Last week, I got a very cryptic email from my mother. The subject line was VW, and the text of the message said this:
“Hi Honey: Bought you a present today to do with the above (hint) his first name is Ralph. See you soon. Love, Mom xxx”
I pondered for quite a while, and came up empty. I asked a colleague, “What do you think this means?” and he replied, “Maybe some kind of animal?” And I was doubtful at first, but then I had an epiphany and I wrote back this:
“Is it a monkey butler?! I’ve always wanted one of those! Also, there was nothing above except the initials V. W. Is my monkey butler’s name Ralph Van Wooster? Can’t wait to find out! Love you:-)”
I was super-pumped, and waited for a while to get a confirmation. And waited. And waited. But my mother didn’t reply back, and I got worried. There were several possible reasons why I had yet to receive a loving message about how clever I was to have surmised that my present was a simian man-servant.
1) My mother was mad that I guessed her riddle and spoiled the surprise. I could see her reading the email, and then saying to my dad in a low whisper, “How does she always know? Well, let her stew, the smartass.”
2) My mother had actually bought me a Volkswagen, and didn’t know how to let me down gently. I have to say though, Mom, that a VW named Ralph would have been almost as cool as a monkey butler, but only if it was a Beetle.
3) Someone had hacked my mom’s email, and I would eventually learn that in “exchange” for the present, I would have to send $5 000 in iTune gift cards to a Nigerian prince named Ralph Varem Wabara who’s being held captive on the International Space Station by Chris Hadley (a Canadian criminal mastermind/astronaut).
4) My mother didn’t know what a monkey butler was, and my email befuddled her, so much so that she didn’t know what to say in return. I could see her reading the email and then saying to my dad in a low whisper, “What is she on about now? I can’t even dignify this with a reply. It’s your fault she’s so weird,” and then my dad would say, “Och! Yer aff yer heid, woman!”
Number 1, of course, was the most likely scenario, so I spent the next few days feeling a little guilty for being so clever. Then my parents came by the house to drop off my gift. I had read extensively on the topic of how to train a monkey butler, and I had the guest room prepared as per the instructions on http://www.angelfire.com/crazy3/learntofly/ which is exclusively devoted to the topic of “How to Train Your Monkey Butler”—it contains pearls of grammatically incorrect wisdom like “When you have your monkey butler serve a person let him take his time and serve one person at a time so he doesn’t get confused and start to get angry, a confused angry monkey is no fun for anyone.” I highly recommend this site to anyone who might find themselves in my position.
Then Mom and Dad arrived, and I was a little concerned when I saw them coming down the walk “sans simian”. What a letdown. But when they came in the house, my mother presented me with a CD of music by Ralph Vaughan Williams, who, aside from Trent Reznor and Dave Grohl, is one of my favourite composers, and that really softened the monkey butler blow because the other night, Ken had tried to lull me to sleep by playing “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis” only he had to find it on Youtube then he put his iPad directly on my ear so that the music wouldn’t drown out The Weather Chanel, which wasn’t very lulling and more just annoying, although he meant well. Now I could play that, and “Lark Ascending”, any time I wanted. But I was still curious:
Me: Why didn’t you answer my email? I thought you were mad.
Mom: Your email? You mean the one about the monkey butler? I would have, but I don’t know what a monkey butler is.
Me: It’s a monkey that’s a butler.
Mom: Would you really want one of those? Wouldn’t it be a lot of work to train it?
Me: Yeah. You’re probably right.
And then I realized that every time I had pictured Ralph Van Wooster in my head, he was actually wearing a bellhop uniform, and not a bespoke tuxedo, so it’s probably good that I wasn’t put in charge of training him, because then he would insist on carrying everyone’s bags instead of serving drinks.
Me: I don’t think a monkey would make a good butler.
Ken: Um, what?
Me: It would be hard to train him. I can’t even get Titus to play dead—he only plays “wounded”.
Ken: You have to make it submit. You know, like “Shock the Monkey”.
Me: If you think the best way to train a monkey is to shock him, then you don’t deserve a monkey butler. Besides, I thought that song was about a guy who pleasured himself in a sudden and rather violent way.
Ken: Um, what?
