The Brotherhood of Shaved Apes
You Might Be A Member And
Not Even Know It…
Have you ever been casually pickin’ through random stuff at a junkyard, a garage sale or somethin’, and run across a busted axe handle or maybe an old cracked ’03-A3 stock? And you picked it up, gave it a couple of swings, thumped it into your palm and sorta semi-consciously thought, “Huh. Good club. Cut off here, couple passes with a draw knife there. Club. Good.” Have you? That could be a clue.
If you went ahead and bought it, kinda self-consciously, having no rational need for such a thing, and after a few licks to smooth it out, it wound up sittin’ in a strategic spot for extemporaneous thumpin’s—despite all your locks, alarms and guns which make for a more “civilized” defense—that’s a solid clue.
If you’ve ever stepped out on the back porch and sucked in a snootful of Somebody’s-Burnin’-BEEF! on the breeze and your brain did an instant data-dump, leaving you head-swiveling, salivating, snuffling deeply, your only sentient thought being “Meat. Meat! Burnt meat! Meat good!”
If you’ve been out in public with your mate and offspring, and other critters, two-legged or four, came around ’em, and for no discernible reason your brow furrowed, your shoulders tightened, your nostrils flared and your fists bunched up as you tensed to beat whomever-whatever into the deck like a pier piling if they made any wrong move—even one you couldn’t see, but you’d sense—that’s another clue.
If exposed to anything or anyone “sophisticated” or “progressive,” your lip curls reflexively and a rumbling snarl surprises you when you realize it’s coming from you, that too is a clue. It’s called “showing your gorilla-face.” You may already do it, unconsciously. Just ask your mate.
Ever chip a fingernail at the workbench and without even thinkin’ about it, grabbed a flat bastard file, dressed your talons, and before you knew it your boots were off and you were deeply engrossed in callous removal when your mate stepped in and did an open-mouthed double-take?
If most of your smiling and laughing is internal, done with a calm, placid face, but when you laugh out loud, you show every tooth in your head, frighten the timid, and set off car alarms? ’Nother clue.
If you firmly believe that Big Evils only exist in the world because nobody grabbed ’em by the ankles when they were Little Evils and swung ’em repeatedly against a tree trunk, well then…
Yeah, you could be a member of the Brotherhood of Shaved Apes and not even know it.
“Shaved Ape” sounds like a pejorative, but it ain’t. And to be clear, we’re not talking about chimps, but gorillas. Think about it. Gorillas may appear more primitive and brutish than chimpanzees, but aside from their sheer size, consider their behaviors. Their loyalties are solid, treatment of their young is firm but gentle, their desires simple: Don’t mess with them, their homes or their families and they’ll probably leave you alone. Push them beyond their considerable patience, and they’ll treat you to a RUD—a Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly—and then calmly go back about their business.
Gorillas are commonly thought to be less intelligent than chimps, mainly because they refuse to play pointless games with pushy, silly humans. I won’t either. Ringin’ any bells for you?
Chimps are highly social and viciously political. They form temporary alliances, betray and backstab, rob, rape and murder. You’ll see chimps ridin’ bikes wearing clown suits, bellboy costumes, even French maid outfits, to get attention and bananas. Ever seen a full-grown, silverback gorilla in a clown suit beggin’ for bananas? No. Know why? Because gorillas won’t put up with it. They have dignity. And they prefer to get their own bananas.
There are no hard criteria for membership in the brotherhood. If you nodded your lumpy head and rumbled assent at any of the lines above, you’re probably qualified.
Shaved apes need family members like Uncle John. If there’s a “there,” he’s been there, prob’ly packin’ a rifle. Steeped in pain, he laughs; stiff with scars like Egyptian hieroglyphics, there’s a story for every one of ’em, and he tells them with a smile. He’s the one who taught me that pain and injuries are only, “The price of an interesting life.”
“You didn’t have to get crippled just ’cause you idolize me, dummy,” he says. “And you’ll never be as handsome as me.” He’s ugly. He loves me.
After the move to our new place, he had to get a new primary care physician. I dropped him off, ran an errand and pulled up just as he came out. He stopped and commenced seriously shaking. I thought he might be having a seizure, but he was laughing his butt off.
“My new doc,” he chuckled, “Kid’s about 15 and looks like Doogie Howser, M.D. I told him, and he asked, Who’s that?” More laughter.
“Then he says I hafta give up tobacco, coffee, bourbon, beer, red meat, bacon and…” Another fit of shakin’ and whoopin’. I asked “Anything else?”
“I don’t know!” he roared, “I was laughin’ so hard I couldn’t hear him! Oh, it was so cute! He got all frowny and said You’d live longer. I told him no, it would only seem longer, or, like dying and goin’ to hell, but like Hell Lite.” He lit his pipe and asked, “Got time for a dark beer and a buffalo-burger?”
Neo-gorillas need friends like Pete C. On a recent Friday I found a great 1-day deal on lumber and joist plates we needed for our new site. It was 150 miles north and across the border into New Mexico. Pete was closer, on the road coming south. But he had to scoot straight over, get there before 1800, seal the deal with this guy Michaels and snatch the keys to the 5-ton truck the load was on for two, rent-free days. We were both driving, both on cell phones, and the signal was terrible. We kept yelling “Say again?” to each other, but when Pete finally shouted Roger that, I thought we were clear. We weren’t.
I pulled up at the new site about 1800 and there was Pete, standing by his personal truck, rigged for combat. I sat there in slack-jawed bewilderment as he loaded his ruck, two carbines and the case containing his .50 BMG rifle into the crew cab. He hopped in, grinning.
“Didn’t know if we’d need Long Tom too, so I just brought him. Ready to rock, pal.” Never mind what I’d said. What he heard was like this:
“We’re gonna cross the border into Mexico, roll about five clicks in, snatch this SEAL named Michael and somebody named Joyce. Probably lots of shooting. Be here by 1800.” I explained. He just sighed, spit out the window and shook his head. “Got that wrong, huh?”
“Did you really think we were gonna do that?” I asked.
He cocked an eyebrow, punched my shoulder and said, “Look at me, Connor. Like, we never pulled a snatch job together before? We never rolled in hard, shot up some dump and rolled out, takin’ rounds and laughin’ like maniacs before, huh?” Yeah. I remembered. Got a little choked up. I think he read the question in my eyes. He punched me again, lightly.
“I roll with you, bro,” he said. “Anytime.”
I had a buncha big oranges and some beer in the cooler. We sat on the tailgate, ripped open the oranges and bit into ’em, juice running down our arms; flingin’ drops out into the dust. Time passed. We watched the sickle moon rise in paling light, not sayin’ much and remembering all. A songdog howled and we howled back. Just a coupla shaved apes.—Connor OUT
By John Connor