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The Monkey’s Tail, as Told by Marcel Duchamp the Day After Charles Lindbergh Landed at Le Bourget Field

I had this friend who was obsessed with having a monkey tail grafted to his ass. Actually, to call him a friend is stretching the truth. Toulouse was more of a colleague. An ex-colleague, if you get my meaning.

He went to great lengths to achieve his ends. At first, he was convinced that it would be possible to grow a tail. After all, we used to have them: they are part of our vestigial anatomy. He knew a biologist from Pigalle who was willing to help pull out his tail bone. Not literally. No, he would attempt to stretch it outwards by digitally manipulation.

Oh yes, it was quite painful, but Toulouse was bent on it. He was mad for the monkey tail, wasn’t he?

Eventually, Toulouse accepted the anatomist’s ministrations were not going to work, and went in search of other answers. He tried occult methods: spells, potions and unguents. It was about this time people started to avoid him. The unguents were too pungent by far. Yes, even for Paris in summertime.

Finally, Doctor V moved into town. You must know him. The one who grafts primate glands into the body cavity. Yes, for men unable to … I see you’ve heard of him. His cure was often worse than the disease, if being unable to . . . could be called a disease. It could be restful. Several flaccid gentlemen died, but septicemia did not frighten Toulouse.

He asked the surgeon to graft a tail to him. The tail? It came from a monkey — a Barbary Ape, if you must know the details.

Yes. Yes. It did come from Gibraltar. Normally Dr. V. worked with chimps, which have no tails, so he had to find a species with a tail, no matter how underdeveloped. The poor beast had been living with Madame Sélavy, the noted philatelist and prodigious eater of *cerveaux de chèvre*. Hmm. Yes, nasty, I agree. Cow brains are better. In a fit of whimsy she had named the creature “Alonsy.” The little beast was adept at licking stamps and quite useful. So Dr. V. returned the creature to its mistress after he’d removed the small, pathetic vestigial tail. Covered with wiry brown hair it was.

Oh, yes, Toulouse was ecstatic when Dr. V showed him the new appendage prior to the operation. I imagine the Russian must have looked like some demented maître d’, presenting the severed appurtenance on a silver platter. Yes. Yes! The ether was the wine and the surgical tools the cutlery!

By all accounts the monkey was happier after this interlude. (Though they are called Barbary Apes, they are really monkeys you know.) Yes. Yes. Alonsy flew into paroxysms of monkey song, chattering gleefully; he moistened postage with aplomb and joy thereafter. He was much improved.

My ex-colleague did not fare as well, but such is the price of progress.

The End

Or listen to the audio: The Monkey’s Tail … by Mark A. Rayner

Originally published: Trunk Stories #2, Dec. 2004
Reprinted: Broken Pencil #29, 2005 & Yareah Magazine, February Issue, 2009

© 2004, Mark A. Rayner º Photo by Andre Mouton from Pexels

Did someone say monkeys?

If monkeys are your thing, you may want to check out my 2010 novel, Marvellous Hairy, in which a surrealistic novelist is turned into a monkey.

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One Comment

  1. You know, I can totally understand the appeal of monkeys and even having a tale. It’s almost a tease how humans have back bones but no wings, and tale bones but no tales.

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