PINK MONKEYS OF VERONA • by Stephen Duffin

“Don’t you love being a pink monkey?” declared County Paris, flying over Lady Capulet’s orchard. “Shall we make mischief?”

Romeo flew low under an envious moon. “This pink monkey has better things to do!”

Paris flew alongside. “Like what?”

“Oh blessed, blessed night,” declared Romeo, swooping towards Ye Olde Playwrighte taverna. “I have fallen in love with Juliet!”

“That old tart?” grumbled Paris. “Can’t you find anyone else?”

“My bright angel is the most faithful pink monkey in fair Verona!”

“Rubbish,” said Paris. “Juliet’s a total trollop!”

Romeo gasped. “Why do you insult my snowy dove?”

“Because I know her secret!”

“What secret?”

Paris smirked. “I’ll tell you if you buy the drinks?”

They flew into the taverna, elbowing past smelly pink monkeys scratching their fleas. Romeo bought a flagon of wine. They squatted on the one spare bench. “So,” asked Romeo. “My silver-sweet Juliet has a secret?”

Paris stretched his wings. “It’s not important…”

“Yes it is,” said Romeo, pouring wine into their cups. “Tell me her secret.”

“Are you sure you want to know?”

“Of course,” said Romeo. “I adore Juliet. Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright. She reminds me of William Shakespeare!”

Paris sipped his wine, a twinkle in his eye. “Some say pink monkeys inspired Britain’s greatest bard!”

“So, what’s Shakespeare doing these days?”

“Penning a tragic tale of doomed young love,” said Paris, drinking more wine. “It’s all rhyming couplets, and some silly scene set on a balcony.” He burped. “It’ll never catch on…”

“Oh my god,” yelled Romeo, interrupting him. “Juliet has flown in!”

Paris discretely topped up his cup while Romeo adored Juliet from afar.

“It is my love, it is my lady,” declaimed Romeo. “Look at her pretty pink wings! Her magnificent tail! I’m telling you, Juliet’s a babe!”

Paris shook his head. “Looks aren’t everything…”

“Why do you say that about Juliet?”

“Just don’t judge a book by its cover…”

“Don’t you like her?”

Paris sipped more of his wine.

“Why won’t you tell me her secret?”

Paris coughed, discreetly. “Juliet is beautiful, isn’t she?”

She posed at the counter. Pink monkey rustics clustered around her, offering frothy jugs of ale. Juliet brushed them away with a flick of her long, blonde hair.

“I don’t believe it,” Romeo whispered. “Juliet bought red wine like us. It could be a sign! Maybe she loves me as much as I love her?”

Paris frowned. “Have you actually met her yet?”

Romeo blushed. “No…”

“It might help.”

Romeo looked around. “It’s so crowded. There’s nowhere for Juliet to squat but here with us. Oh, she is the fairest pink monkey in all Heaven. I’ll finally meet her!”

Juliet flew over, winking at Paris. “You keep avoiding me,” she cooed, enfolding him in a warm embrace. “I love your walrus moustache!”

Paris tried to introduce Romeo. “Juliet, this is…”

She ignored him. “The night is hot,” she giggled, thrusting her bosom at Paris. “This morning I won a Pink Monkey Wet Tee-Shirt Competition! Isn’t that great? Shakespeare loves my figure, 44, 21, 31. He says I might be famous one day! Should I do a centrefold?”

Romeo prayed Juliet would notice him soon. How I love her laughter, like softest music to attending ears…

But Juliet snuggled up to County Paris. “I adore titled folk,” she whispered. “Have you got millions stashed away in a pension fund?”

“Naturally,” drawled Paris. “I invest with Prince Escalus and Mercutio Marmoset, specialists in private equity. They own twenty palazzos in Rome, ten in Venice, and nine in Florence. Aren’t they Italy’s finest developers of pink monkey property?”

“Of course,” agreed Juliet. “How about we fly somewhere more intimate, like back to my father’s house to…” she fluttered her eyelashes, “…compare property portfolios?”

Paris declined. “I’m rather busy…”

Romeo ignored Juliet’s affection for Paris. His felt his own heart blazing with passion. My eyes have never seen true beauty till this night!

Juliet only had eyes for Paris. “I love shrewd investors,” she said. “You can serenade me any day!”

She blew Paris a kiss as she flew out the door.

Romeo burst into tears. “Queen Mab’s chariot,” he wailed, “has come galloping through my life so I may dream of unrequited love…”

“Oh, love is blind,” snapped Paris. “Don’t prattle on like that. Anyone might think you were mad!”

“This isn’t fair,” wept Romeo. “Why have you stolen my heart’s love?”

Paris adjusted his black leather jacket. “I have no interest in Juliet.”

“So what is her secret?”

“You really don’t want to know…”

“So why doesn’t she love me?” sniffed Romeo, gulping down his own wine so fast red streaks dribbled down his chin. “Could my life get any worse?”

“Oh look,” said Paris, pointing into the crowds. “Juliet has flown back in. Shakespeare could pen sonnets praising her fluffy pink tail. But what is she doing?”

Romeo squinted into the crowds. “I can’t see…”

“She’s kissing a wrinkled pink monkey with liver spots. Every time she kisses him, he gives her a gold florin. Who can he be?”

Romeo went white, dropping his cup on the floor. “I can see him,” he sobbed. “Oh, I am fortune’s fool. It is my father!”

“Now you know Juliet’s secret,” said Paris, draining the last of the wine, “and it was nothing to do with iambic pentameter!”

Romeo flew away screaming, so Paris yelled across the busy taverna. “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?”

“At the bar,” he wept, “drowning my sorrows with another flagon of wine.”

“Great,” said Paris, licking his lips. “Any chance of a fresh cup for me? Maybe later we could fly back to my Palazzo, and I could show you my etchings…”

Stephen Duffin lives in London.

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