Troubled souls

Got a call from the director of Los Angeles Zoo the other day. Apparently they’ve been having a few problems with an orang-utan called Bruno. He recently broke out of his enclosure, perhaps hoping to give visitors his business card. It didn’t happen because the staff promptly evacuated the humans, a precaution which must have saved several fat-arsed ladies from a thorough goosing. The agitated ape was then sedated and carried back to his quarters.

The zoo director wanted me to fly over and talk to the ginger-haired upstart, soothing his anxieties with a few carefully chosen grunts. I said I had too many commitments at home, what with the baboon-chasing season starting next week. I did mention that part of the problem might be calling him ‘Bruno’, which is the perfect name for big shaggy dog. Any primate lumbered with it has a valid excuse for feeling a bit tetchy. I offered to send them an audiotape which they could play to the orang-utan while he was resting. Few can withstand the suggestive power of the deep Bananas voice.

You’re probably wondering how they knew to contact me. Well, the fact is I acquired quite a reputation for counselling in my circus days. It was my handling of the suicide attempt of a clown that won me international acclaim. His gay lover had eloped with a Latin dance instructor and sent him a letter of renunciation. Distraught at being so callously dumped, he climbed the trapeze rigging and positioned himself for what we circus types call “a free-fall spectacle”. In the conspicuous absence of other volunteers, I went up after him.

“Don’t come nearer GB or I’ll jump!” he bleated tearfully.

“For God’s sake Horace, you’re not high enough to kill yourself!” I exclaimed. “You’ll break your bones and end up in hospital. The ringmaster will visit you every week just to call you a prick!”

“I’ll dive headfirst,” he replied, gazing giddily at the ground.

“It still looks iffy,” I advised. “Look Horace, no one can stop you killing yourself if you’ve set your heart on it. All I’m saying is don’t rush into a decision you might later regret.”

“What have I got to live for?” he wailed.

“Well, for one thing Falcon Crest is on this evening.”

I knew I had him there. It was his favourite TV show, and like most gay men he idolised Jane Wyman while having major hots for Lorenzo Lamas. Seeing doubts creep into his face, I decided to make a tactical withdrawal.

“I’m going down now, Horace.” I said. “Why not watch tonight’s episode and sleep on the suicide thing? There’ll be plenty of opportunities to do it right later. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you to plan your death properly.”

Later that evening, I joined the circus staff watching Falcon Crest on a communal TV set. Horace was there and I sat next to him, taking care not to show exaggerated concern for his emotional state. I chuckled at Jane Wyman’s lines to remind him of what he would have missed if he’d pinged himself. I didn’t wolf-whistle at Lorenzo Lamas though – one has one’s limits. He later agreed it would be silly to commit suicide before the current series ended, by which time, of course, he’d found himself a new beau.

This successful course of therapy led me to formulate the Bananas prescription for mental health: live in the present and savour your favourite TV show. As a famous economist once said, in the long run we’re all fucked.

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