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"The Monkey Girls" - Jayn M. Graves

     The doorbell is ringing like a house-afire.  Nobody comes to the front door but then I remember that the house painter has painted shut my side doorbell, and I am aggravated all over again.  It’s still nippy out, and the screens have not been put in for summer.  I look, and there they are.  Three little girls, twitching, moving their hands around like rag dolls, practically jumping up and down on the porch.
     “Hi,” I say.
     “Do you have milk?  We want milk.”
     “Milk?”  I hate milk and never drink it.  Oddly enough, I had just bought a quart of whole milk to make a big casserole of macaroni and cheese which periodically strikes me as the thing to do.  I seldom actually make the casserole and usually end up throwing the milk away.  Easy enough to buy more milk, I thought, so I went and took the quart out of the refrigerator and gave it to them.  They ran off the porch screeching and pinching each other, and I shut the door.  It was right then that I named them Monkey Girls…

     After my weekly watch of the wolf pack at coffee hour, I picked up the paper and drove home to concoct Sunday brunch.  No sooner had I stepped inside and put away my packages, than the lead Monkey Girl, young, blond, skimpily-dressed (a signature feature of all the girls) was at my side door banging and twitching away as she had been taught.  Lying in wait, her dash to the door was so quick on the heels of my return.
     “Yes,” I said, “Can I help you?”
     “Do you have some tape?”
     “Tape?  What kind of tape?  Scotch?  Masking?”  I couldn’t think of anything else immediately.
     “Tape,” she said.  So I went and got a roll of scotch tape, handed it to her and said, “When you are done with it, just put it in my mailbox.”  No “thank you” of course.  After all, the Monkey Girls had already borrowed a quart of milk and a box of baking soda.  Nothing returned.  My neighbor on the other side of the Monkey Girl house later told me that they had borrowed baking soda from her as well and had also, on another occasion, asked for money.  She shut the door on them.

     The Monkey Girls arrive at the house next door at all hours of the day and night, and I mean all hours. They arrive in two limo-like white vans, one ready extended with seating for perhaps ten, and the back always filled with clothes hanging haphazardly from rods. A driver is seldom in sight. A couple of times, a woman got out and once a very scruffily-dressed man. And, yes, there is one Monkey Boy. Like the Monkey Girls, he is young, awkward, and has skimpy clothing and pink-colored hair. He is a loper.

     Let me describe the house where the Monkey Girls live. It has three floors, and the girls’ dormitory appears to be on the top floor. WWII blackout curtains adorn every window. There are three window air conditioners droning endlessly, day and night, whatever the weather. Garbage is piled in bags along the driveway, and the side driveway door is never used. The back porch is never used; several plastic hangers adorn the railing; a hose festoons the driveway; and a plastic McDonald’s cup lies open next to the hose. The small back yard is fenced-in on all sides. It is a poop station for the three dogs who live there—Peanuts, the beagle with a sad, longing little face; Titan, a Cane Corso, big and stupid; and Scrappy, an unholy mix of tiny, ugly, and yappy. Scrappy is small enough to fit through the bars of the back porch and will often run away. When that happens, one of the Monkey Girls flies out the front door, bare-foot and runs up the street to catch him. Caught, she flies back in the door again squealing like a pig. This is the sum total of exercise the Monkey Girls get. The dogs get no exercise.

     The front porch is covered with dirt and un-watered hanging plants. On each side of the porch in front are big store-purchased red and black signs saying Beware of Dog and No Trespassing. I think the Beware of Dog signs are illegal in the city.

     Mom, they call her. Mom, is the owner. I call her Twitcher Woman because she is always on her toes making suggestive undulating motions to the girls, teaching them her secret powers. Sometimes there is kissing, and one night, the blackout curtain was up in the second-floor driveway window, and she was undulating and kissing the Monkey Boy. For the next two days, the Monkey Boy was out in the garage breaking what sounded like wood with an axe. The light in the garage was on until well past midnight. Then he disappeared into one of the white vans. The next night he came back with flowers, and a woman followed him down the driveway. He climbed up onto the back porch and entered the kitchen. It was dark, and the woman stood in the driveway holding a pizza box. 11:00 p.m. Eventually Monkey Boy came out on the back porch and took the pizza box from the woman. No thank you, for that is what they have been taught.

