“An Infinite Amount of Monkeys,” by Josh Peterson

Apr 20th, 2010 | By | Category: Prose

When the monkeys showed up at my door with a card that read, “An infinite amount of monkeys—For Dean,” my brain spun in my head like a rotisserie chicken.  If there was such a thing as an infinite amount of monkeys, then every home, dance club, nursing home, pizza joint, ocean and planetoid would be filled with monkeys.  In fact, logically, the monkeys should inhabit the very spot where I stood.  I grabbed the card, worried that the infinite monkeys would rapidly deplete our resources and their decaying carcasses would litter our streets.

“Please, do not be alarmed,” It said on the card. “This infinite amount of monkeys is only theoretically infinite.  They will not rapidly deplete our resources. They do not die and will leave behind no smelly carcasses.”

That’s not to say that the monkeys weren’t real. Their sweaty monkey musk and their thronging body heat nearly caused me to lose my breakfast which, ironically, had been bananas and oatmeal.

“These monkeys require no food and won’t use the toilet even if you’d like them to! They are extremely well behaved and follow simple commands.  They are, however, only monkeys and can only do monkey things.  Please enjoy. “

And then:

“We could find no use for this. —Nick”

Nick was this guy I knew who worked at this metaphysical think tank.  He and his coworkers invented metaphysical dilemmas and tried to figure out military uses for them.

Nick said he liked me because I could see potential in things that these think-tank bigwigs couldn’t.  You see, I am a professional magician.  I pull handkerchiefs out of my pants and make pigeons disappear at birthday parties.  So, I tried to work these items into my act. However, the metaphysical objects never seemed to go over well with the sort of people who frequent children’s birthday parties.

Let me give you an example. A few months ago, Nick sent me an arrow that could only move half the distance over and over. The arrow could never actually reach anything.  I put this arrow into my show. I would shoot an apple off of a volunteer’s head.  I wasn’t a great archer, but I could shoot the arrow while mustering a look of expertise.  The arrow would get close to its target, slow down and nearly stop a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of an inch away from the apple.  This amazed people at first, but after awhile the partygoers wanted to know was why I never bothered to actually hit the apple.  I had no good answer for this, so I shouted, “Abra Kadabra” and sheepishly used a smoke bomb to disappear.

Another time, Nick gifted me with a snake that was always eating its own tail. When I’d show the self-gorging serpent to crowds, they wanted to know if it was pooping itself, too.  Talk about lowbrow! And don’t get me started on that newspaper that could predict sea battles one day in advance with fifty-percent accuracy. Even I couldn’t find a use for that.

These items didn’t help me find a girlfriend either.  When I dressed up as Cupid on Valentine’s Day and shot the half-movement arrow at the petite, freckle-faced lady who works at the coffee shop, she screamed and fainted then hit me with a civil assault charge.  I still owe her thirty thousand dollars, that’s why raising some dough is of paramount importance to me.

As long as we’re on the subject of romance, I’ve recently been making attempts to woo my neighbor Bridgette who won’t give me the time of day. It’s not because she’s rude, it’s because she has a brain lesion and can’t tell time.  It is the only handicap caused by her brain lesion that she can’t overcome.  She had been on all the local news shows, talking about overcoming her brain lesion and how others with brain lesions shouldn’t be ashamed to have brain lesions.

So far, I’ve managed to have one small discussion with her. It did not go well.  It started as a simple inquiry into her day and somehow swung roundabout into a treatise on ham preparation prior to The Great Depression.  Luckily, I was hidden behind a hedge during the conversation, so she may not have known it was me who explained to her how ham was prepared circa 1905-1925. One can only hope.

I motioned for the monkeys to come inside. They did and broke some of my collectible plates due to their enthusiastic bounding.

“Stop that,” I yelled, and they did.

