“Oswald,” a story by Rolli, was a finalist in our recently concluded 51st Short Fiction Contest. It is published with the permission of the author.
…..Mom was talking to the guy behind the fence. I wanted to walk in the corn in the garden.
…..“Oswald, you’ll get dirt on your trousers, your brand new trousers. You go sit on the steps.”
…..Mom laughed and said damn and rubbed her hands on her pants. The phone was ringing.
…..I.walked in between the rows and rows of corn. Looking up at the sky.
…..I touched the fence and ran back. Touched it and ran back.
…..The guy behind the fence said: “I bet you can’t guess what’s in my van.”
…..I guessed something. That wasn’t it.
…..“No, it’s a capuchin monkey. You ever seen a capuchin monkey?”
…..I never did. He told me about it. It was brown with some white on its face. It had a collar on that said Kiss Me. I wanted to see it.
…..I climbed over the fence. The guy’s van was at the end of the alley. He opened the back doors and pulled some black curtains back.
…..There was just a wood box in the van. Right in the middle.
….. “He’s in that box, there. You go on in.”
…..I got in the van.
…..“I’ll close the doors so he don’t get out.”
…..The guy got in the van too and closed the doors and the curtains.
…..It was dark in there.
…..The guy switched a light on, a flashlight. He shined it on the wood box. He opened up the box.
…..Something jumped out of the box. The guy shined a light on it but it was gone. It was on me. The guy put the light on me, on my shoulder.
…..It was a monkey. A capuchin monkey, like he said. Brown with some white on its face. I petted it. I felt the collar that said Kiss Me.
…..“Why don’t you kiss him?” said the guy. He was still shining the light.
…..I petted the monkey’s head and down its back and its tail. It had a curled tail.
…..“Why don’t you?”
…..“Nothing to be afraid of.”
…..“You can kiss him, if you like.”
…..“So why don’t you?”
…..Well, I picked the monkey up. I kissed it, quick.
…..The monkey didn’t like that. It bit me on my lip. It screamed.
…..The guy laughed. When he laughed the monkey got riled. It bit me again, right on my chin.
…..I dropped the monkey but it jumped back up. It bit my ear and scratched on my neck and on my back.
…..The guy laughed and laughed. That made the monkey—it was jumping all over. It was wild. The guy shined the light on the monkey, wherever it went. It climbed everywhere. It climbed on me too, sometimes, and bit me again and scratched.
…..I swallowed my spit. There was blood in it.
…..The guy laughed and laughed.
…..“How do you like that?”
…..I didn’t say nothing. I just swallowed my spit.
…..The monkey screamed. It climbed up the curtains, to the bar on top.
…..The guy slapped his leg and laughed. He laughed and laughed. He kept the light on the monkey, on top of the bar. It walked back and forth, back and forth.
…..After a while up there, the monkey calmed down. It climbed back down. The guy called it but it crawled back on me. It just looked at me. It sat on my lap. It curled its tail around itself, like a cat. Then it sat there, quiet.
…..The guy stopped laughing. He grabbed the monkey by the collar. He took it and dropped it in the box and slammed the lid. Then he opened the curtains and the doors up.
….. That’s all he said.
….. The van took off and I ran back. Over the fence. Through the corn. Into the house.
….. When Mom saw me, she hung up the phone.
…..Oswald, your trousers are filthy. That new shirt of yours is ripped. How on earth did you rip your brand-new shirt?”
…..I didn’t say nothing.
…..“Beenclimbing that fence again, haven’t you? Scratched yourself all up. The dirt you’re tracking in! Can’t stay out of that garden, either, can you?”
…..I didn’t say nothing.
…..“You better tell me the truth, Oswald. This minute.”
…..Mom got down and her eyes… Everywhere I looked, there they were. So I looked right at them and I told her. Everything.
….. “Oswald, I don’t want to hear it. I don’t believe a word of it. You and your stories. That nice man, with the white trousers? You ought to be ashamed of yourself. Really, Oswald. You and your stories.”
….. I wanted to say…
…..I didn’t say nothing.
….. “The shirt’s a write-off. The trousers I can mend. Really, you ought to be ashamed. Spoiling your clothes. Making up lies like that. Not a bit of that happened, Oswald, did it?”
…..I looked at my feet. I said: “Nothing happened.”
…..Mom got up.
…..“I didn’t think so. Now you go and get changed for dinner. You’re filthy.”
…..I went to my room and…
…..It didn’t happen. That’s what I said.
…..It did happen. It did.
Rolli is the author of numerous titles for adults and children, including The Sea-Wave (Guernica Editions) and Kabungo (Groundwood). “Oswald” is from his unpublished collection of stories and drawings, The Dream Museum. Visit Rolli’s website, and follow him on Twitter @rolliwrites.