     Twitcher Woman drives a massive gray truck which is parked for quick get-a-ways right next to the sidewalk. There is almost no movement from the house in the daytime, but at night, Twitcher Woman goes out six to twelve times. Sometimes for ten minutes; sometimes for hours. She is addicted to fast food, McDonald’s shakes, and shops at Wal-Mart but only late at night. There is no table in the kitchen and no cooking. The room is used solely for twitching lessons and letting the beasts in and out. Twitcher Woman is lithe, with long stringy blond hair, a bad attitude, and a mean voice. She likes to yell “Hey” at the dogs when they bark. She calls the pizza delivery boy “Honey.” He is an 11:30 p.m. regular. Sometimes he delivers twice a night. Tattooed, smoking and grim, she takes Titan and Scrappy with her on these many runs, but never Peanuts.

     Day and night the porch lights are left on for she is a military spouse magically wishing her husband safety with these lights. If only my family had left the porch lights on. Maybe they did. It didn’t matter in the end. But she never lets his dog go anywhere with her.

     Often, when the white vans pull up, the Monkey Girls will go out and hang over the front side passenger door and undulate and kiss and talk for hours. The vans show up at four o’clock in the afternoon and at midnight. The vans always block the driveway and will sit there with the engine running for half an hour or so. Sometimes the vans come and go with no passengers or Monkey Girls getting in or out.

     When Twitcher Woman makes her many runs, she sometimes takes the Monkey Girls but often leaves them home alone. They scamper up and down the stairwell leaping over clothing and furniture that is never moved.

     Once, in the very beginning, a heavier-set, not very pretty girl was with them, but she did not fit the Monkey Girl description and was never seen again.

     Last night at 11 o’clock, the lead Monkey Girl climbed out the window in the front bedroom and crawled to the edge of the porch roof and sat there with her knees drawn up hugging herself. The other morning, I looked at the roof and saw a silver metallic object on the roof about ten inches long, five inches wide, rectangular. I couldn’t make out what it was or how it got there. That afternoon it was gone. Now I know. A telephone book soggy from summer rain was up on my roof a few weeks. Finally the cable man took it down. Now I know. At 12:02 a.m., the smaller white van pulled up, and after ten minutes or so, the roof-loving Monkey Girl and the Monkey Boy came out from the front door and got in.

     Very early on, a neighbor across the street called the police because the Monkey Girls were screaming and yelling. The police arrived, but nothing came of it.

     Some people say that she is running a drug operation, and others say that she is running a brothel, but I say neither. She is a stranger in a strange town running a school for Monkey Girls. Harry tells me that if she is running a care facility for young teens that it has to be licensed if you live in Residential A or B. Is there even a licensing requirement for young teen caregiving? I never heard of such a thing, and I would be hard-pressed to call it caregiving.

     This is a nice working-class, company town neighborhood. The homes are well-cared for, and the lawns get mowed on a regular basis. No one else uses their front porch as a potting station. No one ever stops on the sidewalk in front of the house. The front porch swing is never used. The whole effect is like plastic flowers in a manicured cemetery.

     No one in the neighborhood likes Twitcher Woman, and everybody is askance at the Monkey Girls. One day Scrappy got out, and the letter carrier went and knocked on the front door to tell them. Twitcher Woman was home, but no one ever answered the door. Fear and suspicion permeate the place. I think everybody hopes the soldier returns home and they clear out.
It’s after dusk now, and the house will start to come alive. The big gray truck just pulled out of the driveway with its lumbering dry roar. It has a sticker on the back that says Mom’s Taxi Service. It is the first of the many night runs.

