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Lemur Trouble
by Phil Temples

I step out onto the back porch to feed my pet lemur when my foot hits a loose wood plank. The nail that’s supposed to keep the plank in place has been missing for several weeks. You see, it’s the one I was planning to fix it this weekend. I don’t know what happened to the missing nail. I reckon the squirrels came along and pried up the plank thinking there might be food under it or something. Or maybe they was stashing their nuts underneath the floorboards. It would have made a good hiding place. That’s where I’d stash them. My nuts, I mean. If I was a squirrel.

I was planning to fix the plank this weekend.  Well, actually, I was going to fix it last weekend. But I wanted to watch the football game and it started at 4 PM but by the time the game was over it was totally dark outside seein’ as how the game went into overtime. I couldn’t see to fix it because the porch light burned out a few months ago and since I almost never go out on the porch except to get dog food from the airtight storage tub to feed Bandit—like I said, he’s my pet lemur—it didn’t seem like no big deal to get around to it later. Anyway, on account of the burned out bulb I never got around to fixing the loose board last weekend. I like to say, “Never fix today what you can put off til tomorrow.” Actually, it’s the first time I’ve ever said it, plus I didn’t come up that up sayin’ to begin with. It’s somebody else’s sayin’.

Anyway, I step on the plank and it flips up and smacks Bandit’s cage and that causes the latch on the cage door to fling open. I almost never bring Bandit and his cage out onto the porch but I figured I’d save myself from havin’ to fetch the plastic scoop from the kitchen where I last left it and instead bring his cage out and grab a couple of big handfuls from the tub and toss them in. But now the door is wide open.

Bein’ the clever little opportunist that he is, Bandit immediately flies through the open door and skedaddles to Gods-knows-where. Actually, I know where Bandit skedaddles to. He heads across the back yard and squeezes through a small break in the wooden fence separating my yard and Betty Crawford’s like a little ghost he is. It’s a good name for ‘em seein’ as how “lemur” means “ghost” or “spirit” from Roman mythology. That’s what the guy told me the word lemur means, the one who sold me Bandit. I was thinkin’ about naming him “Bernie” at first, but Bandit seemed like a better name cause of the rings he’s got around his tail. Makes him look kinda sneaky like a criminal, right? The guy said to be careful and not tell anyone I had him because lemurs are endangered animals and I’m not supposed to be owning him in the first place. He also said never to tell anyone his name since he runs a reputable pet store and it could get him into a lot of trouble with the authorities. I couldn’t do that anyhow because I forget his name now. Not my lemur. I mean the guy who sold me my lemur. My lemur’s name is Bandit.

I yell out, “No!” but Bandit doesn’t listen.  He never listens to me, seein’ as how Bandit doesn’t have the sense God gave a lemur. Instead he runs right into Betty Crawford’s yard where she keeps her awful yappin’ pit bull, Ebenezer.

Now Ebby is a mean son of a bitch. I always thought there was something a little off about that mutt. He howls at just about anything that moves--squirrels, birds, airplanes. Why, he’ll even bark at the wind! Sometimes I’d walk up the fence and peer over it and stare at him. Just lookin’ at him must have been the same as tormenting him. Ebby’d see me and start frothing at the mouth and then he’d charge at me. It’s like he didn’t even see the fence between us, or he didn’t care. That damn dog would slam into the fence over and over. I guess he wasn’t smart enough to figure out he couldn’t get to me. One day when I was peering over at Ebenezer he charged at me twelve times! Ebby’s snout was covered with blood. Maybe he thought he could break the sucker down. Old lady Crawford, now she usually comes out and yells at Ebby and tells him to cut it out but she must not’a been home that day.  Ebenezer just kept coming and coming. After awhile I felt sorry for the stupid mutt so I left. I ‘spect he broke his goddamn nose.

I’m fearing the worst: that dog’s gonna get a hold of Bandit and rip him to pieces like he did to a squirrel a few weeks ago. I can’t cotton to that seein’ as how I’m attached to that dang lemur so I run to the garage and I grab a shovel. I figure if I get there fast before he can catch up to my Madagascarian friend, I can tap the mangy dog over the head without killing him. Who knows? It might even knock some sense into the crazy mutt.

