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The Godfather Gives a Gift


malign

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The Fairy Godfather was just an ordinary guy, until the day he received a wand and ruby slippers in the mail. It turned out that the wand allowed him to channel the will of the Universe, and the slippers gave him the power of flight (and bunions.) The Godfather often traveled the countryside with his friend, the Panda Warrior, looking for people whose lives needed improving (and for really good hamburgers, which are harder to find.)

Probably, Clark the monkey never even noticed them. Despite their unusual pairing and clothing, the Godfather and the Panda were not the most outlandishly dressed among the passersby, and Clark himself was wearing brightly colored shorts, a cape, and a little round hat that unfortunately emphasized just how tiny his head was. You see, Clark was working at that time as an organ-grinder's monkey, which despite its triteness is not exactly what capuchin monkeys were designed for, so he was having to focus hard so that he would get it right. It wasn't the passing the hat part that was hard, because people didn't often put any money in it anyway. What took skill was the other half of his job, which was picking any pockets that conveniently contained more than lint. It was this second skill from which he and the grinder derived their livelihood.

Obviously, Clark was not the monkey's monkey name. It had been given to him as a joke by the organ-grinder, whom Clark in return called all sorts of names, none of them printable. Clark's monkey name contained far more vowels, such as "ooh" and "eee", but because you'd feel silly trying to pronounce it each time you read it, we'll stick with "Clark".

As the companions walked on, the Panda leaned her head close to the Godfather's and said, "I saw that. I hope you didn't do anything I'm going to regret."

The Godfather blushed, and replied defensively, "I only changed things a little ..."

In fact, Clark didn't notice the change at all, at first. He had never understood human speech; he only recognized that every time the organ-grinder said "Clark", he cackled, so he knew it couldn't be a very flattering name. And, it turned out that he still couldn't understand humans, so that there on the street surrounded by them, nothing seemed to have changed.

So it wasn't until they went back to the circus camp which was their home base that Clark noticed anything different. As the organ-grinder was helping him off with his shorts outside their little wagon (somehow, capuchins have never learned to dress themselves), someone led a team of horses past. Over the jingle of the harness and the clop of hooves, Clark clearly heard one of the horses say to the other, "Poor guy, having to dress up in that silly costume all day." And the other horse replied, "Yeah, and steal for the human. Makes me sick ..." The rest of the words were lost as the horses were led around the next corner.

Well, Clark wanted to jump up right then and go after them (and call them names his little monkey body wouldn't have been able to back up), but of course the organ-grinder wouldn't let him. "Oh no, little Clark, *cackle*, no running away with the day's earnings. Empty your pockets, like a good little monkey." Which of course had the effect of diverting Clark's attention entirely, back to thinking of inventive new names for the grinder. He didn't remember the incident with the horses until much later that night.

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At dinner, the Panda leaned towards the Godfather over her plate of shoots and leaves, and continued the discussion.

"So, what did you do for that little monkey?" she asked.

But the Godfather was still unwilling to answer directly. Instead, he began elsewhere.

"When I first tried the wand, I simply made people happy. It seemed obvious to just give them what they needed.

"Only, that didn't work very well. Oh, people were happy for a while, but only some managed to stay that way, and what really worked for them wasn't what I did, but something special that they figured out, once they were happy.

"So, I started to experiment with ways to help them find for themselves that special thing that might work ..." he finished, turning hopefully to his most recent hamburger experiment in front of him.

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Although Clark had a perfectly good bed in a little cage in the trailer, for a monkey of his temperament and unique training it was the last place he was ever going to sleep.

Every night, he used whatever was handy, a piece of straw even, to pick the lock. That's what he thought of that silly organ-grinder, imagining he could keep Clark locked in a cage at night. He might have made himself a lockpick out of something more suitable; there were plenty of opportunities, but this seemed more of a challenge. Clark liked challenges, especially ones that proved his own superiority.

So, every night, he swung himself out of the trailer's skylight, which the organ-grinder left open for ventilation. It got stuffy in their little trailer; just another reason why Clark never stayed inside if he could help it.

Off he would scamper through the dark, slipping unseen between the trailers of sleeping circus performers, until he reached the animal barn. It would have been difficult for Clark to say what attracted him to sleep with the other animals. None of them understood each other's language, so it really wasn't a social impulse (even if Clark had been the social type.) It just seemed right to him, somehow, that they should all share the same space. He might've said it felt like home, if he had known what a home was.

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Clark woke suddenly, much later. He had fallen asleep in a big pile of clean straw, listening to the bigger animals breathing in the dark. But just now he had heard a different sound, a rustling in the straw, much closer. There was a hint of movement in the pile as well, like something tunneling through the straw towards him.

