But that damned monkey was something else.
Keith loved animals. He was run out of Bangkok for his love of animals. He had a brown bear he called Hash. He kept Hash on a leash and took him wherever he went, on buses, trains, and taxis. Taxis were more difficult, because drivers usually didn’t want to stop for Keith and his five-foot tall bear. Then, on one Fourth of July, there was a reception at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok. All Americans in Bangkok are invited to the annual event. Keith attended and brought Hash. There were no fireworks, as they had been outlawed, but there was food and drink. Copious stacks of food displayed on long tables in the garden, all sorts of food as well as tidbits, sandwiches and cakes and fruit. When Hash, the tame bear, saw the display of food, he was no longer tame. No leash was strong enough to hold him back. He charged at the table like a locomotive out of control with Keith attempting to hold him back-unsuccessfully. Hash upset tables, spilling food everywhere. He caused untold havoc. He and Keith were escorted out the main gate by leery security guards. A letter from the ambassador with a bill for the damages prompted Keith to move.
In Singapore, he bought an old junk and outfitted it as a disco with loud music and flashing neon signs. As an added attraction, he turned the vessel into a menagerie. The place attracted yuppies in Singapore and in time became very popular. The bumboat operators loved it. Anchored out in the harbor, a fleet of bumboats ferried passengers to and fro. The Singapore authorities became concerned and, it seemed, were about to close the place down, but in the end there was no need to do so. The junk sank. Well, it didn’t just sink, but something even more drastic happened. To re-supply the junk, Keith would motor the junk to the dock and secure it while he took on supplies. Singapore has a tidal range of about three meters, and when the tide goes out, vessels sometimes rest on the mud bottom until the tide comes in again. Unfortunately, Keith moored above a spike sticking up in the mud, and when the tide went out, the spike came up through the hull. No one noticed what had happened until the tide came in, but the junk didn’t rise. It simply filled with water and remained on the bottom. The crew and animals aboard panicked. To save the animals, the crew released them, and soon, monkeys, a brown bear, a porcupine, a couple of wallabies and even a ten-foot long python were roaming the waterfront along Clifford Pier causing panic among the pedestrians.
Keith had to surrender his animals to an animal collector in Malaysia but managed to keep his gibbon without the authorities knowing it. He kept the gibbon in his apartment. The animal was there when I agreed to watch the place while Keith was on a month’s home leave. The gibbon was a nasty creature that didn’t like me, and I didn’t like him. He would bare his fangs when I came near, and I’d do the same to him. I had to put up with our mutual dislike. The apartment was free, I had no bills to pay and here I could write. When Keith was gone, I locked the animal in the bathroom and left the window open with a small crack for air.
I never gave thought that the gibbon could work the window open wide enough to scramble out. He did but he didn’t just take refuge on the ledge or escape to the roof No, he found the bathroom window open in the apartment next door and made his way inside. The apartment happened to be owned by an elderly Chinese dowager. She was away for a few weeks visiting her sister in Canton. The lady was a collector of antiques and, I later beard, had some priceless pieces in the apartment. Keith’ monkey became more than the bull in the China shop. He took delight in knocking vases and jars off their stands, and he screamed with joy when they shattered on the floor. I could hear the calamity, but there was nothing I could do but hope for the best, and also hope the lady didn’t suddenly come home. It took me the better part of a day for me to coax the hooting beast back into Keith’s bathroom with the help of a bunch of bananas. When I got him inside again, I locked the bathroom window. There was a big investigation when the lady returned, but it was put down to vandalism. The authorities concluded that most likely one of the dowager’s enemies sent hoodlums to destroy her collection. Envy, they called it. It wasn’t envy, of course. It was Keith’s gibbon, but I never told anyone, not even Keith, even after he said I should have kept the window open for fresh air for the poor gibbon.