THE taxi driver laughs non-stop during the drive from Denpasar airport to Ubud.
“Get this off me, it’s boiling in this!” the drop bear, Garrett, grumbled about an hour into the drive. So I helped him take off the dog onesie (which I put on him as a disguise to get through customs). It took fifteen minutes before we realised it would be easier to unbuckle the seatbelt first. Rocky Balboa – the driver – was still cackling.
“Ah ha ha ha. Hee hee hee. Ah ha ha ha. You Aussies funny.”
“Stop laughing. I hate you,” Garrett said.
“Hee hee hee.”
“Yeah, this isn’t funny,” I agreed.
“I hate you too,” Garrett said to me as I managed to take the onesie off his pudgy hindquarters. “You blasted animal. This is kidnap! You can’t do this. I am a national mascot. You can’t remove national mascots from their country without permission. It’s international law.”
I ordered the car to stop at a supermarket. We walked in and I bought a few Bintangs, Cheese Tim-Tams, and a fruitpunch flavoured Fanta (vile concoction that is the closest you’ll ever get to monster blood #Goosebumpsreference)
Garrett stopped complaining after seven Bintangs. “You know, buddy, you’re alright,” Garrett said. “Most people wouldn’t think of getting a national mascot drunk to cheer him up. You’re special.”
“We’re home!,” I said as we pulled up in the
Monster Monkey Forest car park.
It was great to be back. I was excited. This is where I belonged. I told Garrett to wait in the car as I stepped out, examining the wall marking the forest. It was a busy day, judging by the number of tourists pouring out of the gates.
It had been weeks since I had been in the forest. I walked through the forest with a fresh eye. I saw the tourists of all nationalities walking in and out the gates, examining the cheap stores across the road, laughing at each other. I saw Sunny (monkey) walk a power line, flaunting as the Japanese tourists below hooted and took photos.
Two lovely ladies (I never learnt their names) guarded a store of bananas outside the gates. Inside the gate I passed two of the monkeys attending our store called Place You Can Buy Your Crap Back. A German with a thick moustache was yelling down at Oscar, the one with the fez on while pointing down at her passport.
“100,000! Unverschämt!” she screamed.
I passed a child eating an ice-cream. Another few trying to lure some of the younger monkeys in for a group photo. Mojo drove past me on his moped. “Monkey King!” he cheered.
“Where’s your helmet,” I reminded him.
“I broke it,” he shouted back as he puttered out the gate.
I passed the monkey trainer – Made – who smiled and gave me a thumbs up. He looked more exhausted than I’d seen him. “They out of control,” he said, “good you back.” As he said this I watched the monkeys in the top of the tree drag some cannons across a log bridge in the canopy. “Where the hell did they get them!” I said.
Meanwhile, Charlie, our arsonist, was lighting a fire down by the creek. Simeon sat nearby, offering cigarettes to some of the local children. As I went down to stop him, Bitey came snarling past with three toddlers on his back.
“Faster, Bitey!” one of the toddlers screamed, kicking the white tiger in the gut with a pink gumboot. “Faster.”
Bitey snarled again but did what he was told, pouncing at Made, who ducked just in time.
“I am the lizard king!” Abu said – from the top of a statue of me – as he cracked a whip down at an American couple. He flashed his butt at them just in time for them to take a photo.
Someone touched me on the shoulder. I turned to face the beautiful girl who was trying to catch my attention.
“You’re back,” Gina smiled, and for the first time, she seemed glad to be speaking to me. “These monkeys are insane.”
“I’ve missed them all,” I said. “I’ve missed my home. And I’ve missed you!” and she beamed.
“Believe it or not, monkey boy, I’ve kinda missed you too,” she said. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go meet my fiancé.”
“Good for you,” I said, scowling at the engagement ring, ignoring Timmy screaming that he was going to stab somebody. I watched a few other monkeys ripping apart a piñata with golf clubs. Mashed banana came bursting out of the paper mache donkey. Another monkey – with a blindfold on – was faced the other direction, whacking a tree trunk.
I climbed the rope ladder to the top of my tree and sat in my throne. I watched the chaos and I smiled. This really was my home. But I decided to have a sleep before I introduced a drop bear into the forest.