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UNIT 6. THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

HELLO

I am Ivan. I am a gorilla. It's not as easy as it looks. 

NAMES

People call me the Freeway Gorilla. The Ape at Exit 8. The One and Only Ivan, Mighty Silverback. The names are mine, but they're not me. I am Ivan, just Ivan, only Ivan. Humans waste words. They toss them like banana peels and leave them to rot. Everyone knows the peels are the best part. I suppose you think gorillas can't understand you. Of course, you also probably think we can't walk upright.

PATIENCE

I've learned to understand human words over the years, but understanding human speech is not the same as understanding humnas. Humans speak too much. They chatter like chimps, crowding the world with their noise even when they have nothing to say. It took me some time to recognize all those human sounds, to weave words into things. But I was patient. Patient is a useful way to be when you're an ape. Gorillas are as patient as stones. Humans, not so much. 

HOW I LOOK

I used to be a wild gorilla, and I still look the part. I have a gorilla's shy gaze, a gorilla's sly smile. I wear a snowy saddle of fur, the uniform of a silverback. When the sun warms my back, I cast a gorilla's majestic shadow. I'm mightier than any humna, four hundred pounds of pure power. My body lokks made for battle. My arms, outstretched, span taller than the tallest human. 

THE EXIT 8 BIG TOP MALL AND VIDEO ARCADE

I live in a human habitat called the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. We are conveniently located off I-95, with shows at two, four, and seven, 365 days a year. Mack says that when he answers the telephone. Mack works here at the mall. He is the boss. I work here too. I am the gorilla. In the middle of the mall is a ring with benches where humans can sit. My domain is at one end of the ring. I live here because I am too much gorilla and not enough human. Stella's domain is next to mine. Stella is an elephant. She and Bob, who is a dog, are my dearest friends. At present, I do not have any gorilla friends. 

My domain is made of thick glass and rusty metal and rough cement. Stella's domain is made of metal bars. Three of my walls are glass. A jungle scene is painted on one of my domain walls. It has a waterfall without water and flowers without scent and trees without roots. I didn't paint it, but I enjoy the way the shapes flow across my wall, even if it isn't much of a jungle. 

I suppose in your house you have a hall, a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, a bathroom and, at least, a bedroom. In my domain, I have a tire swing, a baseball, a tiny plastic pool filled with dirty water and an old TV. I have a to gorilla, too. Julia, the daughter of the weary man who cleans the mall each night, gave it to me. 

I am lucky my domain has three windowed walls. I can see the whole mall and a giant sign. Mack read its words aloud one day: "COME TO THE EXIT 8 BIG TOP MALL AND VIDEO ARCADE, HOME OF THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, MIGHTY SILVERBACK!" Sadly, I cannot read, although I wish I could. Reading stories would make a fine way to fill my empty hours. 

The freeway billboard has a drawing of Mack in his clown clothes and Stella on her hind legs and an angry animal fierce eyes. That animal is supposed to be me, but the artist made a mistake. I am never angry. Anger is precious. A silverback uses anger to maintain order and warn his troop of danger. When my father beat his chest, it was to say, Beware, listen, I am in charge. I am angry to protect you, because that is what I was born to do. Here in my domain, there is no one to protect. 

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