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Story by Ben Loory September 30, 2010

art by Justin Chen

I have a friend who paints pictures of gorillas. Gorillas on bikes, chairs, horses, planes, kites.

Why are the gorillas always on something? I say.

He never answers, just looks away.

One day I was standing in his studio. He wasnt there; I dont know where he was. I was staring very closely at one of the paintings, when I suddenly saw who the gorilla was.

Did you know he only painted one gorilla? I asked my wife when I got home that night.

Who? she said. Oh, yes, of course. Why, did you think there were different ones?

Id never really thought about it before. I’d always just thought they were gorillas. But now I couldnt stop picturing them all hanging there. So many strange pictures of my painter friend.

Finally I decided to talk to him about it.

Those gorillas kind of look like you, I said.

Like me? he said.

He turned and looked them over.

Hmm, he said. I guess they do.

A few days later when I went down to see him, my friend wasnt anywhere around. I searched his whole studio, called out his name. I went out back and looked all around.

Finally I asked the neighbors if any of them had seen him, and they said not for some days.

Last time I saw him, one of them said, he was right there, climbing up that tree.

I stood in the yard and looked at the tree for a while. It was a tall tree, but not that tall. I would’ve been able to see him if he was up there, but there was nothing.

All there was, was a passing cloud.

A few months later, they held an auction.

He owes a lot of back rent, his landlord said.

People took chairs and lamps and mugs and tables.

I bought all of his paintings.

They’re on my wall now, hanging side by side. I’m standing here, looking at them now. It’s strange, but they’re different than they always were before.

Didn’t they used to be gorillas? I ask my wife.

She looks at me strangely and ambles down the hall. Her knuckles gently brush against the rug.

Honey? I say.

But by then she’s gone.

That night, I lie alone in bed.

About the Author

Ben Loory lives in Los Angeles, in a house on top of a hill. His book Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day is coming in 2011 from Penguin Books.

About the Artist

Justin Chen started drawing when he was a little boy. His first piece of work was a red car in crayon, now he draws much more than that. After completed a degree in architecture, he is rediscovering his passion for illustration and graphic design. You can view his works at flickr.com/photos/jkhc.

This story appeared in Issue Twenty-Nine of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Twenty-Nine

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