[Flash Fiction Friday] Andrea Speed with Of Men and Monkeys

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Hey Internet! The one, the only Andrea Speed has dropped by today with this week’s entry for Flash Fiction Friday! Men, Monkeys, Musicals? What is this?


Of Men and Monkeys

By Andrea Speed

Was he crazy, or a closet masochist? This was not the first time Ty had asked himself this question, but like always, he had no answer. It could have gone either way.

Casey came up to him, looking at her iPad, stylus poised over electronic pages. “Ty, Phil thinks we really need to work on our second act problem –”

“Not now, Casey,’ he told her. “I’m gonna have a ten minute vacation, and then you can bother me.”

She scowled. He knew she was a hard charger who felt she should have had been in charge of this thing, but it had been his bright idea. Well, his and Nick’s, and then Sara’s, and technically they ripped it off from the Simpsons, but who didn’t rip things off from the Simpsons? It was almost impossible not to. They’d done just about everything. “But Tara –“

“If she doesn’t like the mask, she can take one of the chorus parts, and we’ll give her role to someone else,” he snapped. It was days like these that made him want to throw himself in front of a bus.

Casey took a step back, surprised by the venom in his tone, and finally she believed his need for a break. “I’ll – um. I’ll check back with you in ten minutes.”

He nodded and walked to the secondary art room, which was his temporary office.

You’d think the biggest problem with a Planet of the Apes musical would be the songs, but oh no. It was the costumes.

While none of the songs were as brilliant as the snippets of the ones on that Simpsons episode, it really wasn’t all that difficult to come up with them. He, Nick, Sara, and Matt had some decent ideas, and Matt was quite musical, able to bang out a tune at the drop of a prop hat.

But singing in a full monkey mask was impossible. At best, the sound was muffled, and at worst, the singers almost passed out. It was hard to breathe through them, and sometimes they couldn’t get enough oxygen. It was a shame, too, ‘cause they were great. They had to settle for half masks, that covered the upper half of the performer’s faces, with make up attempting to camouflage the difference. They weren’t as good, and frankly looked more than a little ridiculous. Like they were all little kids who made the most half-assed Halloween get ups they could afford. And they couldn’t afford much.

If they were going for comedy or camp, it would be okay, but they were trying to treat this all seriously. In this instance, comedy would be easy, and drama seemed the bigger challenge, but maybe it was more than they could handle. Was it too late to switch it to a comedy?

Ty sat at the paint smeared table in the center of the room, and rested his head on it, like a kindergartener taking a nap. While he was weary, it was mainly so he didn’t attempt to break the table in two with his skull. He was really tempted. A concussion might get him hospitalized, and then it would be Nick, Sara, and Matt’s problem.

He heard the door open with a creak, and said, “I’ve seen enough monkeys for one day, thank you very much.”

“You know, if you’re doing this show, you should really learn the difference between monkeys and apes.” It was Matt, sounding irritatingly cheerful.

Ty moved just enough to blindly give him the finger. “Nobody asked for a pedant. Go away.”

Matt sighed, and there was a loud scraping noise as he pulled up a chair. As soon as he was settled, he ruffled Ty’s hair, which Matt knew he hated. “Don’t be this way. I think it’s shaping up nicely.”

“You’re joking, right?” Ty sat up, even though he didn’t feel like it. Like he suspected, Matt looked as irritatingly cheerful as he sounded.

Matt’s lopsided grin told him how concerned he was about all the setbacks. “Dude, why are you stressing out? We’re looking good.”

Ty snorted. “Really? Did you get a load of the masks? They’re terrible.”

He shrugged one shoulder. “Doesn’t matter. If you’re really invested in the story, you’ll forgive a lot of shit, and that includes masks. The songs are strong, we have some good singers, no one’s died yet. We’re ahead of the game, as far as I can tell.” Matt grabbed him by the shoulder and shook him gently. “We are a community theater company putting on an all original Planet of the Apes musical. This isn’t Broadway, and there’s a better than even chance that, as soon as word gets around about this, we’ll be hit with a cease and desist order by whoever owns the copyright. So lighten up, huh?”

Those were all fair points. Was he actually expecting perfection from a musical that cost maybe fifty dollars to stage? (And that was an assumption of budget – really, they had no money to spend on this production, but they scraped some together from various sources.)

Ty couldn’t help but expect it. He wanted it to be perfect, just like he wanted everything to be perfect. But was anything, ever? It was a trap he set for himself, and he really had to stop that. He sighed. “I’m ridiculous, aren’t I?”

Matt smiled, but he quickly made himself stop. “You’re high strung. Which is okay. If we were all strung the same way, we’d never make music.”

Ty rolled his eyes at the corny expression, which was a specialty of Matt’s. He could make up a corny saying on the spot, one no one had ever heard of before, and make it sound like it had been around forever. It was a dubious gift. “I think I need to get out of here before the corn gets too high here.”

“Good, now we can work on the second act,” Matt said, a little too cheerfully.  Ty groaned, but Matt went on. “What if we cut the Zaius subplot, or move it to the third?”

Ty thought about it a moment. “Well …. maybe that could work. We could cut the ballad to make room for it.

Matt smirked. “You never did like the ballad, did you?”

“It slows things down too much.”

Maybe he could relax, and fix this damn thing. Besides, this was all about singing apes, right? That sold itself.

Now, if only Ty could tell his nerves to settle the hell down.

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