
Fred came towards her depressed, “I didn’t know the ape man meant so much to you. If I knew I wouldn’t have caused the ruckus.”
“Whatever. He wanted nothing to do with me.”
“After saving him from the wild?”
“Yeah he said I was nothing more than a kid.”
“You want to go to the carnival grounds again? This time we’ll go on the roller coaster.”
She thought about it. She would get in trouble again. But she was always grounded nowadays anyway.
They made a run for it.
Beth J. Whiting was born in 1983 to a large family of brainy eccentrics. At eight years old she developed a love of books through the works of Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis. Her short stories revolve around underdogs in suburban settings, such as the one in which she was raised. She currently lives with her artistic twin sister in a tiny apartment in Mesa, Arizona.