The Fifth Wheel Wins
“Is that a mink stole?” Fran asked.
“Nah,” Chet dismissed. “Too hot for that.”
From inside the ‘57 Ford Fairlane, they scrutinized the other couple, Glen and Linda, as they approached.
Chet said, “It’s a damn spider monkey.”
“No! Don’t those things have diseases?” Fran scratched her arms for effect.
The back door opened. Linda and the monkey got in; Glen went around to the other side.
Backing out of the driveway, Chet asked, “Who’s your friend there, Linda?”
“This is Link.”
The monkey uttered a noise, but stayed dutifully on her lap.
Fran asked, “Where on Earth did he come from?”
“I found him in my backyard, just sitting in the Japonica tree, eating the little orange plums. Isn’t he precious?”
“Um, sure,” Fran said.
Chet glanced in the rear-view mirror.
Glen forced a smile. “Yeah, he’s swell.”
Linda touched the upholstery. “Ooh, these seats are nice, Chet.”
“They’re rolled, pleated Naugahyde,” he said.
“The color’s rich,” Linda added.
“It’s Chinese Red to match the engine and headers.” Fran’s self-congratulatory manner was impossible to ignore. “They were my birthday present to him.”
Chet blew a kiss to her. She grinned before turning to the backseat.
“So Lin, you didn’t want to give that monkey to the zoo or some kinda habitat or something?”
The monkey hissed.
Linda stroked the nape of his slender neck. “It’s okay, Link. Well, I called the zoo, of course. It was my very first thought. They said they would take him, but that night I had a horrible dream.”
“What kinda dream?” Fran asked.
“I was in a cage and Link was trying to pick the lock with his fingers. I mean, if he couldn’t do it to me, how could I do it to him?”
At the drive-in, Chet parked between two cars.
Fran said, “I’m getting popcorn. Wanna come, Lin?”
“I don’t want any. Hate the way it gets stuck in my teeth, but Link and I will take a stroll.”
Glen came around and opened her door. The monkey glared at him.
Chet raised the trunk lid. Open for business. Years of restoring cars left a surplus of materials. Rebuilding vintage auto parts provided an extra income.
Three teenagers in white t-shirts approached. One asked, “Hey Man, got any carburetors?”
As Chet pulled parts out of the trunk, Glen watched others milling about. A couple sauntered by, arm in arm. The girl pointed, “Look there’s a monkey over there.”
He heard Linda’s voice. “They can live up to twenty years, so we’re really committed to each other.” The monkey sat on her shoulder.
“Wow, that’s a long time,” a teenager said, holding up a carburetor. “What’s the little guy eat? It’s a little guy, right?” He gave a quick peek at the monkey’s reproductive anatomy.
“Yes.” Linda blushed. “Nuts. Fruit.”
Chet tapped the guy’s shoulder. “Hey Buddy, if you’re finished with this monkey business, you mind paying me for the part?”
“Sure, Man. What’s the hurry?”
“Chet loves the cartoons.” Fran said, “Chet, the cartoons are coming on.”
The couples settled inside the car.
Fran handed Chet the carton of popcorn. She smoothed the skirt of her dress.
Suddenly, the monkey sprung to the top of the front seat. His long tail wrapped around Chet’s neck.
“Uh, Linda. The monkey.”
“Aw, he likes you.”
A tiny paw quickly stole a kernel.
“Hey, I don’t want your butt pickin’ mitt in my popcorn.”
Chattering, he sidestepped close to Fran.
Chet held his chest, letting out a loud cackle.
Fran gasped. Her face froze with disgust.
“What? You know I always laugh at the cartoons.”
The pale pink dress darkened to a fuchsia hue.
“That monkey pee-peed on me,” she shrieked.
A stream of urine flowed down the seat, blackening the Chinese Red.
“Look at my dress!”
“My rolled, pleated Naugahyde seats!”
“All you care about is this car.” She slapped him on the cheek, got out, and slammed the door.
“Fran, Fran,” he called after her.
The couple in back sat in silence.
Pleased to be alone with Linda, he said, “Thanks, Link.”
Glen put his lips to hers. Sliding his hand under her blouse, he unhooked her bra and fondled her. The monkey pounced on Glen’s back and scratched his neck before quickly leaping back to the top of the front seat.
“What the…fuckin’ piece of fuck!” Rubbing his neck, he yelled, “What kind of moron keeps a monkey as a pet?”
Seeing the blood on his hand, she started to weep.
“Only a complete idiot,” he answered. Slam.
Alone on the backseat, Linda’s lower lip quivered as she attempted to hook her bra.
The monkey flipped his tail in her face. He crawled down to the front seat and seized the carton. Eating kernel after kernel, his beady eyes stared up at the screen.