What do you see out of your window today?

Charlie DeMar Stories - Part 1

A story by Jeannie Peck



(ca 1937) When you come right down to it, sometimes a most ordinary man can be at the same time, a most remarkable man. The following stories, as best as I can remember them, are about such a man. His name was Charlie DeMar. He was fond of telling folks that his name was Charles, Augustus, Rickabaw, Hicks DeMar, and that he was named after every Doctor in the County. But everyone knew better (after the age of seven anyway). Charlie, was, as most people are, multi-faceted. So I shall try to arrange my thoughts and stories into categories – the first of which will be about Charlie the Collector. Charlie collected friends (some quite respectable and upstanding – and some not so much). Charlie just enjoyed people and loved to laugh – and everyone he met seemed to want to be around him. He collected animals of all kinds – some because he wanted them, and some because other people did not want them and needed to unload them. He collected stray people. Most were all alone, and with no place to live. So he brought them home. You see, Charlie was what used to be called a Patsy. An old-fashioned word, which is described in Webster’s as a person easily manipulated; a sucker. I prefer a kinder and softer definition: a person with a gentle and sweet nature, who can be easily taken advantage of, recognizes that it’s happening, but doesn’t really mind. Lest you get the wrong idea… For all his good Quaker upbringing and inclination, Charlie was no wimp. (At some point much later along in this narrative, a tale will be recounted involving a hoe and a split-open scalp. But not now.) A word or two at the outset regarding Jenny, Charlie’s wife. Charlie indeed brought home all manner of creatures, human and not. But that was where his Good Samaritanism ended. It was up to Jenny to take care of them and attend to their general well-being. That was, after all, what the woman of the house did back then. --------Time out for an aside or two ----------------- 1) These stories are being recounted – with love – for Charlie’s descendants. To those of you with no familial connection, and who therefore might lose interest and tune out at some point along the way – I assure you I will take no offense! 2) The laughing, teasing, mock-combative relationship between Jenny and Charlie has been documented in previous stories. So hold that thought – it’s an integral part in the last scene of this story. Which now resumes………. One of the unfortunate creatures whom no one wanted and so was, of course, adopted by Charlie, was a mean Rhesus monkey named Jocko. He was about two feet tall, with a tail about one foot long, and weighted about 20 pounds (give or take a little). He was covered in short, medium-brown hair, which was rather flat on top of his head. His eyes were large and seldom still - constantly darting about, hoping to find a little trouble. Just looking at him, one would think him to be a rather cute little fellow. Jocko was handed over to Charlie along with a heavy brown leash, a strong wire cage (large enough to house three German Shepherds), and the admonition The only way you’ll ever be able to handle this little SOB is to beat him as hard as you can until he cries. But that was not Charlie’s way. For many months Charlie patiently tried good thoughts, a gentle tone of voice, and, after having been bitten a number of times, heavy leather gloves. One can safely assume that a lot of prayer was involved in the mix. Jocko managed to escape from his cage more times than the family was willing to put up with. They were fast losing patience with Charlie and his newest pet, and insisted he do something about that miserable monkey. Charlie finally, in desperation, took Jocko over his knee and spanked him. Jocko cried. Charlie cried. Jocko turned over and clung to Charlie, like a small child hugging a parent – and climbed onto his shoulder (which ever after was his favorite perch). Following that traumatic event, Jocko was sweet and loving to Charlie – and a mean little son-of-a-gun to everyone else. And everyone else hated that damn monkey. Which was most unusual for a family of animal lovers. But not surprising. He had bitten Jenny’s finger with such ferocity that it was broken, and forever remained a bent reminder of the old adage about biting the hand that feeds you. Lord only knows that the cousins had no great fondness for him. What good does it do to have a monkey in the house if you can’t play with him or show him off to your friends? No good at all to seven or eight year olds. And one day, as Jeannie walked past his cage, Jocko reached his devilish brown arm through the bars, snatched her gold bracelet from her wrist – and ate it. ---Another aside --- Jocko had pouches on either side of his neck, under his jaws, where he would store food to be pushed up and eaten at a later time. e.g. He would stuff a whole banana in his mouth