EXCERPT: Mofongo Knows by Grady Hendrix

CATEGORY: Vectors and Properties in Nemeses Relationships

RULE 401.k: Pick A Good Partner and An Even Better Nemesis

SOURCE: Mofongo, Gorilla of the Mind

VIA: Grady Hendrix

Human beings and gorillas share about 98% of the same genetic material. They are remarkably similar in biological terms: humans and gorillas are both mammals with close kin structures organizing their social groups; both species pass along learned experiences to their children; even their bodies are constructed in a fairly close fashion.

But can a gorilla be a mad scientist? Our next story gives us one.

Mofongo was once one of the great mad scientists. Not only was he a gifted inventor with a thirst for world conquest, he was also the proud possessor of a remarkable brain that could once give off rays of lethal energy. Once. Now Mofongo lives in a cage in a freak show, the prisoner of his nemesis. But as the sideshow fades in popularity, change, like the delicious smell of cotton candy, is in the air.

Here is the tale of a primate who could easily take on King Kong, with energy left to trounce Mojo Jojo in a contest of brain size. After wiping out those super-apes, what kind of challenge is humanity?

 

Mofongo Knows
by Grady Hendrix

Off the muddy tracks between the House of Shadows, the Freak Out, and the Gravitron, where passengers are pummeled with physics until they puke, behind the generators that push power to the Top Spin, the Zipper, and the Rainbow, back where the night air is so thick you can chew it—stale cotton candy, old dough fried in rancid oil, the ripe aroma of the IQ Zoo with its pathetic poultry who plink pianos with their beaks—here in the jumble of shooting galleries and hoopla trailers, next to skeet ball concessions leaning against Crystal Lil’s Refreshment Emporium lies the secret heart of the fair: MOFONGO: GORILLA OF THE MIND.

The pulsating brain of the mighty ape is no longer as powerful as it once was, but even its passive presence subtly alters atoms. Read the subconscious signs. Hear the tiny fanfare. For all roads lead to Mofongo. Drop a slice of pizza, and it lands pointing towards his cage. The Wheel of Luck favors its Mofongo side. Lost children are always found in the litter-choked muck outside his tent.

On one side: the Ten-in-One. On the other: Saddam’s Spider Hole featuring “The Marine who took DOWN the BUTCHER OF BAGHDAD!” In between: Mofongo. Buy a ticket. Part the canvas. Turn the corner. See his cage. This is where they come —the Scatch n’Win junkies, the astrology freaks, the overcompensating rednecks and their greasy haired dates, the sullen and drunken, the viciously hip, the middle-aged losers with no more illusions, the unwed mothers broken by debt, the credit card crucified, the ghetto schemers, twelve-year-old thug life dreamers, public housing divas, squad car preachers, barroom philosophers, professional television watchers, expert beer can emptiers, bastard babymakers who don’t return calls, bail bond skippers, dream destroyers, home wreckers, art school zeroes, the angry, the humiliated, the tired, the downtrodden, the hate crazed and all the unappreciated secret geniuses who will die still waiting for their big break — they all come here for his wisdom—for he is Mofongo, Gorilla of the Mind.

And Mofongo knows.

***

 “Mommy, the monkey is stinky.”

Mofongo bows his mighty head. Yes, he knows that his jungle musk is too heady for humans.

“Mommy, the monkey smells like poop.”

Mofongo’s head droops lower. A soul-rattling sigh leaves his massive chest.

“Ew, Mommy, his breath smells like dog doo. He’s wearing a hat.”

Yes, this is his Power Turban, possessing the ability to part the veils of time and peer into the future. A spangled head wrap with an enormous jewel pinning a peacock feather to its center.

“He looks dumb and dirty like Mee Maw.”

Tokens rattle. Mofongo sighs and picks up one of the “Mofongo Knows” cards from the table and writes on it with a pen. Then he pushes the card through the slot and into the hand of the adult female, standing with its mate and spawn. The card reads: “Mofongo Knows . . . that you will overcome all obstacles. This is a bad month for financial decisions.”

