A Troop [sic] of Baboons

"Unruly gangs are raiding the expensive homes that line the spectacular coast of South Africa's Cape Peninsula, clearing out pantries, emptying fridges and defecating on the designer furnishings. It's baboon versus human in a string of wealthy ocean-front communities 30 minutes from the trendy center of Cape Town, a top tourist destination."

--Washington Post, 5/23/2006

There was a time when we lived in relative harmony with the baboons. You could call it a fragile armistice. But today, the people of the Cape Peninsula are besieged. Like any overwhelming calamity on a society, the baboon progression was insidious. I recall numerous picnics in Kruger National Park where we would take in a puppet show, munching on biltong and regarding our hirsute "friends" performing a scene from Anton Chekov's "The Cherry Orchard." During the scene in which Lopakhin begins to tire of Mrs. Ranevsky's refusal to clear the orchard, we would always feel a strong sense of pathos when the Erik, the baboon playing Lopakhin, would storm off to the side of the stage and consume his own feces listlessly. I often mentioned Erik's technique during my lectures at the University.

There was a buoyancy, a lilt to those early days co-habitating amongst the baboons. Sure, occasionally we would find a few members of a troupe rummaging through our garbage or sneaking out the back of the public library with a copy of "Scaramouche" tucked under their naked muzzles. But the baboons always seemed to return to their refuge. And scathing irony, it is now we who must run to our refuge (an abandoned movie theatre on Adderley Street that shows screenings of "Critters II" every two hours on the hour) after being forced from our homes.

The real trouble started for my family and me when we came home from a week-long vacation in Malta and found around 15 members of one particular troupe rehearsing "Die Fledermaus." When I endeavored to shoo them off while explaining that Dr. Falke had been dressed not as an emu at the masked ball, as the baboons had played it, but as a bat, Rudy, one of the larger members of the troupe, and If I recall correctly, portraying the bumbling lawyer Mr. Blind, gnashed his teeth at me while my wife Kristin and a demure drill called Bobo had a heated exchange over the best way to fix our toilet. After my son Luke startled the troupe with a flare gun, they all filed out the front door and looked back at our family in haughty disgust. "You win this round," they seemed to say, "but we have the guile of a thousand Smerdyakov Karamazovs and you haven't seen the last of us . . .assholes."

Things ran smoothly for about a week. The only problem our family encountered was during a brief incident in which I discovered a baboon (Luther, we think) had stolen my identity along with a pair of my Dockers and an Oxford button-down and attempted to buy a used Volvo at a local dealership. The salesman, weary from "my" incessant grunting and roaring, called my wife to make sure nothing was fishy. After my wife assured him that I possessed neither a cynocephalus, nor tail, nor an out-of-the-ordinary quantity of red spots on my rear, the salesman retrieved my credit card as the ornery baboon sashayed, albeit briskly out of the dealership humming the rondo from Mozart's Sonata in A.

With hindsight, the ensuing Götterdämmerung was to be expected. After the week of relative calm, our family was often visited by at least 10-15 baboons every night for a viewing of "Masterpiece Theatre" at which the baboons would chortle, whoop and guffaw at the (at least in my opinion) superb work of Olivier, Burton, Guinness, and Gielgud. "What a bunch of guano!" they indicated by throwing their own bowel contents about the room while aping (excuse the quasi-pun) what they obviously felt were inferior performances by some of true masters of stage and screen. Koko, one of the more puerile mandrills would, at the sight of the rape scene in "Titus Andronicus." run to our liquor cabinet, down a bottle of sherry and then break wind in front of the television until the rest of the troupe howled with simian laughter. I decided I ought to take a stand. We entreated Luke to take the bus to his grandparent's house in the city. Then, on a warm Tuesday evening after the baboons had finished playing their Madden 2006 tournament on my son's PlayStation, I crept up behind a few of them and, using a taser gun my wife had bought for protection (against humans, oddly enough), I zapped them with 100,000 volts. To my chagrin, I woke up two hours later in our Irish Setter's dog house. My head throbbed and I felt my teeth sweat and out of my one good eye, I was able to make out the baboons performing a scene from "The Glass Menagerie" in our back yard. At the moment Jim (played quite understatedly by a four-year-old mandrill called Sunny) tells Laura (played by my wife) that he is already engaged, Porky, the baboon technical advisor, administers a shock of 100,000 volts to my wife's nostrils, causing her to carom off of our barbecue pit and into the Namaqualand daisy garden. I pass out, myself, the pain so far up my ass it feels like an electric eel has set up shop in my colon.

After my wife and I convalesced over the span of the afternoon, I rushed to the back door, red with fury and found it locked. The same thing with the front door. When I knocked with a flury of knuckle-rending jabs, a young, bluish baboon peered through the French door and gave me the middle finger. I felt, for the first time, truly defeated.

While camped out in our backyard that night, my wife and I discussed the viability of overrunning our now baboon-overrun abode with a surprise attack at dawn.. We spent the night in agony, as we could see through the backlighted curtains a number of baboons in repose, sipping from a bottle of my Rustenburg Peter Barlow 1997, Stellenbosch and watching an instructional video on Kundalini yoga. The first hint of dawn inclined with the crow of a cock and I resolved to make one last valiant attempt at ridding my home of these pretentious, vile baboons. I tip-toed to the garage and undid the latch on my safe, removing my 12-gauge. I motioned to my wife to "stay low" and mouthed the words "call for help if it looks like things are going awry." She shrugged her shoulders quizzically, crouched behind the dog house and blew me a kiss. The house, the yard, the sky were all dark, there was nary a sound save for the buzzing of a fluorescent light in the living room. I charged with all my might through toward our living room window, bracing myself for the cacophony, the shattering of glass, the ultra-violence.

I woke up two days later in the movie theatre, my wife rubbing a cool washcloth on my head. I had apparently been feverish and in and out of sanity for the last 36 hours and near death during the first 12. My wife explained that the baboons had, at some point during our unconsciousness, managed to rig up a stage set from Ibsen's "Little Eyolf" and negotiate it over the back of our house. I had run full bore into the cedar-made backdrop (as I think on it now, you really only need a few chairs to stage "Little Eyolf," but you've got to give the baboons points for meticulousness.) which had been, as far as my wife could tell, rigged up with 100,000 volts from the taser gun then run through a carbon allotrope blaster tube lined with graphite and here I was. Here we are! Defeated.

My wounds have healed for the most part and, along with the Stangenberg's, our family is making due here at the theatre. We are healthy, which is no small luxury, but we are bored. If any of us watches "Critters II" again, I fear there may be rampant lunacy. But, then, there is the alternative. Last night, a promotional flyer was slipped under the door of the theatre with an eerie, almost primitive scrawl in crayon across the paper that read, after heavy deciphering: Baxter Theatre, 8:00pm. "Waiting for Godot."

Typical, I thought. They've gone post-modern.

About the author:

Tyler Stoddard Smith has worked as an journalist in Europe in addition to stints as an editor and freelance writer in New York City. His works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry have been featured in Square One, The Bullfight Review, Box Car Poetry Review, Identity Theory, Yankee Pot Roast, Word Riot, Twixt and Monkeybicycle, among others. Feel free to to visit the author's website at www.stoddardsmith.com or e-mail him at stoddard.smith@gmail.com.