Monster Required (Polemic) by Michael Andreoni

cartoon_Overpopulation_on_a_full_plate

Early Training

I guess Mrs. Patterson was used to having things her way. She held the dollar out at arms length as if there wasn’t any question of me walking away without it. She got that part right. A dollar was a Baby Ruth, a Sweet Tart, and fifty cents left to jingle around in my pocket like a grown-up. Stop hitting my Greg, Mrs. Patterson said. He’s going to have a little brother or sister soon. She stood on the playground with a big fur coat wrapped around her protruding belly, waiting for yes ma’am, or whatever she was accustomed to hearing from people she paid off. I ran away to a far corner of the field and when she’d gone I slammed her son in the face with a basketball, knocked out a front tooth so the world would remember me.

There’s a Vietnam story, might be true, might not, but initially reported as true in some of the magazines of that era. The American army goes into a stinking village and all the little kids are sick—Ricketts, Malaria, nine kinds of fever. Some bright-boy officer gets the idea these poor kids should be vaccinated. So in come the medics to shoot them up with everything they’ve got. Back to camp that evening, mission accomplished, Democracy through decency, all that crap. Next morning they find a pile of little arms. The Vietcong came in the night, hacked them off; didn’t want any Vietnamese contaminated with white-devil medicine. I would have sold the soul I don’t have to be the Vietcong bastard who gave the order, because whoever made that decision can’t be defeated, only killed.

Matriculation

And when strangers crossed the street to avoid me I smiled with eyelids pinned back by pills—angling along like a Picasso on uppers, downers, screaming: How many is enough? Even insanity invites purpose. Dark spirits sang riddles in my ears. Solve the equation: You+ Me +Baby Make Three30. I shouted the answer in public places and was stomped and jailed. There were so many of you and only one of me so I had to go underground.

My disguise: I looked, sounded, laughed just like you, and petted your dogs and children. I held a job. Loved. The drugs were weakness I couldn’t afford any longer; burrowed into the safe sweet core of your middle-class values. My Swiss steak was a smash at pot-lucks. All the women were pregnant, the men strutting. We could hit ten billion people in our lifetime, I warned. Someone joked: Yeah, those godamm Chinks better keep it in their pants. Everyone and me laughed, and then babies burst from every damp crevice, flattened us against the walls.

The Monster Asks For the Job

Because sometimes you need a monster. It helps to have someone like me to focus your hatred on. The deal goes like this: I tell you the planet is groaning under us. You attempt to destroy me. Don’t hold back. I’m armored, you see, and well trained. I tell you the word carried on the wind is “Enough”. You shun me. Who am I to speak? No one; nobody. Your God called, I say, and he/she/it says job well-done, now take a break, please. Leave something for other species. You blast me with science: fish farms parceling the oceans into food factories. It’s a great humanitarian victory. Does it taste like victory?

I’m the one you want. You can scare your kids with me, your million billion offspring. Look what happens to misfits, you’ll instruct. Who will want you if you act like that? Someday you’ll want to settle down and have children of your own. I’m cheap too. Just pretend to listen once in a while. You don’t have to listen for real. I understand it’s hard. I’ll be your scapegoat. You can kick me for suggesting we’ve run out of infinity here on Earth. That’s what monsters are for.

 Everyone Feels Better When the Monster Is Gone

There’s a termination clause in the contract. Just kill me when I’ve become too annoying. Don’t worry about it. Monsters always get killed. You gave me every chance to change my ways, right? Yes, but I’ve never changed. Once I’m gone everyone gets happy-happy again, guaranteed. The whole world, squirming contentedly under millions of acres of children, will laugh at me. That crazy old monster, the kids shriek at dinner, passing around the bowl of algae.

Author bio:

Michael Andreoni’s stories and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Fifth Wednesday, Euphony, Pif, Calliope, Ducts, Defenestration, Hippocampus, The Writing Disorder, and other publications. He lives between town and gown near Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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