Authors: Janet Tashjian
The medicine my mother ordered for Pedro comes in, and she plans on dropping it off before her yoga class. When I beg her to let me see Pedro again, she says I can come with her.
I thought Mom's friend Debbie was the one who had Pedro as a companion, but it turns out to be her son, Michael. He's seventeen years old, has cerebral palsy, and is in a wheelchair. Pedro has been with Michael for two years; they're best friends. I'm kind of envious. Matt is great, but he's no monkey.
While Mom tells Debbie about her conference, Michael wheels around the large, open apartment with Pedro on his lap. There's a basketball hoop on its lowest setting outside Michael's bedroom, and we shoot hoops to twenty-one. Michael kicks my butt.
When we're done, Michael picks up a laser pointer and aims it at the tall case of DVDs. Pedro jumps from Michael's lap, removes the correct DVD from the rack, and places it in the player. Then Pedro hurries to the kitchen, opens the cupboard, takes out a bag of popcorn, and puts it in the microwave. It's everything I hoped hanging out with a monkey would be.
“The organization that trained Pedro is always looking for foster homes,” Michael says. “Your mom's a vetâI bet you'd have a good chance of getting one.”
I now have a new and exciting mission: talking my mother into letting us raise a monkey.
When Mom says it's time to go, I ask if I can watch a movie with Michael instead of tagging along with her to the yoga studio. Debbie says that's fine, so Mom agrees to pick me up in an hour and a half.
Pedro gets a bottle of water from the fridge and places it in the holder on Michael's chair. Pedro's little face seems almost human and anyone can see he's looking at Michael with affection. I never really thought about my mom choosing veterinary medicine as a career, but for the first time I realize how cool it is to dedicate your life to helping little guys like Pedro and Bodi.
As we watch the movie, I remember this is one Dad worked on a few years ago. When the chase scene comes on, I tell Michael how my father drew storyboards for it. The scene is full of suspense and fast camera work. Michael yells at the screen for the main character to watch out, but all I think about is how both my parents are really good at what they do. Am I ever going to be that good at anything? Maybe I'm not even their child; maybe they found me on the boardwalk, felt bad for me, and took me home.
Pedro must be a supermonkey who can read people's feelings because he inches away from Michael toward me. He sits between us, and when the car chase sequence ends, I'm back to my old self.
Afterward, I show Michael my sketchbook. “They're not as good as my father's drawings,” I explain. “I'm still learning.”
Michael spins his wheelchair toward the computer station in the corner and tells me to bring my book. “You should animate those drawings,” he says. He opens a folder on his computer and asks me to drag over a chair.
Next to the keyboard, there's a flat pad that Michael tells me to draw on. As if by magic, what I draw on the pad appears on the screen. Then Michael manipulates the lines on my drawing until they start to move.
“You're turning my illustration into a real cartoonâthat's amazing!”
By the time Mom comes back from yoga class, Michael and I have animated several of my vocabulary words. At the beginning of the summer, I learned how to picture a story as if it's a movie in my head. Now, thanks to Michael, that movie isn't in my head anymore. It's like my flip-o-rama book just jumped onto the computer screen for all to see.
Both my mother and Michael's love what we've done and agree that Michael and I can get together again as soon as we come back from the Vineyard. When Mom and I leave, Pedro jumps into my arms to say good-bye.
The entire ride home, I ask Mom if we can be a foster home for a capuchin like Pedro. Mom finds a million new ways to say no. She tells Dad about the work Michael and I did on his computer and Dad gets excited. He says he's been avoiding that kind of animation software for his work, but I've inspired him to investigate some programs after we get back.
As I pack my markers and sketchbook in my roller suitcase, I almost feel like I helped Dad with something important. Maybe he can return the favor by helping me talk Mom into getting a monkey.
My mother wears an eye mask for most of the flight to Boston; she gets nervous on planes and usually just wants the journey to be over. At least she's not worried about Bodiâshe was one of the vets hired by the airline to come up with a plan to make it comfortable for pets to fly. Because of that, Bodi always travels for free.
My father and I play cards and watch a movie. After that, I roam up and down the aisles until a flight attendant suggests I take my seat. When I ask if I can go below to visit Bodi, she tells me passengers aren't allowed in the cargo area. Then she gets all sappy and asks if I miss Bodi, if he's “boy's best friend” and all this other mushy stuff. I ask her for a little can of pineapple juice and go back to my seat.
It takes a while before Bodi's crate comes off the plane. He relieves himself the second we get outside. We rent a car that smells much newer than ours back home and drive to Grandma's.
Grandma still lives in the same house my mother grew up in, but now all Mom's horse ribbons and Beatles posters are in the basement and her old bedroom is an exercise room. Whenever we visit, I sleep on a blow-up mattress next to the treadmill.
“Where is he? Where's my boy?” Grandma hurries down the driveway and starts to hug me before I'm even out of the car.
Mom and Dad smile at each other; I guess grandparent love is a different thing than parent love. My parents seem glad to let someone else make a fuss over me for a while.
Grandma squeezes me like she hasn't seen me in a century, even though it's been only a year. When I spot a chocolate cake with shredded coconut waiting on the kitchen counter, I hug her back even harder.
Grandma has her hearing aids in today so we don't have to scream like we usually do. She plays us a DVD of her bowling team's highlights and shows us the “killer roll” that helped bring her team to the finals. When my mother asks if she wants to come with us to the Vineyard, Grandma says she'd love to but can't disappoint her teammates. She lets me play with my uncle's old crutches and tells stories of how my mother used to try to heal all the sick animals in the neighborhood. We smile and laugh when she takes out pictures of Mom and her brother when they were kids, even though we've seen them dozens of times before.
Unlike our house, where everyone takes care of themselves, here Grandma waits on us like we're special company and I guess we are. She treats me the same way she did when I was little, offering to rub my feet. I let her, happy to be a little kid again, even if it's just for a short time.
As I'm sitting on her lapâspilling out of the chair because I'm as tall as she isâI get an idea. “Grandma, will you read me a story?”
“I'd LOVE to,” she answers.
I run to my bag and get the summer reading book that was part of the deal to come here.
“Oh no,” Mom says. “You're reading that one on your own.”
“No, I want to!” Grandma moves to the couch and puts on her reading glasses. “This looks like a good story.”
My parents' glares can't dim the huge grin on my face as I snuggle with my grandmother. Mom tries to get us to play Pictionary instead, but I ask Grandma to keep reading. Mom and Dad finally give up and go for a walk around the neighborhood with Bodi.
When Grandma winks at me, I'm not sure if it's because she's glad we're visiting or because she knows she's bailing me out of my work. As she reads, I use Margot's technique and visualize the character. Is he feeling guilty? Nervous? I imagine the house he's sitting in, with its blue rug and large clock on the wall. By the time my parents come back, Grandma and I have finished two chapters.
Our bodies are still on West Coast time, so my parents and I stay up after Grandma goes to bed and watch a movie.
With any luck, I can get Grandma to help write my report too.