A CHIMPO'S TAIL
A PLAY IN ONE ACT
BY GREGORY HILDEBRAND
From darkness, stage lights on a beach, a jungle,
and an ocean, a long, long, long time ago.
A shipwrecked sailor woke, almost broken, face down in the sand after a night of fighting the ocean for his life. He slowly stood up, wiped the sleep from his eyes, and looked around in hopes of finding other survivors, but he saw no one.
The long night of combat with the ocean turned out a draw, but he still ached all over. He took a moment to survey his surroundings, and what he saw was the small piece of beach which he had washed up on, was bordered by sheer cliffs on either side, leaving him ocean, rock, beach or jungle. A jungle which was lush,
inviting and full of shade from the sun. So, he walked across the beach to the jungle’s edge, and stepped in. After walking for hours through the jungle, he was tired and thirsty, when he came upon a pond with a waterfall. The sailor swam, and drank, and even found fruit to eat.
As the sailor was relaxing at the pond, staring at the jungle, he wondered if his eyes were playing tricks on him. He saw what looked to be a small church, which time and agriculture had hidden. He walked over to take a closer look. He approached the entrance to the small church, which over decades the jungle plants had covered. It now seemed to disappear into the overgrown jungle.
The sailor went inside and stood in silent reverence for a short time, performed the sign of the Cross, and, as he did, he shivered, as he was sure that he felt a presence, but even so, he was grateful to the good Lord, for a roof over his head. The sailor lit what little remained of a sacrificial candle, opened a Bible, and knelt to pray. His eyes were closed, his hands were clasped together. He was calming himself in preparation to pray, when he heard a small voice which sounded as if it were coming from the candle. So, he leaned in closer to the candle, and was certain, as clearly heard the candle say,
“I have something I need to tell you.”
The sailor asked, “Is this God speaking through a candle?”
“No,” said the candle. “God does not speak through me, about me, to me, He does not seem to have anything to say to me, but I have something I need to tell you.” “Many years ago there were chimpos who lived in the hills near this church.”
“Chimpos?” the sailor asked.
“Chimpos. . .yes. . .and one of these chimpos was smart. So smart that none of the other chimpos liked him. But he acted like he didn’t care, because he told himself he didn’t.”
“One day the smart chimpo started wearing pants. And that was just too much for the other chimpos. It was at that moment that the other chimpos started hating him. The smartly dressed chimpo left the hills and went to the village that used to be near here. The smartly dressed chimpo studied the missionary and the villagers from the edge of the jungle for days. Then he moved into the mission, where he watched the goings-on at the mission for months.”
“The missionary was praying one day when the smartly dressed chimpo addressed him. Having studied the missionary and the villagers for so long, the chimpo had taught himself to speak, and said, “Though I have nothing to say, I need to speak.”
The missionary at first thought the talking chimpo was a trick. He quickly looked around the church, then slowly looked round the church, squinting his eyes, but still saw nothing. He looked back to the chimpo, and only then did he realize that the chimpo was wearing parts. Assuming God must be speaking through the chimpo, the missionary paused a moment to gather his thoughts. Yes, it must be, he told himself, how else could something like this happen. Chimpos don’t speak. This he knew to be a fact.
The missionary walked over to his bird cage, opened it, took out his pet parrot, and gently tossed his parrot out of the window. Then he put the chimpo into the bird’s cage.
The sailor glanced around the church. Saw the huge cage, then looked back at the candle. The missionary was panicked over how the villagers might receive of the speaking chimpo, so he kept the villagers out of the church, telling them that he was sick.
He wanted to keep the villagers from coming in contact with the smartly dressed chimpo because he thought this might shake the foundations of their faith. He could lose all he had worked so hard to build.
The chimpo solemnly gave his assurances that he had no message from God and even though the chimpo begged, promised, cursed, and even took the Lord’s name in vain, the missionary still would not listen.
Even though the chimpo could open the cage and leave any time he wanted to, he stayed, because he needed companionship. He even snuck out occasionally at night to eat, sneaking in through his roof-top entrance and locking himself in his cage before the missionary would wake in the morning.
As time passed, the missionary became increasingly despondent at his not having received a message from God. He started dipping deeply and regularly into the sacrificial wine. One night in a drunken state, he forced the chimpo to participate in a bizarre ritual which the missionary hoped might channel the voice of God. And then, on another night the ritual involved the chimpo’s belly being shaved, and the chimpo decided he had had enough.
The chimpo went back to the hills but since he had apparently found religion and had a shaved belly, the other chimpos didn’t just hate him anymore, they wanted to kill him, and he only narrowly escaped them as he was making his way back to the village, where he hid silently in the roof of the mission.
In a delirious drunken rage, fearing that the villagers would turn on him and the church, if the chimpo were to speak to them, the missionary told the villagers they must go to the hills and kill all the chimpos. The missionary told the villagers that the chimpos had made him sick, and that they would make them sick, too, if they didn’t kill the chimpos.
Early the next morning the village men were up in the hills, killing. The smartly dressed chimpo hid in the roof of the mission and watched the women of the village grind the poisonous flower that the men dipped their darts into, in case more darts would be needed tomorrow.
That evening the men returned from the hills with many dead chimpos. The missionary came out to the courtyard to see if they had silenced the smartly dressed chimpo. The chimpo watched in horror from the roof of the mission, realizing that it was “kill or be killed”, so that night, while the villagers slept, the chimpo crept into the village and shot them with their own poison darts, then the chimpo took the rest of the poison and dumped it into the mission supply of drinking water.
The next morning when the missionary found the villagers, he calmly walked back to the church, knelt and said,
“Forgive me, father.” Then got up and threw a rope over the beam of the ceiling, tied it, slipped the other end around his neck, went up onto a chair, and, just as he was about to step off the chair, he looked up to see the chimpo, who was looking down at him from the ceiling, hoping to see some forgiveness in the
The missionary died hearing the chimpo say,
“I just wanted someone to talk to, even though I didn’t have anything to say.” No forgiveness in the missionary’s eyes. The next several days the chimpo buried the dead.
“How do you know this?”, asked the sailor.
“This is my story. This is what I know.” The candle confessed. And, as its wick had nearly burned away, the candle quickly reminded the sailor, “Don’t forget about the water.” . . .then flickered out.