By: Coleman Bomar
I first met Hurricane at 3 a.m. on a Sunday. Someone knocked, cried through the door “this is Hurricane” then left. After rolling out of bed, I opened to a small shaking cage with a note that read “low on money so here’s something from the shop -Mike.” Peeking out was a white-faced monkey gripping the cage. A hairy tailed prisoner examining me wide-eyed and squeaking. I was too stumped to be mad. I thought I sold hooch to Mike the week before and told him to pay me later. Instead, it looks like I traded hooch to Mike the week before and was given… a monkey. At least, that’s how Mike viewed the exchange. He owned a shady pet shop that sold weed out the back. It was probably a rough month and I know how it is dealing substance. You never sell enough.
Next to the cage was a bag that read “primate biscuits” and another post it listing several ingredients titled “Capuchin Monkey diet.” I brought him in (it was obvious he was a him) along with the prized luggage. He hesitated from exploring when the cage was open, but when offered a biscuit he thankfully accepted, squeezing my finger like newborn babies do with new parents. We became quick friends, and in time Hurricane made my work easier.
Two weeks later, I found him passed out drunk in the still. My rig sits underneath the house so he must’ve followed me into the basement. I looked for about an hour before noticing him asleep on a shelf above the boiler. In that time, Hurricane drank three bottles of a new batch with another intentionally saved under his tail. At first, I was worried I killed him, but then I considered the batch. This hairy drunkard couldn’t weigh more than fifteen pounds and drank three full bottles of my best stuff before keeling over. Obviously, it didn’t have the kick I wanted it to. The problem is hard to measure without tainting the heart flavor, but seeing Hurricane drunk lead me to a solution. A sort of strength test. He would drink shine from each batch until passed out. 3 tablespoons to make the monkey sleep is good potency. However, Hurricane wouldn’t always drink. He had a discerning palette. First, he would sniff the spoon, and if that passed, the sliver of his tongue would dip into the liquid, considering slowly. Then, if all was correct, he’d wrench the spoon and shoot it back like a starving man gorging soup. This was the real help.
I’d only go through with batches that were Hurricane approved, leading to a drastic increase in flavor, strength and complexity. I sold more than ever before, even quitting at the post office to brew full time. People were driving all the way from Memphis just to taste my booze. Unfortunately, booming business also brought some curious assholes. Customers, especially long time, wondered what happened. Wondered what I changed. “Secret recipe,” I would always say until the inquires became more than a little innocent.
A few months after Hurricane arrived, another shiner came down from Knoxville begging to know how I was stealing customers from over 130 miles away. He didn’t buy that “secret recipe” crap and started making demands. His eyes looked to pop from his fat face in red pleading rage. God, he was angry. When it was clear he wouldn’t leave without “how”, I pulled an aluminum bat from under the kitchen sink. He stormed out the door, cussing and waving his hands around like some overweight mad prophet.
I remember going out that night. I left Hurricane with a fresh diaper and all the bananas, flies and grapefruit he could eat. I also left a shot of shine because like any alcoholic, Hurricane wasn’t pleasant during withdraw. Think about the worst drunk you know, now imagine if they threw their own feces sober. The name fit.
I wasn’t gone long, but coming back that night I was greeted by absolute destruction. All the windows were broken, the couch ripped to shreds, every non-plastic dish I owned was broken, so about two plates, but it’s the motive that counts. Descending to the basement broken flasks, bottles, and tubing was strewn across the steps. I panicked then. I had forgotten about Hurricane. On the floor between my wrecked rig and cracked glass was a note that read, “We have your monkey. Call if you want him back. 132-460-6661.”
After five minutes of fearful consideration, I called the number. A man’s voice picked up with a growl of “hello.” He told me to come around the back of Chester’s bowling alley alone and ASAP.A special gurgling emphasis on alone. I didn’t have a gun, and an aluminum bat isn’t exactly concealable. After considering other potential weapons as basically useless, there was nothing left for it than to regret the decision on the way. I hopped in the Saturn, and went to meet these urban poachers.
Time slowed on the road as I played a few situations in my head. It was obvious what they wanted, but telling them about Hurricane would mean losing a monkey worth more than this whole damned town put together. Honestly, I’m not as tough as I’d like to think. I don’t know what I’ll do besides try not to get my ass kicked Three men were in my headlights as I pulled behind the bowling alley. The shiner from Knoxville who wouldn’t take no for an answer was holding Hurricane by the throat. His pink sausage fingers closing as Hurricane gasped for breath. A pale white beer belly hung out from underneath his “Go Vols!” sweatshirt. An orange slob of double necked of gluttony.
A burley long-haired biker who I guessed was the voice on the phone motioned me out of the car to pat me down. His arms like a cow’s hindquarters seemed close to bursting out his tan frayed jacket. Behind him was a tall lean ginger man picking his teeth in the rear-view mirror of a blue Ford F-100. All part of the same posse, but they couldn’t have looked more different.
“Tell us your brew or the monkey gets it,” sneered the shiner.
“Real thugs you are,” I said.
He tightened his grip on Hurricane’s throat. I winced a bit. The poor money maker’s tail squirmed indefinitely.
“I’m serious,” he said.
“How about we make a deal?”
The biker grabs my shoulder and punches me in the stomach. I gasp for breath.
“Here’s the deal,” said the shiner. “You tell me or Mitch will hit you again. It’s that simple.”
“Um…it’s the monkey! He tastes all my stuff and I just use what he prefers in a batch.”
All three look at me like I’m the oddest guy who’s about to get his ass whooped they’ve ever seen.
“I ain’t stupid! Mess him up Mitch!
The biker swings a gloved ham fist, connecting with my jaw. I can feel a few teeth dislodge. Blood fills my mouth.
“Okay…I…sgu…wear. I s…swear. Just soak three mangos in a cedar barrel of Jack Daniels for th…three weeks and add that to the brew. That’s the truth. I…I swear.”
The shiner’s fat fingers let go of Hurricane. The monkey fell to his feet and scrambled under the wheel of my Saturn.
“Didn’t need to be so tough,” he said.
A string of substance laced spit shot from his mouth and splatted on my face. Mitch scowls as all three step into the truck. The ginger continues picking his teeth in the passenger’s seat. They pull out, wheels spinning gravel into my smirking face as Hurricane plucks pebbles from the tire treads.