Me (whispers): Never mind. You know I’ll have to make this whole conversation up when I blog about it. Forget about training a monkey butler—I need to train YOU to be a better “humorous foil”.
At the end of the day, I didn’t get a monkey butler. But I DID get an awesome CD, AND a blog topic, so thanks, Mom—you’re the bestest!
I’ve been doing a lot of writing this week. I’m on Chapter 12 of my new novel, and then on Friday, my publisher sent me the pdfs/galleys of my first novel, which is about to be published, and I had to review that and give them feedback. It’s funny how much more critical you get of your own writing when you realize that other people, like, people OUTSIDE your family who might not love you, will be reading it. And now, I want to go back and do a major rewrite, but I can’t because the publisher is ready to print. Ken says that it’s fine the way it is, but he also thinks that buttermilk is the same thing as whipping cream. At any rate, I’ve been sidetracked, so to stay consistent with today’s topic of monkey butlers, here’s a throwback post for those of you who missed some of Year One:
The Best Bad-Ass Animal Hybrids
So the other day, I was driving along and I saw a guy walking a dog. As I got closer, I realized that it was a dog with the body of a large Dachshund, and the face of a Rottweiler. It was a ROTTWEINER. And then I was really disappointed, because it did NOT look badass at all. You would think that a dog with the personality of a weiner dog, all scrappy and feisty, and the body of a Rottweiler, all muscular and mean, would be the height of badass-ery. Nuh. It was just a bigger than average weiner dog with a round Rottweiler head. And it looked very awkward and self-conscious, like one of those dog-slinkies whose back end has a mind of its own. Why is it that the permutations of nature are never as cool as you hope they would be? Then I got to thinking about other hybrid animals (beause I was driving, so why not , right?) and it occurred to me that they all pretty much suck. For example, the mule. This is a cross between a horse and a donkey. Why would anyone WANT to do that? Especially the horse or the donkey? Who knows how it happens, except that apparently it’s always a union between a donkey girl and a horse boy. Which makes sense because how would a boy donkey reach up that high? Then I thought the same must be true of the Rottweiner—it had to be a boy Rottweiler and a girl dachshund, or else SOMEONE was using a step stool. Anyway, aside from the complicated logistics of these types of unions, the whole DNA component is also a puzzle. Why is it mules are sterile, but Rottweiners can go on to have little rotty-weiner babies, or even breed with another kind of dog, say, an Irish Wolfhound? Wouldn’t that be a bizarre looking beast? I actually did a little research for this (ie: I googled “Crazy Animal Hybrids”), and while there were some real disappointments, like the Sheep-Goat (it’s such a bad hybrid that it doesn’t even get a cool name like Shroat, or Greep) I discovered some pretty amazing creatures, so here are my top 3:
3) The Liger: This is a cross between a lion and a tiger. It’s the biggest cat known to humans and can be over 10 feet long and weigh 700 pounds. Also, its best friends are Heffalumps and Woozles.
2) The Grolar Bear: Created when a grizzly bear and a polar bear mate. While this seems unlikely, given that polar bears live NO WHERE NEAR grizzly bears, scientists speculate that it’s happening more and more in the wild due to global warming, and grizzly bears moving into formerly polar bear-only areas. See, global warming has its upside, which is awesome new animals. As the earth warms up and other ecosystems change, maybe we’ll also see the Pengotter (yes, this is an imaginary cross between a penguin and an otter, which I made up just now, and it would be the cutest thing to ever exist).
1) The number one best animal cross, in my humble opinion, is the Coydog. According to the article I read, the Coydog has the natural cunning of a coyote without its instinctive fear of humans, making it tremendously high on the badass scale. So it would pretend to be your best friend, and then when you were asleep, it would eat all your food and pee in your bed. Or kill you. And your Rottweiner.
Honourable Mention: Of course, the Honourable Mention has to go to my favourite mythological hybrid animal—the Zebrasus. This is a cross between a zebra and a Pegasus. I have a sculpture of a Zebrasus on the bookshelf in my office. I found it on a window ledge on the last day of school, many years ago, after all the students had gone home for the summer. I never found out who made it, but it was so awesome that I had to keep it for myself. The best thing about the Zebrasus, aside from the stripes and the wings, is that he’s smoking a cigar and wearing Mardi Gras beads. He is the Ultimate Badass.