Mammals, I Think We Are Called: Are You Cold, Monkey? Are You Cold?

Are You Cold, Monkey? Are You Cold? Image of a baby monkey clingin to a cloth mother in one of Harlow's experiments.

Are You Cold, Monkey? Are You Cold?

Number 11 of the eighteen stories in my debut short story collection, Mammals, I Think We Are Called.

A depressed young woman working in a lab inadvertently cures herself by advising the lab monkeys.

Read an excerpt:

The girl in the puddle is not exactly dreaming . . .

She lies in the water, her thoughts stacked on top of her.

Don’t call it dreaming. Dreaming is nice.

Whatever she calls it, she is wishing herself up and out of this world, she is wishing the good up and out.

On the top layer, the saucer eyes appear, spinning eyes like a monster’s in a fairy tale. She wipes her hand over her face and up there is the monkey. She drifts up. The monkey looks down. Its lips crack open and show its teeth.

And the girl knows the answer: the monkey is smiling, but the monkey doesn’t know what a smile is.

“Are you cold, monkey? Are you cold?” she asks.


Monkey has been in a dark room since birth and it is always cold.

Monkey only knows it is cold because the girl asked the question. Up till then, he did not recognise words. The God in the white coat took care not to talk; he wrote his thoughts into a small notebook.

When the cold and the dark started, there were no sounds except for the slapping of the girl’s rubber soles in the corridor outside, the footsteps arriving with the milk and receding after the bottle was full.

It was the girl who contaminated the experiment. She whispered the question through the milk funnel when Monkey happened to be sitting in front of it; her muffled breath blew softly against his fur and heated him up.

“Warm,” the girl whispered next.

Warm. Monkey felt the word caressing his face, rolling on his tongue, and he began to want warm.

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