Archive for November, 2015

The Cruel Fate of Coco

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on November 11, 2015 by ofherbsandaltars

The Coco Pops monkey was just like any other child star – deeply and irrevocably fucked up. He’d been captured from his native jungle when he was just a baby, and at the time it had seemed like a triumph. Coco’s dad had been a forward-thinking monkey, who enjoyed swinging through the trees around the nearest village, and watching the progression of human culture. He would tell Coco tales of faraway places, of the things the humans had built and created. One day he’d brought Coco a baseball cap that he’d stolen from the humans, and Coco had worn it with pride – it seemed a weird thing, initially, the idea of wearing something on your head that served no purpose and wasn’t for eating, but his dad had taken him down to the village, and explained what clothing meant. It meant having an identity, it meant creating your own image – often the humans wore on their chest the symbols of the music and culture they loved and believed in. After that, Coco came to like his cap, because it made him different, and even the humans in the village grew quite fond of him, that little monkey in the hat.

Coco’s reputation with the villagers had grown, and it wasn’t long before the people from Kelloggs came down to meet him – they were looking for a new mascot, a new star, and Coco was dazzled by everything they told him. He was to leave his jungle home, and move to the city of London, where he would have an apartment all of his own, overlooking the bright lights of that thriving, vibrant city. His image would be on cereal boxes all over the country, and he would even be on television, like a real live star! Coco felt a pang of sadness about leaving his family, but his father urged him on, as did the rest of the monkeys – none of them would ever see anything beyond this jungle, and Coco was being offered the chance to see the world. It made Coco feel special, and after three days of talks with the people from Kelloggs, he agreed to their terms, and said a teary but hopeful goodbye to his family, and to the jungle he had always known.

That had been fifty-three years ago, and since then, a lot had changed. Coco’s image was still splattered across cereal boxes all over Europe, and to any onlooker, he was the same fun-loving, happy monkey he’d always been, but the truth had become far grimmer. Since the very first day Coco arrived in London, bright-eyed and over-excited, he’d been given ‘vitamin pills’ to ‘make him strong’. It was several decades before he realised they were hormone blockers, designed to stop him ever growing up. Forever and always, Coco would be small, endearing and childlike, but they couldn’t halt his ageing altogether. For the past fifteen years Coco had endured endless needles to the face, botox and juvederm, paralysing his muscles, plumping up his cheeks – the botox regime was so intense that Coco couldn’t show any emotions at all, his face permanently frozen in a wide, happy grin. Coco had smashed every mirror in his apartment, because he couldn’t stand it, feeling so much pain on the inside, while his frozen face grinned and grinned as though it was the happiest day of his life. Sometimes he wondered, in the depths of some bleak, drunken midnight, whether when he died and his flesh rotted away, his skull too would be fixed forever in that same imbecilic smile.

Of course it had been good to begin with – the bright lights, the big city, the adulation of those human children. Coco had loved Coco Pops when he first tried them – they were an explosion of crunchy sweetness unlike anything he’d ever tasted in the jungle. One of the stipulations of his contract was that he would be given a lifetime’s supply of Coco Pops, so he ate them and ate them for every meal, but soon he started getting fat, and that wasn’t good for the marketing. Coco tried to diet, but fruit seemed so bland now, and all his cupboards were stuffed with Coco Pops, eternally tempting him. Soon enough he’d learned how to get rid of it, to stuff himself with Coco Pops, then slip away to the bathroom, insert one long hairy finger into the back of his throat and regurgitate a torrent of chocolate milk. He lost the weight rapidly, but it left him feeling strangely vague and empty, curled up on the bathroom floor, missing his family, missing his jungle.

As Coco aged without ageing, he began to experiment with nightlife, but after he was photographed drunk with a cigarette in 1984, the Kelloggs people were furious – Coco was the mainstay of their brand, and he was a children’s character, for god’s sake, if the parents found out that he was drinking and smoking, their stocks would plummet, don’t you know what that means, Coco? Millions of pounds, millions of jobs, millions of innocent children, all relying on you! After that shameful night, Coco was more or less imprisoned in his apartment, but he got bored, so bored, and after all he was still a star, with bodyguards to do his bidding, so Coco just partied at home, privately – all alone. His bodyguard was a simple but well-meaning man with a shaven head and missing teeth, and for the next three decades he brought Coco anything he asked for – vodka, weed, cigarettes, heroin. Coco spent all day every day staring at the TV, drunk out of his mind, in a fug of cigarette smoke, surrounded by overflowing ashtrays, syringes, spilled bottles of valium. Years ago he’d turned his own TV adverts into a sort of sick, masochistic drinking game. Whenever his own beaming face appeared on the TV, he would pour out half a glass of vodka, down it with a handful of valium, and start cooking up a shot of heroin, muttering bitterly under his breath, “I’d rather have a bowl of Coco Pops…”

Coco still looked presentable enough to star in those adverts, once he’d been given a good wash and a haircut, and sometimes they would make him wear coloured contact lenses, to hide the redness of his glassy, dilated eyes. But with these preparations made, in front of the camera he returned to being that sprightly, carefree monkey, and just like always, he leapt around, grinning eternally, devouring Coco Pops, then shuffling off to the bathroom to throw them all up again. The only thing Coco couldn’t do anymore was his own voice-overs – somewhere around 1987 they’d brought in a voice actor, because Coco’s voice sounded like roadkill dragged through gravel, full of booze and cigarettes and sadness, and when he spoke his childish lines they sounded tragic, doomed, ironic, so they dubbed him over with the high-pitched enthusiasm of a perky woman in her twenties.

