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Orangacorn, by Thaddeus Couldron


Jail Time for Bonzo

by Perry Crowe

Bonzo was a chimp who lived like a man. Or tried to.

He wore clothes. Ate at the table. Used the toilet. Watched TV. One time he was even in a television commercial driving a car (he wasn’t really driving).

It wasn’t always fun living like a man. The clothes were tight. And he had to sit up straight. But Bonzo did it for a woman. A really nice woman.

They shared a bed. And antidepressants.

Then one day the really nice woman’s friend came by for a visit. The friend was Bonzo’s friend, too. But her new haircut made her look masculine and unknown.

Bonzo went bestial.

He chewed off the friend’s face and tore her limb from limb. As he went about his bloody work, the really nice woman screamed and stabbed him with a butcher knife, which only confirmed his suspicions.

The really nice woman also called 911.

Bonzo heard the sirens’ wail then saw the cruisers rushing into the yard. He dropped the ruined friend and charged the black-and-whites. Another unknown male sat behind the wheel of the first cruiser. The passenger-side window shattered under Bonzo’s huge hands and he began to climb inside.

Heart racing and back pressed against the inside of the driver’s side door, the responding officer fumbled for his weapon and then squeezed the trigger again and again, trying to empty the chamber of his service revolver, but the gun responded with a single loud clack. Bonzo tensed and fell. The officer looked from the taser gun in his hand to the holstered pistol at his hip.

These kinds of confrontations usually ended with removal of the head for rabies analysis, so the officers were unsure of what to do with a still-breathing Bonzo. The really nice lady insisted they had to kill him. The officers looked at Bonzo’s shirt and pants, his suspenders. One officer recognized Bonzo from the television commercial and said, This guy sold me my car.

Bonzo awoke behind bars. He got his one phone call and called the really nice lady. When she answered, Bonzo breathed into the phone. Who is this? Just breathing. The really nice lady screamed and screamed.

At first, the public defender wasn’t sure Bonzo fully comprehended his situation. But Bonzo looked quite attentive as he sat smoking cigarettes while the lawyer explained the charges against him. They decided on a temporary insanity plea.

The assistant district attorney trying the case had a flashy, grandstanding style and punctuated his points with dramatic jabs of his index finger and thumb. In his opening statement, he laid out the case with a series of bombastic points, stepping closer and closer to the defendant with each jab, covering ground like a fencer. As he made his last point, his finger lunged right at the accused’s chest. Bonzo lurched forward and bit it clean off.

A newspaper ran a cartoon depicting the finger-biting incident the next day. In the foreground of the illustration, one juror says to his neighbor, Wow, this trial is a real circus. Many readers took offense, taking Bonzo’s simian appearance for crude racial commentary. A crusading civil rights lawyer demanded indemnification and championed a boycott. The paper stood by the cartoon, pointing out that the defendant really was a chimpanzee, though the clothing did admittedly obscure that fact.

The courtroom assault had resulted in a mistrial, so a new trial began. This time around, the case had gained enough notoriety to land Bonzo a high-priced lawyer. A fringe group of radical Darwinists who wanted their marriages to chimpanzees to be recognized by the state saw Bonzo’s courtroom appearance as good legal precedent so they bankrolled his defense. The high-priced lawyer offered Bonzo counsel and all the sundaes he wanted.

Mulling his choices, the high-priced lawyer considered arguing Bonzo’s basic chimpanzeeness, which made him not subject to man’s laws. But he realized that if Bonzo didn’t get his day in court, the chimp would go to animal control and certain death. As a man, he’d at least have a fighting chance.

Despite a bitter pledge sworn early in his career to never again get personally involved in a case, the high-priced lawyer had grown fond of his client. Maybe it was Bonzo’s ability to keep spirits light when facing such dire consequences. He greeted all bad news with a Bronx cheer and sometimes stood on his head and made the funniest faces. Gallows humor, thought the high-priced lawyer. By god, this is a man who has lived. Not like me, coddled in my Armani.

But the case against Bonzo was airtight and the district attorney himself was trying it. The high-priced lawyer settled on just trying to get Bonzo sent to an institution rather than prison or sentenced to death. But to do that, he’d have to put Bonzo on the stand and show everybody what a nice man he is.

It was going well at first. The jury ate it up when Bonzo poured himself a glass of water and toasted to them. But under cross-examination, Bonzo grew irritated by the district attorney’s sharp, accusatory tone and haughty demeanor. Bonzo leapt from the witness box and onto the D.A.

As the bailiffs grappled with Bonzo, a woman rushed into the fray from the audience, screaming stop, everyone please just stop! It was the really nice lady and she threw herself on top of Bonzo, sobbing, clearing his crimson vision.

I’m sorry.

It was a real tender scene as the two of them gazed at each other as Bonzo was peaceably led away. But the damage had been done. The next time he appeared in court, Bonzo was trussed up Hannibal Lecter style and the jury delivered a guilty verdict. In a post-trial interview, one of the jurors explained: [Bonzo] puts his pants on one leg at a time. That’s premeditation." (What he didn’t realize was Bonzo actually lay on his back and kicked his legs down both pant legs simultaneously.) At Bonzo’s next court appearance, the judge sentenced him to death by lethal injection. But first he castigated Bonzo for his violent disregard for the law in tandem with his continued wearing of pants (the case eventually came to be known as “the Pants Trial”).

Early on in prison, some inmates brandished a shiv in the shower and tried to take Bonzo’s pink squishy ass. Bonzo roughly took the shiv away from the inmates and then went, quite literally, apeshit. He liked how the shiv made his mauling more precise. Soon the water in the shower ran red. And the guards looked the other way.

Out in the yard, Bonzo threw up the heaviest barbells and smoked like a fiend and people just did not fuck with him. Sometimes he’d tear into people anyway and the guards would just look the other way. Let the animals thin their numbers out a bit, they figured. Or pay us a goddam livable wage, some added, fretted by recent work furloughs imposed by budgetary gridlock in the state assembly.

Bonzo got three squares and a cot and weekly visits from the really nice lady. She would tell Bonzo how big and strong he was and how it scared her, but she couldn’t forget the good times, those funny faces, those warm embraces. Looking at the really nice lady, Bonzo forgot how loud and crowded the prison was.

But then she started to come by less and less.

Then she stopped coming altogether.

Eventually a letter came. It smelled like the really nice lady, but different too. The words informed Bonzo that the really nice lady had been sleeping with the head of the radical Darwinists. He had approached her after her outburst in court and the two had bonded over their shared interest in chimpanzees. That shared interest had blossomed into love as she realized people who share interests don’t need to sleep with chimpanzees. And so she was sorry, but she wouldn’t be coming to visit anymore. It was better this way.

Bonzo couldn’t read, which the really nice lady knew. She rationalized her actions by saying the Bonzo she truly loved would be able to read the letter.

And would understand.

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