(Inspired by Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge here.
Spoons at one time given in Holland at marriages, christenings, and funerals. They may still be picked up occasionally at curiosity shops. The spoon at weddings was given to some immediate relative of the bride, and just below the monkey on the handle was a heart. At funerals the spoon was given to the officiating clergyman. Among the Dutch, drinking is called “sucking the monkey” (zuiging de monky), and one fond of drink was called “a monkey sucker.” The Dutchman began the day with an appetiser- i.e. rum, with a pinch of salt, served in a monkey spoon (monky lépel); and these appetisers were freely used at weddings, christenings, and funerals.
Monkeys creep me the fuck out. I don’t know what I’d do if gifted with a monkey spoon. Thus, the following story. Enjoy!)
When we got married, Bill’s mother gave me a goddamned monkey spoon.
“It’s a Dutch tradition,” he said, as if that explained everything.
“You’re not even Dutch. And monkeys are fucking creepy.”
“I know,” he said. And again: “I know.” Then he gave me the look that over six years I’d learned to interpret as please just humor my mother.
So I did. I forced a smile when she called to ask if we’d opened the package. She must’ve tracked the shipment and called as soon as the driver uploaded my signature. “Yes, Mrs. Mason. How thoughtful of you. A new family tradition… I see.” The spoon glittered hatefully as I twirled it around. The monkey itself perched at the end of the handle, grinning like it had just torn the head off its mate’s shoulders.
Its creepy eyes caught the light and flashed malevolence at me. I shuddered and put it down, sliding it along the table until it was out of my reach.
“You have to drink out of it at the reception, after the toasts.”
A month later, we did as she asked, sipping a concoction of rum and salt from the bowl of the spoon while the monkey glared at us. Bill said it wasn’t so bad. My sip tasted like piss. I blamed the monkey: I hated it, and it knew it.
It hated me right back.
After the wedding, I shoved the monkey spoon in the silverware drawer. I couldn’t bring myself to put it in the pretty polished box of keepsakes next to our church program and the extra stack of wedding napkins. I imagined the monkey shredding them in the dead of night and making a nest out of our memories.
Nor was I about to display it in the curio cabinet. It was fuck-ugly and there was only so much kissing up to the mother-in-law I was willing to do. I’d married her son. The wedding was over, vows said and gift checks cashed. She couldn’t veto the nuptials anymore.
So in with the everyday utensils it went, buried beneath measuring spoons and the four sets of decorative cheese spreaders we’d received from various distant cousins who didn’t know what else to buy for us. I didn’t have to think about the monkey spoon for sixth months or so, until one particularly busy week when neither of us remembered to run the dishwasher.
I wanted ice cream while we watched Law and Order, and Bill spent a solid two minutes sifting through the drawer. He came into the living room with two bowls. A plastic spork stuck up from one. From the other, looking indignant at this menial usage, was monkey spoon. Bill seemed to think it was funny. “Don’t tell my mom I used him to scoop out the Rocky Road,” he said.
The whole time I ate my ice cream, I covered its eyes with my thumb.
The next morning, the dishwasher made an awful grinding noise halfway through its cycle. I killed the power when it started to smoke.
There, in the bottom, wedged against the spinny thing, was monkey spoon.
We had to replace the dishwasher.
When Bill’s sister got married, she didn’t get a monkey spoon at her shower. Mrs. Mason had moved on to other traditions, it seemed, so I saw an opportunity. I sought her out in the bridal suite at the reception hall, while the photographer was still wrangling the wedding party for pictures.
Her nose crinkled in distaste as she opened the box with monkey spoon nestled inside. “What is it?”
“It’s a tradition,” I said. “You pass it to the newest bride in the family. For good luck.”
She eyed me dubiously as she turned it over in her hands. “Um, thanks,” she said, but she didn’t mean it. As she tucked it back in the box, the monkey’s hate-filled gaze caught mine. “OW! Fuck,” Jenna said, dropping the box to stick her index finger in her mouth. “It cut me,” she said, and that’s when I saw the spattering of red on her dress.
The maid of honor came in and got her bandaged up, and the photographer kept Jenna turned so you couldn’t see the stain in the pictures, but Jenna hasn’t talked to me since.
And monkey spoon came home with me.
I put him out in a yard sale. It rained cats and dogs until I brought monkey spoon back in the house. The sun came out after, and we made five hundred dollars in an hour.
I tried pawning him off on my coworkers during a Yankee Swap at a holiday party, but people kept trading him and trading him, until he ended up in my own lap once more. On the way home, with icy rain sheeting down, the car broke down and I had to walk two miles to a gas station for help. My freshly-charged cell phone’s battery was dead. I got frostbite.
I sent him off to the Salvation Army, but the trash bag full of stuff broke open when Bill was carrying it to the car. Monkey spoon lived in my trunk for a year before I realized he hadn’t made it into the new bag I’d brought out to Bill. During that time, I lost my job, broke my wrist, and everything I touched went to shit. Once the spoon was back in its drawer, things looked up again. Overnight.
That was four years ago. We have a daughter now, a little girl. She’s teething.
Bill’s mother came over to watch her last weekend so we could celebrate our anniversary. Whle we were out, Michelle started wailing. Mrs. Mason decided she’d use an old family remedy and rooted around in the silverware drawer for a spoon.
Of course she found monkey spoon. Of course.
Into the fridge it went, then into Michelle’s mouth to soothe her sore gums.
“I thought it would make her laugh,” Mrs. Mason said.
It did. It does. When we wash it, she cries until it’s back in her pudgy little grasp.
It’s not safe to let a baby keep a spoon like a teddy bear. I know that. I’m a terrible mother.
When I come near her now, she looks at me with bright, glittery eyes. Her gaze matches the monkey’s. I should take it from her, have the fucking thing melted down once and for all, but I’m afraid to.
Because now, I’m afraid monkey spoon will take it out on my daughter instead of me.