SmokeLong Quarterly
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by Ben Loory

art by Justin Chen
art by Justin Chen
I have a friend who paints pictures of gorillas. Gorillas on bikes, chairs, horses, planes, kites.

Why are the gorillas always on something? I say.

He never answers, just looks away.

One day I was standing in his studio. He wasnít there; I donít know where he was. I was staring very closely at one of the paintings, when I suddenly saw who the gorilla was.

Did you know he only painted one gorilla? I asked my wife when I got home that night.

Who? she said. Oh, yes, of course. Why, did you think there were different ones?

Iíd never really thought about it before. I'd always just thought they were gorillas. But now I couldnít stop picturing them all hanging there. So many strange pictures of my painter friend.

Finally I decided to talk to him about it.

Those gorillas kind of look like you, I said.

Like me? he said.

He turned and looked them over.

Hmm, he said. I guess they do.

A few days later when I went down to see him, my friend wasnít anywhere around. I searched his whole studio, called out his name. I went out back and looked all around.

Finally I asked the neighbors if any of them had seen him, and they said not for some days.

Last time I saw him, one of them said, he was right there, climbing up that tree.

I stood in the yard and looked at the tree for a while. It was a tall tree, but not that tall. I would've been able to see him if he was up there, but there was nothing.

All there was, was a passing cloud.

A few months later, they held an auction.

He owes a lot of back rent, his landlord said.

People took chairs and lamps and mugs and tables.

I bought all of his paintings.

They're on my wall now, hanging side by side. I'm standing here, looking at them now. It's strange, but they're different than they always were before.

Didn't they used to be gorillas? I ask my wife.

She looks at me strangely and ambles down the hall. Her knuckles gently brush against the rug.

Honey? I say.

But by then she's gone.

That night, I lie alone in bed.

All content in SmokeLong Quarterly copyright 2003-2015 by its authors.

Ben Loory lives in Los Angeles, in a house on top of a hill. His book Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day is coming in 2011 from Penguin Books.

Read the interview.

Justin Chen started drawing when he was a little boy. His first piece of work was a red car in crayon, now he draws much more than that. After completed a degree in architecture, he is rediscovering his passion for illustration and graphic design. You can view his works at

Issue Twenty-Nine (September 29, 2010): Bearded by Patrick Allen Carberry «» Hip by Kim Chinquee «» Our Littlest Brother by Dan Crawley «» LAX by Michael Czyzniejewski «» Bathroom Jesus by Kelli Ford «» Boy With Cherries by Adam Golaski «» Dancer by Peter Grandbois «» Aeroplane by Alex Haber «» Feral by Joe Kapitan «» Gorillas by Ben Loory «» Model #3 by Annam Manthiram «» Working Halloween for Christmas Money by John Minichillo «» Claire by Nick Ripatrazone «» Guard by James Robison «» Sixteen by Laura Tanenbaum «» These Three Things That Noah Doesn't by J.A. Tyler «» Snake Walk by Ajay Vishwanathan «» Dive by Dawn West «» Bedtime in Thorpe Village, Leicestershire, England by Sue Williams «» Thank You, I'm Sorry by Caroline Zilk «» Interviews: Patrick Allen Carberry «» Kim Chinquee «» Dan Crawley «» Michael Czyzniejewski «» Kelli Ford «» Adam Golaski «» Peter Grandbois «» Alex Haber «» Joe Kapitan «» Ben Loory «» Annam Manthiram «» John Minichillo «» Nick Ripatrazone «» James Robison «» Laura Tanenbaum «» J.A. Tyler «» Ajay Vishwanathan «» Dawn West «» Sue Williams «» Caroline Zilk «» Cover Art "Sara Serengeti" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editor

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