Harrison doesn’t understand what he’s seeing at first. He’s trying to drive his car into the garage, but it’s blocked by some kind of mess strewn across the floor, so he parks in the alley and walks inside, flipping on the extra light as he comes in.
It turns out that it’s not a mess, and, in fact, it’s pretty well organized. Stanley has arranged most of his stuffed animals in a semicircle facing the back wall, and there seems to be a logic to the seating as well. The monkeys sit up front, ten of them in all, followed by the rabbits and bears in the middle, and the various animals — porcupines, raccoons, pandas, in the back. He doesn’t see what they’re facing at first because he’s been inspecting the animals on the floor, but Stanley’s biggest animal, the orangutan that he calls Big Harry Monk, has been affixed to the wall above the animals.
Harrison bought Big Harry Monk on a business trip five years ago in a little shop specializing in Bigfoot research in Northern California because it was the oddest stuffed animal he’d ever seen. It’s about five feet tall, and it’s not rigid. The result is an orange stuffed animal with the physique of an out of shape old man, and Harrison has come into Stanley’s room again and again to find Big Harry Monk’s arms wrapped around his son.
Now it’s up on the wall, and Harrison realizes that the stuffed animal has been crucified, one nail through each hand and one through both of his feet. It hangs limply there, and a sign on white computer paper and in purple marker ink has been hung around his drooping head. It says, “Heresy will not be tolerated.”
Harrison considers picking up the toys and putting them away, but he doesn’t. His car will be fine for one night in the alley, so instead of cleaning, he hits the garage door remote, turns off the light, and goes into the backyard.
Stanley’s there, sitting cross-legged under the basketball hoop with two trucks that ram into each other in slow motion. “Zeeear chrsh!” he says as they make contact.
“Hey, Stan,” Harrison says.
Stanley’s head snaps up and his breath catches in joy. A smile spreads across his face, and he bounces out of his sitting position and into Harrison’s arms. “Dad,” he says breathlessly. “I thought you were coming home tomorrow.”
“No,” he says, petting his son’s head. “Today.” He picks his son up in his arms and the boy clings to his father, legs around Harrison’s waist, arms around his neck. “How are you doing, Buddy?”
“I’m great, Dad. I’m on the soccer team.” Stanley snuggles his head into Harrison’s neck.
“That’s great, Stan.” He hesitates for a moment. “And I see you’ve been playing with your animals.”
Stanley turns quiet. He looks at Harrison without saying anything, and Harrison has the feeling that he’s supposed to drop the subject, and he thinks that might be the best, but he can’t seem to make himself do it. Instead, he walks back into the garage, carrying his son. He flips on the light again, and they review the scene. Harrison can feel his son getting warmer in his arms. He’s going to ask a question, but Stanley speaks before he can: “I didn’t want to do it.”
“You didn’t want to do what?”
“Mr. Sniggles said that we have to follow the law. He said that there can’t be exce… excep…”
Stanley nods a yes.
“Did you nail him up there all by yourself?”
Stanley nods again.
“What did Big Harry Monk do?”
A tear starts to run down Stanley’s cheek, “Heresy,” he says. Now that the first drop has come, the boy starts to weep. Tears and snot begin to stream down his face, and he’s sobbing in big weeping gasps.
Harrison walks his son out of the garage, petting the boy’s hair, and saying, “Hey, hey, it’s going to be alright. It’s alright, Stan.” In a minute or two, he’s able to make funny faces until the boy forgets his tears and is chuckling a little. Then he’s got the boy laughing out loud, and when he makes a fart noise, Stanley’s head falls back, and he screams with the joy only people his age can have.
Harrison puts Stanley down. “Is Mommy inside?” he asks.
“Yes,” Stanley says.
“Could you go inside and tell her that I’m home, and I want to talk to her.”
Stanley stares at Harrison a moment, working out in his head what Harrison wants. When he figures it out, he nods and runs inside. Harrison watches his son’s flatfooted gait and thinks about how much Stan had wanted to be on the soccer team. That’s the only thing he allows himself to think about for the time being. The kid really wanted to play soccer, and Harrison’s glad that he was able to.
Carol comes out in a minute wiping her hands on her blue jeans. “Harrison?” she asks. “Why don’t you come inside?”
“I need to show you something in the garage.”
She tilts her head at him. “I’m busy.”
He stares at her until she looks at an invisible friend standing to her left and bites her lip. She and her invisible friend exchange glances that say that Harrison’s being unreasonable again, that Harrison is pushing and pushing and pushing, and it isn’t fair that she’s the one who always, always, always has to deal with his moods. Still, though, she follows Harrison into the garage, and when she sees the punishment that has been meted out as a result of the monkey trials, she says, “Oh my God.”
“That was my reaction,” Harrison says.
“What is this?”
“Haven’t you been in here?”
“I’ve been parking out front.” It’s true. She’s been doing it for a month, and this has become Harrison’s space exclusively.
“When do you think he did it?”
Carol turns to the invisible friend standing to her left and narrows her eyebrows in thought. “I don’t know,” she says.
“Well,” Harrison says. His voice cracks. “What night did Joey stay over?”
Harrison can see that she’s about to deny it. She and her invisible friend to the left exchange outraged looks, but something inside her deflates, and she just shakes her head. “Thursday,” she finally says.
“And he talked about the importance of the law with Stanley, didn’t he?”
“This has probably been up since Friday then.” Harrison tries to work up some anger about it, but he can’t yet. Maybe he’ll be angry later. Maybe, the moment is so painful to him that he hasn’t been able to process his emotions yet, and in an hour or a day, they’ll wash over him, and he’ll yell and bluster, but the thing is that he doubts it.
“What should we do about it?”
“Do you think there’s any point?”
“I meant for the boy.”
“Ah,” Carol says. “Yeah, that makes sense.”
Harrison takes a hammer from the tool bench and begins to pull nails out of Big Harry Monk. He can feel Carol watching him. “Why don’t you pick up the audience?” he asks. He nods to the semicircle of stuffed animals, and the two of them begin to clean up the monkey trials, careful to keep Stanley’s segregation intact. They keep the monkeys with the monkeys in one box, the rabbits and bears in another box, and the other animals in a third box. Big Harry Monk gets a box all of his own.