PANCAKES FOR A PRIMATE • by John Weagly

“You know this isn’t a real holiday, right?” Klepto Bayley Klepac asked.

“I know it’s not a real holiday,” I said, “But I like to celebrate it, so I do.”

Bayley gave me a confused look, paid her breakfast check, and walked out.

January 31st is National Gorilla Suit Day. It was created in 1963 by Don Martin, renowned cartoonist for Mad Magazine. I’d first heard of it when I performed in Paterson, New Jersey, where Don Martin was from. After the holidays, as the dreary days seem to never end, I try to present it as a fun pick-me-up to the winter doldrums.

After my career as a professional wrestler came to an end, I returned home to Currie Valley, Illinois and opened my restaurant — Buster’s Lunch Box. We serve standard diner fare but try to mix things up with unique specials. This year, for the “holiday,” we were offering banana pancakes topped with caramelized bacon pieces and walnuts, drizzled with a white chocolate cream and a buttery caramel swirl, then sprinkled with shaved dark chocolate.

Yes, it’s a lot of sugar, but we’re celebrating, right?

Maggie-Anne Carlisle, who helps me run my tiny food dynasty, put together a mix of music to play throughout the day, songs like “Apeman” by The Kinks and “Gorilla, You’re a Desperado” by Warren Zevon. After our breakfast rush, as “Too Much Monkey Business” by Chuck Berry was playing, a person in a gorilla suit showed up outside. They waved at cars passing by, danced around on the sidewalk and hugged any passersby they could get their paws on.

I watched from behind the counter and smiled at their antics. “Nice touch,” I said to Maggie Anne.

She walked over to where I was, drying her hands with a towel. “What?”

“Hiring a gorilla for outside,” I said. “Nice touch.”

“I didn’t hire anybody.”

Alarm bells went off in my head. A gorilla suit promo for National Gorilla Suit Day was a good idea, but, if it wasn’t our idea, then whose idea was it?

I stepped outside and said “Hi” to the gorilla. At seven feet, I was about a foot and a half taller than the jungle beast.

The ape pounded its chest and grunted. Cars honked at the shenanigans.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

The gorilla roared and flapped its arms.

“Very realistic,” I said. “Who put you up to this?”

The hairy primate grumbled and hooted under its breath.

I approached our uninvited ballyhoo brute. They danced away, roaring like they thought they were a real monster. Unfortunately, their vision must have been compromised by their mask and they slipped off the cub and fell into the street.

“Ow,” the gorilla said.

I held out my hand. The gorilla gave me its paw and I helped it back to its feet. Once it was back on the sidewalk, I reached over and pulled off its mask. The coarse, fake fur felt slightly oily.

“Hi, Bayley,” I said.

Klepto Bayley Klepac gave me an uncomfortable smile. “Hi, Buster,” she said. “I thought about what you said, about the holiday and all, and I decided to get in the spirit of things!”

“Uh-huh. Can you please empty your pockets for me?”

“I don’t think I want to do that.”

I tilted my head. “I can go across the street and get a cop,” I said. “But wouldn’t this be easier?”

Bayley opened her mouth to say something else, but instead closed it and just nodded. She dug around inside of her suit and came out with two wallets and a Casio digital watch.

Everyone in town knew Bayley Klepac was a pickpocket, hence the moniker “Klepto,” and everyone gave her a wide berth. But I guess a happy gorilla was beyond suspicion, and Bayley was able to hug and dance with a couple of marks.

“Did you rent that costume from the Little Theater?”

“Yeah.”

“It was a good idea,” I said. “Who was the watch from?”

“Sebastian Bester.”

“I’ll make sure it gets back to him, and the wallets to their owners, too.”

“Thanks, Buster.”

“Why don’t you head on home, Bayley,” I said.

“Thanks, Buster,” she said again.

I gave her back the mask. She put it on and headed down the street, shoulders slumped, a sad simian.

I went back inside to the lingering scents of fresh-brewed coffee and sizzling bacon. “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” by the Traveling Wilburys was filling the diner with ambiance.

“You didn’t want to turn her in?” Maggie Anne asked.

“What would be the point?” I said. “Besides,” I added, trying to keep the grin off of my face, “we all like to monkey around a little sometimes,”

Maggie Anne rolled her eyes. “Did you think of that line last night? And you were just waiting for an excuse to use it?”

“Yes,” I said.


John Weagly’s work has been called “exuberant” – Chicago Tribune, “charming” – Chicago Reader and “appealingly quirky” – Chicago Sun-Times. Locus Magazine once compared his short fiction to the works of Ray Bradbury and Nina Kiriki Hoffman and called him “a new writer worth reading and following.” As a playwright, over one hundred of his plays have received productions on four continents. A collection of his short sci-fi/fantasy scripts, Tiny Flights of Fantasy, has been taught at Columbia College. You can find more of his short stories in the collections The Undertow of Small Town Dreams and Dancing in the Knee-Deep Midnight.


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