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by Phil Temples

“It was a dark and stormy night.”

The words on the typewritten page stared back at Jenna. Well, at least it was a start. As for countless writers and would-be writers over the years, the words would not flow for Jenna right now. And the comments the attendant had made this morning still stung. She was furious!

A budding teenager with an active imagination, Jenna had been given an old Smith-Corona typewriter only yesterday by the kind psychologist on the staff, Cindy Johnson. Doctor Cindy had taken an early liking to Jenna. She sensed a hidden intellect in Jenna that the other staff had failed to detect.

And she nurtured Jenna. Cindy brought Jenna interesting puzzles. She even smuggled in desserts for Jenna after hours. But more importantly, Cindy gave Jenna the gift of communication by teaching Jenna sign language.

Over the weeks and months, Jenna had become quite proficient with American Sign Language. Having no usable voice or verbal speech seemed less troubling to Jenna now. Her world no longer consisted solely of the sights and sounds of the institution in which she lived, the people who worked there, and television. Jenna loved to sign for hours on end with Doctor Cindy and the other work-study students.

How she wished for this story to work! She knew it would please Cindy. Cindy would praise her; she would take great delight in reading the story out loud, perhaps even share it with others on the staff. Jenna would stay up all night, if necessary, to complete this labor of love.

Jenna took a deep breath and tried to clear her thoughts. Soon, she was rewarded; her narrative began to take form in her mind, flowing effortlessly onto the typewritten page in front of her.

The story took place in an African setting, combining intrigue, adventure, and romance. She was writing about lush rain forests, wide rivers, and mountains that reached to the very heavens.

...for a thousand years ...

That’s what he had said to Bill. Jenna would show him! She knew in her heart she was capable of producing a wonderful, entertaining work of fiction that would move people. Screw him!

She continued her story. It involved a community forced to travel in hardship. It included sacrifice. It featured a hero and a heroine. After another hour, Jenna hit a wall; she was blocked. Hoping it was only temporary, she went to her desk and pulled out a rubber ball and began to squeeze it. She hoped to release the tension, to relax, to focus on something else. But Ernie’s voice kept ringing in her ears.


Jenna certainly didn’t consider herself in the same league with the revered William Shakespeare. She had heard much about the great playwright from television. She knew that Shakespeare’s works had thrilled and inspired countless people over the centuries. It made her all the angrier that Ernie had dared her to produce a Shakespearean work!

Jenna was more fatigued than she realized. She decided to lie down for a few minutes to rest. But the minutes turned into hours. The eastern sky outside Jenna’s window turned a band of light pink, and then it transitioned into a pale blue. A new day had dawned.

Bill, the janitor, began his morning rounds, pushing his cart and emptying the trash. When he arrived at Jenna’s door, he noticed it was ajar. He walked in and spied the half-completed manuscript on the table. Jenna was fast asleep on the couch.

What a joker! Nice try, Ernie.

Bill managed to stifle a chuckle. Quietly, so as to not disturb Jenna, he removed the half-typed page in the typewriter, along with the completed pages, and chucked them all in the recycling bin on his cart. As he left the room, Bill shook his head and smiled.

Meanwhile, Jenna was dreaming of yesterday’s disturbing conversation between Bill the janitor and Ernie the caretaker. In her sleep, she shook with rage while reliving the scene:

“If you put a thousand monkeys in front of a thousand typewriters for a thousand years,” said Ernie, “you might get Shakespeare.”

Jenna, a small, two-year old female chimpanzee, serial number ME-1533, awoke with a start. It was already morning! She quickly rose from the couch to complete her novella. But a moment later, she realized that her prized manuscript had been stolen.

Jenna let out a bloodcurdling scream. Then, quite deliberately, she smeared the empty typewriter with her feces.

Copyright © 2014 by Phil Temples

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