Dinner with Salvador
“Isn’t he wonderful?” said George of his latest pet. “Just look at his eyes, they are the eyes of a baby.” George Busby and his family sat at the kitchen table waiting for their legally blind mother, Naomi, to serve dinner.
Naomi, George’s wife of 22 years, was born with spastic eye muscles, which caused her eyes to whirl willy-nilly in their sockets as if chasing a drunken fly doing summersaults through the air.
Their new animal, Salvador, was a monkey. Of what particular species of primate – according to George – was neither here nor there. In the past, George had brought other pets home to his wife and three children, including: an owl, a hawk and a desert turtle. However, none of the previous pets compared to Salvador the wicked monkey and hater of children.
George worked as a machinist for a company that fabricated coffee cans. Continental Can, was located strategically on pier 44 in San Francisco right next to the Folgers coffee company. George took his lunch on the pier on sunny days and watched as the transport ships lazily sailed I under the red arches of the Golden Gate Bridge. Tugboats gently pushed each of the mammoth ships to the docks where they moored and dropped off their exotic cargos. It was on one of these sunny days that a banana boat from El Salvador brought the monkey into George’s life.
The day was beautiful and George sat down on a bench and opened his lunch box. The crisp bay breeze whisked off the water tickling his senses and gave exuberance to his spirits. Just about to bite into a wedge of watermelon, George was startled into the chaos of three shirtless men who were angrily chasing a monkey down a gangplank. Speedily the monkey leapt from the plank onto the pier running toward George before it leaped into safety of his arms. One of the men, who seemed like their leader, had a viscous looking bit on his arm. Puffing from the chase, he parted a sweaty mane of black hair from his enraged, brown face and told George, el chango es el Diablo.” However, George was not fazed by the man’s twisted face nor did he believe the man’s harsh words. This disbelief was because, for years, George had heard tales of men eating monkeys on these foreign ships, and though it barbaric. George cradled the scared little monkey in his arms, which stared back at him with the loving eyes of an infant. The powder blue California sky, with its pillowed clouds reflected in the monkey’s terrified eyes in which George saw a childlike being begging for help. George, after handing over twenty dollars to satisfy the men, and feeding the monkey the watermelon from his lunch, took the monkey home and named him Salvador after the country the ship had sailed.
Everyday that the monkey was in the Busby family home, the more stealthy mischief it managed. The two boys, Ray and Luis, were the first and seemingly the only ones to realize the inherent malice in Salvador. When the adults, especially George, were not around, the monkey would scowl and screech at the boys showing them two rows of terrifying, fang laden teeth. Lately, Salvador had learned to slap the boys with a brutality that was just hard enough to sting, but left no tell tale marks.
At the dinner table, however, Salvador was well behaved and sat patiently with the rest of the Busby family waiting for dinner.
“So, Clarisse how was your Girls Scout meeting this morning?” George asked his 9-year-old daughter who sat adjacent to him and Salvador in their dimly lit dinning room.
Clarisse looked at her father with shy adoration, but George’s eyes did not look back at her. Her father’s gaze was upon Salvador who seemed always to pilfer all of George’s attention from his family.
“It was fine,” replied Clarisse. “We have sold over twenty thousand dollars in Girl Scout cookies and we are just a few hundred dollars shy of our goal. Our troop leader says that we will make our goal, and since we are in first place, we will get to stay in the winner’s cabin this year at summer camp.”
“Oh, that ‘s great,” said George, beaming, still looking at Salvador. “The guys down at the can factory will make another order on Monday; be sure to give your mother the order forms so she can put them in my lunch box.”
“Okay,” Clarisse answered back, her eyes now on Salvador, too.
In fact, the whole Johnson family had their eyes fixed on Salvador. The monkey sat next to their father with a subdued look on his juvenile face that was as calm as the warm sunny evening outside their California home.
Naomi, eyes rolling uncontrollably in all directions, came in with a plate of rice and chicken and placed it in the center of the cramped table . Salvador looked at the food and George spoke to him in the cowed voice that one uses for a two year old.
“Now, Salvador you have to behave and wait for mother to bring you your plate.
You don’t get to eat the things we eat; just be patient and momma will bring you your fruit and vegetables.”
