Save the Monkey

by David Ney

The monkey lifts the piece of paper he is writing on, crumples it into a tight ball, and tosses it away. Only now do we see that the room is dotted everywhere with crinkled wads of white paper. They glow softly in the dim light, from wherever they lie, moons carpeting the dusty floor. They lurk among books and bric-a-brac, sitting smugly alone, or in small, proud, groups, at the bottoms of wine glasses, cups, and crockery. Then even fill the sink (yes, there is a sink in this room too).

As he dips the nib of the quill into the black ink, a luminous hand descends from the ceiling to gently lift the long tassel of his cap by its red pom-pom. Up and up the tassel rises, standing now straight in the air. With no further interference from the pom-pom, he begins to write:

“Once upon a time there was a universe, or no, rather imagine a universe, yes, an imaginary universe. And now imagine that here when we say ‘imaginary’ we mean real, and when we say ‘real’ we mean imaginary; and when we way ‘imagine’ we mean realize, we mean understand, we mean See. And vice versa, of course.”

“Now in this imaginary universe, there is a galaxy, imaginary, need we say it? And in this galaxy there is a star; yes you can imagine it, shining, surrounded by its orbiting worlds. On one of these worlds, the most imaginary of all and therefore the most real, a lovely green and blue world, there is a continent, and on this continent there is a country, and in this country there is a city, and in this city there is a boy, an imaginary boy, the most imaginary of all, and most real, a real, imaginary boy. Imagine this boy, imagines the monkey, and wonder who will lift his head, as real as imaginary can be, to keep him on this very blue-green earth.

Down and down the monkey descends from the boy from the city from the country from the continent from the planet. Very old land. Look around you. The horizon trembles. Someone please save him.

David Ney is a 2nd year medical student at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. He is interested in medical humanities, medical education reform, and filmmaking. He has written in the past about death & dying, homelessness, and creative approaches to dementia care. He is currently contributing to a book about the future of medical education and what medicine will be like in the year 2050 and beyond.