Thursday, August 30, 2007

Title Story, Circa 2003

I'm preparing to embark on a week-long sojourn across Morocco with Debra. Since this is my last chance to hang out with my future roommate, Captain Control (aka Amanda), we decide to take a bonding trip together to the infamous Rock of Gibraltar. The idea of a British-owned territory, on the Southern tip of Spanish soil, which overlooks Morocco, is an adventure not to be missed. We hop on the local bus and race to the rock.

The bus rolls over the crest of the hill, and the sunlight staggers us momentarily, dazzling our eyes as a plethora of pubs, kitschy tourist shops, and red phone booths lay scattered in the foothills before us. We are in Britain! But we're still in Spain! We are positively chomping at the bit to indulge in overpriced English treats and kitschy souveneirs. We're dying to speak our mother tongue, and exchange euros for pounds. But first things first, we head straight to the rock, and abandon the village 'til later.

We pony up a little extra cash to take a tour. We'd rather be safe than sorry, as we've heard there are heathen apes roaming the land freely. The van fills with fellow tourists, and our passive-agressive tour guide surges forward, racing up the side of the rock, the van lurching and swaying dangerously around the corners.

We're starving, as it's getting on mid-day, and neither of us had the foresight to order breakfast. We inquire as to whether there's going to be a stop, so we can grab a quick bite from the gift shop. The guide informs us that everyone else wants to buy postcards anyway, so he'd be happy to cease his boring history lecture and let us indulge our touristy whims.

I'm wondering if this last comment is directed at me, since he noticed my head starting to nod as he droned on and on in a monotone about the history of the moors. I have greater concerns, however, when I make the unhappy discovery that English country equals expensive country. I settle on a BLT which looks and smells delicious, but costs the equivalent of 15 US dollars, and half of my daily budget. Captain Control discovers a banana in her pocket, and crows happily that she is spared the fate of spending unnecessarily on overpriced gift shop fare.

Me: "This better be a damn good BLT." I grumble, licking my lips in anticipation of the first, glorious, $15 bite.

We head outside the building to partake in our lunch. After paying such an outrageous price, I'm eager to savor and enjoy every last morsel. The other tourists are spread out, chain-smoking and chatting, so we decide there's plenty of time, and set up camp on the left side of the van, preparing to eat. I've barely removed the cellophane wrapper on my sandwich, when a giant specimen of a barbary ape (some 20 yards directly ahead) whips his head around on his neck faster than I thought humanly (or apely) possible, and sizes me up.

I freeze, the sandwich extended halfway to my lips. Without a sound, the ape charges. Everything seems to go in slow-motion, and I experience what the victims of "When Animals Attack" must endure. It feels like hours, but in a matter of seconds it's over. Our eyes lock, and the ape races towards me, going full tilt. My feet are frozen to the ground as if they're planted in concrete. Do I run, hide, or play dead? Even if I had the time to make a decision, I wouldn't be able to move, so paralyzing is my fear. I hear spectators screaming in terror, like an empty echo ratting around the distant corners of my brain, as one long-fingered monkey hand closes around my left thigh, and the ape heaves himself on top of me, using his other extremity to knock the sandwich from my right hand in one fell swoop.

Clutching his prize, he trots back to the fence he calls home, and proceeds to pick through my sandwich, a look of disgust etched across his featues. I watch with dismay, as he discards $10 worth of bread and LT, and nibbles daintily on the bacon. To my left, Amanda is standing dumb-founded, jaw hanging slack, still gripping her banana like a lifeline.

Seeing her banana shakes me from my fear-induced reverie, and I start to feel indignant.

Me: "What the hell? You're holding a banana, for christsakes! What kind-of ritz-ass ape goes for the bacon instead of the banana?"
Guide: (Nonchalantly) "Oh yeah, I'm probably supposed to mention not to eat outside of the van, or the apes will attack." He looks bored, shrugs, and flicks cigarete ash onto his shoe.
Me: "These apes are running amuck! Aren't you supposed to protect me for that!?" I thrust a shaky finger toward my attack ape, who's now regarding me with a superior expression.
Me: (bitterly under my breath) "Yeah, I'll bet you enjoyed that bacon, didn't you?"

We head to the top of the rock, where baby apes of the cute variety are clamboring across the laps of tourists eager for food and photo ops. Amanda takes a picture with "a darling one" perched on her shoulder. I won't get near those beasts with a ten foot pole, so I spend the majority of the tour scowling at apes from the safety of the van window.

Not a moment too soon, the tour van makes it's final descent down the steep hill, to return us to the safety of the British village. As we head past the now infamous gift-shop-of-terror, I see my attack ape squatting on the fence, licking his chops, and surveying the shop door for his next innocent victim. Determined to snap a picture of the ungrateful bastard, I whip out my camera. I swear I'm not making this up. He winks at me, flips me the bird, and high-tails it out of there, leaving me shaking indignantly in his wake, sans photo.

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