The humans snort in derision: for this they paid five tokens? For this sad ape with his heavy brow and his matted fur they used tokens which could have been employed in the pursuit of gravity-defying thrills over at the Hi-Flyin’ Swings? This monkey would not get their gratitude, this monkey would get their backs as they walk out the door, mocking him in their high, reedy voices. The young, golden-haired child hangs back from its parents to hurl a final insult at Mofongo, hawking a loogie into its soft throat, expecting to expectorate on the great ape.

But Mofongo knows his reach, and with one leathery hand he seizes the tiny child and lifts it from the floor, pinching off its cry, pulling its red, bulging face close to the bars.

“Human,” Mofongo growls, “your days are numbered. I remember your scent. I will come to your home as you sleep and break your bones and drink your blood. I will crush your kidneys. I will split you in half, human, and you will die of pain. Go, and tell your friends: Mofongo is coming.”

He turns his back on the bars. The human child flees. The room is empty. Mofongo adjusts his Power Turban to better conceal his giant, pulsating brain, the enormous thinking engine that has deformed his skull, this overgrown tumorous organ swollen to the size of a beach ball.

***

A beer bottle shatters against the bars of Mofongo’s cage, misting his back with glass and beer.

“You fucking touch a customer?” an angry voice slurs. “You fucking touch a customer, you jungle fuck?”

Mofongo tries to use his mind rays to kill Steve Savage, Hero of the Jungle, but these days his mind rays are weak. (Steve Savage is also weak, but Mofongo’s mind rays are weaker still.) Mofongo tries to kill his old nemesis with contempt instead.

“Drunk again,” he says. “How original.”

“Oh, fuck you. Fuck you right between your beady eyes, you fucking hairy fuck,” Steve Savage says. “What do I tell you? Don’t touch the customers. Don’t speak to the customers. Don’t take your turban off in front of the customers. You know what would happen if I called the Feds? One phone call and they’d fucking incinerate you. They’d fucking cut out your giant fucking brain and put it in a jar and they’d stuff you in a trash incinerator and turn it up to eleven and turn you into seven hundred pounds of ape-flavored ash.”

Steve Savage is a Man of Adventure, and Men of Adventure age slowly, their lives dragging on long after the actual adventures are over. Together, Mofongo and his ancient enemy are almost two hundred years old but neither of them looks a day over eighty.

Steve sways, filling himself up with Budweiser and rage. This is their fight, one that they used to perform with wondrous weapons that pushed the boundaries of science so far that they shattered. These days they have nothing left to fight with but paltry profanity. But it is a fight that never ends.

“Steve Savage,” Mofongo says. “One day I will get out of this cage and on that day I will rip your head from your puny human body and wash my face in your blood.”

“If you could do that, you would’ve by now,” Steve says. “I beat your Science Army, I blew up your Danger Trees, I fucked up your Femme-Apes and Gibbon Guerillas, and I tore off Comrade Carnage’s Anti-Gravity boots and beat the shit out of his Commie ass with them. So keep on threatening me, monkey!”

“You didn’t defeat the Femme-Apes!” Mofongo yells, jumping up and down and shaking the bars. “You didn’t defeat them! I saw photographs! You had sex with them!”

“They were shaved! I had a concussion!” Steve Savage screams. “You can’t prove anything!”

“I can still smell their love musk on you,” Mofongo cackles. “All these years later and you still stink of ape sex!”

Steve Savage climbs onstage and starts kicking the bars of the cage and Mofongo reaches out and tries to grab his legs. They slap at each other, locked in puny combat, man and gorilla, each with death in his eyes.

Then they fall back, panting, gasping, hearts pounding, on the verge of stroke. Steve throws a plastic shopping bag down, just outside the bars.

“There’s your newspaper and your Dutch Masters,” he says. “But no more books until you stop touching the customers.”

Mofongo’s muscles ache so badly that he can barely raise his arms, but with a heroic effort he manages to get them up and he shoots Steve the bird with both hands.

“That your IQ or your sperm count, cancer brain?” Steve shouts over his shoulder as he leaves the tent.

Mofongo opens the plastic bag and his enormous brain twitches painfully with humiliation. Anger, rage, hate, death. Steve knows he reads the Wall Street Journal, but inside the bag, beside his pack of natural wrapped cigarillos, is a copy of USA Today.

[End Excerpt]