Disclaimer: The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....
Yes, I think it passes the test. And there’s another theme—one that transcends the novel’s particular time and place—that comes out on page 69: ambition. Once Garner decides to study primate language, he can’t be talked out of it. His ambition is so strong that it often overpowers his reason. There are plenty of characters who stand in Garner’s way—other scientists, missionaries, big-game hunters—but Garner’s stubbornness might be his worst enemy.
Man in a Cage
“You don’t really intend to go through with this, do you? Please tell me it’s all just talk.”
“It’s not just talk, Dear. I fully intend to go through with this.”
The illustrator, besides portraying me recording the capuchins in Central Park, had ventured to draw me sitting inside a cage of steel bars pointing a phonograph toward a gorilla twice my size, while another approached from the rear of the cage. In the distance, an elephant raised its trunk, thrusting his tusks like great spears.
“Go anywhere you like to look at monkeys in zoos, take as long as you need—but Africa? You’d be away for such a long time—and it sounds terribly dangerous.”
“Where I plan to go is a French colony. A place to holiday, for heaven’s sake. I’ll take you there sometime.”
“A holiday in the jungle?”
“As for when I’m in the jungle, I’ll be protected by the cage I’m going to build.”
“But you’ll have to get there and build it first. You could get yourself killed. I’m tempted to pray that your friends at the Smithsonian will keep their purse strings tight. I’m sorry—but that’s just how I feel.”
“I am afraid it’s too late for that.”
Patrick Nevins is an associate professor of English and the author of Man in a Cage, which was published in August by Malarkey Books. His short fiction appears in Crab Creek Review and other journals. He can be found online at www.patricknevins.com.