When you cover the monkey news beat, it gets in your blood. You eat, drink and sleep monkey news, though not always in that order.

As the theoretical cigar-chomping, hooch-swilling, skirt-chasing, cholesterol-lowering-medication-taking, underpaid and overworked 1930s newspaper-style bureau chief of the fictional yet highly respected Monkey Action News Team (MANT), I know better than most.

The public has an insatiable appetite for stories about monkeys and their shenanigans and my squad — a been-there, done-that and got-the-T-shirt, culturally diverse group made up of Johnny, Rico, Lulu, Jaafar, Kichiro and Toots — has been right there in the trenches with me. That’s why I was surprised ... no, I was shocked … no, I was downright gobsmacked when Johnny turned in his notice.

“Thanks for the opportunity, Chief,” he said with that elfin grin that endeared him to me so many years ago when he was a fresh-faced kid just off the farm, full of dreams of working at an honest-to-goodness newspaper. “It’s been swell.”

“Why, you ungrateful little rat-faced hornswoggler,” I bellowed. “I gave you everything but a living wage and affordable health insurance, and this is how you repay me?”

But my words fell on deaf ears. Well, one deaf ear since Johnny lost partial hearing when he was attacked by a chimpanzee during an exclusive interview with a trainer who taught the chimp to juggle while riding a unicycle. Seems the monkey didn’t care for either activity, nor for Johnny.

I filled out paperwork to requisition a new team member, and a few short months later I got the OK to hire. The top applicant was a fellow named Steve.

“Steve,” I said in our interview. “Are you willing to work hard in pursuit of monkey news?”

“Yes, sir,” he replied.

“Are you willing to do anything it takes to find the best monkey stories from around the globe?” I asked.

“Yes, sir.”

“Are you willing to change your name to Johnny? See, I had Monkey Action News Team Christmas cards printed in bulk, and it would just be a hassle if I had to mark out Johnny and pencil in Steve on every one.”

“Well, I...”

“Never mind that now. Here are some true or false monkey questions to test your knowledge. True or false — monkeys are smarter than you.”

“Um … false?”

“Nope, that’s true. According to an Oct. 20 report in the Medical News Today newsletter, a recent study looking at ‘cognitive flexibility concludes that in some situations, capuchin and rhesus monkeys are more adaptable than humans.’”

“What situations would those be, sir?”

“Hey, I’ll ask the questions here, Johnny. True or false — some monkeys can be violent drunks.”

“I would say that’s false, sir.”

“For the love of … no, it’s true! According to a Nov. 1 report in The Daily Star of the UK, a beach in Thailand ‘has become a nightmare with primates stealing booze from holidaymakers” and scratching and biting the tourists who dare make eye contact.”

“Sir, maybe I’m not cut out for —”

“Pipe down, Johnny! True or false — monkeys are good plumbers.”

“That would have to be false, sir.”

“Nope, it’s true. According to an Oct. 11 story from India Today, a viral video on Twitter with thousands of views features a monkey ‘sitting beside a pipe with water gushing out of it, as he attempts to fix the leakage with dry leaves.’ Commenters have credited the monkey for his ingenuity and water conservation efforts.”

“That’s amazing, sir.”

“Yes it is, Johnny. And if a monkey can learn to fix a leaky pipe, you can learn to cover monkey news despite your woeful ignorance of the subject matter. Welcome to the team, son.”

“Thank you, sir. I won’t let you down.”

“I doubt that. Now get out there at old Johnny’s desk and get to work. Monkey news isn’t going to cover itself, new Johnny.”

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Scott Hollifield is editor/GM of The McDowell News in Marion, N.C., and humor columnist. Contact him at rhollifield@mcdowellnews.com.

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