I ordered the monkeys to pile into my spare room. Somehow they all fit. I tried to count the monkeys, but every time I thought I counted the last one, I’d see a new monkey underneath a pile of blankets, sitting by the day bed, or climbing up the curtains.  It was then that I understood their infiniteness.  Now, I only needed a way to use them.

I went into my living room and sat in my thinking chair—it’s an old recliner with leather patches over some of the holes—and tried to come up with a way for me to use those monkeys.  I remembered hearing something about how an infinite group of monkeys could accidentally write Shakespeare if you put them in front of infinite typewriters.  I knew from magician school that Shakespeare was a real popular writer who had a bunch of his books made into movies.  People get paid a lot to write movies. That means I just needed the monkeys to write a few books and hope that one of them gets optioned for a movie.

I called the only typewriter shop in the phone book: Devin’s Computers, Word Processors and Typewriters.

“Hello, Devin speaking.”

“Devin, how many typewriters do you have?”

“How many do you need?”

“An infinite amount of typewriters.”

“What? Do you realize that if there were an infinite amount of typewriters, then typewriters would be worthless?  That’s basic economics. They’d be so plentiful, you could probably make more money disposing of typewriters or repurposing them into living structures or swords. That is, if humans could even survive in a universe so full of typewriters.”

“OK. How many do you have?”

“Seven. That’s hardly infinite.”

“I’ll take them.”

I drove down to Devin’s and picked up the typewriters. Then I lugged them home and up to the spare room where the monkeys were.   Carefully, I placed the typewriters in a line on the floor. I threaded the big spools of paper into each machine, put up an inspirational poster of a hawk flying over the word CREATIVITY and then ordered the monkeys to type whatever came naturally to them.

Seven of the monkeys sat at the typewriters and clicked buttons and smashed down clusters of letters. They didn’t peck and hunt like I did.  I was discouraged by the lack of interest the monkeys were showing.  I decided to call it a night and hoped the monkeys worked better in private.

When I inspected the typewriters the next day, only two hadn’t been overturned, defecated on or thrown in the corner. I skimmed the papers and found mostly gibberish.  I did, however, find a sentence: “I rode to town near a horse named Blort.”  That’s a good start, I thought.

I called my buddy who was an English professor and asked him about the sentence. He told me that it was a minor miracle that a sentence was created in such a short time. I asked him if the sentence was any good, like, could I sell it to a poet or something.  He said no.

I posted the sentence to my Twitter account and lost all three of my followers.   If the monkeys weren’t going to make me rich, I figured I could try to impress Bridgette with them. So I ordered the monkeys to climb into a sack. They did. The bag, strangely, was light enough to lift even though there were, theoretically, infinite monkeys inside. I asked them to climb out of the bag, jump through a hoop, then run behind the couch. The monkeys did it. After 508 monkeys successfully emerged from the bag, I decided the trick was ready.

I crept over to Bridgette’s yard late that night and threw some pebbles at her window. Her light turned on and she leaned out, her long blonde hair cascading down like Rapunzel‘s.

“Who are you? What do you want? Do you know what time it is? I don’t know the time, but it seems late.” she said.

“I love you an infinite amount of monkeys much,” I shouted.  Then I clapped my hands and monkeys streamed from the bag and jumped through a little hoop I set up in the yard.

Bridgette watched, in what I think was amazement, as the monkeys bounded around her lawn. After about 268 monkeys, she shut the window and turned out her light.

Bridgette moved away a week later. When she saw me on the street two days before she left, she crossed over to the other side. When I followed her, she broke into a run, leaving her high-heeled shoes behind.  I tell you, I don’t understand women.

Luckily, Nick says he’s going to send me a new item: Angels that dance on pins. If dancing angels can’t make me some money or get me laid, nothing can.


Josh Peterson is an MFA student at the University of Arkansas who has published work in Flatmancrooked, Big Muddy, and the American Drivel Review. He blogs for National Lampoon’s Zaz Report and is somewhat tall.

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