Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Monkey Business

The campfire flickered as the night grew colder. Wood cracked and hissed and the wine swirled warm in my glass.

“Yeah, basically that’s why I became an atheist.”

My wife gaped at me. “You have to write that down.”

“Shit no, it’s way too embarrassing.” 

She shook her head. “It’s great, just write it. Stop worrying about being embarrassed.” I shook my head.

“Its ridiculously personal, no one would want the mental images.”

“Rubbish” she said, still laughing.

“It’s too much”

“Write it down and let other people decide. Let your spirit soar and your writing flow. Write and be damned. Kill your idols. Embrace your talent. Let words tumble and fall where they may.” She frowned. “Why have you made me into your internal monologue? I don’t speak like this. Are you even listening to me? You seem to be staring at my boobs.”

Boobs, I thought. I like boobs.


As a child I had an audience at all times and they were all dead.

My spirit guides were always watching me, advising me, assessing me. My grandfather had identified them to me. I had a Navaho Indian (as everyone on Earth did as they were so spiritually advanced), a Down Syndrome man (a sign of my emotional maturity as according to him Down Syndrome people know only love), a blue vibrating blob from another world (as heaven was home to all life forces) and I also had my grandmother and occasionally a doctor (only when the need arose as I guess health care in heaven was also underfunded.)

“These are your guides,” I’d been told. “They take the form of your instincts. If your instincts feel stronger it is your guides pushing you in a direction.”

I knew they were there. I was a child, I’d been told it, and so I accepted it. I prayed every night to God asking for my loved ones to be protected and for help if I was behind in school work or worried about something, and then I prayed to my guides, mostly my grandmother, running through my world and my life and my aspirations. Then I’d doze off a happy guilt free spiritualist soldier with my guide army watching over me from the heavenly wings.

Then something happened.

Cybil Sheppard changed on Moonlighting. She stopped being just a woman and suddenly became BOOBS. It was impossible to watch the show without focussing on only her chest. Wild thoughts ran through my head about spilt correction fluid on her purple blouse or rain, lots and lots of rain, falling indoors everywhere she went. My imaginings were confused but I was greatly enjoying them.

I realised it wasn’t only Cybil who had boobs. At least half the population had them. The girls at school were growing them by some obscure magic. Teachers had them. Shop assistants, lollypop ladies, librarians, they were everywhere.

Along with this realisation came a developmental spurt. The same one every teenage boy has. But with this sudden newfound hobby came the crushing realisation that my spirit guides were watching me. Even as I was hiding in the bathroom concentrating on blouse buttons and the music from Moonlighting my spirit posse were watching, making spirit notes, frowning. They were watching as I glanced up at the magazines on the top shelf of the news agents, they were watching my discomfort when my English teacher leant forward too much, they were even watching when saw the girl from up the street getting felt up in the alley behind my house. No matter what I did, they were watching.
This made it impossible to pursue my hobby. You couldn’t hide from them, they were omnipresent. A Navaho, a down syndrome guy, a vibrating blue blob (who I now imagined as a vibrating blue boob) and worst of all, my grandmother. I was two happy developmental growth spurts down and had become – for want of another term - cock blocked by the dead.

For a week I wrestled with this issue while noticing around me the other boys in school had developed a languorous walk, a swagger that implied the stress I was feeling was not a stress they were concerned about. They spilt themselves into chairs while I snapped my rigid limbs into a seated position. They laughed in the showers after Games lessons while I scowled. None of them were spiritualists, none of them knew about their ever present panel and I realised what pleasure ignorance must be. What utter pure passionate pleasure it must be. What freedom. They only had to worry about their mothers finding out whereas I knew for a fact that every fumble and fiddle was being noted and observed.
For another week I tried to work out how I could hide. Under a blanket was no good as “they can always see you” my grandfather had said. A TV show had a guy with tin foil on his head trying to block alien signals. Could foil deflect spirit guides? So I fashioned a foil headpiece (yes, I did) and realised it looked like a boob. There was no shadow dark enough to retreat into, no corner I could hide in, no matter where I went there they were.

Then came the long dark night of the soul. I prayed, as ever I did, and I spoke with my dead grandmother. I relayed all my problems except the fact that Cybil Sheppard wanted to race at hurdles. “Are you really there?” I wondered.

I felt alone, ironically enough given i just wanted to feel alone. There was no one watching, there was no heaven above. “If your instincts feel stronger it is your guides pushing you in a direction.” My instincts felt pretty strong but was it guides or hormones?

The following night I didn’t pray, I didn’t list my relatives who needed protection and immediately felt I was goading God into punishing them. I also didn’t speak to my nan, and I felt as though I had forgotten to say thank you for something vital. I lay awake for a long time expecting a crack in the world or the soft sob of my guides. There was nothing.


The following day Moonlighting was on.

I didn’t pray. The habit was already fading. Cybil and I ran slow motion hurdles and her shorts fell off (Carry On films were a big influence on my adolescence.)

I didn’t pray the next night, but the presenter of a certain kids show stopped making a lunar landscape out of egg boxes and tin foil and instead complained about the heat and unbuttoned her top.

The further from God I drifted the happier I became until eventually I realised it had been months since I had prayed. I expected to feel guilt or anxiety but realised I no longer believed at all.

There wasn’t a panel of dead folk watching me with a blue vibrating boob taking minutes. There was just me, a freak collision of coincidence at the right moment that bought me into being.

I was born one day and I’d die one day and, all being well, in between I’d see lots of boobs.

I felt relieved at the simplicity of life and noticed Kim Cattral sidle into my room in her Police Academy uniform. She dangled handcuffs and her buttons popped off.

I fought the law and the law won.

Then five minutes later I fought the law again and the law won.


“You became an atheist because of masturbation?”

The campfire flickered as the night grew colder. The wood cracked and hissed and the wine swirled warm in my glass.

“Yeah, basically that’s why I became an atheist.”

My wife gaped at me. “You have to write that down.”

“Shit no, it’s way too embarrassing.” 

She smiled and topped up my wine. “If you write it down I’ll show you my boobs.”


In the beginning the earth was formless and empty. Darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the cosmos was hovering over the waters.

A hairy palmed monkey swinging from a tree contorted his mouth and ululated, “Let there be boobs."

And there were boobs.

And oh they've been good.