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There's a monkey in the back yard!
And to my amazement my mother responded by saying "Shahrokh, go do your homework"

August 24, 2005

My name is Shahrokh Nikfar. I have a show called The Persian Hour on KYRS FM 95.3 in Spokane, Washington. The show is broadcasted live each Saturday from 12:00 to 1:00 PM and you can catch it on the net at I use my show to introduce the Iranian culture through music, story telling, sharing of recipes and book and movie reviews. The following is one of my stories (all true) that I will share during this Saturday's show.

The best thing about our old house in Iran was its back yard. This yard held many attractions for an eight year-old kid. In the middle of the yard was a water fountain and pool, which I often played in and splashed the water around with the neighbor's kids. The yard was also surrounded by old brick walls, which were great for climbing on. Pretending to be Spiderman, I fell off these walls numerous times, bruising and hurting my skinny legs and fracturing both my arms! Then there was the neighbor's cherry tree with its branches full of large red succulent fruit that reached over the wall into our yard. But, I was too short and no matter how high I jumped, I could never reach the fruit.

Since standing on the seat of my tri-cycles and trying to reach the cherries proved to be unwise and painful, I then decided to leap over from our second floor balcony to the top of the shared narrow brick wall and crawl over to the cherry tree branches. Having reached the mother load, I then just sat up there and picked and ate as many of the red sweet cherries as I could reach while keeping a watchful eye for my parents and the neighbors.

My cherry-tree raids and back-yard adventures came to a sudden halt when my parents sold our house and we moved into a three-story building in a more affluent neighborhood. We occupied the first floor, which had a yard, but the yard neither had any large trees nor a fountain. Even though the new yard had a few recently planted saplings and flowers it seemed gloomy and boring. The walls were made of cement, and just like a prison yard, they seemed to be a 100 feet high to me. Worst of all, none of our new neighbors seemed to have any kids my age that I could play with.

Shortly after, my parents started their search for suitable tenants to occupy the top two floors. Eventually, they found a married couple with no children that were interested in our second story apartment. I was not at all happy about getting tenants who didn't have any children. But my dad approved of this couple, for the husband was also a retired colonel, and my mom approved of them because this man had claimed to be an ex-husband of Haiydeh, the famous Iranian Diva. And so, my dad figured that he would have a colleague to reminisce about the good old days in the military and my mom could brag about being the landlord to Haiydeh's ex-husband. There was one problem though!

On their move-in day, we found out that they had a dog. It was medium sized with long and shiny black fur; floppy ears and a hanging wet pink tongue. Even though the dog was on a leash, it kept running circles around the colonel and trying to jump on my parents, excited about the new dwellings, I guess. My parents were furious! I was ecstatic!

The colonel explained to my parents that the dog was very quite and clean. But my parents didn't seem to care about the dog's hygiene or my non-stop begging to allow the dog to stay. Then the colonel in a strategic move stated that he had gotten this dog for his wife because she was suffering from depression. Then he went on and explained further that the reason for his wife's depression was that she could not bear any children. Suddenly silence and compassion took over my parents. Apparently, that line along with the sad looking eyes of the colonel's wife, the dog's and mine were enough to soften up my parents, and the new tenants were allowed to keep the dog for the time being.

A couple of weeks passed by and I was anxious to go up and play with the dog, but we had not been invited to go up there for tea or anything else yet. I think my parents shared my enthusiasm for a visit as well. My mother wanted to find out all about Haiydeh and why the colonel had divorced her, and my dad wanted to share war stories and talk about his service years with him. But the invitation to go up there never came. My parents eventually came to the conclusion that the new tenants were private people and possibly embarrassed and depressed for not having any kids.

Meanwhile, a strange new sound started coming from the upstairs. We now could hear the dog barking and running around like he had not done before during the first two weeks. My mom having become upset because of the noise kept asking my dad to go up there and tell the tenants to get rid of their dog, but my dad having respect for a fellow colonel kept refusing to do so.

Then one day, while sitting bored in the back yard and just watching a trail of ants carrying bread crumbs, I heard an odd noise coming from above. It sounded like a baby talking. Expecting to see an infant, I turned my head back and looked up at the second story's balcony. And there it was, the source of the noise. It was a monkey with big shinny black eyes staring back at me from behind the bars. Then it stepped through the bars and swung with one arm from the balcony while talking to me in baby noises.

Completely shocked by what I had just seen, I ran inside the house yelling "There's a monkey in the back yard! There's a monkey in the backyard!". And to my amazement my mother responded by saying "Shahrokh, go do your homework". I tried my best to convince my mom that there was a monkey hanging from the balcony, but she just gave me her usual lecture about how I was destined to become a brick layer since I never studied. So I grabbed her hand and dragged her out into the yard. But by then the monkey was gone.

I knew that I could not have just imagined what I had seen. There was a monkey up there and I had to expose it to prove that I was not a liar. So the next day, when I thought that the tenants had left, I took the spare key to the upstairs apartment from my dad's desk drawer, and cautiously went up the stairs. I wasn't scared of getting caught because of my experiences of stealing fruit from the neighbor's cherry tree had me well prepared for this type of a covert operation.

Gently I turned the key, opened the door and peeked in. There was not a sound or any movements and the place seemed to be vacant. But just as I began to relax and stepped in through their door, I saw their dog running at full speed towards me from the kitchen. Just like a deer caught in the headlights, I froze and could not move. As it got closer to me, I just about peed my pants from fear of getting mauled, but it just ran passed me.

I wanted to scream at first, but all my fears disappeared immediately, for I saw the monkey, riding the dog like a cowboy while wearing a red hat with gold colored threads and a matching vest. It was the "Planet of the Apes" meets the Barnham Bailey Brothers Circus. As the two creatures happily ran from room to room, I ran downstairs and while bursting out in laughter, I told my mom what I had seen.

The look that I got from my mom, made me laugh even harder, to the point that she thought I was having an asthma attack. And the more she talked aloud to herself about me being crazy and having to send me to a mental institute the harder I laughed. Since my attempt of communicating with my mom had failed, I decided to just wait for my dad to get home and to talk to him. Later in the evening, when my father came home, I told him all about what I had seen. This was a story that seemed so far fetched that my dad couldn't resist investigating. So we all put our shoes on and went upstairs for an unannounced and much anticipated visit.

The tenants embarrassingly admitted that they did have a monkey as well, and brought him out of the bedroom to meet us. My dad became furious! My mom gasped for air! And I was overjoyed!

The tenants being very persuasive people again managed to appeal to my parent's sense of compassion and talked themselves out of being evicted on the condition of having to find the monkey a new home immediately. Eventually, both my mom and dad became very good friends with our tenants and visited each other daily to talk about Haiydeh and reminisce about the good old days. And I got to play with the dog in the back yard any time that I wanted to.

For letters section
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Shahrokh Nikfar


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Garden of the Brave in War
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