[img_assist|nid=4680|title=|desc=|link=url|url=http://www.bigmonkeytalk.com/|align=right|width=150|height=235]When Ed got home, he turned on the late talk and fixed himself a bowl of ice cream. He slumped on the couch and let the vanilla melt as he flipped, finding nothing comprehensible. Humans in ties laughed or insulted each other but he could not get the earlier argument out of his head. If it had been his dining room, he never would have let Chekchek through the door.
Out his window, next to the tv, a streetlight burned at eye level, washing out the moon he’d passed on the way home.
He could see, in the shadows, other Improved Apes in the trees, crouched, sitting, staring at the same moon that rolled above Africa, Madagascar, Ceylon. He could walk out this window and join them, but he wouldn’t be sure he had joined them. There was no way to tell if this new language meant the same to all of them.
He lifted his spoon and swallowed his ice cream like a good boy.
Chekchek sat in the tree in his backyard, fuming at the mortgage rates around here. Backyard trees had become a hot commodity since the neighborhood went Ape. Still, he liked his ranch house, and it was convenient to Interstate 95.
The moon seemed another trick to him now that the humans had explained what it was – an airless ball of quiet dust, chipped in a thousand places by other chips of rock and ice. He could not articulate to himself what he thought it was before the operations, but it was better than that.
In the next house he could see that the good professor’s wife had gone up to bed. The professor himself seemed to be stalling in the kitchen, weakly filling ice trays. He kept meaning to climb over and see what happens behind the upstairs curtains, but he resisted, not wanting to risk trouble with the human police before he had a chance to complete his plans. When the time came, he imagined the joy of tearing down those ugly brown-flower curtains and scaring the bejabbers out of Cogitomni and his wife. He bit into another of his fresh-baked madeleines and chewed silently, lost in thoughts of his plots and remembrance of what was half known in the first place.
Harold Pryce Cogitomni, Doctor of Gerontology, Professor of Cellular Biology, Doctor of Large Animal Veterinary, Professor of Tweaked DNA at Princeton, filled the ice cube trays very slowly from a tight trickle of pure spring water out the jug dispenser in his kitchen and thought, too aware of the obvious metaphor, of how impure the world was, of how he had muddied the waters between the species. They did not need ice, but he was the only one to ever fill it, and he was grateful for the small responsibility, the incredible insignificance of the work.
He pulled his robe tight. There was a chill in the vinyl tiles under his feet. Fall approached. The night rustled. He looked to the full moon out the window, above the trees he assumed were filled with his new neighbors, though he rarely spotted them even in daylight. Someone had proposed banning tree-climbing at a neighborhood meeting, but legal questions aside there seemed no practical way to enforce it. His wife had hung thick curtains over all the windows except for this small one over the kitchen sink, and he found himself drawn to it now on these nights when he could tell himself he knew his audience was out there, watching him, judging him, struggling for a verdict and then a punishment.
He poured himself a glass of water from the plastic jug and added one of the fresh ice cubes he’d popped from the trays. He told himself he could taste the purity, though of course he could not; there is a taste to impurity, and it is sometimes what we want.
He heard a sound beyond the curtains and he moved to the french doors to see a great silverback gorilla, almost white as the moon and streetlights reflected, leap from tree to tree. He had stripped off his human clothes, playing in the night’s yard. The apes wore human clothes not out of humiliation or vanity but because they had come to understand it gave them portable shelter in a cold climate, and all the freedom pockets can bring. But in the night, in the undressed distances, in the proper lighting, they could not stand to ape us. They remembered what we had made them think unimportant. We wanted them to type, we wanted them to speak, and we did not care about trees to their way of thinking. Cogitomni watched the great muscled back disappear into a pine and thought We cannot explain ourselves to them either.