Mr. Gorilla and Me
by Dulcinea Norton-Smith
“Make it interesting but truthful please, Jamie,” said Miss Grainger as she raised her eyebrow at him. “Ella’s report about her visit to the city farm was thrilling. A wonderful example, Ella.” Miss Grainger smiled indulgently at Ella. Ella smiled back, then gave Jamie an expectant and slightly smug smile.
Jamie smiled back pleasantly. He had been looking forward to his ‘What I Did This Summer’ presentation. This year he was going to speak quickly so Miss Grainger couldn’t interrupt him. He was used to his teachers interrupting him part way through a story. Usually to tell him to use his imagination less and his memory more.
Jamie took a deep breath and filled his lungs with at least two minutes of air. He would quickly grab a breath in the middle of the tale when Miss Grainger wasn’t expecting it.
“This summer I went on a lovely day out with my dad,” he began. Miss Grainger looked surprised, then smiled and nodded. Jamie went on with his report.
“We went to the seaside for a picnic and had ham sandwiches and apple juice. I went for a swim and played board games with an octopus. He won, but dad says he probably cheated.” Jamie could see that Miss Grainger was about to interrupt him. She didn’t look happy. He carried on, talking a little faster so she didn’t get chance to stop him.
“Me and dad built a castle out of chocolate cake. We used cream to stick the chunks together and peanut brittle for the roof tiles. The gorilla next door complained. He was allergic to peanuts. He was called Mr. Gorilla, and once we had apologized for the roof tiles, he decided to come out for the rest of the day with us. He had nice red shoes because elves lived in his house. Elves that made shoes. They made me some out of marshmallows, but the shoes made my toes sticky.”
Jamie took a quick glance at Ella. She was rolling her eyes at their classmates. Miss Grainger was starting to go a strange shade of angry pink.
“My dad took me to the zoo, but the animals had all gone on their holidays.”
Jamie took a massive breath very quickly so that Miss Grainger couldn’t interrupt. He allowed himself a quick smile. She hadn’t seemed to notice his pause. He might actually make it all the way through this time.
“Instead of animals, we looked at humans in the cages,” he carried on. “There were bank managers in the monkey house and window cleaners in the penguin pool. They didn’t have their buckets with them though. We ate cotton candy but my dad didn’t have any money with him to pay for it because the octopus had stolen his wallet, so the zookeeper made him stay in the elephant enclosure for the day. He was a big hit with the visitors. They threw him peanuts. Mr. Gorilla didn’t like that very much, so he went to see the dentists that had been put in the lion cage.”
Miss Grainger had flopped into her chair and started to rub the sides of her head with the tips of her fingers. She seemed to have given up trying to find a point to interrupt. Jamie was home free! He kept talking.
“When dad was let out and had finished eating his peanuts, we went to the park. The trees had learned how to walk, so it was a bit confusing. Every time we thought we were near the swings they disappeared, and we found ourselves in a forest. The squirrels threw nuts at our heads. They were hazelnuts, so Mr. Gorilla didn’t mind. The king of the fairies saw how frustrated we were getting and saved us. He had a friend with a donkey head, but he was a bit useless. He just said ‘eeeyoooore’ at us and that was about it. The Fairy King sprinkled us with fairy dust, and we flew to the ocean. The octopus was there, but he was busy cooking lasagna for a dolphin, so we fought with pirates instead of stopping to chat. I thought pirates were brave, but they all seemed very scared of crocodiles. They didn’t dare get too close to the sides of their ship. Dad got hit by a cannonball, but it was made out of cheese so it just bounced off him. My pet mouse, Roland, ate it on the way home.”
Jamie heard a moan behind him. He turned around and saw Miss Grainger had her head on her desk. He took the opportunity to take a breath and finish his story.
“When we got home mum had made spaghetti and meatballs for supper. She had used special new herbs that made us grow to twice our size. It only lasted an hour though. That was good, because I didn’t fit into my bed very well when I was so tall.
Mum had been at home all day with my baby sister, Flo, who had spent the afternoon inventing a time machine. She had a pet dinosaur that she had picked up when she tested the machine. Mum told her it had to sleep in the garden. I wanted to sleep in my new cake house, but the birds had eaten it. Mr. Gorilla was very sad not to live next door to me anymore.”
Miss Grainger started to whimper. It took her a few seconds to realize that Jamie had finished talking. When she lifted her head up, a paper clip was stuck to her cheek and her hair had frizzed out around her face.
“Have you finished?” she asked.
Jamie nodded and smiled.
“Oh,” said Miss Grainger, sounding surprised but relieved. “Well, thank you, Jamie. You can go back to your seat. Try to remember, though, that this was meant to be a non-fiction essay. That means a true one, Jamie, not made up. Perhaps next time you could use a bit less imagination and a bit more memory.”
Jamie sighed and sat back down.
After school, he went to the parking lot to look for his dad’s car. It wasn’t there, but a familiar little red car was. “Jamie, I said I would give you a ride home tonight,” he heard the driver call out of the window.
Jamie climbed into the car and heaved another big sigh. “I got all the way through my presentation today, but I still got the usual comment about my imagination.” Jamie turned to Mr. Gorilla. “I guess I exaggerated at one part though,” he admitted.
“What did you say?” asked Mr. Gorilla, finishing the banana he had been eating and scratching his gorilla nose with his large gorilla finger.
“I said your shoes were red,” Jamie said.
Mr. Gorilla looked down his large, hairy legs to his shoes. “Yes, I suppose saying they were brown would have made the story a bit boring,” he said as he started the car. “Oh well, better luck next year.”
2. Why did teachers usually interrupt Jamie during his reports?
3. What did Jamie say was different about the trees at the park?
4. Who was waiting to pick Jamie up at the end of school?