How did these French-African Chimps end up in Texas?
Misha, Blanford, and Cliffton, were busy getting ready for the holiday celebration. The three chimpanzee's ran back and forth through the labyrinth of tunnels barking orders to the other members of the troop.
“Lietel, go tell the chef to start the bouillabaisse, the fish are here.”'
Lietel headed for the kitchen but stopped when he ran into Somet and Pienot struggling with a large canvas bag they were dragging across the floor. “What are you two dragging in that bag?” he asked.
“The troop has been out all night finding chestnuts for the roast tonight. I think we have more this year than last,” Pienot replied.
“That's good news,” Lietel said, “Au revoir (see you later).”
“Ca sent bon, (smells good)” Lietel said upon entering the kitchen, “the fish are here.”
“Bien (good),” responded the Chef. “There's lots of cooking to finish before tonight. We can be thankful for our night fishermen.”
In the great room, the savant, Master Francois, was getting ready to tell the annual story to the troop. A story about how they happened to arrive in this labyrinth of tunnels under the city of Athens, Texas. It was important to remember this every year so the chimpanzees would not become careless and be captured by humans; a misfortune that had brought them to this very place years ago and had kept them from their homeland ever since. They had inhabited these tunnels for many years now and had not been discovered although there were rumors in the village about monkey sightings and noises.
Finally the room was ready and all were seated, several Chimps appeared, carrying cauldrons of the fragrant bouillabaisse entree followed by the Chef in a toque (tall white hat with pleats), who shouted, “bon appetit”.
The room was filled with the sound of much slurping and grunting as the slouch-backed Chimps hovered over their bowls of fish soup. The long narrow baguettes were passed around the tables and pieces were ripped off to dunk into the bouillabaisse.
When finished eating, the tables were cleared away and the bag of chestnuts was brought in front of the fireplace. The troop worked together to layer them on large trays ready to be put on the fire and roasted. There was a continuous sound of ook, ook, as the chimps darted back and forth. The children were swinging from vine to vine, chasing each other around the room. The vines had been entwined throughout the tunnel so the Chimps could exercise at will; it was their favorite method of getting around in the labyrinth.
Suddenly a deep throated, “Attention!” was heard as the dark robed figure of Master Francois, the savant appeared. The savant was oldest of the troop and the only one alive when the accident happened years ago.
Immediately the troop all sat in a circle around the wizened white haired savant. All was quiet for the time being.
“We gather here tonight, as we do each year, in celebration of the holiday season. At this time of year, we must remind ourselves how we came to be in this place. This is our story, our fait accompli:”
“Many, many, years ago, before our fathers and grandfathers were born, our troops ran wild and free in a land called Africa; they were happy. One day humans came to Africa and captured some of us, but killed many others for fun. They were taken on a ship to a country called France and lived in a zoo where they were well-fed and treated humanely for years, but they were not free. Then other humans came to France and took them across the sea to this country, America, where they were made to perform in a circus. The circus traveled from city to city by railroad and they were treated very poorly, jabbed with sticks to perform, and kept in metal cages. Our ancestors hated the humans.”
“Here in Athens, Texas, the circus train was traveling on Thunder Road over a bridge to yet another circus destination, when it derailed and tipped over. The cages were thrown all over the forest and the Chimps escaped. I was a young Chimp at the time and very frightened. Humans tried to capture us but the troop killed them and ran off and hid in the forest. During the night, we found the labyrinth below the city and have made a home here ever since. It is important that we do all of our scavenging at night for we must never be seen by humans again, they cannot be trusted. I know some of you have taken chances in your curiosity but I must caution you that you are putting us all in danger.”
“The humans believe that all of the tunnels which were at one time bomb shelters, have been sealed up, but we were lucky and found an opening that night. Humans now call the road Monkey Road and they are afraid to come into the area, cautioning their children to stay away. This is good for us! As you know, you can still see the old bridge in the forest and the monkey cages lying near it. Let that be a reminder to all of you to n'oublier jamais (never forget). Now let us be thankful for what we have. It is time to roast our chestnuts.”
That evening the Chimps, bellies full of roasted chestnuts, all crawled into their high beds and dreamed about a land they would never see called Africa.