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Captain Macaco
by Kevan Youde



“Felicitations mes braves. Of all the Emperor's soldiers, you two are tonight the furthest into Portuguese territory. Not even the Imperial Guard can claim this accolade. This donkey-bridge over a piss-flow stream is at the forefront of French military honour. Guard it well. I shall be in the hovel, sleeping, and I do not want to be disturbed unless we are attacked. The colonel is in the village and he wants to be disturbed even less than I. If you live, live quietly. If you die, try to make a noise when you do it. Your muskets are for sounding the alarm. If you see the enemy, fire at once. Do not waste time trying to aim. And if you fire because you have pissed your pants at the sight of a shadow in the dark, I will have the skin off your back. Bonne nuit.”

“Fat pig. How is it that the army is starving but the sergeants are still fat?”

“That is how they become sergeants. They stand you on parade and the first man to produce a capon and a bottle of wine is given the job.”

“Look at him, waddling back to his pile of straw like the fattest boar on the farm. His lantern swings like a ship at sea, such is the way he has to move his legs around his great belly.”

“You are jealous because he has a bed and a roof over his head.”

“Surely. Who would not be? How shall we guard this bridge?”

“How shall we guard it? What are you – a general who must decide on the deployment of his forces? There are only two of us and but one bridge.”

“Even so, what shall we do? Shall we both stay on one side or stand one here and the other over the stream? Or shall we walk back and forth across the bridge?”

“You do what you like. I will walk as I watch. It is the only way to keep my toes flesh instead of ice.”


* * * * *


“Jacques, Jacques. Come and look at this. There is a monkey here.”

“A fine friend you are.”

“What? What are you talking about?”

“It is three hours that we are here and not a drop of brandy has passed my lips but you have drunk so much that you are seeing monkeys.”

“Brandy? I have no brandy. There is a monkey here. I did not know that there were monkeys in Portugal.”

“There are not. For monkeys you must go to Africa or The Indies. In Portugal there is only bare ground, hard men and harder women. Let me see. Where is this monkey?”

“There. Sitting on that boulder. Do you see? Now, tell me, what is that if not a monkey?”

“You are right. It is a monkey. How has it come here?”

“How should I know? Do you think that I have had time to start a conversation with it?”

“Perhaps it is from a gypsy.  Gypsies have monkeys.”

“Gypsies? Do you see any gypsies around here? We are in the mountains with nothing but sheep and soldiers for miles around. Who do you think is going to need their fortune telling out here?”

“Gypsies are everywhere. Besides, there is the monkey in front of you, how else do you think it got here?”

“Perhaps it ran away...from a ship. Ships have monkeys.”

“A ship? How much of that brandy have you drunk? Do you think that this ship ran aground two hundred miles from the sea?”

“I said that the monkey ran away. The ship could still be in harbour and the monkey here.”

“It must be a bad ship indeed for the monkey to run two hundred miles away.”

“What shall we do with the monkey? Shall we catch it?”

“Why? Do you think it is a spy?”

“No, but we could keep it on a piece of string. People like monkeys – they think they are adorable. With that monkey we could attract some of the women in the village.”

“I've seen the women in the village – I'd rather kiss the monkey.”

“Come on. Let's catch it. You distract it while I get behind it and put my hat over it.”

“Distract it? What makes you think that I know how to distract a monkey?”

“Just make some noises.”

“Hey monkey...little monkey...chuck, chuck, chuck.”

“What are you doing? It's a monkey, not a chicken.”

“I don't know what noises a monkey makes.”

“Never mind. It doesn't seem scared. It's just sitting there like it wants us to catch it. Now, come on, nice and slowly. Here monkey, how would you like a nice piece of garlic sausage, eh?”


A soft fluttering and the rapid shuffle of light steps from behind, then the feel of cold, sharp steel on two throats.

“Buo noite, meus amigos. You are wasting your time with that sausage. Captain Macaco is a vegetarian.”




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