Changing his voice to match the thunderous anger that George commonly belched ·at his family , he called for his wife.
“Naomi! How many times do I have to tell you to bring Salvador his plate before the rest of us? I am trying to train him, he is only a baby. I wish you would listen to me for once, you are ruining Salvador’s training.”
“For Christ ‘s sake, George! Stop telling that hairy creature that I am its mother, ·said Naomi as she came back into the room from the kitchen carrying a plate of carrots, cauliflower, and blackened bananas, which were Salvador’s favorite. “And , I don’t like having that beast at the dinner table either , it’s not Christian.”
“Oh, Naomi how could you say such a thing. He’s a baby and his mother almost certainly left him in the jungle to fend for himself. I had to bring him to our house to save his little monkey soul from the dinner plate of those savages on the pier. And he is part of our family now, you must get used to it!”
Though Naomi was legally blind, there were times when her eyes ceased their motion. These rare moments came in times of extreme concentration or anger. And now, for a split second, her beautiful Puerto Rican brown eyes halted on George, displaying the Latina inferno of ferocity he admired so much when he had first met her.
“I can’t get used to it and I’ve never seen a baby with teeth like that,” said Naomi, nodding her head toward Salvador who was staring at the plate she was carrying with his mouth open and an anxious leer on his face.
The two boys sat at the table listening to their parent’s exchange while keeping a wary eye on the monkey and the heaping plate of food.
“Hey Ray, do you think he’ll eat it?” Luis whispered into the ear of his older brother. The boys were eleven and eight and Luis always looked up to his big brother Ray. In the recent weeks since Salvador’s arrival, Ray had been his sole protector from the malevolent primate when their parents were not around.
“I hope dad doesn’t try to eat it,” Ray responded to his little brother in a hushed voice. Neither one of the boys had thought of the possibility that someone else other than Salvador would eat the bananas when they had spiked them with rat poison earlier that day.
The final straw had come for the boys earlier that morning when Naomi had given them money for the ice cream truck. Luis had bought some Bazooka bubblegum and his brother Ray a box of Lemonhead hard candies. When they got back to their house, entering through the living room, they met Salvador who snatched the box of Lemonheads from Ray’s slim hands while effortlessly jumping on top of their mother’s china cabinet. When Luis retrieved his mothers broom and swatted at Salvador, the monkey smacked him in the cheek so hard that it sent the wad of chewing gum in his mouth hurling through the air and onto a velvet picture of Jesus hanging on the living room wall. Just then, Naomi came into the room, her wild moving eyes squinting, struggling to make out what she was seeing.
“Damn it Luis! put down that broom and leave that nasty ape alone. Your father will have a heart attack if he saw you swinging that broom at Salvador.”
“But mom, he took Ray’s candy and hit me on the face,” said Luis hurt that his mother sided with the monkey once again.
Salvador had stopped his screeching and sat atop the cabinet looking innocent and subdued.
“And you, Salvador be a good monkey and get down off my cabinet before you break something,” said Naomi as she turned and walked toward the bathroom, putting her hand on the wall and using it as a guide out of habit. “And you boys go outside and play.”
As soon as Naomi was out of their sight, the boys were about to leave the room when, Salvador, in one fatal swoop, jumped down from his perch on top of the cabinet and pulled a hand full of Ray’s dark hair out as he ran past them following Naomi down the hallway. Ray coolly pulled the chewing gum from the picture and then thanked the Jesus in the picture for not allowing his mother to notice. The boys left the house, Ray rubbing his scalp, and went out to their father’s garage workshop where they forged their plot.
“We gotta kill him Ray,” said Luis to his older brother. “If we don’t that son-of-a-bitch is gonna get us first. Did you see how he is meaner than snot when we are alone with him, and then he acts all like a little angel around ma and dad? He threw some shit in Clarisse’s hair yesterday and ma thought it was dirt.”
“Yeah, we’re gonna kill him alright,” said Ray. “But, you don’t have to use all those bad words. Dad would paint both our wagons red if he heard you talk like that.”
“Shit dad’s gonna kill us anyhow, if he finds out we killed his stupid, evil monkey.”
“He ain’t gonna find out! We can’t just go shootin’ him in the eye with a pellet gun or nothing like that; we gotta poison him like crazy old Mrs. Pacheco killed her husband last summer.”
