I did call up Mrs. Needleman, just as we discussed. I said, “Would you like to go on a date?” No ambiguity, no vague plans she could misinterpret. So I don’t think you could make the claim that I’m avoiding intimacy this time.

I admit I forgot what you advised about going out somewhere and I realize now that staying home was an error in judgment. But I thought, What could be more romantic than cooking her dinner?

And really, George was just trying to help. He saw the candles and, you know, to a little monkey that means there’s a fire that needs putting out. But it wasn’t when he poured the Donnhoff Reisling on the table and all over the food that Mrs. Needleman got so angry. It was afterwards, when George pulled the garden hose through the window and sprayed water at her conical hair because he thought it was another mess that needed cleaning up. Then he pointed at her and laughed as her updo collapsed. She was livid. I understand that.

Self-sabotage? Certainly not. That kind of thing could happen to anyone who lives with a monkey.

- - -

OK, this time we went out of the house, so really, I’m making an effort here. I took Mrs. Needleman on a European-inspired champagne brunch cruise along the Hudson. What more could I have done, I ask you?

We were just passing Battery Park and had selected a bottle of Gewürztraminer to go with the lobster bisque when suddenly there was a commotion on the outdoor deck.

“Monkey overboard!” someone was shouting.

Well, of course it was George! But you know, I did specifically tell him to stay out of trouble. He promised that he’d be good, but it is easy for little monkeys to forget.

After they pulled George aboard I dried him and let him wear my yellow hat to cheer him up and before I knew it, he was playing the grand piano and juggling chocolate truffles. All the passengers were watching him and applauding. He was the belle of the ball—it was adorable. I think about an hour passed before I noticed that Mrs. Needleman wasn’t there. We found her at the Liberty Bar, already on her fourth gin rickey. It was pretty embarrassing, to tell you the truth. We had to send her home in a taxi after we docked.

No, I can’t leave him at home. That’s exactly what Papa used to do to me. Why, I could never do that to George.

- - -

I finally got Mrs. Needleman to return my calls. And I did exactly what you advised. I left George alone at home. I thought, Maybe you’re right. Maybe he does act more helpless than he really is.

I took her to a farmers market and we strolled around and then sat down for tapas and sangria. And it was good, because we were really focused on each other, and she opened up to me. She said she loved me, but another part of her was afraid. Here she was turning forty—yes, it was her birthday. Did I not mention that? She said here she was turning forty and she was so afraid of ending up alone, fearful that she’d been wasting all these years on me when I might not ever be able to commit to her because of…

Well then she was interrupted because someone came running into the tapas bar shouting, “They’ve just thrown a little monkey in jail for making a prank call.”

What could I do? Let George rot in jail like Papa let me rot in that military boarding school? That’s how all this started, you know. That’s why I became a hunter and ended up wearing a straw Stetson paired with a modified Mountie costume.

You know better than anyone how hard I’ve tried to change and not be that hunter anymore. I recognize that it wasn’t working, that people said all sorts of unkind things about me. Yet I can’t help but feel like whenever I try to be that new, evolved man—the kind of guy who doesn’t capture unsuspecting monkeys in the jungle—then my life doesn’t make sense anymore. See what I mean? Hand me a tissue, will you?

- - -

George was packing his things. I admit I was pretty broken up about it. But then I thought, you’ve always claimed I use George as an emotional crutch. So I tried to be brave. I told myself, this is OK. It’s OK that the professor is going to launch George into space.

But when we got to the site, George got cold feet, especially because the launching pad was just a wooden plank on some stilts. The whole thing was making him agitated and I figured they would just cancel. I went off with my Dunhill Bruyere for a smoke and when I came back, George was dressed in his little space suit and boarding the ship. I couldn’t understand what had happened, but then I noticed something odd. There was a yellow hat in the cabin, just like the one I often wear. Then it hit me. Someone had lured him inside the spaceship by putting a yellow hat in there.

She denied it of course. But I didn’t believe her. Who else would stand to gain from launching George into space but Mrs. Needleman? You probably know the rest because the newspapermen were there. George bailed out and parachuted back to earth. And as he was awarded his medal, I ended things with Mrs. Needleman once and for all. Frankly, I just feel relief. I mean, who invests all that energy and attention on a monkey? It’s just weird. We’re better off without her.