By Geoff Herbach
I can think of a thousand screaming monkeys that have all been me. Let’s start with the first clear incident:
It was a big hill. I was a little man. Tiny little. I was 10.
I had a big heart. The heart of a lion. I’m still not that smart sometimes. I wasn’t very smart then.
It was a big ramp. The two-foot-wide drainage ditch in front of my house didn’t warrant a two-foot-high ramp. A few inches of lift and some reasonable speed and I would’ve cleared the ditch easy.
To ascend a ramp like that I had to have speed. This math I understood. Okay…Okay… Go too slow, that big ramp will take your momentum and you’ll plunge down into that ditch and that would not be triumphant.
I rode my bike, which I’d just converted from a banana seat bike to a jumping stunt bike by putting on dirt bike handlebars and changing the banana seat out for a regular bike seat that wasn’t shaped like a banana. I pedaled to the top of that big hill. I’ll need all of this for appropriate speed! From the top of the hill, my pal Neal Duncan, so far away, looked like a tiny little donut hole rolled up against a big ramp. All of this hill will get me up that ramp!
For a moment I paused. The duplex I shared with my mother (and the mega-hot, tube-top Niles sisters next door) stood perhaps twenty yards beyond the drainage ditch. Jump, then turn fast so as not to hit the house.
A competing voice entered the space behind my eyes. You will possibly die doing this. Maybe don’t do this. Maybe sit down and watch some TV.
Duncan, the donut hole, shouted from below, “Come on!”
Don’t do it, said the other voice. Brady Bunch.
Shut up, said the lion heart. Also, Get a lot of speed!
And so, I pedaled hard. Down that big hill I roared. The wind pummeled my face. My eyes teared. Duncan Donuts jumped up and down. Twenty, thirty, maybe forty miles per hour. My converted banana bike vibrated under me. Shut her down, said one voice behind my eyes. Bobby Brady, okay?
Fly mother boy! said the other.
Speaking of mothers. Inside the house, my mother reclined on the couch reading a book. I believe it was Jackie Collins (my mother wouldn’t admit to reading Jackie Collins, but let’s say that it was Jackie Collins). Outside, her boy sped toward her at forty miles per hour on a converted banana seat bike.
Pull up! Pull up! Lift! I hit the ramp going perhaps forty-two miles per hour. Duncan Donut, who had grown to full-sized, cried, “Yeah!” He raised both fists in the air. I did pull up on the handlebars and my banana seat-less bike followed me into the air. I am an eagle on the mountainside!
Due to my magnificent speed, it was immediately clear that the ditch would prove no obstacle at all. In fact, I left the ditch behind in a millisecond and in the next was hurtling through space towards the front of our house, which was protected by a few lonely spring tulips and a sporadic, dwarf hedge row, which was unhealthy enough to include generous gaps my bicycle might pierce.
Duncan D’s testosterone cries turned to curdled screams. My own voice ripped into the upper reaches of my prepubescent register. My bike began a swift descent not fifteen feet from the picture window, inside which, across the room, my mother read Jackie Collins on the couch. I hit earth hard, the force of which bounced my feet from the pedals. My ass and tender undercarriage crashed onto the un-banana seat. I steered hard to not hit bushes, but clipped the edge of one hedge, which sent the back end of my bike up into the air… and then the front wheel hit house.
It was a miracle of physics, I guess. The second, tentative, disregarded voice behind my eyes that told me I could die was definitely right. I really could’ve died. But I didn’t. Instead, I shot off my bike hands first and exploded through the picture window (see actual house, low picture window and scars on hand below). Glass filled the air. Shards rained down. I rolled into a ball and lodged part way under the coffee table.
I don’t remember much else, but know that my mother was frightened and that she stopped reading, because I did spend several hours having glass removed from my hands at Southwest Health Center’s emergency room, and while I don’t remember my mom being there, I’m sure she drove me, as I was in no condition to bike.
That was the first time I remember having competing monkey voices in my head. One sought glory. The other knew I’m with stupid.
Geoff Herbach is the author of Stupid Fast, Nothing Special, and I’m With Stupid (Sourcebooks Fire), among others. He hears voices still, which tell him to eat large cuts of meat and also to drive very fast.