Ralph was a $12 an hour zookeeper who hated his job. In the beginning, he used to love it, but then reality set in. After eight years of bathing, feeding and caring for the captive creatures at the Garden City Zoo on Long Island he was fed up. Ralph saw his career choice as a dead end.
At 32 years of age, the bachelor was discontent. He saw his occupation as a thankless dirty job which required that you work weekends, and holidays, even Christmas. The worst part was that the thought and smell of animal manure stayed with you at all times.
Garden City Zoo is a relatively small zoo. As such, they can’t afford to hire many zookeepers and subsequently Ralph, and his colleagues are continually being asked to work overtime. The schedule became soul-crushing, and his boss was entirely unsympathetic. “If you can’t work the extra you should quit,” is what he told the staff.
The worst part was that Ralph began taking his frustrations out on the animals in his care, especially the naughty monkeys in the primate house. He had become brutal towards them. Ralph would beat them with a yellow Wiffle Ball Bat which he stored in a closet.
Although there was a 400-pound Gorilla named Jambo whom Ralph despised, the monkeys got it the worst. Ralph was afraid of Jambo. He even had nightmares about the young silverback. The disenchanted animal keeper's favorite target was the zoo’s 22-year-old langur monkey, Otta. Most langurs in captivity don’t live more than 25 years, so Otta was nearing the end of his life.
Ralph hated the inmates of the primate house, and the feeling was mutual. Once Ralph had beaten Otta so severely with the plastic bat that he cried for a week whenever Ralph was near him. The apes and monkeys, unlike the birds and reptiles, are cunning and very intelligent. Ralph realized that about them, which made him despise them even more. He correctly discerned that the animals had grown to hate him with a passion.
Realizing that this was potentially a dangerous situation, Ralph decided that it was time to turn the page in his relationship with the simians. From now on he would be kind. The yellow plastic bat would no longer be used to threaten them. Now he wanted to be their friend after four good years of physically abusing them.
The inmates of the “monkey house” didn’t know what to think of the new Ralph. The only one who warmed up to him and seemed to welcome the change was Otta.
One night while Ralph was feeding the sensitive, intelligent captives a snack of sliced apples he noticed Mr. Otta. The old monkey stuck both of his little hairy arms through the bars to embrace Ralph. Ralph thought to himself “Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.” Ralph knew that if Otta could forgive him, he would have nothing to fear from the others.
“Otta, how are ya do ‘in old boy?” Ralph asked.
Otta became excited as Ralph approached his cage. Placing the yellow bucket of sliced apples on the floor, Ralph stuck his arms through the bars and gave Otta a warm embrace.
“Do you like that Otta?” Ralph asked in a disingenuous tone which Otta detected, yet he nodded his head “Yes.” He then grabbed the shiny silver pen from the breast pocket of Ralph’s blue coveralls and jammed it into the cruel zookeeper’s left eyeball.
Hi, I'm Lester Patterson,