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Niche Kong

by Thomas Lee Joseph Smith

I’m Frank Denham and I knew about the map. My brother Carl showed me the map. I knew all about Skull Island and Anne Darrow too. But I had my own plans.

When my brother’s ship left that evening, we followed. He never suspected our ship was right behind theirs. It wasn’t hard keeping just the right distance, because we were more agile and better equipped. When we saw how rough it was actually landing on Skull Island we put our alternate plan into action. We left Carl and crew to their adventures and went off to have our own.

I’ve always been fascinated by science and economics. That’s how I expected to make money. I kept two books nearby wherever I went. One was a book called Niche Marketing, by John Newmark and the other was that book by Darwin, The Origin of Species. Only a few people understand Darwin... and even fewer people like John Newmark.

What I was looking for was a small island near Skull Island. What I was hoping for was a tiny, isolated strain torn away from the huge dangerous mayhem. If there had once been a small land mass adjacent to Skull Island, and if it had drifted due to plate tectonics, and if it had done so gradually over millions and millions of years, then I would find what I was looking for. And according to John’s book we were going to make a good financial return that was balanced according to our initial investment.

Eight hundred miles away I found what I was looking for.

We lowered a boat over the side.

On the way to the island I untied Mrs.Whithaven. “Scream.” I told her. “Scream like you’ve been kept captive in the hold of a ship and you’re now being taken to an island by a bunch of men you don’t even know.” She did a fine job.

Jenkins, my camera-man, took a picture. We didn’t have fancy camera equipment like Denham; that way we had a much smaller initial investment. We could only take still pictures. I was hoping it would be enough. If we took enough still pictures we could use them to make a flip-book.

I knew we were on the right track when I saw the fence. Some of the men had stepped over it without even noticing. I called them back. I pointed down. “Once we’ve passed this line, we’ll be in his territory.” I said. “We have to be careful, from here on.” I pointed out the dozen Barbie dolls, some with their little heads ripped off. I pointed out the offering station and the tiny torches and the tiny drums. “And where are the men who used to pound those drums?” I asked. I thought I was being mysterious. I thought I was asking a rhetorical question.

Someone checked the bottom of his shoes. “Here’s some of them.” he said.

The island was very small. Not very big atoll. Standing on tiptoe I could see the far edge. The snowcapped mountain at the center of the island looked to be about four feet tall. It was shaped like a pelvis.

“We didn’t bring any ropes. Will we have to scale that?” one of the men asked.

“I don’t think so.” I said. Suddenly in the thinnest part of a thicket, a tree the size of a broccoli stalk crashed down. Luckily we were able to jump out of the way. There he was. Either the world’s hairiest Cabbage Patch doll or the world’s smallest great ape. I knew right away it was Niche Kong.

We threw the net. He dragged us for a short distance but then he tired. We dropped him into the pillowcase.

The trip back to New York was almost uneventful. On the return voyage we left Mrs. Whithaven in charge of the beast. This may have been a mistake. She made him tiny clothes. A little ball cap and jeans and a T-shirt. She made him a bathrobe and swimming trunks and a red Nehru jacket like the one Johnny Carson wore to the Academy Awards long, long ago. She also made the monster a lime-green leisure suit and one of those outfits Catholic school boys wear when they’re helping the priest say mass.

One evening, to show off how well she was educating the little beast, she brought him to dinner. All the officers and some of the crew were having dinner together. She placed the creature in the center of the table. He had a can of tuna for his seat and a big can of spaghetti sauce for his table.

Mrs. Whithaven took the cap off a bottle and turned it over so it could become a bowl for his soup. A little bowl of gazpacho for his first course. And he did look like part of the crew, wearing his white T-shirt and khaki shorts and New York Dodgers baseball cap.

But then something happened. He tasted the soup and made a face. I guess he didn’t know the soup was supposed to be served cold, because he pushed the bowl over, throwing a big red spot onto the tablecloth. He jump down off his can and put his hands on his hips and scowled at the cook.

The cook got upset too, calling the creature “swinish,” which was wrong, and “a Barbary Ape,” which was close.

The guest of honor took his baseball cap and spun it and placed it so the bill faced backwards. In mounting anger he tore his little white T-shirt so it looked like he was Stanley Kowalski standing there, waiting impatiently for a passing streetcar. He pushed his pants way down till half his underwear was exposed all the way around, and then he grabbed up a sharp knife and advanced.

