THE MONSTERS ARE HERE
We called the man Frankenstein after the novel, like that was normal. Like it was okay to mock the disabled and deformed. There were so many bone chilling incidents I could tell you about. But I'll only share a few.
Like how we saw him at the Olive Garden and laughed at him trying to slurp down his unlimited soup and shovel in bread sticks with his shaky ice cream scooper like hands. We posted a video about it on TikTok. It got 52,000 likes.
One among us tried to stop it. But we threw him in a pit with the others. In our defense, we didn't exactly kill the irritating whistleblower wannabe. But he was most likely dead. It's hard to breathe in pits once you are covered by dirt. We didn’t confirm because we weren't going to stick around for the Edgar Allen Poe aftermath.
As my grandpa always used to say, “Snitches Get Stitches.” I never asked him to clarify if he ever saw this really happen. And, if so, who was the one sewing in the stitches? And did anyone ever take them out?
It was too late to ask grandpa now. He had already been dragged through the gates of Hell and was living unhappily down under. And all my letters got marked return to sender before they spontaneously burst into flames. I had to hand it to them. It was an efficient means of disposing of unwanted fan mail. It wasn't like that time I worked for that guy who has been an extra in that iconic John Hughes movie whose requests for appearances piled up until he finally got so mad that he sent them crashing through the garage window like Ferris Bueller's friend's Cameron's car.
With the Piggy figure among us gone, we suspected that the girl with the cleft palate wanted to protest our awfulness because even after her face fixing surgery she never really looked pretty enough to get cat called on that horrifying stretch of road between the we will pray for you clinic and the upscale coffee shop, which was only three city blocks and five light years apart. It was that area of the city where the rest of us braced for impact because we love/hated to have our bodies objectified. It made us realize that while we were mostly only valued for our looks, we, as women, weren't dried up disposable yet. But she kept her not quite regular mouth shut, and we let her exist on the periphery of popular because she had a car, and, sometimes, we needed a ride to the ATM, and she never made us pay for gas.
We didn't just ostracize him when we saw him. We also went out of our way to make his away from other people time as terrible as possible. One weekend, we decorated his yard with 360 Wish You Were Dead placards. In our defense, who can resist a buy two, get one free discount outlet sale?
And, as if that weren't enough, we covered his nicer than we could afford luxury sedan in fake puke that we got from the gag gift store at the nearly dead mall. Most of the good stores at that mall had closed six years ago, but somehow it still managed to stay open with just a GameStop, a Bath & Body works, a Chick-Fil-A, an all you can eat buffet, an eyebrow threading place, the puke shop, and Belk as the anchor store. It just goes to show that even Hell probably has chain store filled shopping malls that stock all the items you could and should live without but choose not to because who doesn't feel the need to stock up on hand sanitizer and horror games?
Keith, the unofficial leader of our hate group, was not so secretly hoping that the man would leave town. His last campaign to drive out migrant workers had been so successful that the poultry processing plants in town were so understaffed now that every other week it seemed like someone lost a finger or a hand. Keith's own brother, who had only graduated high school because the vice principal took pity on him and let him pass developmental English when he could barely read, was down to seven fingers. An immigrant from Cuba who Keith called Juan because Keith said aren't they all the same helped his brother pass math. Keith made sure that Juan, whose real name was Oscar, was on the first bus out. Keith's brother no longer spoke to him. Sometimes, when Keith was drunk on Rebel Yell Whiskey, he called his brother and cried. But Keith's calls went straight to voicemail. None of us could blame Keith's brother for cutting him off. Oscar was his brother's best friend. My sister, Mel, who also worked at the plant but still had all her fingers so far, said that Keith's brother kept in touch with Oscar. She also said that Oscar had won a scholarship contest and attended college now. Oscar was trying to find Keith's brother a safer job at an Amazon distribution center up near where he lived. We all knew that if Keith's brother had the chance to leave, he would.
Maybe there was no defending us, but we didn't know then that the man's father had invented those phone holder things that everyone owns now, and that the man had moved down here because he had read on one of those lie after lie websites promoted by the Normalsville Chamber of Commerce that our town was a nice place to live. We only found that out when we realized that, though unattractive, he was a person after all.
One day, we woke up and the man was gone without a trace. No forwarding address. No car, no furniture. Just a brochure showing people in our town looking caring and welcoming while idyllic citizens decorated the Christmas tree near the ice rink with a link to the Chamber of Commerce website, which, after that, appeared to be permanently down. The real estate company tried to tell the man's house. But no one wanted to buy it. Most likely, it would just be converted to cheap shoddy student housing like most everything else.
Keith thinks that the man moved somewhere else like Keith’s brother planned to. But the move was just too quiet and too quick. No one saw or heard a thing. After that our hate group disbanded. Because, with the man who was not a monster gone, we had nothing to keep us together. Now I sometimes hang out with the girl who had the semi successful face surgery. She seems to know that I’m hesitant to be seen with her in public. So we drive two towns over to Rin Tin's Pin's Bowling Alley just about every other Friday night.
I think now that the monster seeming man was sent by God to test us. And we failed so bad. Like the man on the street corner by the half dead mall says, "Vengeance is coming." I don't doubt that.
Part of me wants to drive out to the pit and climb in and see if I'll catch fire and disappear like the letters I sent to grandpa did. Nonexistence would be a relief. But I know that's more than I deserve.
Lori D'Angelo's work has appeared in various literary journals including Drunken Boat, Gargoyle, Gravel, Hawaii Pacific Review, Literary Mama, the Potomac Review, and Word Riot. She is a fellow at Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences, a grant recipient from the Elizabeth George Foundation, and an alumna of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. She lives in Virginia with her dogs, cats, kids, and husband. You can find her outside near the hell pit or on Twitter at @sclly21.