Friday Prose: Susan Walked a Monkey

dear friends, i thought i might use Friday to revive some of the stories i wrote in prose, before embarking on this poetic journey of mine.

i wrote these to to be read concurrently, each story informs the next, and the events seem unrelated until the end. it’s how it unfolded, as i lived it back in the 60′s and 70′s in Bushwick, Brooklyn. two of these are very early reposts, the last story was never posted and is quite long so it will be posted in two or three parts.

please don’t feel compelled to read these on your busy Friday morning, feel free to if you want to read them at all to take them into the weekend. thank you and i hope you enjoy them.

if you need to catch up….
I Was a Poor, Pimpled, Uncool Sulker.
The Parking Space
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Susan Walked a Monkey
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Like clockwork the old crabby women were out on the sidewalks at 7am, scrubbing the sidewalks, Tony woke up the entire neighborhood starting up his Chevelle at 7:15, and precisely at three o’clock each afternoonn another daily ritual occured.

At 3pm everything stood still, stopped all motion on the streets and sidewalks. Stickball games halted in mid swing, kids forgot who was ‘it’ in tag, mothers didn’t hear babies crying because that girl, that girl was slowly gliding over the bluestone slabs of the sidewalk again, holding as she did every day, a thin leather leash and teathered to that leash was a little, bitty brown monkey.

Nobody moved, everyone went hush.

This mouth agape, daily diversion from our noisy, litter strewn existence happened seven days a week, you could set your watch to it. For us, it was way better than any Mutual of Omaha special on t.v., heck, we had our own, personal National Geographic reality show, right on our street, in real time, every single day. This was Technicolor, before any of us could afford Technicolor, this was appointment t.v. before the term even existed.

It was the highlight of the day for so many people and so many people had so many opinions, that ‘the girl with the monkey’ had become a flashpoint, a neighborhood controversy. People divided into ‘for’ and ‘against’ camps and argued daily for hours, about Susan and her monkey.

I know it certainly marked my day complete when I saw Susan and her little, bitty monkey walk by, I certainly had no objections whatsoever. Most of the manboy salivators slobbered sexual innuendo and crude one liners, I heard their whispers but I had other designs.

Susan was the most beautiful human that two other humans could possibly conceive but despite that indisputable truth, at thirteen, her beauty had far less appeal to me than petting that monkey. I wasn’t in the position to make many promises in those emotionally unstable days, but I swore to myself, I would somehow, someday, pet that little monkey’s head.

I eventually got my wish a few years later.
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Change came stubbornly to my neighborhood. Strangers were noticed and kept at arms length, not easily accepted and so it went with me as I spent those weeks on my stoop, alone. The first tentative introduction to join in a game of stickball, came very soon after my mom had taped our name in blue BIC ink, above our mail slot. Our last name ended in a vowel and that vowel was my ticket of acceptance, the stamp of approval with the 20 or so kids my age who hung out on my block.

Stickball was played in the street, on the sticky asphalt that got so hot, your sneakers would suddenly stop short in melting gum wads as you ran the bases, your fingers would stick together as you frantically crawled under cars to chase ground balls. Home base was a sewer cap, second base the next one 30 feet away, first and second base were mirrors of parked cars, which was never appreciated by the owners of said cars. It took me a few games to get the hang of things but eventually my athletic experience and instincts kicked in, I happened to be the star pitcher and hitter on my Little League team, back in Long Island.

A perfectly placed vowel and a knack for stickball and I was in.

And that’s just how it was.
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It’s just how it was and that’s how people in this poor, working class neighborhood wanted things to stay but this was 1968, upheaval was sweeping the entire country, change was coming whether people wanted it or not. Susan and her monkey was the personification of that change, because Susan was a hippy.
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And at 15, so was I. Even though I was born a little late to ride the initial wave of peace, love and understanding, I was all in and committed. My uniform consisted of 1 pair of tattered and patched bellbottom jeans, impossibly frayed at the hem, an historically faded denim shirt, beat up Frye boots and a peace sign on a leather rope around my neck and hair that reached the middle of my back, standard hippy uniform for a poor kid on Welfare who couldn’t afford anything else.

Now Susan’s hippy was something altogether different. For some reason, she could walk the same route, walk for miles everyday, yet the hem of her exaggerated bellbottoms were always perfect, not a single fray to be seen. She wore a different Indian style, long sleeved, clean white, cotton blouse everyday, despite the heat and each one had beautifully embroidered, colored stitching, opened low to reveal a shining, silver peace sign hung around her neck. She always carried a small brown, suede leather pouch, colored beads attached to the flowing tassles that shimmied as she walked and a thin leather headband that perfectly corralled her hair, parted in the middle.

Her hair was almost a miracle and no one in our neighborhood of dark brown and black hair, had ever seen anything quite like it. To simply call it blond would be to shortchange the truth, her hair was almost white. It’s length reached the top of her low hung, hip hugger jeans and when the afternoon sun, which was always behind her as she walked, would attach it’s rays to the back and forth motion, it looked illuminated. The reflection almost hurt your eyes and even as she started to disappear from view, down the long, straight blocks, you could still see her hair, gently swish back and forth as she walked.

