...... news ......

Monkeys and memories of mysteries


11july2010: By way of the internet, I stumbled across this photo of a squirrel monkey who was launched into space in the 1950s.* His name was Baker, which caused a saccade of memory:

In eighth-grade English, we were put into groups. Our assignment was to write a mystery story. The teacher had gotten a packet of worksheets from somewhere which were intended to help brainstorming for a mystery story. The sheets guided us through thinking about various aspects of our story: our detective - including preferences foibles, special gear, and allies.

I suspect that the sheets eventually would have directed us to invent a mystery for our detective to solve, but we didn't get that far. Allowing everyone to have their say made the early sheets go very slowly, and trying to say something creative on every single page left us with a freakshow of a detective: He was a bald midget, a crack boomerang thrower, and a fan of the television show Matlock. I had suggested that he might like Perry Mason, but one of my comrades disagreed; the discussion was ultimately resolved so that our detective not only watched Matlock but actively touted its superiority over Perry Mason.

Our detective had a pet monkey named Mister Baker, which brought it all back today. I had not known about the simian astronaut Baker, however. Our Mister Baker was the namesake of a substitute teacher whom we all disliked.

As the deadline for the mystery story approached, we explained to the teacher that we still had two-thirds of the worksheets left to complete. She said we should skip them and just write the story.

This would have been a problem, if we had needed to write a complete story with only this eccentric character sketch to go on. Our teacher was lazy, however, and insisted that the story could be no more than ten pages. Moreover, she was not actually going to read it; one member of the group would read it aloud, and the teacher was going to grade us on that.

I don't recall any of the plot of the story. There wasn't much room for plot after we included all of the character. He harangued about television lawyers, stopped by the office to check on Mister Baker, and resolved the mystery in time to clock the perpetrator with a boomerang.

* I followed a link at Wil Wheaton's and crawled around the collection of Life magazine photos archived by Google. The photo above is here.


This is an item from the homepage news box. You can browse through such items on the old news page.