NATURAL SELECTION BY JEFFREY JAMES KEYES 454 Fort Washington Avenue #55A New York City, NY 10033 JJKeyes@gmail.com 646-373-3864
NATURAL SELECTION BY JEFFREY JAMES KEYES The Monkey House at the Bronx Zoo. The audience is essentially the primate exhibit. MELINDA and HOWARD (mid 20’s, the fourth date) lean against a railing and watch the primates. It’s feeding time. This is Howard’s first time at the exhibit. Melinda is an old pro. He is mesmerized, she is beautiful. Melinda turns and looks at him. A gentle smile wipes across her face. She turns back out and looks at the primates. Howard has one arm around Melinda. HOWARD So this is it? MELINDA My special place. HOWARD I can see why it’s so special. MELINDA I love watching them. HOWARD I can tell. They sure have a lot of personality. Kinda like you. MELINDA I could watch them all day. Howard looks at her. HOWARD I feel like I’m meeting your family. MELINDA Basically.
HOWARD What’s the name of that scientist you were telling me about? MELINDA Dian Fossey. I used to be obsessed with her. HOWARD Really? MELINDA I did a big presentation on her in one of my science classes in high school. It’s stupidHOWARD I’m sure you got an A on it. MELINDA A plus. HOWARD Did you give a little speech about it? MELINDA Yeah, we didn’t have the whole power point presentation thing so we each gave a ten minute speech and had to create some sort pass out with visuals and pictures to show the class. I dressed up like Dian and created a photo album of pictures of myself in the woods behind my house like I was her doing fieldwork in the Virunga Mountains in Rwanda. HOWARD You did what? MELINDA My brother is sort of goofy, he likes to take pictures, I guess he’s always been sort of an amateur photographer. He came up with this wacky idea where we....we have all of these stuffed monkeys...don’t ask...he uh, he...he really liked monkeys when we were younger so he just had like ten or eleven of them, maybe twelve. I dunno. And we went out to the woods behind our childhood house and set them up so that it looked like I was in the jungle with them. “Gorillas in the Mist”.
HOWARD That’s amazing. MELINDA And a little weird. HOWARD Did you make a copy of the photo album and send it to Dian Fossey? MELINDA No this was in the 90’s. She uh- she died back in the 80’s. HOWARD Oh. MELINDA Yeah. She was killed by poachers. HOWARD Poachers? MELINDA Her skull was split by a-a- panga... (She motions with her hands) Machete. Poachers used them back then to hunt Gorillas. There was a movie about it that came out in 1988 with Sigourney Weaver. HOWARD That’s crazy. I never heard about it. MELINDA It wasn’t exactly a blockbuster, but it’s one of my favorite movies. Sigourney Weaver really goes for it. HOWARD We should watch it then. MELINDA We should. They watch the primates.
MELINDA It’s weird to think that people just came in and killed her. Split her head open. Someone like her who just studied Gorillas, lived with them, obsessed over them, hung out with a bunch of Gorillas. They killed her for it. It’s like...we’ve evolved to some extent but then when it comes down to it things like that happen and it’s just so barbaric. Some people are still impulsive, angry, easily agitated. Delicate like they’re still primates. HOWARD I know what you mean. MELINDA It’s a strange thing. He nods, then thinks for a moment, doesn’t completely understand her. HOWARD What is? MELINDA People. Animals. The world. HOWARD Dangerous. MELINDA Really dangerous. They continue watching the primates. MELINDA And you think about, there are major wars going on right now. And here we are, watching primates at the Bronx Zoo. And everywhere, in every city guys are in prison for crimes they committed decades ago. Blood is flowing in the streets of desert cities. Stupid, paranoid men and women have guns in little drawers next to their bed, beneath their alarm clocks. Nuclear weapons are being pieced together in remote places of the world and yet rich women have their assistants carry stacks of clothes through the aisles of Saks Fifth Avenue while they sip their expensive non-fat low calorie laates and complain about everything. Their high heels gliding across floorboards laid by immigrants who broke their backs just so
they could send five dollars back to their pregnant wives on the other side of the world...and the world just keeps spinning and spinning and eventually all of the coffee is going to splash up out of the broken ozone layer and they’re be a flood of coffee that carries us all out of our place in the solar system and into a different orbit, away from our lap tops and cell phones and everything else that disconnects us from breathing, standing, being who we really are. He looks at her. MELINDA It makes you wonder just how much we’ve evolved. HOWARD From apes? MELINDA Yeah. HOWARD I wish we still were apes. MELINDA Me too. They watch the primates for a moment. Slowly, he takes her hand. HOWARD What do you think about the people who think we didn’t? She just gives him a look. HOWARD I mean, people think that. Actually think that. In 2009. MELINDA I know. HOWARD They have a whole museum in Kentucky. She groans. MELINDA Who the hell would ever want to go to Kentucky?
HOWARD I dunno. MELINDA Have you been to Kentucky? HOWARD No. MELINDA There you go. HOWARD Different strokes for different folks. MELINDA People will believe whatever they want to believe. HOWARD I know. It’s like those people who killed Fossey. MELINDA What do you mean? HOWARD They believed they were doing good. She lets go of his hand. MELINDA I don’t follow. HOWARD Everyone thinks that what they’re doing is right, in some sense, don’t they? MELINDA I guess. HOWARD Religious fanatics. People who string bombs to their undergarments and fill their Jansports with explosives and go into busy markets and pull the tab feel they are doing it for the greater good. They’re justified in their own minds...soldiers who climb into tanks and drive through
unknown towns....they all think that what they’re doing is right, otherwise they wouldn’t do whatever it is they do, would they? MELINDA I’ve never really thought about that. HOWARD In their own mind, they’re justified. MELINDA So like the people who killed Dian Fossey, they probably felt that they were doing good by killing her. HOWARD Sure, hell, they probably thought they were protecting their own lineage of hunting, like it was their right to poach Gorillas and sell whatever it is they wanted to sell...here’s this woman from another country living with monkeys and studying them...it’s a threat to them. MELINDA And any threat needs to be handled with force. HOWARD Right. MELINDA Killing someone. HOWARD For some. MELINDA It’s just not acceptable. HOWARD To Gorillas or to humans? MELINDA Humans. HOWARD Well maybe it’s just as simple to say that some of us haven’t
evolved. She nods. MELINDA Look at them. HOWARD They’re beautiful. Pause. I didn’t know you have a brother. MELINDA Oh. HOWARD Can I meet him sometime? MELINDA He’s not around anymore. HOWARD I’m sorry. MELINDA Yeah. He was killed. In high school. At a party, they were really drunk and I guess some guy thought he was making a move on his girlfriend...or something. A group of guys went after him and... She looks down. HOWARD I’m sorry. MELINDA I know. It was awhile ago. She looks off in the distance, tears up. I’m sorry. I still get chocked up about it. He rubs her shoulder.
MELINDA Some date, huh. They watch the primates. The music to Adelle’s “Hometown Glory” starts up. MELINDA I kind of wish we wouldn’t have evolved. HOWARD But then we’d just all be sitting in cages. MELINDA There wouldn’t be cages if we hadn’t evolved into humans. We’d all still be in the jungle. HOWARD I suppose. MELINDA Things wouldn’t be so complicated. HOWARD Probably not. He comes close behind her, rubs her back, she leans into him. Howard kisses the side of her head, they watch the primates. Lights slowly fade.