Love in Infant Monkeys is a collection of short stories about famous people and their encounters with animals — including Madonna, experiencing remorse after she shoots a pheasant on her English estate, Noam Chomsky in a garbage dump with a gerbil cage, Sharon Stone's husband's run-in with a Komodo dragon, and Thomas Edison's reaction to a filmstrip he's made of the electrocution death of Topsy, a rogue circus elephant.
Listen to a reading of the story "Sir Henry" by John Lithgow, performed for NPR's Selected Shorts.
Sexing the Pheasant
When a bird landed on her foot the pop star was surprised. She had shot it, certainly, with her gun. Then it fell from the sky. But she had not expected the actual death thing. Its beak spurted blood. She’d never really noticed birds. Though one reviewer had compared her to a screeching harpy. That was back when she was starting. What an innocent child she was then. She’d actually gone and looked it up at the library. “One of several loathsome, voracious monsters. They have the head of a woman and the wings and claws of a bird.”
She did not appreciate the term pop star. She had told this to Larry King. She preferred performance artist. She was high art and low commodity, and ironic about how perfectly the two fit. A blind man could see her irony. She was postmodern, if you wanted to know, pastiche. She embodied.
If you had to ask, you just didn’t get it.
The bird feebly flapped and made silent beak-openings. Where the hell was Guy when she needed him? The London tabloids still called him Mr. Madonna, even though she had tried to make clear on numerous occasions that he wore the testicles in the family. She wanted to yell at them: giant testicles, OK? Testicles! Huge! (“Large bollocks.” Use frequently.) He was back there somewhere in the trees. Easy to get separated on a thousand acres. She was an English lady now; not to the manor born, but to the manor ascended. So she was the American ideal, which was the self-made person, and the English ideal too, which was snotty aristocrats. Not bad for a girl from Pontiac Michigan. These days she just said “the Midwest,” which gave it more of a cornfed feeling. Wholesome. In that Vogue thing she said Guy was “laddish” and she was “cheeky” and Midwestern. Later she learned “laddish” was pretty much an insult, actually. Well, eff ’em if they couldn’t take a joke.
She should step on its little head and crunch it. But the boots were Prada.
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