     One of the questions the neighborhood is asking is where are the parents of these children? Why are the vans unmarked? Who drops off children at midnight and picks them up at midnight? How much money does it take to keep your lights and air conditioners on all day and night and live on fast foot and pizza and Mountain Dew and line your driveway with garbage? How would a parent find Twitcher Woman anyhow? And why on earth would you leave your child with her? Where exactly does one buy WWII blackout curtains? The vans are not militarily-owned because they don’t have the right license sequence. Harry told me this.

     There is no question that the children like Twitcher Woman. They always seem eager to get in the house. But there is something odd, something off about these children. Something is not very right. Of course, what young teenager wouldn’t want to sleep all day and eat junk and climb out bedroom windows at night? But the Monkey Girls are living in a very special isolated world. A sort of cult world, isolated from the greater community. No one ever comes to the house except the pizza man and the two white vans.

     The woman has the look of a gun. Maybe she has a gun. It is full nightfall now, and the Monkey Girls are scampering up and down the stairs. Twitcher Woman is still out. It is going to be a long night. And the pizza doesn’t get delivered for hours yet.

     But it wasn’t the pizza man who came later but a man and a woman and the lead Monkey Girl and Monkey Boy. They all went into the house. The Monkey Boy raced up the front driveway side bedroom, once, twice, three times. Light going on, off, on, off. Twitcher Woman did not come home, and the man and woman left.

     The next day, the house was quiet as a tomb. No activity. Not even the dogs being let out. No Scrappy yapping away. At a little past eight o’clock in the evening, the man and woman pull up in the white van pointed north with a large storage unit hooked to the back. Twitcher Woman comes out on the porch, and the three of them talk for a few minutes. Twitcher Woman says she has to get back in the house. Just turns and walks back into the house. The man and the woman walk back across the street to the van and get in, starting up the engine. Monkey Girl and Monkey Boy come out the door and get into the backseat of the van. It roars away. Twenty minutes later, Twitcher Woman comes out and gets into the truck. An hour and a half later, she returns with a woman and two brand new girls. They all go inside.

     The next morning they appear to be gone. At four o’clock, a grey sedan drops off the two girls.

     There are four of them now. Little girls. Two are blond and two with dark locks. Twitcher Woman comes home from a two hour run, and the Monkey Girls run out onto the porch screeching and preening with delight. Twenty-five minutes later, the truck roars into action again.

     I thought maybe the Monkey Boy and Girl had fled to Canada with their parents like that old River Phoenix movie, but I was wrong. The smaller white van was back tonight; the house full of girls and the one Monkey Boy. The Monkey Boy has had a haircut, the pink hair chopped off, thin as a rail, young girl thin. A man gets out of the van and goes into the house. A boy of about ten sits in the front seat of the van waiting, slouching. Twenty minutes later, the man comes out and finally the Monkey Boy appears. The man says, “Get a move on.” Monkey Boy runs around the house and eludes him. He looks for the boy up and down the driveway. Waiting. At last, the Monkey Boy appears from behind the bushes with a dark-haired, sour-faced Monkey Girl. He runs up the porch steps. He goes inside. He comes out and looks around pleadingly. The man says nothing. Monkey Boy comes out and gets in the van.

     The truck roars into action half an hour later. The house is filled with Monkey Girls, at least six of them by now. They are invisible to the eye, but screeching and pinching loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear.
     I don’t want to hear the truck come back.
     The next morning, there are six bags of trash piled in a heap on the front porch, and a big pool of a pink-powdery like substance sits smack dab in the middle of the porch. Like Monkey Boy was drowned in a pile of his own pink hair. Somebody down the street is using a buzz-saw to cut tree limbs. The air-conditioners are whirring and dropping their moisture content. I make coffee.

     Many things can go on in a town that nobody knows about. We are a military town and proud of it. Proud of the new diversity and many cultures, but naïve too. For a while, someone slinks into town and brings the Monkey Girls. One day they will be gone. Maybe to another military community, maybe not. But let me give a warning. The cult of Monkey Girls will be out there somewhere, festering, twitching and pinching. And you will know by all the WWII blackout curtains hung in every window.