Then, in 2015 a famous human chef started up a ‘sugar tax’, and he pointed the finger directly at Coco. Human children were getting fatter and fatter by the year, so much so that they’d had to make up a new word for fat – ‘fat’ was just normal now; ‘obese’ was the new fat. And all of these obese children with their Type 2 diabetes and their asthma and their heart conditions, who would drop dead long before their parents did, it was all being blamed on Coco. From the rumours he’d heard, he was going to be sacked, so that he couldn’t “corrupt the minds” and health of children anymore, but then where would he go? He couldn’t bear the thought of returning to the jungle, full of shame, bereft of heroin – his mother and father were long dead anyway. The one spark of hope for Coco was that maybe now, once he was sacked, once he was free, he could finally be himself – he could tell his bitter truth after all these years, get his vengeance on the Kelloggs people, who had stolen his life and destroyed it all, kept him rotting away eternally behind the bolted doors of this gleaming apartment.

Unfortunately, Coco wasn’t much of a secret keeper. The Kelloggs people had come round to discuss his ‘contractual alterations’, and Coco had been slumped across the rug, the whole apartment foggy with cigarette smoke, a half empty vodka bottle rolling across the floor, and so many needles stabbed into the arm of the sofa it resembled a junkie hedgehog. Today, Coco had seen four of his own adverts, as Kelloggs went for a final push before the new ‘sugar tax’ legislation came into play. As a result, even by Coco’s standards, he was pretty well fucked up. And those smug, condescending Kelloggs people came round to tell him that he was being all but fired – the new ‘sugar tax’, and its ban on Coco’s advertising, only applied to the UK, so they had considered moving Coco to Berlin, where he would continue to star in European adverts, but due to his ‘current circumstances’, they had instead chosen to terminate his contract entirely. Coco stared at them with vacant eyes, his face frozen, as ever, in that eerie, empty grin, and they stared down at him with contempt – glossing over this betrayal with their fancy words, until Coco started laughing, muttering,

Terminate me? We’ll see about that… Poison. Iss all just poison. They know it’s poison, and soon enough they’ll know who the real poisoner is…” He dissolved into raspy laughter, draining the dregs of his vodka bottle, and the Kelloggs people looked at each other for a long time. Finally, they asked,

“What do you mean by that, Coco?”

Coco snorted. “Nothin’ at all. I got nothin’ to say to you anymore…but I got plenty to say to the world, soon’z you let me out of here. None of your business though, is it, now I’m terminated…”

The Kelloggs people shared another long, meaningful glance, then one reached into his pocket, and held out his hand to the drunken monkey. In his palm rested five scrunched rizlas, each forming a little white ball with a twisted tail, and Coco reached out a trembling hand and snatched them up, asking,

“Wha’d I do to deserve this?”

“Just a little goodbye present,” said the Kelloggs man, with his forced, artificial smile. “Tide you over until Tuesday. Two more days here, then they’ll come to move you out – don’t worry about the details, it’s all been arranged for you.”

Coco didn’t bother to reply, dragging himself into a sitting position and riffling through the detritus for a brown-stained spoon and a lighter. The Kelloggs people turned, and walked away, ushering Coco’s bodyguard out with them, where they delayed him in the corridor for the better part of twenty minutes, discussing the fine-print of his contractual alterations – for him, it meant early retirement, well-paid to sweeten the deal; Coco’s affairs were to remain private, so that the world would always remember him as the cheerful, smiling Coco Pops monkey, and not the disaster he had become.

When the bodyguard re-entered the apartment, Coco was sprawled out amongst the chaos, fingers splayed and rigid, eyes wide open, yet showing nothing but white, frothy vomit filling his mouth – no pulse, no heartbeat, no breathing. The Kelloggs people returned with surprising promptness, relieving the bodyguard of his duties – telling him to rest assured that their poor, fallen monkey’s affairs would be put lovingly in order, after five decades of faithful service.

The next day, the papers told of a tragic heart attack suffered by Coco the Monkey, who had been distressed beyond endurance by the foul accusations of chef Jamie Oliver. A sweet and gentle creature, he had lived solely to bring joy to children, and the accusations thrown at him – that he was poisoning, was killing the children he loved so dearly – it had all been too much for him to take. In the wake of Coco’s obituary, children and parents alike cried out at the cruelty of Jamie Oliver’s ‘sugar tax’ – generations had grown up eating their breakfast as Coco smiled down at them from the cereal box, and his untimely death was the British version of Cecil the Lion. Support for Jamie The Murderer’s sugar tax faltered, then failed, until it was thrown out altogether in the House of Lords. Finally, as before, Kelloggs could use whatever mascot they liked, but it was all too late for poor, beloved Coco.

At the funeral, there was an open casket, and in it lay the corpse of a slim and youthful monkey, lying peacefully in eternal sleep. In the depths of a Kelloggs factory, a hefty bin-bag was dragged across the floor, smelling strangely of cigarette smoke and rotting flesh, before it was hoisted into the fiery depths of the incinerator.