Silver Back Gorilla
Maxim, the silver back gorilla, knew his buddy Carl was coming home. Home, for Maxim, was the zoo. Carl was taken to the hospital a few weeks ago after being attacked by a man who shape shifted to a large black panther. He nearly killed Carl that night. Maxim had been depressed since Carl left, but today he had perked up and began playing with his letter blocks. He had been practicing to surprise Carl when he came back home. Maxim had learned to spell Halloween from Morris, Carl’s temporary replacement.
Now, you see, Maxim was an extremely intelligent gorilla and had a remarkable memory. He also had the uncanny ability to sense things most people were totally unaware of – like many animals, Maxim was psychic, that is how he knew Carl was coming home. Maxim was an observer and studied people every day of his long life. He was 40 years old, but he still remembered when he was barely a year old, poachers killed his mother and captured him. The memories still lingered in his mind even though he was so young when taken from his wild habitat. The only human Maxim the silver back allowed himself to like was Carl, the night security guard. Well, he tolerated others just so they would treat him well. He had also grown accustomed to Morris, an old retired security guard who had been filling in for Carl.
Morris had been visiting Carl in the hospital every day since the attack. He had trained Carl years ago on the night shift. Carl was like a son to the old man and he loved the kid dearly (he still called Carl “the kid”). Carl was only nineteen when he passed his training to become a security guard. Morris had no family and kind of adopted Carl. The two became very close over the years.
During their conversations in the hospital, Carl told Morris all about how Maxim and he had learned to communicate with each other just before the attack at the zoo. “He is a lot more intelligent,” Carl said, “than we all realized. With the right tools, Maxim will be able to communicate far easier. I will have to do some shopping for ways to help Maxim. I think he will be a lot happier with tools and maybe even learn hand language, which I will have to learn also.”
Morris thought a lot about training Maxim, so he went to the toy store and picked up several sets of large blocks. Each set was different. One set had letters, one had numbers, and several sets had pictures on them. Then he went home, found a picture of Carl in his uniform and took it to the print shop to have a poster made of it.
That night, Morris came pushing a shopping cart full of gifts to Maxim’s cage. He went to the speaker and turned it on. “Now, Maxim, I ain’t going to stand out here in the cold trying to explain all these gifts to you. I need to come inside and talk easy with you through the bars.” Maxim looked puzzled, but understood when Morris turned off the speaker and went around to the door on the end and unlocked it. Morris pushed the cart inside and closed the door behind him. Maxim was standing, holding on to the bars and stuck his face between two bars, staring at the cart.
“Now, I will be in here for awhile. You won’t kill me if I come close, right?” Morris was shocked when Maxim shook his head quickly back and forth. Morris stood there holding the rolled up poster and a roll of duct tape. He stared at Maxim for several seconds. “Well, alright then. I won’t kill you, either.” Maxim shook his head again.
Morris unrolled the poster and applied the tape to the edges, then he turned it around so Maxim could see. When Maxim saw Carl’s picture he jumped up and down like a kid and started running around in circles. He came back and reached through the bars to touch the poster. “Yeah! That’s your ol’ buddy Carl.” Morris took a foot stool out of the cart and sat it at the end of the bars.
“Now, Maxim, I’m going to stand up here and put Carl’s picture on your wall. You go sit over there and study this picture book,” he took the book out of the cart and slid it under the bars. The book had thick stiff pages and Maxim was intrigued with it. He took it over to his pillow and sat down, turning the pages with great interest, while Morris attached the poster to the wall.
When Morris got back down, Maxim came over and touched the poster gently, then kissed Carl’s face and saluted, like Carl always saluted. “Now, don’t slobber on it. You’ll get it wet,” Morris smiled at the love Maxim had for Carl. “Yeah …. I love the Kid, too.” Maxim looked at Morris and held up a thumb. He never ceased to amaze Morris, who stared at the silver back for several seconds each time he saw just how much Maxim understood.
Maxim got his book and showed Morris a page with Halloween images on it. He kept shaking his head back and forth when he pointed to the pictures. “Don’t like Halloween, huh? Well, neither do I. People running around in stupid costumes, acting like idiots. They don’t know the real meaning of the holiday.”
Morris unwrapped all the blocks and handed them in to Maxim. The silver back was thrilled with them and stacked them up by sets. This kept Maxim busy for quite a while, so Morris sat down in the folding chair he brought and had a cup of coffee from his thermos. Watching Maxim was the most interesting thing for Morris.
Maxim suddenly became agitated and handed a block out to Morris. It had images of ghosts on it. Maxim was shaking his head vigorously, grabbing the bars and swaying back and forth. “Afraid of ghosts? A big fella like you?” Maxim nodded and pointed with his fist to something outside by the vending machines. Morris turned around to look and saw one of the machines shaking violently. Then the glass broke and candy bars started flying out like someone was throwing them. Morris stood up and watched with shock.
“Well, hell ! Looks like we got trouble on our hands,” Morris looked at Maxim, who was jumping up and down screeching.
Stay tuned for Part Two, Haunted Candy Bars – Silver Back Gorilla at the Haunted Zoo Conclusion, coming up soon.
© 2017 Phyllis Doyle Burns