The Ape-Man

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic


A story about the power of self-image.

Submitted: May 07, 2018

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Submitted: May 07, 2018

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His name was Henry. He lived by himself in an apartment building, near the centre of a big city, where he took the bus to work every day. In his spare time, he took care of his orchids on the window sill. They decorated the dark and gloomy view through the window and made it a bit nicer. Henry didn’t have many friends, only colleagues he barely talked to. The only colleague who wanted to hang out with him was Betty.

“What’s wrong with you?” she often asked him when they had lunch together. “Why are you so sad?”

“It’s nothing,” he always tried to smile back.

Henry was just another middle-aged man with an average office job. But there was something different about him – he was half an ape. His body was covered in fur, except a small part on his face. Even his features were monkey-like. Fur was on his hands too, and he barely had a neck.

Living with a condition like that was difficult. Every day Henry woke up and saw his reflection in the bathroom mirror, it depressed him. It drained his energy. The only thing that made him happy was his beloved orchids. Staring at their beauty made him forget about staring in the mirror. They were simply perfect.

One night he had a dream in which his orchids spoke to him.

“We are leaving you, Henry,” they said. “We can’t always be the only beauty you admire. You have to find another. It’s closer than you think.”

When he woke up, he found all his orchids wilted.

“No, no!” he cried. “How did this happen? I water you regularly! Please, come back!”

There was no time for grief for he needed to hurry to work. He went to the bathroom to wash his teeth. When he saw his reflection in the mirror, he felt uglier than ever. Sad round eyes, big ears, hairy face – he couldn’t stand it and started to cry. Usually, the view of his orchids would fill him with enough happiness that he would forget his appearance and almost act happy at work. But now there was nothing to cheer him up. There was only the harsh reality of his reflection.

Gloomier than ever, he wiped his tears and left his home for work. Walking towards the bus stop, people stared at him. He bent his face and sped up. When the bus arrived, and he entered it, an old woman screamed at the sight of him.

“Pardon me,” he murmured.

“Oh, don’t apologise, dear,” she reassured him. “I’m just an old scaredy-cat. Whenever I see someone taller than me, I get anxious.”

Taller, he thought to himself grimly. Just say it. You think I’m ugly and scary.

Fifteen minutes later he entered his office and found a new pile of paperwork on his desk.

“Of course,” he sighed. “Monday. More work than usual.”

He sat down and got to work, when his boss, Mr Happee, entered.

“Mornin’ Henry!” he greeted him. “Had a nice weekend?”

“My orchids died.”

“That’s wonderful!” his boss smiled and handed him a new pile of papers. “Listen, I need this done today. Do you think you can finish it by 2 pm?”

“I think so.”

“Marvelous!”

Without another word, Mr Happee turned and left, leaving the door half open. Henry heard him on the corridor, talking to other employees.

“Mornin’ everybody! Wanna grab some lunch later?”

“Sure!” they answered just as happily.

Sure, Henry thought. They never invite me.

“What about Henry?” Betty’s voice asked.

Don’t bother Betty. They don’t want me there. Don’t make it awkward.

“Oh, I would love to invite him,” Mr Happee whispered, but Henry heard him. “I just don’t think he would want to come.”

Henry worked and typed and did what his boss ordered him. After several hours, he was finally so exhausted and hungry that he decided to grab some lunch by himself.

He took the elevator to the topmost floor where the cafeteria was. Many people were there, and it was hard to find a sit. Henry always searched for an empty table, because he didn’t want to gross people out with his appearance while eating.

He grabbed some food and took his plate to a table in the corner, where only one woman sat.

She’s going to have to deal with me, he thought grumpily. There is no other free table.

He sat down on a sit that was the furthest away from the one the woman occupied. She didn’t seem to mind or even notice his presence. She opened her yoghurt and licked the cover with pleasure.

Henry glanced at her enviously. He never dared to do that. Lick the cover of yoghurt? An ugly monkey licking its food? No way. He always scooped the cover with his spoon.

“Hey you,” someone said and placed their plate opposite him.

Henry looked up. It was Betty.

“Oh hi,” he said politely as his colleague sat down.

What he liked about Betty was that she never asked if she can join him. She simply did. That was something he would never do. Not with his confidence.

“So what’s up?” she asked casually. “Plenty of work, like usual?”

“Yeah,” he shrugged. “Even more than usual.”

“Oh, same here,” Betty rolled her eyes. “Lately I’ve even been getting homework from Happee. Can you imagine? Haven’t had any time to look at my garden. How're your orchids?”

“They died overnight.”

“Oh no,” Betty reached for her chest sadly. “What happened?”

“I don’t know,” Henry murmured.

“Is that why you’re so sad today?”

“No,” he said quickly.

“Then what is it? Something is bothering you, I can tell.”

“It’s nothing.”

“You always say that, and it’s not true. Something is bothering you. Just tell me.”

“But it’s nothing.”

“Don’t say that. Of course, there’s something. Tell me.”

“No.”

“Henry …”

“Please …”

“It will be easier for you.”

“But it’s stupid …”

“No, it’s not.”

“Betty, please …”

“Are we not friends?”

Henry’s eyes widened. Friends? Did she just call him a friend? Really? Him? He felt an unusual warmth inside his chest and smiled gratefully.

“Of course we are friends,” he nodded.

“So tell me what’s bothering you.”

“Nothing that you can help me with,” he said. “So it’s best if we just leave it alone.”

“Henry,” she touched his hairy hand. “It’s not about that. Maybe you’re right. Maybe I can’t help you. But getting it out is the best start for solving a problem. Keeping it on the inside and being sad is not healthy for you.”

Henry’s eyes dropped, and he sighed.

“I’m not happy with my appearance,” he admitted. “I feel ugly. I can’t stand to look in the mirror. I look like a monkey. Everybody avoids me. People stare at me on the street. Mr Happee never wants to invite me to have lunch with him, like he does everybody else. And it’s all because of my ugly face. I feel so lonely.”

Betty shook her head in disbelief.

“Trust me, friend,” she said. “Nobody is happy with their appearance.”

Henry lifted his eyes and jumped. Something extraordinary had just happened. It was like an out of body experience – opposite him was no longer Betty, but a big – stork? He blinked a couple of times to make sure his eyes were not lying to him. Yes. It was a stork.

Henry immediately knew what it meant – it was the way Betty saw herself.

“Do you see what I mean now, Henry?” Stork-Betty asked kindly.

“But … But …” he stuttered. “I don’t see you like that at all! You are so pretty! And everybody loves you!”

“Well, not everybody.”

“More people than me!”

“Well, that’s your own fault, Henry.”

“My fault? What about all those people who avoid me?”

“They avoid you because of your demeanour, dummy. You are always so serious and unapproachable. You need to find the beauty on the inside. And it will shine on the outside.”

The stork disappeared, and there was Betty again, more beautiful than ever.

Henry smiled. This time it was an honest smile. His hand that Betty was holding was no longer hairy. It never was. For he was not really an ape-man. It had just been in his head because of his low confidence whenever he looked in the mirror.

“Now, come on,” Betty waved at him. “Let’s make some friends.”

Not being able to stop smiling, Henry got up and hurried after her.

 

The End.


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