Archive for April, 2017



The Organ Grinder’s Monkey
By Tony King © 2017

Bony Sykes was an organ grinder from the East End of London, Barking, to be specific. His life had been swept under a rug since they had banned organ grinders from plying their grift, especially with a monkey.

His kind were seen as minor extortionists who were paid to keep silent. His father and his father before him had both been in the racket, and he had pressed on furtively in their desperate footsteps. He performed discreet shows on the QT & had escaped privation by sneaking off regularly to Denmark where it was still considered lucky for a couple to have a barrel organ playing outside on the morning of their 25th wedding anniversary.

His monkey was a surly curmudgeon Chimpanzee by the name of Clint. So named as he was “good” when he woke up, “Bad” by lunchtime, and downright “ugly” in disposition by teatime.

One day Clint was sitting in his wicket keeper’s position under the mail slit of the front door waiting for bills to catch, which he had been trained to chew. He loved the taste of envelope glue & would have done it anyway, making the training redundant. This pleased Clint.

On this day however, a letter with a Royal seal had arrived and Clint was testing the wax gingerly with his tongue when the letter from Buckingham Palace was plucked from his hairy mitt.

Bony & Clint had been “summoned by the old baked bean ‘erself!!”

He had borrowed Smiley’s Wolseley because he could smoke in Smiley’s car and Clint enjoyed hanging out the window giving the bird to passing cyclists.

Car travel was a fraught undertaking with Clint. He had first travelled in a box, then progressed to a cat carrier, baby seat & finally a seat belt in the front. It was like the ascent of man with Clint evolving at an alarming speed. Bony loved Classical music & had cassettes he’d play, but Clint had figured out how to switch over to the radio & would tune it until he found Hip Hop. Bony hated Hip Hop but Clint would pee on the dashboard unless he got his way. So Tupac it was.

The Wolseley was valet parked at the gates of Buckingham Palace & they were whisked inside with a crash lesson on how to behave when meeting the Queen, which Clint totally ignored.

It turned out the Queen had a huge thing for Organ Grinders, especially the ones with monkeys. Since it was illegal, their absolute discretion was required, with the threat of the Tower invoked by an officious looking “geezer” wearing what Bony considered “a bleedin’ shambolic titfer” which on closer inspection turned out to be his actual hair.

They were then instructed to perform.

With no warning whatsoever, Clint leapt up the stairs, onto the bannister & hurled himself onto the gawd knows how old/expensive chandelier and then swung over Her Maj like Tarzan after a big night on the town.

Bony didn’t know he could swing! Clint looked as though HE didn’t know he could swing!! Then the cacophony of chattering started. Her Maj just stared up over her glasses at Clint and kept stirring her tea.

“How do you turn it orf?” She inquired very calmly. Her face slowly took on the look of a frozen sneeze, which she had only ever used once before at Brezhnev’s funeral.

“I’m so sorry your ‘ighness, I don’t even know how to turn it on, let alone ORF” he said, awkwardly snatching a plumb from her accent that didn’t fit in his own mouth.

Her Maj disappeared somewhere & came back with a huge banana. She walked to the old Italian barrel organ & after studying it for a while, cranked out “Yes we have no bananas” singing all the words with gusto and looking a lot like Louis Prima in drag from where Bony was perched.

Clint was mesmerized. Suddenly he swung down the same way he’d gone up, jumping on Her Maj’s lap, gently grooming her magenta coloured hat whilst checking the provenance of her pearls with his teeth as she sang.

“Everything has an orf button….now it’s your turn to perform for me”

They played for two hours or as Her Maj measured time, four cups of tea.

“I’d rather like to take your monkey…on a Royal tour….take Phillip’s place as it were…..the tours jolly well bore the buttons off him. He’d much rather be home skyping his nieces, who have all miraculously moved to Russia and changed their names. T’would please me very much if monkey tagged along. Do you think he’d countenance such a proposition? Better still, I wish to procure… no…purchase your monkey…. I can give you 5 ton up front if you wish, I’m not sure what a monkey is worth on the open market but you don’t get much change from a Cock and Hen for a pint of Pig’s ear in this Battle Cruiser ” said Her Maj out of the blue in a bizarre flurry of cockney with no hint of irony.

Turning suddenly like an evil genius from a Bond movie she said
“Do we have a deal Mr Sykes?”

“I …think so… your Excellent Marmship” Bony mangled as he was feverishly trying to convert Cocks, Hens, Pig’s Ears & pints into a currency he could work with.

“Jeez, there’s no need for money, you can have the bleedin’ thing!!”

“Very well, but I insist on giving you a pony in cash & a small butler for your trouble”

“Thank you your ‘ighness”

“There is one more matter of a rather sensitive nature Mr Sykes…..
I’m not sure how to put this delicately so I’ll just come out with it…your Wolseley is running rich….I can smell it….and the tappets are noisy…

“Jesus!!!!” Bony thought to himself, “She must have the hearing of a fruit bat and the nose of a Tapir!!!”

“Mr Sykes…you really should take better care of your Wolseley.

I can adjust the carby and change the oil and filter if you like…

I‘ll get my tools”

Bony was speechless. A word nearly popped out and then scurried back into it’s hole. It did this five times before he finally settled on a thought. “Wait…just wait…’til I tell Smiley Her Maj has fixed the smoke blowin’ out the arse of ‘is mota!!”

Next thing he knew, like it never even happened, Bony was back home. He spent the week watching all five series of “the Wire” with Henry the small butler, who was growing on him, and chased away every strange pang of nostalgia for Clint with a pint whenever hip hopped onto the soundtrack.

Henry cleared his throat at the conclusion of the five series and said simply “Well, at least it wasn’t the butler this time”

Bony nearly laughed, but there was a gap in his life no joke could fill.

One morning as Bony was looking at the spot where Clint used to do his wicket keeping, the sound of posh wheels was heard patronizing the gravel outside.

Bony stepped out just in time to see the door of the Bentley open, hip hop pounded noisily out, Clint was deposited into the street, then Eminem disappeared entirely as the door clicked quietly shut and the car sped off with genteel alacrity.

Clint looked different. He smelt the same but the ascent of man had climbed a few branches higher & he put his hand tenderly into Bony’s arthritic safe cracking little hand.

Bony was completely taken aback.

It had been 43 years since someone had held his hand.

“Welcome ‘ome you little scamp…

They’re not gettin’ the small butler back!!…Or the pony!!”


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