Close Encounters of the Monkey Kind

Friday, 19th of June 2010 was a sultry, summer’s night and I and had just witnessed a bemusing game of football between my beloved Socceroos and Ghana in a Group D World Cup clash. Australia had started well and the Gokden Boy of Australian football, Harry Kewell, was showing early that he was a class above. Initial nerves after the disaster a few days before against the Germans were subsiding.

And then just twenty four minutes in, our main man, the superstar who’s shoulders we were going to ride into the second round saw red. No, he didn’t get angry – well he did after – he was shown the red card for what was adjudged to be a deliberate handball on the line. Now speaking of his shoulders if only he had the chance to get his right one down in time all would’ve been well and this story probably wouldn’t have transpired because I would’ve stayed out and enjoyed some celebratory libations.

It was probably the right decision and to the letter of the law but it still felt excessive at the time. Even more so when the notorious Luis Suarez showed against the same opponents what a real deliberate handball on the goal line looked like. His action earnt him a red card too but it also earnt his team passage into the Semi-Finals with the Ghanaians unable to get it done from the penalty spot.

Fortunately, the Aussies did not capitulate and managed to get a draw which gave them an outside chance of progressing to the knockout stage. On the balance of play and chances we were even unlucky not to win it in the end so I had a sense of pride but also rued what might have been. Anyway the game ended and I was feeling flat and the beers weren’t helping so I decided to call it a night.

I didn’t live too far from downtown so I decided to walk the Peace Park route home. Being almost midnight, the almost empty streets would be a good chance to collect my thoughts and ponder all the possible permutations of how we could recover from the setback of the first two games and sneak into second spot.

As I crossed the bridge on the other side of the park I was completely lost in thought rather unaware of my surroundings and traveling on autopilot. At this point I felt the light contact from a small object that had come from somewhere above. It caused me no harm but snapped me out of the football induced trance I was in. Was it a rain drop? A seed from a tree? There was no other sign of an impending deluge that we often get in the summer here nor were there any trees close enough. Looking around there was no sign of life or movement, I was sure I was alone.

Unable to ascertain the object that hit me nor the origin of it I decided to continue on my way. However, just a few steps more another object hit me and this time I caught a glimpse of it. It was a small pebble that either was kicked up by a magical bus going by ala Harry Potter? Or someone was playing silly buggers?

I was now on high alert and if I found the offender I’d show him the same mercy that Roberto Rosetti showed Harry. Yet surveying the scene I couldn’t see anyone or any likely spot for a pebble sniper to carry out an attack with such accuracy.

What happened next would stay with me to this very day. Suddenly as I continued my voyage home I noticed something sliding down the drain pipe on the side of the building just ahead. It was too small to be human so I thought it had to be a cat. As it landed on the bitumen it then ran upright across the road in a way that not even the best-trained feline could.

At this point I couldn’t believe my eyes. If it wasn’t for a man on a scooter coming the other way hitting his brakes and letting out an audible “NANI KORE!?” (What the fuck is that!?) narrowly avoiding killing the stone thrower, I’d have doubted the whole event even took place.

The other witness didn’t waste time fleeing the scene so I didn’t get a chance to ask him what he thought it was. I looked towards the block of flats the mysterious creature fled towards but lighting was poor and I could see nothing.

I arrived home and immediately locked the sliding door on my balcony, paranoid that this creature may have singled me out and have tracked me home. The good news is this assault with a pebbly weapon did take my mind off the disappointment of the previous football match. Now instead of going over the red card in my head and what results we need to go our way, I was now obsessed with what it was that chose to come at me; an extremely crafty cat? A squirrel? An alien? A mutated creature of the Hiroshima night? A Miyazaki Hayao-like imp? And whatever it was why did it launch an offensive against me?

Saturday morning came around as well as my rational mind. It was then the hours and hours of the Discovery channel reminded me that territorial primates were known to throw rocks and stones at trespassers. Given the size of my assailant it was not dissimilar to a lemur or a spider monkey (I had seen spider monkeys in the pet store). The only thing that made me question it was what the hell would a lemur be doing roaming the Hiroshima streets? And the tail wasn’t long enough for a spider monkey. It must’ve been some species perhaps I was unaware of.

A few days later I confided in one of my students about the experience and asked if she had seen or heard of anything like this. After finishing laughing, she suggested a space monkey. It didn’t help me at all but for months after we would laugh about the space monkey and she’d often enquire if I had had any more encounters of the monkey kind.

Whatever it was it did at the very least give me another unique experience in Japan. And to those visiting Hiroshima in the future keep an eye out for the pebble throwing space monkey near the Peace Park, he doesn’t come in peace.


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