I race through the gate separating our two yards and enter Crawford’s property half-expecting to come across Bandit’s bloody remains but instead I see Bandit sitting half-way up old lady Crawford’s persimmon tree on a big branch. He’s peering down at Ebby and me with them big, wide eyes. I feel so relieved! Now I surely don’t know how Bandit learned to climb trees. I didn’t teach him. Maybe it’s something that’s bred into them seeing as how they must have trees in Madagascar, too.  

Ebby hears the gate open and he turns around and spies me and I’m half-expecting him to come charging at me but no he’s totally fixated on Bandit. He continues to bark his fool head off as he claws up big clods of dirt and grass and flings it every which way.  Bandit’s taking this all in from above. He looks like he could care less as he sits there in that tree stroking his pecker.

Now what kind of self-respecting primate plays with himself like that?

Meanwhile, old lady Crawford appears at the back door with some kind of a big handgun. I reckon it’s a .44 Magnum. The recoil from those suckers is wicked! I shot one last year at Smitty’s Range so I know what I’m talking about.  I’m thinking to myself she shouldn’t be waving something like that around at night especially seein’ as how she’s blind as a bat so I start to yell at her.

“Hey, it’s me, your next door neighbor, Clyde! Put that damn thing away before you hurt somebody with it!” But she can’t hear me on account of that damn dog’s infernal yapping. She steps down off the porch and moves closer but on the last step she trips on the edge of her nightgown and starts to take a tumble and that’s when her finger accidentally squeezes the trigger and she lets off a round. Fortunately she wasn’t aiming in my general vicinity but instead in the vicinity of the Hogstead house, namely their upstairs window. Well she wasn’t actually aiming at it. It just happened to go that direction. The round, I mean. At the house.

The bodacious sound from that .44 puts the fear of God in Ebenezer. That dog hightails it lickety-split for his doghouse and once he’s there he starts in to whimperin’. I feel sad for him. I guess he don’t like loud noises. I look around for Bandit but he’s nowhere to be found. Guess he don’t like loud noises neither.  

This doesn’t look good I think to myself as I’m bending over Mrs. Crawford trying to wake her up out of her concussed state because she hit her head on the stone step from the recoil of the gun and there’s still the matter of me in a backyard where I don’t belong with a shovel in my hand and her with a big gun still in her hand smokin’ and the police pullin’ up because the Hogsteads were scared shitless when their bedroom window was blown to smithereens so they called them.  Them bein’ the police. They bein’ the Hogsteads.

Before I know it, the cops are in that backyard along with me and old lady Crawford, pointing their Glocks. At me. Not at old lady Crawford. 

Now those Glocks are nice weapons. I can see them clearly in the moonlight and I’m thinkin’ they’re fifth-generation models probably the Glock 17 or 19, chambered for 9x19 millimeter if I had to guess.

“Drop the shovel!”

I recognize the voice immediately as belonging to an old high school friend of mine, Buddy Henderson. Even so, I figure I better comply so I drop it. The shovel makes a dull thud as it hits the ground but not before the handle grazes old lady Crawford on the pinkie of her right hand. Her shootin’ hand.  For a half a second, I’m afraid it might trigger what you’d call an unconscious reflex in old lady Crawford causing her to pull the trigger, you might say triggerin’ a real trigger. I could just see an unintentional shooting war with me being the recipient of a lot of  9x19 millimeter lead, something I don’t like to think about to this day.

“Clyde? Is that you?”


The two officers lower their weapons.

Buddy motions at old lady Crawford. “She okay?” Crawford is beginning to sit up while holding her hand to her head.

“Yeah, she’ll be fine. Recoil from a .44 Magnum.”

“That so?”

“I guess you’re probably wonderin’ what this is all about.”

“You might say that.”

“I don’t rightly know where to start.”

“Start at the beginning. It’s usually the easiest.”

“The beginning?  You sure?”


“Okay. Here goes: ‘I stepped out onto the back porch to feed my pet lemur when my foot hit a loose wood plank. Now, the nail that was supposed to keep the plank in place has been missing for several weeks, it’s the one I was planning to fix it this weekend but…”