Our compact rental circled higher and higher up the road, the silence in the car as jagged as the gray-white cliffs we passed. They say if you really want to know someone, take a vacation with them, but I’m not sure I’d call this a vacation.
“When we get to Seville,” Amanda snapped, “you can do what you like. Go to Cordova, whatever. I’m taking a train to Lisbon.”
She slammed the guidebook to the floor, finality in her voice. I felt like slamming her. It had been like this since the plane touched down in Madrid. I wanted to do the Prado, she wanted to do Retiro. We could do both. We DID do both. Why did she have to make such a big deal of what we did when? I wanted tapas, she had to go to the Midnight Rose. Ultimately we did both.
My foot pressed the accelerator to the floor, but the car barely responded. I didn’t notice the Mediterranean below or the coast of Morocco beyond. I wanted to scream, push her right out the door. Instead, I said, “That’s probably for the best. Then you can have everything your own way.”
“My own way?” she said. “My own way? You’re the control freak. Since before we left, everything’s had to be your way. I wanted to go to France, remember? But you’ve already been to France. I wanted hotels with at least basic amenities. But you . . . . This is not a camping trip, you know.”
“Picturesque,” I said. “The hotels are picturesque. They have atmosphere.”
“Atmosphere, my ass! And can’t you say anything in a pleasant voice?”
We rounded a steep curve. I hit the brakes because the car in front of us had come to a stop. The guidebooks had warned about monkey crossings. Sure enough, a troop of monkeys was plunging down the face of the cliff, swinging from scrub trees and snagging footholds on tufts of vegetation. The leading edge of the troop spread out and meandered across the road. They had already stopped a couple of cars coming from the other direction. My fury exploded and I hit the horn. Amanda glared at me. The man in the car in front of us turned to look, too. Jeez, I’m losing my mind. I’m absolutely losing my mind.
At that moment, I heard a loud thud and the car shuddered. There was scrambling on the roof, and a huge tawny face, upside down, peered through the front windshield and stared into my eyes. I was speechless. Then it disappeared. More noise. The figure flipped onto the hood of the car.
“Oh, shit!” I said. “Will we be liable for damage by monkey?”
Seated on the hood of our little compact, the monkey looked larger than life. It stared at Amanda, leaned forward and tapped the glass in front of her. My anger dissolved and I began to laugh. I just couldn’t help myself. The monkey scampered across the hood, grabbed the car’s rain gutter, swung over the side, and hooked the side mirror.
“Please don’t yank the mirror off!” I gasped through laughter.
Amanda began to laugh, too.
The monkey bounced off the ground, leapt back onto the hood, then, as though he’d had experience, he sat gingerly on the mirror, dangled his feet and turned his head first left then right, as if he had lost all interest in us. Amanda and I both doubled with laughter. I’m not sure how long he sat there, but by the time I wiped my eyes and got control of myself, the troop had moved on, and so did we.
We continued our ascent in a different kind of silence, broken by a chuckle here and a quip there. As we approached the top, the cliffs became whiter and smoother, perhaps eroded by the elements. When we reached the summit, I checked the car for damage and saw none. Then we bought a snack and found the perfect viewing stone.
The day was clear. A breeze tossed Amanda’s brown hair. The Mediterranean sparkled below us. Beyond stretched the blue coast of Africa, remote and unknown. I pulled a bottle of local wine from the car. We spread our lunch and watched vessels plying the sea as they had for thousands of years. We talked about Hannibal and the Moors and the Phoenicians – not that we knew much about them.
“Sort of puts things in a different perspective,” I said.
She leaned over and touched my hand. “This and the monkeys.”
I raised my wine glass. “To the monkeys.”
The ring of glass on glass floated along the cliff top and out over the water.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I don’t know why. . . .”
“That’s ok, it was my fault.”
“No, it wasn’t,” she said. “I just don’t want to mess this up.”
“We can do it. I know we can.” I kissed her. “And one day, we’ll come back to Gibraltar.”
G. K. Adams lives on the Texas Gulf Coast with her husband and two cats. Her fiction has appeared in a number of journals, including Flashquake, The Legendary, and Midwest Literary Magazine, which gave her story its distinction award. Her personal essays have appeared in Texas Gardener and the anthology From the Porch Swing. She has served on the editorial staff of an allied health journal in the District of Columbia and as a technical editor for industry.
This story is sponsored by
Hydra House — Publisher of Pacific Northwest science fiction and fantasy, including K.C. Ball’s collection of scifi shorts “Snapshots from a Black Hole & Other Oddities” and Danika Dinsmore’s middle-grade fantasy “The Ruins of Noe,” sequel to “Brigitta of the White Forest.”