The Martians scratched their heads as the rocket ship lifted and zoomed out of site toward the big blue ball. Days later …
... the monkey-nauts were again swinging from zoo trees but now were very popular with the other monkeys. They bragged about how impressed the Martians were, how much they’d made them laugh, how one Martian—Marty—told them that they’d been convinced bananas were a very fine food that they should try to plant themselves. They figured if they succeeded in getting even one Martian to eat bananas, their trip had been a success.
The Monk was sitting quietly, taking all of this in. He’d heard all about their trip several times. Yet best he could tell, Bob, Dave, and Skip had said nothing about what life on Mars was really like. He knew Marty wanted to plant bananas, but that said nothing about Mars. As the sun set low and Phil and Dan were lighting tiiki torches for the night, The Monk threw up his arms in resignation to speak. He sidled over near the fire and sat down by Dave, put his hand on Dave’s leg to still him, looked at Bob in the eyes then glanced over to Skip. He had their attention.
The Monk did not say much, but what he said left them speechless.
“You, uh, say you went to Mars, eh?”
They all nodded their heads.
“Taught ‘em a lot up there, eh?”
“Oh, yes,” Dave said nodding wildly. “You’d never believ—” The Monk’s hand went up and stopped him in mid-sentence.
The wise old monkey thought for a long time while they waited to hear what he had to say. All the monkeys came closer.
“What,” The Monk said. “What did you learn when you went to Mars?”
Dave had gotten nervous and started grooming Skip, and Bob was the only one who seemed to really hear the question, but he didn’t know what to say. Bob looked at his fingernails, scratched his side, curled his lips then, more silence.
“You taught much. But what did you teach?”
“About life on earth,” Bob said.
“About bananas, swinging from trees, but you didn’t—you never thought to tell them about anything outside this zoo, never thought to bring back even a sample of the Martian life, to learn something of what they might teach us?” The Monk said, then he was silent again.
All the monkeys pulled their mouths down and nodded in agreement with the wise old man. Then Dave got an idea.
“We’ll go back!” Dave said.
The Monk turned his head and scratched the side of his neck. He took a deep breath.
“Go back?” The Monk said.
“Yes, go—we’ll blast off again and—” Bob said. It was the first of Dave’s ideas he’d liked in quite some time.
Skip yawned. He feared the boredom of a return trip and relinquished his spot in the rocket to Dan or Phil. The two ground crew members played rock, scissors, paper to decide who would go. Phil won two out of three and would join Dave and Bob.
They also squeezed in a fourth seat for The Monk, who would lead them in first learning about Martian life, understanding their environment, then showing them more useful things about the big blue ball, like what monkey and zookeeper families are like and how they were created by someone called God long long ago. That would be a start.