Spencer Holst, On Hope
The monkey leaped on the man’s shoulder. The man shuddered for he knew who it was. He knew exactly which monkey of the ten thousand that roam about on the Rock of Gibraltar, tame and free as pigeons, walking around in the parks and streets.
It was a demon monkey.
It was the one he’d trained to bring him necklaces, who brought him pearls, garnets, and amber from moonlit bedrooms in the big hotels-stolen from women sunk in snoring.
The monkey thing began several days previously when all on Gibraltar went into an uproar. The Rock of Gibraltar was visited by royalty, by the queen mother, and the princess. A battleship brought them and their entourage, and with them the famous necklace, the largest stone of which was the Diamond of Hope, which the princess was to wear at some great state occasion. (There’s a curse on the necklace, you know, and misfortune had followed it, and come to whomever possessed it until it became part of the British crown jewels in the middle of the nineteenth century.)
On the very first night the royal party was in, the monkey returned to his gypsy master with the necklace. The necklace, of course, was valueless. It couldn’t possibly be sold. Gibraltar would be swarming with police searching for it.
The gypsy was annoyed with the monkey, irritated at its genius, and terrified of being caught by the police with the gems; and besides, although he had no particular regard for the government-(being a gypsy) he like the idea of “princess” and wouldn’t dream of stealing her necklace. So he quickly wrapped it up and addressed the package to her saying something like, “You really ought to guard this more carefully.”
The next night the monkey returned again with the necklace. This time his note implored her to have the police guard the necklace more carefully, and he even gave them advice. He advised them to place the necklace in the center of a cage.
(For a monkey, of course, couldn’t get into a locked cage.)
Then the third night, when his story begins, the monkey again brought the gypsy the necklace, and fell at the gypsy’s feet, dead. Shot. Very probably the monkey had been fatally wounded by a guard as he was escaping.
The gypsy shuddered at the diamond, and was not surprised at the death of his friend.
The first two times it had been like some freak occurrence, like a weird accident-to unexpectedly discover oneself in possession of part of the British crown jewels! But now…
When he received the gems for the third time the whole thing was plunged into meaning. It no longer seemed like an accident. He had been given the necklace. Fate was at work. Now, the necklace was his.
He put it in his pocket.
It never occurred to him (being a gypsy) to doubt the reality of the curse which accompanied the diamond, and he accepted his fate with the stone. Quietly and secretly he buried the animal.
And as he thought about it he was actually a little pleased that he, a gypsy, had been singled out by fate to take the curse off the princess, and the English throne.
He walked down to the shore of the Mediterranean and took off his clothes, and – having nothing in which to put the necklace, he put it on – dove in, and swam.
There was a full moon and the sea was perfectly calm.
Just off Gibraltar there’s a very deep place in the Mediterranean. It’s called the Gibraltar Trench. Only a mile from shore the sea is a mile deep.
The gypsy was a very good swimmer.
He swam out a mile, over this spot, took the necklace off and dropped it.
At the moment a smile lit his face as he imagined the thousands of Sherlock Holmeses searching for it for the next fifty years.
The man lazily began to swim back toward shore, and the necklace fell down into the depths.
They each had a mile to go – the man had a mile to swim, and the gems had a mile to fall.
The necklace fell much faster than the gypsy swam.
It fell straight down until it got about a hundred feet from the bottom, where it came to rest on the dorsal fin of a shark.
The shark had been sleeping, but the necklace woke it, and it turned around and around wondering what was happening. It decided to go up to investigate.
The shark swam upward even faster than the necklace had fallen.
Meanwhile the man still lazily swam toward the huge “rock,” now ablaze as never before with the royal festivities, with a million electric light bulbs – and he thought of the curse. The stone would never bring its misfortune to anyone ever again; it was finished forever, its power over man extinguished for good, buried beneath a mile of water.
Then he looked over his shoulder and saw the necklace floating a foot above the water, moving slowly past him.
(The gypsy did not see the shark’s fin, he only saw the necklace glittering in the moonlight, as if floating in the air, not coming toward him, but moving past him, now receding into the distance.)
The man immediately realized that one of two things was true. Obviously, either he was witnessing a miracle (and the whole thing smacked of the miraculous), or he was having a hallucination.
He decided to find out.
Was it a miracle? Or, was it a delusion?
He began to shout and wave his arms and splash, and he began to swim after the necklace. And sure enough the necklace stopped and after a moment began to move toward the man. The man is swimming toward the necklace. The necklace is swimming toward the man. That is where the story ends. However, I can’t help noticing, at this moment, that at first glance, it seems inevitable – you know, that the shark will devour the man.
But I do not believe that the situation is as inevitable as it seems at first glance; that is, I believe there are several reasons, so to speak, for hope.
1. I do not think a shark has ever been approached like this before, that is, by a man wondering whether the shark is a miraculous manifestation, or whether it is merely a figment of his own imagination. Such a man would smell different.
2. The man is a gypsy animal trainer.
3. The shark is now in possession of the necklace.