Shopping With The Monkey




Heen says:


People sometimes ask me when the Somontano Monkey speaks to me. It’s not like a trance or anything; He just takes over my mind and I know that my thoughts are actually His. I could be anywhere, doing anything. At home, watching a football match or vacuuming the carpet, or outside when I’m taking photos or getting money out of the bank.


The last time I knew the Monkey was speaking to me, or rather, through me, I was at the supermarket doing my regular food shopping. It was two or three days ago, and I’ve been jotting down what He said but I know His utterances aren’t complete yet so I’m going to wait for Him to finish what he was saying, before publishing them.


I had just dropped a packet of bacon into my basket when I heard the Monkey sort of growl at me. My first thought was, “Uh oh, He doesn’t want me to get this sort of bacon”, but I ignored Him and carried on. He was wittering on about “sinister fecundations of unreasonability couched in seething beams of the new moon astride the multiple reins of hypocrisy” as I approached the cheese counter. 


I had thought of buying a chunk of Idiazábal. For those of you unfortunate not to be acquainted with this extraordinary delicacy, let me explain that it’s a meaningful smoked cheese from the Basque country – delicate yet portentous, firm but not hard, with a kind of mystical dour sweetness that evokes old oak stairways, tartan blankets wrapped around the deformed legs of wheelchair-bound beautiful pale-faced maidens at death’s door, fireworks which are too damp to explode but look magnificent nonetheless and that cardigan your favourite aunt used to wear, the one with the little blue flowers on the sleeves.


I browsed the cheeses and the Monkey started muttering. “Thou shalt not fester on the rim of a mauve future”, He said, which I took as a positive sign. I was toying with the idea of a piece of gruyere when the woman behind the counter recognised me and asked me how the torta de Casar was, the cheese I’d bought the week before.


“Sublime”, I replied. “Crushing and dizzying. Like fermented cocaine.”


She nodded in approval. “What can I give you today?”


I started to ask for the gruyere, but the Somontano Monkey had other ideas, and His voice came out of my mouth. “Do you have any roncal?”


This puzzled the cheesewoman. “Roncal? Well, no, actually, there’s not much call for it.”


“No, sorry, I meant gruyere”, I corrected my monkeyness.


“Ah, gruyere, yes, sure, how much shall I cut for you? About a quarter?”


I agreed that about a quarter would be fine. As she carefully cut off the piece, the Monkey started up again. I clenched my mouth firmly so that nobody would hear His words, which were: “Can the hub turn the stratospheric scarlet unwieldiness of frozen wishes?”


The message was perfectly clear. He didn’t care for gruyere. “But the lady’s just said there’s no roncal”, I said to myself. “Ground stretched, nay, spreadeagled twixt fearless moustachioed bangles of crispy joy, the waiting and the incarnating, the flexing of the tombstone”, came the oblique rejoinder.


I wandered over to the shelves of tinned tuna and sardines. I patiently waited for the Monkey to make some unreasonable demands along the lines of “Thai mackerel in mint sauce, s’il vous plait” but no; He raised no objection to my choice of pilchards.


Next, I sauntered over to the wine section. I immediately chose a bottle of Somontano Viñas de Vero, as shrewdly recommended by Juanlu, and noticed how the Monkey sighed contentedly. I also picked up a bottle of Diamante, which I don’t rate very highly, but Sheen is very partial to. I studiously read the labels of all the bottles of tequila, but couldn’t make my mind up, so I left it. I’ve decided I want to get into tequila, which isn’t going to be easy as I’ve never liked it, but I’m going through a Mexican phase at the moment (music, films, books) so I want to enhance the experience with margaritas and peyote and things but I really don’t know where to start and the Somontano Monkey is of no use whatsoever in this respect. Pinche güey.


The Monkey made some rude noises as I deposited some margarine in my basket, but chuckled sadistically when I selected a jar of “banderillas extra-picantes”.


“Dust whirls in the empty vortex arranged beneath our translucence”, He piped up as I headed towards the checkout. I knew this was His facetious way of saying, “I think you’ve forgotten the shampoo”.


I ought to explain at this point that the Somontano Monkey has a worrying obsessive-compulsive disorder regarding capillary hygiene. Understandable, perhaps, as He is a fairly hairy beast. Hence he takes his shampooing very seriously.


I looked for the shampoo and after a few minutes narrowed it down to three kinds, each more appealing than the next. For greasy hair, there was raspberry and aloe vera; for dry hair, I could have wild mango and coriander; for normal hair, cucumber and vanilla. I could feel the Monkey was urging me to go for the wild mango, but my hair is anything but dry and anyway, the label also talked about it being “unmanageable” and I found that rather insulting (What, like I’m so pathetic I can’t even manage my own hair??) The cucumber and vanilla was also good for split ends and frequent use – I wasn’t sure if I qualified on these counts, so I opted for the “greasy” one, raspberry and aloe vera, which promised to restore that volume and bounciness that I’d obviously been missing lately. The Monkey grudgingly accepted my decision and authorised me to go to the checkout.


“Good morning”, said the girl on the checkout, a nicely chubby ecuatoreana with a shy smile as she started to pass my things under that magic red light that tells her how much everything costs.


“Eons of pestilence shall burst from the bowels of our avatars!” shrieked the Monkey before I could stop him.


The checkout girl looked at me as though I were demented.


I smiled apologetically and kept my mouth firmly shut till I got home. And that’s the trouble with being the Somontano Monkey: I have to keep His opinions to myself.


Out of context or rather, in the wrong context, His remarks may seem impertinent, irrelevant or absurd but when carefully collated and interpreted at leisure, the wisdom of His message emerges. I know I am enormously privileged to be the reincarnation of the Somontano Monkey.


Even though he has absolutely no idea about cheese.



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