Susan’s face was a very pale white and it never tanned, it could be 95 sweltering degrees and humid but there was never a bead of sweat to be seen. Wide cheekbones, wide mouth, slightly parted, unlipsticked lips and grey eyes behind dark aviater sunglasses, resting on a narrow nose, she was an almost, Nordic princess who had an air of royalty while she walked through the crowds as they galked. Susan was utterly unfazed by the attention, her expression never changed and I never saw her once utter a word or look anyone in the eye.

Susan was otherwordly. She was untouchable, unnattainable and way out of anyone’s league.

Even the hormone choked, macho manboys in our gang knew it and it pissed them off. They ridiculed her clothes but it wasn’t just her clothes, it was how she wore them. Susan would tie her Indian shirts in a knot just at her ribs and her hip hugger pants rode low on her torso, so there was lots of pale white skin including her bellybutton, showing between the shirt and the top of her pants.

None of the girls in our neighborhood dressed like Susan, no one had ever seen a girl dress like that, except me.

56 thoughts on “Friday Prose: Susan Walked a Monkey

  1. now i want a pet monkey.i wonder if susan has a diamond belly button ring now.

    • ha, so did i, even more than i wanted her at 13! probably, and probably that beautiful perfect pale skin is now covered in tats….

      • omg every well 90& of the tourists at the pool since april have tattoos.even the women. i’ve never seen anything like it.yesterday two guys had royal blue hair & tattoos on their side. maybe they were in the blue man group. everyone was staring.i was thinking susan had tattoos now, too.lol
        I’m going to go
        stare at the blue hair now they’ll
        be gone tomorrow.
        (i love royal blue
        thinking of doing the same
        if they tell me how).
        The most important
        Requirement of a muse
        A new york accent.
        ask anyone in n. va., md or d.c. who knows me.lol i’ve been saying this since 1991…silly for a person from s.c. i know.

      • ha, 3 Haikus in your comment. you really are amazing! i don’t usually do this, but you might like to read ‘but..Scou’t’, it’s at the bottom of the recent list. it sort of reminds me of you, always thinking in Haiku.

        NY accent, yeah i can pretend real well not to have one, but when i’m with Scout or with folks i’m real comfortable with, Brooklyn is spoken here. it reminds me of a class that was being taught in NY during the ’80’s, the Berlitz School offered to help rid folks of their Brooklyn accent. they used a clever advertising campaign suggesting that the accemt made you unemployable, because of how ‘stupid’ it made you sound.

        it was a very popular class.

      • oh, and i forgot to thank you for digging in the archives, that you found ‘Mary of Thorns…’, she was a very special person in my life, ty for reading it through, it was an important piece for me to write at the time and it holds a place in my heart.

      • i would love to read about scout.i forgot to write dog haiku from yesterday, but they probably take a page by themselves… there was an episode of king of queens where carey tried to get rid of her accent…..don’t do it!
        do you say tree o clock? or would you like sault on your pretzel?

      • oh, don’t worry. i’m way past wanting to correct what i don’t consider wrong, to begin with. ‘tree o’clock’, no, it’s not nearly as thick as that, i was 12 when i moved to Brooklyn so the ‘accent’ is acquired and i kinda’ have a lazy tongue to begin with.

        oohh, dog Haiku, can’t wait! and i have to say, you do seem to
        run into some interesting people that populate your Haiku.

      • no ,it isn’t wrong. new yorkers have a wonderful accent.(my gumba used to always ask me, if i wanted a pretzel with no sault.LOL)
        i run into interesting dogs too…this lady who drives the tram here- last sun told me she wanted a muse with no mustache & no dogs, b/c she is not going to compete with a dog for love…she is so funny & so wrong.i was going to write haiku about that.

      • oh you should, but even if the dog was out of the picture, she would still have to contend with the ‘stache.LOL! ‘gumba’, geez, i haven’t heard that word in a long time. back in the old neighborhood and depending on how bad the humidity was, if you called someone a gumba you’d either get an invitation for Rheingold beer or a black eye!

      • lol i had to go to your page to remember what i should do.lol…but i saw a comment you made to me, i haven’t received yet & probably never will ty WP again.
        okayi will so i won’t tell you what i was going to write then.yes, she would have to deal with the mustache.
        i called my bf Gumba for 5 years . i never got a beer or a black eye, just a smile , b/c it was funny.
        don’t start with the H’s .. it’s UMID outside..very UMOROUS… my favorite thing to say.

      • oh i think it’s not only funny, it’s a very sweet nickname really.
        and i’m almost tempted to tell you what my nickname is….

      • it was sweet; you are correct. it meant friend.
        you would be telling the whole world,if you did.lol

      • yeah, i’m not sure i’m quite ready for that
        and my blog photo, all in the same week. LOL!