Mack from the engine room had just finished tossing off a big mug of ale and was setting his cup down, and seeing as how he was blind drunk most of the time anyway, he knocked the bottom of his mug right on the top of the angry monkey’s angry mug. The tiny gorilla waved around like a tree trying to fall in the best direction and then dropped between the salt and pepper.

“You killed him!” Mrs. Whithaven screamed.

“Who?” said Mack.

Sprawled flat on his back with his eyes reeling, the tiny gorilla raised his hand indicating he was the suspected corpse.

* * *

Back in their cabin Mrs. Whithaven applied a tiny bandage to Niche Kong’s head. Even though it was one of those small bandages they throw in the bandage box for no good reason because it fits almost nothing, it fit the situation, as it covered almost all of Kong’s head. Then she helped Kong change into his pajamas. She carried him to bed and slept with her arm over him like he was a toy poodle. She was humming a little tune and soon they both fell asleep.

In the middle of the night she woke to find the hairy beast wandering inside her nightgown. He was making his way to places she didn’t want to share. Standing and shaking herself she kicked her right leg until he fell out onto the floor.

“You guys are all the same.” she said.

* * *

A couple days later we were entering the harbor. It was wonderful to see the skyline of New York lit up like Christmas. We passed Lady Liberty and berthed at the south quay. We were all surprised to see Mr. Denham’s ship. He’d made it back to port before us.

As we drove up Broadway we couldn’t help but see all the posters and billboards advertising their gorilla; advertising Kong. Advertising their find as the, ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’.

On Broadway we ran into Mr. Whithaven. He strode up to our group. “Where’ve you been?” (He was talking to his wife.)

“The South Seas. I was working.” she said.

“You could have called. How was it?”

“It’s been beastly, but not too bad.” she said.

* * *

Unlike my brother who rented the biggest theatre he could find, I rented a little theater off Seventeenth Street. There were only 24 seats but there was room for a few folding chairs near the corners.

Newmark’s book said it made sense to try and ride your rival’s advertising; that way you won’t have to spend a lot. After reading that chapter carefully I came up with our main slogans. Our first was: Niche Kong — The 1/8 Wonder of the World. And our other slogan was: You won’t melt in HIS mouth... if he fits in YOUR hand. That last slogan was trying to emphasize safety.

We never got the same kind of publicity that the other Kong got. The one reporter who came by needed me to explain the small size of our creature.

I tried to explain. “An elephant is big because it roams far to gather food, and it roams far to gather food because it is big.” I said. “If you artificially hindered its movements; it would become a smaller animal. The giant gorillas of Skull Mountain couldn’t maintain their size. The ones trapped on the small part of their split habitat... that habitat that wandered away from the larger land mass.” I could see his eyes glazing over with boredom. I gave his some free passes if he wrote about the show.

In the show, we had little Kong dressed as a fireman and he’d drive a little fire truck up to a doll house and he’d use a hose and put out the fire. We used to include him rescuing a doll... but most of the time he’d bite the dolls head off or toss the doll back in the flames and then do some back flips to celebrate the extra flames.

Meanwhile my brother wasn’t doing so well. His monster broke loose and destroyed half the city. Then it fell off a big building. My brother was faced with seventy-one lawsuits and all kinds of debt from his travels. I gave him help sometimes because he was my brother. I let him sweep up and change light bulbs and things like that. Mom would have wanted that.

Our little Kong played three years. Mrs. Whithaven made him some Shakespearean outfits and he did a marvelous stint as Othello. We had to buy a new Desdemona each night, because we were using a Malibu Stacy as Desdemona, and Kong didn’t just strangle his faithless wife at the end of the play, he tore off her plastic legs and beat her about the head with them.

It was really a good season for me and for the crew. We made a good amount of money even though it was the middle of the depression.

One night I looked in on Kong and he didn’t look well. I took him to the vet. A long drive it was with Kong lying on a hand towel. I had him up in the dashboard... up in the front window of the car. We passed by many billboards... many lights advertising other entertainment.

At the vet’s I got a surprise. Oh, he was dying. That much I knew instinctively. But it turns out he was just a hamster. I said, “Are you sure?”

The vet said, “I’ve been a vet for twenty-seven years. And that’s a hamster.” He said, pointing to the little lifeless beast.

“Do you know where I can obtain another?”

“We sell them here.” he said.

I held out the little tin armor we’d made for our segment on Henry V. “Do you have one who can fit into this?” I asked.

Copyright © 2006 by Thomas Lee Joseph Smith

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