Authors: Janet Tashjian
One of Mom's assistant vets is on vacation, so she lets me come to work with her again. Usually, she has a few cats and dogs in the boarding cages, but this time when I go into the back room, I'm surprised to find a monkey.
“His name is Pedro. He's a capuchin who's been trained to work with people in wheelchairs. Pedro lives with a good friend of mine who just moved to Venice Beach.”
“He's wearing a diaper!”
“So he doesn't make a mess.”
“What does he do around the house?”
“All kinds of things. Capuchins start training when they're young. They make very nice companions.”
Suddenly a boring day of tagging along with my mother becomes a day full of possibility and adventure.
But Mom's spoil-his-fun antennae pop up. “Even though Pedro is trained, monkeys can still bite. I don't want you getting any ideas.” She explains that she usually doesn't treat monkeys, but because she had a lot of training with exotic pets in vet school, she's able to help out her friend. Then she steers me away from the capuchin and asks me to trim the cocker spaniel's nails. I've been doing this for a while, so I know how to fasten the dog's leash to the table and get him in position so he doesn't move around. I even know how far down to trim so I don't cut inside the nail where it could hurt.
But as I'm grooming the spaniel, all I can think about is Pedro. In my imagination, my mother goes out to lunch and I let the monkey out of his cage, call Matt, and we watch action movies while Pedro does our chores. When he's finished, he sits between us on the couch and goes crazy during the explosion scenes. We even skateboard down the street with Pedro alternating between our two boards. In reality, my morning is much less exciting. I cut the dog's toenails while Pedro scratches himself.
After sweeping up hair and putting away the heartworm pills, I decide Pedro and I both need some fresh air. While my mother is in one of the rooms tending to a cat that swallowed her owner's bracelet, I undo the latch on Pedro's cage and slip him onto my shoulder. He's surprisingly light and sits quietly on my head while I sneak out the back to our house next door. My father's car is gone, so Pedro and I have the place to ourselves.
I break up a candy bar into a bowl to test Pedro's microwave skills so we can dip strawberries into the melted chocolate. Instead, he eats the chocolate without even trying to use the microwave. I wonder if the woman in Venice Beach lied to my mother when she said Pedro helps around the house.
I decide what Pedro needs is fun, not work, so I find my old cowboy outfit in the basement. I poke another hole in the holster strap, then fasten it around Pedro's waist. He takes the cowboy hat off the counter and puts it on as if he's just been
for this. He must watch a lot of Westerns with his owner because Pedro takes the toy guns from the holsters and wields them like he's tearing up an old saloon. Bodi wanders in from the doggie door, then barks like a lunatic when he sees Pedro.
“Calm down,” I say. “You two are going to be great friends.” I pick up Pedro and place him on Bodi as if he's a horse. Either he wants Pedro off his back or he's willing to play along, because Bodi takes off through the house with Pedro holding on to his collar for dear life. Bodi is barking and Pedro's shrieking, so I start screaming too and grab the gun that Pedro dropped. The three of us race through the house when I suddenly see my mother standing in the doorway. The expression on her face is scarier than an actress in one of Dad's horror movies.
When Mom grabs Bodi by the collar, Pedro climbs up her arm and sits on her shoulder. She hands Bodi a treat from the pocket of her lab coat, then turns to me.
“I'm signing you up for summer camp.”
“NO! We decided I would stay home and play this summer!”
She points around the living room to the tipped chair and my dad's portfolio all over the floor. “If kidnapping a monkey and running wild through the house is your idea of âplay,' we need to redefine the term.”
I still would rather be home, but I suppose there are worse things than doing sports all summer. I tell her I'll look through some camp Web sites and find a good one tonight.
She shakes her head.
“Skateboard camp?” I ask.
“Not this time.”
“Rock climbing camp?”
I suddenly fear for my life.
“You have too much time on your hands,” she says. “You're going to Learning Camp.”
“Yes. There are six weeks left of vacationâthink of all the things you can accomplish. You'll start school in September ahead of the game.”
“But what about lying on the grass and staring at clouds and playing kickball and making forts and watching
The Three Stooges
and eating Popsicles andâ”
“Enough! You're not five years old anymore. You need to start getting serious.”
“I'm twelve! Plus, it's summerâ
supposed to be serious!”
It almost seems like Pedro knows what's going on because he wags his finger as if he disapproves of my behavior.
“I was going to shave him with Dad's electric razor,” I say. “But I didn't! I used good judgment. I don't need to go to Learning Camp!” I don't tell her that the only reason I didn't shave Pedro was because I couldn't find Dad's razor.