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There was—and I believe there probably still is—a place in Florida called the Monkey Jungle. It had funny little monkeys swinging from vines overhead, it had monkey memorabilia that made monkey memories last forever, it even had a monkey that was trained to put his hairy little arms around your neck and smile for the camera. I could go on, but suffice it to say the place was lousy with monkeys, and my cousin Suzie Gale and I thought we'd found paradise, complete with souvenir shop and snack bar. Then it happened.

  • Fact: Suzie was holding a peanut.
  • Fact: There, high above a large cage of spider monkeys, hung a gigantic sign that read do not feed the monkeys.
  • Fact: I was always an inquisitive child, a sucker for an educational science project, if you will, and...Hell, I wanted to know what would happen if I fed the monkeys. Okay, strike that, I wanted to know what would happen if somebody fed the monkeys.

And there was sweet Suzie with her cherry pink cheeks and her enormous angel eyes and her layers of dark, curly hair that rioted around that innocent freckled face, tangling and untangling according to the humidity, and, lo and behold, there was her peanut. "Suzie," I whispered with perfect nonchalance, "go see if that monkey wants your peanut."

This next part happened rather quickly, and my recollection is a little hazy. If memory serves, Suzie walked over to the monkey cage and held the peanut up to the bars. The monkey took the peanut, and I could see Suzie beaming with pride as she turned to look at me. Unfortunately, I could also see the monkey toss the peanut over its shoulder, reach its menacing monkey paw between the bars, grab a chunk of Suzie's hair, and yank it out of her terrified little head.

I don't know how many of you have ever had to act as lookout while your mother crouches in a closet as she attempts to hide from her mother-in-law while phoning every pediatrician in the Greater Miami area to inquire about any potential issues that might arise, "if, say, for example, your 5-year-old niece happens to be mauled by a deranged monkey." Wait a minute, I do know. None of you have had to do that, because I'm the only person in the universe who's ever sent her darling cousin out to be attacked by a monkey.

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