      • yes .LOL & thanks for reminding me . is that andy garcia or you?

      • no, just moi, the first pic in probably 10 years.

      • it’s a wonderful picture…i hadn’t had one since the year 1915, until march.. muse -you know- now there are 1700….and my favorite joke was if someone kidnapped me, there are no pics.

      • 1915?…is that a typo?

      • lol. no a slight exaggeration..long time..like 25 + years

      • well, i’m not a big fan of having my picture taken,
        it took Scout hundreds of shots to get that one.

        i’m just so darn fidgety in front of the camera LOL!

      • LOL..scout’s a perfectionist…i’m not a fan either, that’s why 97 years since i had one…

  2. Mama Zen says:

    Gorgeous descriptive writing.

  3. what a siren! I can hear the hormones jumping to the flower power beat in another fabulous friday helping of nostalgia

    • ha, what a great description,’ hormones jumping to the flower power beat’ that’s exactly how it was.
      yeah, it was a real scene when Susan walked down the block, and i’m not even sure i adequately described it.
      maybe the best part was the arguments afterward, the ‘fors’ vs. the ‘against’ human nature at its most curious!

      thanks for sticking with this series Laura, i really do appreciate it.

  4. Chatty Owl says:

    You write so well. So profound.

    • well thank you Miss, i appreciate you telling me that. since i’ve been writing poetry, i’m having a very difficult time reading prose, mine included. i read this 10 times last night to see if it needed some edits…i just don’t have a ‘feel’ for it right now, i’m not sure if that makes any sense.

      but this is how i wrote, what this blog was originally planned to contain, essays, short stories, memories and fiction…funny how things work out…..

      • Chatty Owl says:

        Same here… I never thought poetry will captivate my life so much. And as much as i enjoy reading other people’s prose, i dont seem to be able to write it myself. Its sad really.
        Im glad to be reading yours.

      • oh, i didn’t realize you had a desire to write prose, but i do understand the difficulty shuttling between the two. prose seems so laborius to me right now, grammar was never my strong suit and i end up spending so much time correcting my mistakes…

        but i will say that the discipline of poetry has improved my prose, i can tend to be very ‘wordy’ if i’m not mindful, so in that regard i’m grateful. and i do miss telling stories, i still enjoy that very much. so we’ll see at the end of the series, if i have some more prose in me to write.

      • Chatty Owl says:

        Yes I do. I did. I think those used to come out better prior to me writing poetry. I cant go back now…

        Well, i’ll keep my eyes open for yours.

      • oh, there you are, i’m so glad you came back. so you’re writing now?, and do you have any you can send me, i’d love to read them. you know how much i admire your poetry, now i’m so curious,,,,

      • Chatty Owl says:

        Its buried somewhere, would need to dig my computer for them. If i’ll find them, you’ll be sure to see 🙂

      • well, if you could, if you feel comfortable enough and can find them, please do.

        i’m trying to get my ‘prose passion’ re ignited, i’m realizing that i miss telling stories, it’s how i began writing in the first place almost 3 years ago so i kinda’ have a soft spot for storytelling. have you been writing all your life, when did you begin?

      • Chatty Owl says:

        I was always the kid, that had a pen in her hand. Not writing as such, but clearly enjoying little scribbles.
        Writing on the blog and poetry… In the past year or so only.

      • oh, that’s a sweet image of you, thank you for that Miss. i’m glad you decided to write on your blog, your poetry , and especially your new work always inspires.

        i scribbled too, i was obssessed with it and actually wrote a poem about it. i don’t think we knew each other then, and i’m breaking my own rule about self promotion but i already did that in this thread, so i’ll happily do it for you. it’s here, https://whocouldknowthen.wordpress.com/2013/06/30/s-c-r-i-b-b-l-i-n-g/

  5. What fun:) Keep them coming.

    • hi hitandrun, ya know…if you keep encouraging me as you are, i might just get my ‘prose passion’ back, LOL! it’s kinda’ been MIA since i began writing poetry.

      ty, ty, ty, so much for your support and comments. you really put a smile in my heart.

  6. Kirsten says:

    I was sucked right in. I love the way you make the reader feel like they are a part of the story. It was like I was standing there listening and watching the entire scene. Beautiful!

  7. I am really enjoying your Friday prose series….nicely done…can’t wait to see what the next one holds or where they are all headed…marks of good writing! Thank you for sharing!

    • hi angelkiss, i’m so happy to see you. thank you for reading, i appreciate it so much.
      i guess i’m just so surprised these stories are getting any attention, it’s forcing me to rethink the idea that would stop writing prose.

  8. dawnhosking says:

    I’m really enjoying this Friday prose 😉

  9. dawnhosking says:

    I’m hoping it doesn’t rain today as I am just about to hang washing – so that’s done it hasn’t it.

    I’m looking forward to the next installment about Susan btw.

    Off I go in the hope that I haven’t tempted a change in the weather.

    Have a great day, feet up.

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