Imagine you are a monkey.
But not a carefree monkey flitting from tree to tree in the Amazon rain forest, enjoying ripe bananas and an occasional female chimp.
No, imagine you are a monkey behind bars in a zoo.
But not a world famous zoo like the 100-acre San Diego Zoo or the 265-acre Bronx Zoo that both draw visitors from around the world.
No, imagine you are a monkey in Zoo Boise.
Now imagine while you are sitting in your cage one night, wondering how you ended up in Boise, Idaho of all places, a young man breaks into the zoo after closing time. But not just any young man. In this case it’s 22-year-old Michael Watkins, who is very drunk.
If you’re that monkey you would have to be thinking that life couldn’t get any worse for you, what with being caged up 24 hours a day in a crappy city that most people couldn’t find on a map, and now some drunk guy is yelling at you.
But you’d be wrong. It could, and it does, get much worse.
Because not only is Michael Watkins drunk. He’s also spoiling for a fight. With you.
When it’s over, you’re dead. Beaten to death with a tree branch.
It’s not much of a fair fight. You are a Patas monkey weighing in at just 27 pounds while Michael is a full-grown man.
It might not be much solace to you, but Michael is caught, goes to trial, and gets sentenced to seven years in prison and has to serve at least two years before he is eligible for parole.
Oh, and he has to pay a $1,000 fine, which must be the going rate for replacement monkeys.
At his sentencing, Michael stands up and apologizes, saying, “I know that my actions were selfish, and they impacted both Zoo Boise and the public. And, I just would like to formally apologize to all involved.”
Would have been nice if he had also apologized to the monkey.
Michael is shipped off to prison, a rather unforgiving place to be in. If you thought getting picked on in middle school because you had pimples or wore hand-me-down clothes was tough, prison takes peer pressure to a whole other level. In the prison hierarchy, bank robbers and contract killers are at the top, and child molesters are at the very bottom. I’m not really sure where monkey killers fall in that spectrum, but my guess is closer to pedophiles than to armed robbers.
When I read the news story about this incident, it made me wonder about the different conversations that it must have generated.
Like the conversation on the prison yard.
“Yo Charlie, I hear you got a new cellie.”
"What’s his name?”
“You don’t seem happy.”
“What’s he in for?”
“I’d rather not say.”
“Come on. How bad can it be?”
“He killed a monkey?”
“I said, he killed a monkey.”
“That’s kind of creepy.”
“You’re telling me.”
Or the conversation among the monkeys in the monkey cage the day after the killing.
“Hey, has anyone seen Jimmy?”
“You didn’t hear?”
“He got killed last night.”
“Some drunk dude.”
“You mean a person, like a human being.”
“That’s not right.”
“You’re telling me.”
“I thought they were just supposed to gawk at us and throw peanuts.”
“I guess the guy wasn’t in a peanut-throwing mood.”
“No shit. Man, that changes the whole dynamic.”
“I agree. Everybody’s a little nervous.”
“What do the lions have to say about it?”
“They’re hoping a drunk guy tries something with them.”
“Oh, I’d like to see that.”
“Me too, brother.”
It’s safe to say that Michael will never run for President. Voters don’t mind a little herb-smoking or free blowjobs from interns, but they aren’t going to put you into the Oval Office if you have a propensity to kill primates who are minding their own business. In fact, no matter what accomplishments Michael might achieve in the coming years, behind his back he will always be known as Michael the Monkey Killer.
Recently a Cleveland woman who was convicted of driving her car up onto a sidewalk to pass a school bus filled with children was sentenced by the judge to stand at that very intersection for two full days wearing a sign that said, “Only an idiot drives on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus.”
With that type of sentencing in mind, I think it would have been more appropriate for Boise Judge Lynn Norton to have sentenced Michael to just six months.
To be served in the monkey cage at Zoo Boise.