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The Monster

June 28, 1992|Scott Bradfield | "I wanted to write a Frankenstein story," says Scott Bradfield. "The Monster was inspired by that sort of guy who is extremely cerebral--the emotionally shut-down male." Bradfield's fantastic view of the world pervades his stories in "The History of Luminous Motion" and "Dream of the Wolf," both published by Vintage Books. "The Monster" will appear in a new collection to be published in England, where Bradfield has lived off and on since 1986. Born and raised in San Francisco, Bradfield, 37, earned a Ph.D. in English from UC Irvine and teaches American literature at the University of Connecticut. He recently finished writing his first screenplay. "Maybe that will bring me back to California," he says. "I miss the sun."

Over a period of many years, the Monster patiently assembled itself from various stray parts and pieces collected from neighborhood garage sales, thrift stores, bargain basements and swap meets. Oily gears and levers, large iron washers embossed with dark sticky substances, the ruptured transistor spines of discarded pocket radios and home intercoms. The Monster was such a perfect Monster, it often claimed to forget its own origins. Because it was large, powerful and indelicate, it called itself a man. Because it contained complex intestinal spools of memory and data, it called itself smart. As it came to perfect and complete itself, it became hard, visible, perishable and keen. It walked in the streets. It saw people and spoke with them. It noticed birds in the sky, clouds, airplanes and the cool clinical matrices of high power and telephone lines. "I see," the Monster said, "I walk. I talk. I know. I be. I am."

"In order to know the world," the Monster thought one day, "I must let the world know me." This was the Monster's first philosophical thought, and so the Monster cherished it, as well as the particular sprockets and spanners from which the idea had been gentlydisengaged. Shortly thereafter, the Monster went into business designing and manufacturing miniature, fist-sized mechanical Monsters for children, who bought them and their multitudinous accessories eagerly and with much fanfare. Monster House, Monster Railway, Monster Designer Jeans, Monster Sauna, Monster Barbecue Patio Set, Monster Porsche and, of course, the ever-popular Monster Family--Roger, Tina, Troy and Wendy.

"You are the sort of man who knows what he wants from life," the Monster's secretary, Tracy Simpson, said admiringly one afternoon, just after her third pina colada. "When you see what you want, you go out and get it. You don't beat around the bush. You don't sit around trying to make up your mind. Like, my old boyfriend, Ron, he never made up his mind. So finally I had to make up Ron's mind for him."

The Monster and Tracy were married the following June and began raising a subsidiary family of their own--subsidiary, that is, in relation to Man-Monster Industries, which had become so enormously successful that it was now governed by strange, distant men in tall, dark buildings with reflective windows. Cool geometries of finance widened the Monster's world, making it at once more transcendent and more real. Stock portfolios, notational diagrams, employee psychological profiles, marketing surveys, payroll and tax. "I began this company seven years ago in order to vindicate myself to the world," the Monster said one day, at the annual stockholder's meeting in Reno. "I now have no self left that I wish to vindicate. This is a fine company that has extended itself beyond the parameters of any one individual. It has joined itself with the world of business, numbers, profit and loss. Please keep in touch. I will keep my mailbox open here at the office."

That afternoon the Monster went home to its family, where the atmosphere had grown rather stale, gray and desultory over the years. The enormous house filled with enormous furniture. blue pool in the yard, topiary hedges shaped like various Monster toys and accessories. There was even a small, spurting fountain. This was a home where the Monster had never belonged. This was a family where the Monster had never been known.

We are divided by different histories, the Monster thought. The history of flesh and the history of iron. Simmering cells, protein, DNA, RNA, blood. Cotton mills, pistons, microwaves, household appliances, plumbing. Men had lived their lives for many thousands of years before iron, eating everything they could get their hands on, killing everything in sight. Sometimes the Monster wished it could know the hard visceral anger that helped men eat. Perhaps then the Monster could live its dense, curious life less wary of being eaten.

"Hello?" the Monster said. "Is anybody home?"

Silence resided here, contradicting the constant, noisy beat of the Monster's secret, clock-like interior. The Monster went into the kitchen and locked the doors. It opened and closed a number of kitchen cupboards, assembling appropriate implements on the finely varnished wormwood countertops. Then it began making meticulous adjustments on itself. You will be more patient and attentive, the Monster said with its tools. You will take your wife dancing. You will spend more time with the kids.

"Dad?" David called from outside. The kitchen doorknob rattled. "Dad, is that you?"

"It's me," the Monster said. Across the countertop lay disemboweled components resembling bolts and washers, springs and flywheels, toaster grills and turkey timers. Hurriedly the Monster reached for them.

"Just a minute," the Monster said. "Please. Don't come in just yet."

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