Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Monkey love

When I was a kid, my favourite toy was a monchichi called Nucki.
(Yes, that’s pronounced “nookie” – the true meaning of which would not be revealed to me until I was 21. It really is a reference to the little pacifier in his tiny fist, which would translate his name as “Sucker” – probably not much better. His name was one in a long line of unwittingly inappropriate names, such as Bubi (“boobie”) for my budgie and Hannibal for our pet tortoise, who loved nothing more than biting).
Nucki was in the company of many a monkey inhabiting my childhood. I had a thing about monkeys when I was a kid. I sure as hell pet a lot of them.
...Erm... that came out all wrong.

I have a very blurry, dark memory of my great grandma bending down to me when I was two and handing Nucki to me, brand new and still wrapped in a cellophane bag, and I’ve loved that little monkey ever since. Nucki’s design was still the old school cute one, whereas later monchichis began to look slightly deranged and deformed, with faces too small for their giant heads, and ears too big and red, and fur too black, making them all look like sinister alcoholics. Nucki’s face was sweet and freckled and in proportion, and his fur a chocolate brown. He is old and tattered now, and his fur is threadbare in places, but he is still alive and kickin, in his own happy monchichi way. I loved his smell and how he always fitted perfectly into my grip, so that it felt more like I was holding a live creature than a toy. Nucki went everywhere with me. He was alive to me, like a real pet or a baby. The thought of being parted from him was agony for me.

Our happy little world was only disturbed when my brother was born. Because there are some unwritten rules every child knows about the existance of young(er/est) siblings.

1) They get what they want.
2) They’ve got some weird kind of immunity. And they know it. No matter how old or young, oh do they know it, and milk it at every opportunity.
2a) Subrule of this is: your toys are not your parents’ highest priority to keep safe from the spoilt brat’s ferocity. And no matter how little you are ahead in years of the little monster, your parents expect you to be mature.

When you combine annoying little brothers with toys you love with the fervour only a kid can produce, things are bound to go haywire. It creates stories like this.

When my brother Marc was about one, we went on a summer holiday, to a resort near a lake. We lived in a little bungalow, and us kids caught too much of the sun playing in paddling pools and chilling out with our dads when they went fishing, us secretly nibbling the sweet dough they had prepared as bait (yes, I loved to eat fish bait. Yum!)

One day dad hired out a rowing boat, and we went rowing on the lake. (Well, dad was rowing.)
I had Nucki with me, which, in retrospect, was a bad idea, but I wanted him to have fun as well, believing the little plastic-and-fur fella would get a kick out of being on a lake just like me. Clutching Nucki in one hand, I let my other hand trail through the cold water which broke in little waves against the warm wood as our boat cut through it, like dark green liquid glass, while I imagined a fairy tale underwater world. I wanted to stick my feet out in the water, but my little legs were too short to reach over the edge and into the water. Mother warned me a few times not to lean out too far, so any experimenting was forfeit before it began.
I was entirely immersed in my daydreaming, my older brother leaving me in peace for a change, and the summer heat was upon us like cotton wool, with only the water bringing cool relief from below.

Needless to say, wonderful peace like this is like a thorn in the eye to any toddler. This is why my little brother suddenly started kicking off. For no apparent reason he suddenly threw a full-on tantrum, deafening screeches, bucking and throwing himself around like he had a stupid fit, my mother barely able to contain him. There was a portion of embarrassment to this, too, as the lake carried sound so well, and people probably thought our parents were trying to drown us. Gone was the relaxation and peaceful joy as my parents went straight back into their usual stressed home mode, unsuccessfully trying to calm my brother, who trumpeted out his mysteriously aroused displeasure with a voice way too big for his little body, emphasising every scream with a spasm that made the boat rock. I sat at the stern of the boat, watching this unfolding hurricane, and subconsciously clutching Nucki tighter, as if touched by a premonition.
Despite his complete immersion in his hissy fit, Marc saw what I was doing, and, rotten little bugger that he was, changed his tactics. He leaned forward, against the constraint of his mother, and reached his pudgy little paw out towards me.

Correct that. Towards Nucki.

No fucking way. I pressed Nucki tighter to my chest. Marc screeched all the louder, twisting in his mother's arms and grasping for what was dearest to me in the world.
And promptly and predictably, dad said: “Give him the monkey!”
“No!” I protested. Marc let out a massive wail to make sure we knew he meant business.
“Jesus, just give him the monkey!”
“But he will chuck him in the water!” (Up to this day I don’t know whether Marc just gratefully took my suggestion or whether I just knew he was going to do that anyway.)
“Don’t be silly. He just wants the monkey to play with. Just give him here for a second.”
When dad raised his voice, I dared not talk back. Defeated, with my little heart jumping with fear for my beloved primate, I handed Nucki over, like the prisoner of war he had become. That or nuclear war.

Nucki glid smoothly from my dad’s strong big hand into Marc’s drool-covered, angry grip.
And didn’t I know it, a fraction of a second later, Nucki sailed in an impressive arch over board and landed far off in the water with a splash. I screamed.

“Oh shit”, said dad. I don’t know if I screeched “I told you so!”, but I didn’t have to. My heartbroken cries, which were equally as fierce in volume as my little brother’s, mingled with his audioterror into an insane cacophony of childhood apocalypse.

Dad and Mom didn’t even try to calm us down. Knowing me for about 6 years longer than my brother and being well aware of my attachment to Nucki, it became all about damage control. Nucki bopped at a considerable distance in the dark seas threatening to swallow him, if it wasn’t for his little airhead keeping him and my sanity afloat. Dad tried to reach him by means of an oar while simultaneously trying to balance the boat, with me howling on one end and Marc on the other. He barely reached him, trying to coax him back towards the boat with that big, clumsy wooden stick, but the motion of the water seemed to carry Nucki off further and further like a lost paper boat.

I dunno how he did it, but he managed to get Nucki back eventually, and I clang to the little wet monkey and cried and cried, for the near loss of him, and the betrayal by my dad who was outwitted by the little shit that was my brother, and never again has dad dared to touch any of my toys in favour of Marc.

Because when it comes to tantrums, I could always outdo that little demon.

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