Of Men, Mice and Marmosets
Published: August 1, 2008
For the ninety-ninth time, Nat kicks his football against the garden-wall.
Every Saturday morning he earned a shilling and a humbug helping Mr. Kablinski on his allotment. Any second now the old man would come by, sweep Nat up into his arms to ride tandem on the ancient, rusted bicycle.
Mysterious was Mr. Kablinski – a loner. Reputedly a writer. He didn’t much like people. Nat was different though. He didn’t trade in gossip. Children don’t do that.
Nat was OK. He could talk to Nat, confide in him. Even Marmaduke, Mr. Kablinski's ill-tempered monkey, accepted him.
“You see, he likes you, boy. Otherwise he’d bite! Selective taste has my Marmaduke.”
Nat got smart. He’d feed him titbits. A mealworm or a grasshopper – anything to entice Marmaduke to perch upon his shoulder whilst Mr. Kablinksi refreshed the cage.
This particular morning Mr. Kablinksi was late. Nat waited and waited – finally deciding to walk to his home, a disused chapel down the road and through the window saw him lying unconscious on the floor.
A mild stroke as it transpired. He would survive and Nat was grateful.
The boy visited him in hospital every afternoon after school. Weekends, he tended to Mr. Kablinski’s allotment and fed and watered Marmaduke – changing the bedding, whilst playing tag with the little rascal around the ramshackle potting shed.
A few weeks later, the old man returned and there ensued a long and close relationship. Except … nothing lasts forever. One day Nat grew up, Marmaduke grew homesick and decided to run away to the jungle and Mr. Kablinksi grew lonely and older.
Decades later, whilst browsing in a second-hand bookshop, a handsome gold-tooled, leather-bound volume caught Nathaniel’s eye. It was a signed, first edition – a novel entitled, ‘Men, Mice and Marmosets’, by one Isaac Kablinski. He caught his breath, opened it and read:-
In memory of Marmaduke
and for my friend, Nathaniel.
We talked of butterflies and bees,
of men, mice and marmosets –
and monkeys, swinging in trees.’