A gang called the Tigros soon comes and marks the neighborhood as their own turf.Trying to make a reputation for them, the Tigros wreak havoc in the area, beat up people, and stab a kid.The narrator talks with his Uncle Duke about how he wants to be away from Harlem.Uncle Duke explains that remembering his origins should be important in your life.The narrator still doesn’t agree with his uncle.
That was until Monkeyman, the bookworm who got his nickname for climbing trees, got the whole Tigros gang threatening him.One Tigros woman loses a fight with Peaches, and soon they threaten Peaches with a razor.Monkeyman knocks the razor out of the Tigros woman‘s hand, and she runs away.This news gets to the rest of the gang who then graffiti walls with messages like “MONKEYMAN MUST DIE!”
As soon as it seems to be forgotten, a new student named Clean comes to Harlem trying to make a name for himself in the Tigros gang.He lies even about working with the Crips back at Los Angeles, which was found false from a background check.Rumors go around school that Clean must take down Monkeyman to join the Tigros.Peaches, who wants to watch Monkeyman’s back, with her friends goes up and asks Clean if this is true. Clean replies saying Monkeyman “got to be messed up.”
Later, Clean is suspended for bringing a knife to school.He walks out of school saying he’ll be waiting for Monkeyman to appear outside when school ends.After school, many Tigros with Clean are waiting outside the school.Afterwards, the police come and catch every Tigro.One Tigro sees Monkeyman, and Monkeyman responds to his threat by calling them out.To the surprise of many, he calls them out to be at the Jackie Robinson Memorial Park at night the next day.Monkeyman thinks this has to be over.
Monkeyman’s classmates go to the park where many Tigros ready to see the fight between Monkeyman and Clean.Monkeyman shows up with his grandfather and godmother who promised to just watch and not do anything to stop the Tigros.Monkeyman bewilders Clean when he gives himself up for a beating with no intention of fighting back at all.Clean goes to hitting him with Monkeyman’s relatives asking for his safety.A girl threatens the grandfather, and everybody just looks at her.
Soon, most of the neighborhood come and see an example of how this area went wrong with crime from the Tigros.The outnumbered Tigros walk away, and Clean exclaims he wouldn’t waste his time with Monkeyman if he doesn’t fight.
Monkeyman goes home with some bruises and bleeding.Later on, the narrator goes and tells him he was crazy and could have been killed.Monkeyman explains he needed to show the neighborhood what was wrong with the Tigros here.
About a month later, Monkeyman is stabbed by a Tigro.The Tigro goes to jail for a decade, and Monkeyman survives the stab.He is in the hospital when the narrator comes to visit him.Even with all the bad things that happened with him, Monkeyman explains he would come back to Harlem after college to open up a studio.The narrator replies that maybe he would go back to 145 Street after med school to take care of people like Monkeyman.He goes on thinking about how Monkeyman seems to have grown.