sidesideside
5. How did you come up with something so funny like the monkey in the closet?

         I knew of a real situation where the stepmother of an acquaintance of mine bought a monkey to keep at home as a pet.  Ironically, she, like Loretta, was a hard woman to get along with, didn't have much use for her stepson or other people. (This was not my stepmother, by the way.)  It always seemed to me, from what I heard (I never witnessed this situation firsthand), that she was using the monkey as a substitute for a real person.  That struck me as exactly like something Loretta would do.  She needed a "companion."  Why?  Queen Victoria, Loretta's model/hero, after the death of her beloved Prince Albert, eventually found herself a companion, a Scotsman named John Brown.  Loretta would certainly have known about this, and with some help from Celeste (Chapter 10), finds a suitable companion, "Baby John," the monkey.  What would you suppose the monkey's full name would be?

         Okay, I now have a companion/monkey in the story.  Monkeys are unpredictable and highly mobile, perfect for trouble.  How can I put the monkey to work in a comedic way?  In slapstick comedy, one possible scenario might go like this:  the "monster" is near.  The hapless "victims," who are seeking refuge from the monster, hide in the very room where the monster is (a) waiting, or (b) about to wake up, or (c) about to come in.  Keep your eye on the door.  Soon the would-be victims come busting out of the door (or through it), with the monster in close pursuit.  The comedians Abbott and Costello (popular during the 1940s and 50s) have several different variations on this theme with such monsters as Dracula, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein, the Mummy, and Wolf-Man.

         My version of this was to let the approach of the monster, a.k.a. Loretta, send the three of them into a closet, then let the monkey do what monkeys do.  Ronnie did his part and Trussell did his part.  All three contributed to the comedic fuel that propelled them out of the closet, almost into the arms of the monster.

         The problem in Paisley Roof, however, was that the reader had to be prepared for all of this.  After all, this book was not intended to be slapstick comedy. So, this scene with the monkey was a lot of trouble to set up.