A banana peel slapped George across the face. He charged the kid. The kid didn’t flinch. Instead, it was big old George who flinched first, which was followed by a tweak, a twitch, and ended in a seizure as the electrified bars of the zoo cage lit up. The kid laughed and trotted away after his mother.
George picked himself up and brushed the dust off his orange jumpsuit. He spit on the ground and then stomped it out, imagining it as the kid’s head.
His cage mate, Allan, clasped his hand on George’s shoulder. “When you gonna stop doing that?” he said.
George glared at him. Allan had asked him the question every time the kid came by for the past year. George wasn’t even sure if it was the same kid throwing the banana anymore, but it had gone on for so long that it didn’t make much of a difference to him. They were all the same. All that mattered to him now was sorting the kid out. He picked up the peel and held it before Allan.
“Once I teach the little punk a damn lesson…” he said. “It’s gone on long enough.”
With the success of animal rights’ groups lobbying for the release of unlawfully imprisoned animals, who by the way, never received a trial, and the ever-increasing rise in prisoners, the mayor of Cincinnati was quick to offer up a new solution, one which would keep citizens just as entertained, and more importantly, crazed people with red paint off the streets and out his office.
“I just don’t understand why if he’s going to throw a banana peel he wouldn’t include the banana itself.” Even the gorillas got that much. The giraffes ate out of people’s hands.
When George saw the kid’s thoughtless waste of perfectly good food, he couldn’t help but think of himself at that age. He’d always thought it clever to leave banana peels lying around the school hallway like in cartoons, but that all came to an end when a nun caught him mid-peel and taught him a lesson that still lingered in his mind. He’d never felt so foolish in his life.
“I think that’s kind of the point,” Allan said.
“The little shit.”
The mayor had explained to his constituents that, with the rise of MMA, reality TV, and videos people posted online of themselves being injured, the public would surely become enthralled by the chance to see fights up close. To the mayor’s and the public’s dismay, though, the prisoners became docile in the wide-open spaces the zoo afforded them. Even George, a man convicted of manslaughter in every degree, seemed at ease while he lay in the grass. Except for when the kid was around. He was back in the jungle when the kid was nearby.
George had been thinking about what he was going to do to the kid for a while. Most nights he would fall asleep with the banana peel still in his fist, and he would dream of what he would do to the kid once he escaped from the cage. He wanted nothing more than to be free. The only time he smiled was in his sleep while he taught the kid a lesson that he wouldn’t soon forget, and then he would run off for good.
To George’s dismay, though, he’d always wake up the next morning to the sound of jailbirds and rats, still locked in his cage, just waiting for the perfect opportunity to escape, which he knew was soon to come.
* * *
The kid came back the next day with another banana. George held his hand out for it. The kid snickered.
“Speak,” said the kid.
“Fuck off,” George said.
“Give me the damn banana before something happens.”
“Mind your Ps and Qs.”
George didn’t like to beg. He’d never been made to beg in his entire life. He’d always seemed to get what he wanted with nothing more than an ominous grin, but with these bars between him and the kid, he was nearly powerless. The kid knew that there wasn’t anything George could do as long as he was locked up. That would soon change, though. He had a plan, and he knew he would have to bend this one time in order to get the real payoff.
“May I please have the banana?”
George backed up to the tire and began to swing. He was a looming high tide. He extended and contracted his legs much like a dolphin pushes water with its flipper. A zookeeper-turned-counselor had suggested he try it. It always seemed to comfort the apes. He looked over to Allan. They nodded to each other. Allan fell to the ground howling and clenched his foot.
They’d planned it for months. Every day the kid came with a perfectly ripened banana (It looked better than an Andy Warhol painting.), and he’d peel it from the stem, which would crack and tear the skin. It was a sight familiar to George. It was something that he’d done many times until he was caught.
The kid would then mush the banana until he found the correct seam. Once he was done with the banana, he’d throw the peel in George’s face. Every previous day, George’s anger increased to the point where he was now like an impending tsunami that was nearly at the shore. He’d never wanted to get out as desperately as he did at that moment. He was tired of being taken advantage of by some kid who probably figured George had nothing left to offer to society. If only he could get out, if only for a moment, he could do society a favor. He could use his hands again. George would teach the kid a lesson.
The veterinarian-turned-doctor powered down the electric fence and walked into the cage with a hunter-turned-guard trailing behind him. George continued to swing and waited for the guard to close the door. George took one last long pump when it closed and thought back to his childhood. He thought back to his freedom and the time before he was convicted of murder.
George flung himself from the swing and flailed wildly toward the fence. George held on, and as with the trees he climbed in his enclosure, he inched up the bars.
The kid stood still as George toppled over the now un-electrified fence and landed with a thud on the ground. He stood over the kid while men and women screamed. George yanked the banana from the kid’s hands.
The kid looked up at him. His eyes were wide. George held the banana in front of the kid’s face.
“You think this is funny?” he said.
The kid shook his head and looked down at his feet. George needed his full attention. He wanted the kid to watch as it happened. The kid needed to understand the lesson he was about to receive.
“Look at me when I speak to you.”
The kid did as he was told. He looked up at George, but closed his eyes. George grabbed him by the collar and shook him. The kid’s head lolled back and forth. George was sure he would nearly knock him out, but he needed the kid to look at him. He needed the kid to watch what was going to happen.
“Damn it,” George said. “If you’re going to peel a banana, then you need to do it right.”
George flipped the banana over.
“You peel from the seed. It’s much easier.”
He handed the banana back to the kid.
“Don’t act like an animal.”
Rob Bermingham traveled the world and then came back home. He has published both fiction and nonfiction pieces.
WHY WE CHOSE TO PUBLISH Bananas:
We loved the uniqueness of having humans on display in a zoo, as well and liking the commentary on human behavior and society. Rob Bermingham does a good job of painting George’s character, while withholding the unnecessary details of George’s crimes. The reader can fill in the details. And it isn’t so unbelievable a story, either.