by Adam Bunch
Marvin woke, as he did every day, high in the branches of a tree deep within the park. It was a tall and muscular tree, easily strong enough to hold the weight of a large gorilla such as he. He yawned and stretched and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. The sun was sliding up between the skyscrapers in the distance, beaming a warm August light. Marvin rose from his bed of soft green leaves, his thick limbs stiff from the night. Spread out below him, the pond shone and burst in a kaleidoscope of light and birds. As he brushed his teeth, he studied himself in the mirror: the deep creases etched in his dark face; his tired eyes; the streaks of gray running through his black hair. He was older now than he had ever been. And there was nothing to be done. He sadly finished rinsing his mouth, grabbed his briefcase, coat and hat and swung down through the branches to start another day.
The yellow-red streetcar squealed and dinged and bumped its way downtown. Marvin got on near the beginning of the route, so he had no trouble finding a seat near the back, where he liked. Stop by stop the streetcar filled with people. Schoolchildren. Business people. Shopkeepers and workers. Soon, the car was bursting with commuters. They were forced to stand and push and shove and crowd together. It was hot and wet and sticky. But no matter how packed the streetcar, no one ever took the empty seats beside Marvin. They never went anywhere near him. He was a gorilla and not to be trusted.
Work, for Marvin, was a small space between three gray movable walls on the twenty-third floor of a towering mountain of steel and glass. Once there, Marvin hung up his coat and his hat, poured himself a cup of coffee and waited for his computer to boot. The coffee was shit. He would spend the next eight and a half hours moving dull numbers and simple formulas around a spreadsheet, using his large and awkward fingers on the tiny keys of his keyboard. He would be left alone. No one ever much talked to him. Even the people in the cubicles beside him found every excuse to spend time away from their desks, complaining to colleagues about the massive (and almost certainly dangerous, they whispered), jungle-bred ape they were forced to work next to.
At noon, while his co-workers poured out of the office chatting and laughing, Marvin stayed at his desk. He turned off his humming computer and pulled his lunch out of his briefcase. He ate quietly and alone. When he was done, he tossed his garbage and took out a book. Today was Beyond Good and Evil. Yesterday was a cheap paperback romance. Tomorrow would be a history of the First World War. He read until the lunch hour was over, and then it was back to spreadsheets and clockwatching until the stuffy streetcar home.
But today on that long and lonely ride, a surprising, remarkable and fantastic thing happened. As he sat alone at the back of the streetcar, a voice addressed him. This had never happened before. "Martin?" it asked. Marvin looked up as a small mouse of a man sat down in the seat next to him. "It's Martin, isn't it?" he said as he took Marvin's great paw in his own and gave it a shake. "You work with me don't you? On the twenty-third floor? I've seen you. At your cubicle." The man smiled. "You and I seem to have a lot in common. I mean, well, excuse me for saying it, but we're not very popular, are we? We might as well be open about it. I'm not saying it's our fault. It's just, those people in there, all they care about is their clothes and their cars and their promotions. You and I, we're different. Different from the rest." Just then, the streetcar screeched to a halt. "Oh! This is my stop. It was great to finally meet you." He gave Marvin's hand another quick pump and hurried for the doors. As he scrambled down the steps he called back over his shoulder. "My name's Oscar, by the way. We should have lunch tomorrow. What do you say?" And then he was gone.
Marvin watched the doors close behind the man and then slowly shook his head. "What the hell does he know?" he thought to himself. "What does he know of being alone? He is no a gorilla. He cannot conceive of my suffering." And with that, he returned to the window and watched the dusty city slide by.
About the author:
Adam Bunch is a Toronto-based writer whose short stories have appeared in recent issues of Juked, Word Riot, and the Beat among others. He is also a winner of the 2006 Skive Short Story Prize and an editor with music quarterly SoundProof Magazine. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.