When the first dog was found headless beside the courthouse culvert, people said it must be the work of boys. Boys having fun. But when the second and third dogs appeared near culverts, those dark holes where sidewalk corners met streets, allowing storm water to gush down into the sewers and from there to join the deep currents of the Tuckabaloosa River, a different pattern emerged.
“Head bites,” the chief said. “It’s down in the ground, whatever it is. Comes out at night and bites ’em off. Ev’abody best lock up y’ dogs, wanta keep ’em.”
By Saturday night the hunters and their sons had joined the police on shotgun watch, and the girls drove around laughing and screaming and bringing the boys hot wings and cold drinks. “All right,” the deacon said when he smelled the beer, “this is scarin’ off the thing, all this noise. Ya’ll settle down or go home.”
“It’s a monster,” said one of the girls, “that’s what it is.”
By the third week monster stories had made national news, and everybody was embarrassed and tired. The creature kept getting mangy strays, and sleek expensive dogs that somehow roamed free. The boys were angry because nobody had gotten a shot. “How come it only eats the heads?” they asked their girlfriends. “Shut up,” was the popular reply.
The chief and the head deacon of the Baptists met over coffee with the football coach. “The boys won’t sleep,” coach said, “and they can’t win if they’re tuckered out.”
So the town went on curfew. The dads locked up the players and guns, the girls lost their car keys, and the principal announced it was all a hoax. He blamed a rival football team, and the media. A few nights passed without the mystery creature making a kill, and the story began to fade. “I wish I knew which team it was,” the boys kept saying to one another.
The head deacon spoke to his wife in confidence, quietly, without any awareness that their son was listening. “Preacher thinks it’s a devil,” the deacon said, stroking the head of their registered collie.
“A devil? Surely not.”
“There are devils. You’ve got to start with that.”
Read the full story in MMR Anthology 2011.
Luke Wallin holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He has been widely published — novels, stories, and essays — and teaches in the Spalding University MFA program. His newest book is forthcoming from Adams Media.
12 Replies to “Monster”
Monster is very satisfying, even with the last slightly creepy line to remind you that the devil is out there still. I like hot wings and cold drinks, too.
Thank you for bringing to life Moon Milk Review! I particularly enjoyed Luke Wallin’s story, “Monster.”
It’s one thing to speak of the devil; it’s a whole other thing to really encounter one! I believe I’d keep my mouth shut too. Funny story. Great setting and characterizations.
The town culverts took my mind to Jonathan Swift’s poem “A Description of a City Shower.” In it, he satirizes the wickedness of London, contemplates its destruction by a second Great Flood, and describes the open sewers on London’s streets. The poem ends:
Sweepings from butchers’ stalls, dung, guts, and blood, Drowned puppies, stinking sprats, all drenched in mud, Dead cats and turnip tops, come tumbling down the flood.
So, Wallin is not the first writer to use the image of dead dogs in culverts. He’s in fine company!
Monster is a wonderful piece with deep psychological undertones. If ever there was a time for writing about monsters the time is now, as they seem to be springing up all around us.
Monster is an entertaining story that could survive solely on its moody descriptions. “The knowledge slammed into him”, “..alligator turned and slo-mo sashayed”, “..holding the Bible with its roadmap to earth…”, and “cawing cries outside his window in the magnolia” are my favorites.
“Mangy strays” and “sleek expensive dogs” and “you could grow old with your story inside of you” — these are just a few of the descriptions, the moments and illuminations in this story that are involving. Come-sit-by-the-fire-and-let-me-tell-you-a-story is as old as the campfire, the prehistoric fire, itself, but writers have too often been indifferent to this tradition. Wallin is one of its practitioners and purveyors, though, bringing us closer to the flame as we listen in to this story of strange doings, the devil, the mythic town, the innocence of the boy that will be savagely lost after the sleepy night. Thanks for printing it here. It will linger with me for a long time.
I have thoroughly enjoyed this March issue of the Moon Milk Review. Most of all, the “Monster” story by Luke Wallin made an intoxicating and compulsive reading that raised my heart rate and kept me biting my nails. Its rich language, deep psychological insights, heady mixture of reality and fantasy, reminded me of the very best of magic realism fiction of the Boom Period of the Latin Literature. Mr Wallin is up there with the very best. Thank you for including such a marvelous piece!
Hervorragend Geschichte! I could be that boy, learning to create my own reality. What can you do when a devil slo-mo sashays around you?
Luke, you had me all the way. Powerful. Dickey would have loved you. What a strong lush Southern punch “Monster” is.Thank you – its short, and profound. A fable, that is real. Yeats and Carson McC.would cheer. Poor dog.
Thank you for this one.
More of this.
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