and swallow it into the pouches somehow. He would then push it back up at a later time, to be eaten at his leisure. This may have been an evolutionary response developed in this species, who live in large communal groups, to ensure their share of the food supply. I hadn’t thought about this phenomenon for all these years until I began writing this story. I tried to research this anatomical feature on Google – but hey, I’m old – I ran out of time and patience. Perhaps one of the younger family members will do that and report back to us. Back to the bracelet. Jenny volunteered that she would watch for it. And although Jenny was a most responsible and accommodating woman, it is not likely that she would have been willing to spend a whole heck of a lot of time monitoring a monkey’s output – even for her granddaughter’s bracelet. Life was more complicated than that. The bracelet never showed up. Perhaps Jocko went to Heaven with a gold bracelet as a special offering – or bribe – to St. Peter. In any event, Jocko’s life improved after the spanking. He was taken outside for excursions with Charlie – and basked in the companionship. Now, another of the non-human members of the household was a parrot named Billy, the surviving member of a pair. There was a time when Billy was a friendly, talkative bird. But, after the death of his mate, he could at times be churlish, and was no longer what one could consider a pleasant pet. Although he was still noisy, it was not the cheerful jabber-conversation as in the past. The sounds emanating from his colorful body were cranky, crotchety, grumbling and harsh. Although their cages were in separate rooms, it was obvious that Jocko did not like Billy one bit. Whenever Billy started one of his raucous rants Jocko would shake and rattle the door of his case and chatter angrily at Billy. Now is the time for a reminder about what I told you to keep in mind – remember? Jenny, as a good God-fearing woman did not hold with cursing in any form. There will be no cursing in this house (although a sotto voce damn could be heard to escape her lips when the occasion demanded). Charlie seldom cursed – and never at or about someone. But – when something went wrong, say a tire went flat, or his thumb got in the way of his hammer, his surprised and irritated favorite expletive was son-of-a-bitch! One day Charlie took Jocko out of his cage for a little excursion, and Jocko managed to slip out of his collar. He took off straight for Billy’s cage in the adjacent room, picked it up (with Billy in it) and hurled it through the doorway. During the whole trip through the air, as the cage sailed over the table and chairs and hit the wall in the next room, Billy was screeching in his most abrasive voice, Son-of-a-bitch … son-of-a-bitch… Jocko apparently thought the whole thing was a hoot because he was jumping up and down in front of Billy’s cage, chattering in what appeared to be a great glee. Jenny ran into the room wagging her finger and admonishing Billy to Stop that cursing this very minute (as if Billy cared). When she saw Jocko running free, she picked up a broom and started chasing him. Picture a somewhat plump older woman, bun coming apart and her salt-and-pepper hair falling in wisps down to her shoulders, brandishing a straw broom, trying to outrun and outsmart a very shrewd and nimble simian with a highly maneuverable tail – who, at this point, suddenly realized that he was running for his life. Chattering and screaming, he picked up the pace. Finally, after leaving a path of destruction worthy of a Category 3 hurricane, he lunged back into the safety of the farthest corner of his cage and sat, scrunched down, as quiet as a mouse. Not so Billy, who had been raucously screeching his objectionable phrase, like a stuck phonograph record, throughout the entire chase, as if to urge Jenny on. Still waving the broom, and by now red-faced (whether from anger, exertion or both) Jenny started toward Billy, who did not have the advantage of an escape route, but did have the good sense to shut up. Whereupon Jenny turned her attention to her husband. Mr. DeMar, you taught that parrot to curse just to aggravate me. Charlie, who a while back in the middle of the melee, had stopped chasing and was doubled over holding his sides in uncontrollable laughter at the improbability of the scene, realized that he was next on the broom list, and wisely decided to retreat from the house for a while. And that’s all there is to that story. Except ---- Charlie forever maintained (raising his right hand, as if taking and oath) that he had not taught Billy to repeat that phrase – that he would never do such a thing – and never before that incident had he ever once heard the parrot use it. Yeah, right! To be continued………

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 1937,broom,cursing,parrot,patsy,pets,Quaker,Rhesus Monkey
  Lake Purdy’s, NY
Jun 15 2024


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