“Mrs. Pacheco went to the huscow . I don’t want to go to jail Ray”
“Ahhh we ain’t gonna go to jail for killin’ no damn monkey.”
“Okay then, how we gonna do it?” asked Luis of his older brother.
“With this!” Ray said as he held up a small green box of rat poison. “This here will do the trick; all we gotta do is get that boy to eat enough of it. We’re gonna put in his food.”
And with that, the boys went about with their deadly plan. It was simple task for them to open up the bananas and lace them with the lethal powder. Their mom’s eyes. were so bad they had no doubt that she would not be able to tell what they had done to the bananas.
“Now don’t go rubbin’ your eyes or lickin’ your fingers” Ray snarled as he shook the toxic powder into and opened banana peel his little brother held open. The powdery poison was the key element to their planned liberation from the vicious monkey.
The entire Busby family and Salvador were seated at the dinner table. Naomi had come in with the last of the dinner plates and sat down. Their father was saying grace while Luis and Ray could hardly concentrate because they were so filled with dread.
When their dad was done thanking Jesus for the food, he slid the plate with the vegetables and poison bananas to Salvador. The boys looked at each other with stunned fascination as the monkey greedily swallowed banana after banana. Luis could see the velvet painting of Jesus staring back at him from the living room and could not help but feel a pang of regret. However, there was no turning back now.
“Boys eat! You had better eat all that your mother cooked,” said George. “Look how Salvador appreciates what ma cooks for him, he is already halfway done, and you two boys haven’t touched a thing.”
Both Luis and Ray dug into their plates with shaking hands. The steaming food met their mouths, which were dry in guilty protest. Neither of them could take their eyes from Salvador, who by now had eaten all the poison bananas and was now eating the vegetables. Salvador’s greedily eyed the contents of table surveying what he would beg for when he finished the remainder of his plate, knowing that George, no doubt, would deliver more food or order Naomi to.
George was about to complain to his wife that she was holding back food from his beloved Salvador when the monkey did something that even George could not ignore.
Salvador squatted in his chair held his stomach with one hand and put his other hand behind his back. The entire family stared at him as he, tilted his head back, and let out a grumbling cry, exposing his snow-white fangs.
“What’s the matter with my little baby?’ said George to the aggravated, and noticeably nauseous monkey. “You have a tummy ache?”
As an answer to George’s questioning, Salvador let out a blood-curdling screech and sadistically threw a heaping hand full of hot monkey dung across the table and into
Clarisse’s face. George got up from his chair in heated protest, but it was futile. Salvador turned on him and sunk his razor sharp teeth into George’s arm. Then the monkey savagely slapped the horrified George so hard across his face that his dentures flew from his mouth and clanked onto the kitchen table.
“Holly shit,” yelled Luis as the monkey ran into the living room and jumped into their mother’s china cabinet. Their father George was right behind the monkey trying to calm him down.
“Come on out of there,” said George while holding the bleeding wound on his arm.
Again, Salvador responded to George’s protest, this time by throwing a hundred-year-old gravy bowl, which had belonged to Naomi’s grandmother, into George’s forehead. The antique bowl shattered with a skull-cracking thud. He was out cold before his stout figure dropped to the floor.
Clarisse puked on the dinner table then ran screaming out of the dining room and heading for the bathroom to wash the monkey crap from her face. Naomi followed her, her hand barely touching the wall that she consistently used for a guide.
Luis and Ray sat in dreadful horror as Salvador threw the contents of the china cabinet in a mad frenzy. The sound of breaking china was horrendous. There were glass shards flying in every direction and their dad sat lifeless at the foot of the cabinet, the pool of blood escaping his arm dangerously growing.
The pandemonium was all over in a flash. The boys heard an earth moving explosion and Salvador, as if he understood, stopped and looked at Naomi who stood beside her boys. She held a 12-gauge shotgun in her hands and wisp of blue smoke was slowly slipping from its barrel. Her eyes were fixed motionless. Salvador climbed down from the china cabinet and lay down next to the unconscious George. With his two piercing and angry eyes on the three traumatized Busby’s, Salvador clenched his stomach with one hand and put his other arm around George’s neck as he slipped from this word.