Monkey Attack

It was a boiling hot day in the Balinese rainforest. My family and I decided to go to Indonesia for the summer holidays back in 1994 when I was only eight. My shirt was plastered to my back with sweat. Tourists were spilling out of the stalls, where they were buying “Rolllex” watches and fake Quiksilver T-shirts. My family decided to go on a monkey feeding tour. Our guide gave us each a bag of peanuts and directed us to a path leading into a huge, dark rainforest where the canopy of the trees blocked out as much sunlight as possible. We entered the monkey feeding circuit to find the place teeming with monkeys. The path was surrounded by ancient stone walls, and every available vantage point was taken by monkeys trying to spot their next “waiter”. They were everywhere you looked, swinging and jumping from tree to tree.

I started handing my peanuts out to the monkeys. Most of them were very scrawny, little and furry. They were timid and alert, looking out for tourists with their next meal of peanuts. Some of them casually walked up to my family members and reached into their pockets looking for peanuts. I couldn’t believe how human they seemed. We played with them by hiding the peanuts in our clenched fists. It was amazing to watch them gently opening out our fingers one by one.

Before I knew it I was down to my last peanut, so I had to decide which of the scrawny little monkeys deserved it the most. Then I saw a big fat monkey, obviously the “king” of them all, approaching me confidently. He looked like he had already had his fair share of peanuts. Scurrying behind him was a little skinny monkey, who looked very underfed. Like me, he was just a kid so I decided to reserve my last peanut for him.

But the king had other ideas. He wanted my peanut really badly. He approached me, but I held out my arm towards the little one. The king was enraged that I wasn’t offering him the peanut. He smacked me in the stomach, and then sprung up and attached himself to me, facing me at eye level. Then, with his left hand, he grabbed the front of my shirt, and held his right fist threateningly near my face, ready to strike me in anger and revenge. It was so humanlike. I was afraid I was going to get rabies if he bit me, so I didn’t hold out for long. I just gave him the last peanut – the price of my freedom – and watched him victoriously swagger away.

I stood there, white faced and shaking. When I finally came to my senses, I turned around and saw my family watching me and laughing hysterically. They thought it was hilarious that I had been bullied by the king monkey. The king seemed very large and fierce to me, but to them just seemed funny because his aggression looked so humanlike – a hairy little man who didn’t even come up to my waist wanted to beat me up and I was absolutely petrified!

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I know, I know … this wasn\'t exactly a brush with death. I fortunately escaped unharmed and survived to tell the tale. By the way … you should have seen the size of the needle when I had my rabies shot at the Balinese village hospital.