Of course that last thought brought Clark fully awake, and he turned reluctantly to see what it was. At first, he couldn't understand what he saw: it looked like a wrinkly gray hose with one end flopping around in the straw. Slowly, his eyes traced the hose upward in the dark as it widened, until it ended in an enormous wrinkly gray face with a single watery eye embedded in it. The eye was regarding him with the calmest, most placid gaze Clark had ever encountered.

That eye was too much for Clark. He jumped away, putting his back to the wall, unconsciously spewing out expletives that would have made a Scottish sailor blush (then ask about some of the words, and blush some more.) Clark was a widely traveled little monkey, and he had wanted to swear at most of the people and places he had seen, so by now he was quite adept at it.

The eye watched him calmly, while the hose, apparently of its own volition, brought a clump of straw up to the head in a graceful arc and stuffed it unceremoniously into a mouth somewhere underneath. There was a munching sound while Clark gradually ran out of words.

Finally he stopped, breathing heavily. As he calmed down, he began to realize that the eye wasn't threatening him, and he had almost recovered enough presence of mind to identify the only thing it could be, when it spoke.

"That's quite a vocabulary you have, little monkey," it said. The voice was incredibly gentle and slow, but enormous and deep, as if it came from something huge and impossible to frighten, which of course it did. "Does your mother know you talk like that?"

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"My mother's dead," Clark blurted, "or at least, I've never seen her again, since they ... took me." He was defiant and belligerent again, which suited his personality (and his tiny head.)

"Ah," said the voice, slowly. "Sorry. I too lost my family when they took me."

"I am Daisy the elephant," she said, after a pause. Of course you are, said Clark to himself, having finally recognized what animal she must be. But then he asked, "Daisy? Isn't that a rather ... undignified name?"

"Not really," she replied, unruffled. "It reminds the humans that they aren't really that smart. You see, when they first took me they didn't know much about elephants, including what we eat. They tied me to a stake in a garden, far from trees. I might have starved to death, if I hadn't been lucky."

"Instead I ate all the flower beds," she said, with a twinkle in her eye.

Clark laughed, despite himself. "Well named, then ..." he trailed off, as his mind finally caught up with the thought that had been bothering him. "But, how is it that we understand each other?" he asked.

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Daisy paused again. Clearly, elephants have a different concept of conversational pacing than your average little monkey does, but somehow Clark didn't find himself getting impatient. Her words gave the impression of something worth waiting for.

"I guess I don't really know. I have to say," she continued with a renewed twinkle, "when you began speaking, I was distracted by your eloquence, more than anything else. I knew the words ... well, most of them, but I had never heard them combined in such inventive ways.

"It took me a while to realize that I understood what you were saying, and I never had before."

Clark thought for a moment. "You know, there was something strange that happened this afternoon, with a couple of horses ..."

Just then, a whinnying voice came from the adjacent stall. "Would you two mind keeping it down over there? Some of us are trying to sleep."

A similar voice chimed in, "Yeah, I was having the wildest dream ..."

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Scrambling to the top of the partition, Clark looked down into the next stall. There were two horses standing there covered in identical blankets, the same two that had passed him that afternoon.

"Hello, little monkey," said the near horse. The other just whinnied softly and tossed its head.

"I'm Left, and this is my twin brother Right," said the nearer one, apparently the spokeshorse of the two.

"Your names are Left and Right?" Clark asked, somewhat obtusely.

"You got it," Left continued with a horse laugh. "The carter isn't very bright, so he gave us simple names. It kind of makes sense, since Right and I are always together. Only, the carter can't seem to tell us apart, so he would hitch us up randomly if we didn't line up properly ourselves.

"Sometimes it seems as if we do all the work around here," he concluded.

"We do," the other horse pointed out.

"Oh. Yeah. When you're Right, you're right. Get it?" Left joked. He would have poked his brother in the ribs with his elbow, if horses had had elbows.

"Yes. I do," said Right, with great mock sadness. "And when they were passing out senses of humor, clearly you had already Left."

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Clark the monkey laughed, anarchist that he was, but the brothers just glared at each other. If two horses side by side in a stall could have fought, they might have tried, but Daisy stopped them easily.

"Now, now, boys," was all she needed to say, very softly but deep, as if from a place where childish nonsense had never existed.

"You know how much you need each other," she continued, making her point with her tone as much as her words. "Left, you spend all your time thinking, trying to find just the right word for each detail. And Right, you go around in a dream, drinking in images and scenes in their entirety."

Daisy curved her trunk up into an 'S' above her forehead, like a mother shaking her finger at her children. "But if the two of you weren't yoked together, you'd wander off in opposite directions, and nothing would ever get done. And if you didn't pull equally, the cart would go in circles. Can't you see that you need each other? You're two good individuals, but you're a great team!"

Heads down, the two boys muttered the apologetic things boys do, like "yes ma'am" and "he started it".

"Good, because we have a real puzzle on our hands. It seems we can all understand each other, suddenly. And as much as I wonder why that is," the shrewd Daisy said, "I wonder even more what we might be able to do with this ability."

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