“Primates are base creatures, Monsieur de Ponti, and fine wines are wasted on base creatures”, the Countess haughtily ventured, bringing the guests at the dining table, or at least those within earshot, to that state of embarassment that accompanies a rather rude comment in a public arena, where you don’t really know whether to pretend you didn’t just hear the last remark, or whether to express shock – polite shock, of course – the kind that cannot be held against you later .
“It’s a common misconception”, Augustus du Ponti remarked softly, sipping on his Barbelit with his eyes half-closed, “That monkeys are not alcohol-aware.” In hindsight, it was probably only Hoover the butler who noticed his master’s tail twitching under his dinner jacket, the sure sign that the comment had agitated him. Either that, or he had had too much of the salad – and Hoover was not a man who took chances – he made a sign to one of the maids to be ready with the tranquilizer dart.The Countess had to be dealt with before things got out of hand.
“Hardly a misconception, Monsieur.” The Countess continued, “Just because the State has decreed that monkeys are allowed to vote does not entitle your lot to partake of the finer ways of life. It’s monstrous! Preposterous! Why, just three decades ago, I used to see your kind cavort around in circuses”, she spat out the word “circuses” with an aristocratic disdain that comes naturally to those accustomed to three centuries of decadence. “Dancing to show-tunes and wearing short skirts!”
“Calm yourself, my dear lady!”, Sir Ruttles Roterleigh, who had been sitting right opposite the Countess. He hated to talk in the middle of his drink, especially because he loved watching the mini-squids in his glass of Barbelit indulging in exotic mini-squidy mating rituals. “We are, after all”, he hastened to take a sip from his glass, just before before the mini-squids had their mini-orgasm and the Barbelit frothed and bubbled. “Progressive people, are we not?”
“You stay out of this, Rutty”, The Countess screeched. “Everybody around here knows about you and your tastes. A goat in your boudoir, a harem of neutered cats…You lot ought to be ashamed of yourself, you are the ones encouraging apes such as these. You are encouraging them to become part of civilized society, OUR society. Look at it, look at all of them, all they can do is drink and PRETEND to be us.”
“Did you just say ape?”
“Yes. I said ape, you filthy ape.”, the Countess turned towards Augustus de Ponti, who was grinning at her. Not because he was amused, but because monkeys in general grin when they are extremely pissed.
It was at this juncture that Hoover the butler decided to take matters into his own capable hands. To the casual observer, Hoover was a man who did not exist at a given point of time, he was a ghost who walked, a soundless machine of efficiency who appeared by one’s side to fill up the empty glass, or to serve the foie-de-gras at just the precise instant the soup was done. So, to the untrained eye, this is what happened – the Countess, overcome with her own emotions – not to mention her tankedness – gave a slight start and plonked face-first into the chocolate mousse. Probably, a slightly alert, unsloshed observer would notice Hoover’s eyes blinking furiously, and the maid in the corner sniff a little. But it would take a highly trained individual, with a working knowledge of ninjutsu, morse code and concealed firearms, to observe that Hoover’s blinking eyes had conveyed, in a rapid series of dots and dashes, the message “Shoot the fucking bitch. Now.”, to which the maid, her tranquilizer gun loaded inside her left nostril and the nostril locked onto the Countess’s tush, exhaled sharply.
“Pity”, Augustus de Ponti sighed. “She seemed so nice. Reminded me of my dear mother too.” He sighed. “You would expect a woman of her stature would know that monkeys are not apes. Apes are…different. Apes lack class. Finesse. The… the….something that flows in a monkey’s blood. Pity.”
The guests around the table, all of them had grown visibly less agitated following the Countess’s passing out, muttered and clucked sympathetically. They knew dear Augustus never let go the chance to indulge in a monologue. To his credit, he didn’t mind when his listeners dozed off.
“I have led a pampered life, my friends. I have never really known the outside world, because my father would not let me venture outside the casa. Oh yes, I have travelled, but not the way my father did. His was a life of adventure, of travel to uncharted lands. My father knew penury, he knew what the word ‘hardship’ really meant – I had it confused with ‘lordship’ when I was a wee monkey, and he was a lucky bastard too. Made his fortune before he turned twenty-five, met my mother at around the same time.”
He paused while Hoover brought him another Barbelit, and took a sip from the glass.
“And the silly woman had to run away with, of all creatures, a Sarus crane. The doctor that delivered me, the crane was. My father had to raise me all by himself, and because he didn’t shirk away from his responsibilities, he put his heart into bringing me up with as much love and affection a father could bestow on a child. The day I turned eighteen, my father gave me the keys to the casa. ‘Augustus’, he told me, ‘You are your own monkey now, and I leave my fortune in your hands” He left Hoover with me, and went away to have an adventure. And here I am, friends, stuck in a world of parties and morbid countesses and endless boredom.”
“But no longer.”, Augustus de Ponti exclaimed, and emptied the glass of Barbelit in one sip. “This incident has given me the impetus to rise and chart my own course. My father was right, I am my own monkey, and I choose not to lead this life.”
“But…but…Augustus, your fortune, the casa, the future of the company….as your financial advisor, I MUST advise you to think carefully about this.”, That was Pandora Baruah, Augustus’s financial advisor, with an expression of horror on her face.
“Oh, fuck it, Pandora. Can’t you handle a little monkey business all by yourself?”