Jack Foley

 

 

 

“THE MONST”

 

 

                                                            The ground slips when the monster comes along.

                                                                                                Rosamond Purcell, Special Cases

 

 

            The D D D Monster was worried.

 

             He wanted very much to be a part of the family he was living with but he wasn’t sure exactly where he fit in. Most families have mothers, fathers, children, relatives, dogs, cats, goldfish—but monsters? How did monsters fit into a family? He tried to calm himself by extending his forefinger and poking it gently into the sofa three times while saying “D D D,” which is how he got his name. Nobody, including the monster, knew why he said “D D D” and poked things. He just said it and poked. Usually he liked to do this very much. It made him feel very good. So he tried again: “D D D.” But it didn’t help. He was still worried.

 

            The Astronaut often assured the Monster that he was cared for, and the Monster always believed the Astronaut. But the Monster wanted more than assurance. He wanted to be a real member of the family, just as the Astronaut was. The Astronaut’s father, Jack, would call the Astronaut “big boy” and “my son.” Who was there to call the D D D Monster such names? Maybe monsters didn’t have families.

 

            “Shut up, D,” said the Astronaut, walking into the room. That was the Astronaut’s way of greeting the Monster. The Monster liked it because it meant the Astronaut had noticed him. Usually the greeting made the Monster say something. But today he was more than usually sad. “Thank you, Sean,” he said—he always thanked the Astronaut when the Astronaut told him to shut up—but he said nothing more.

 

            “What’s the matter, Monst?” asked Sean, who noticed the Monster’s sadness.

 

            “Wah,” said the Monster. “I’m not a member of the familyyyyyyy. Wah.”

 

            Sean poked the Monster to cheer him up. “D D D,” he said. Usually this made the monster feel very good. But today it didn’t seem to work.

 

            “I tell you what, Monst,” said Sean. “Let’s go ask Jack whether you’re a member of the family. He’ll be sure to know.”

 

            So the Astronaut and the Monster went in search of Jack, the Astronaut’s father. The problem here was that Jack really didn’t know whether the Monster were a member of the family. The Monster looked quite a lot like Jack—in fact, he looked almost exactly like Jack. But that didn’t necessarily qualify him as a member of the family. The world, after all, has many people who look a great deal like us, but they aren’t necessarily related to us. Jack had no idea where the Monster had come from. One day he was simply there, that’s all, walking around in his funny, rolling way and poking people while saying “D D D.” Jack’s wife Adelle wondered whether that were some sort of code, but it didn’t seem to be. So when the Monster and the Astronaut approached Jack to ask him their question, he didn’t really know how to answer.

 

            “Well,” said Jack, “you do look quite a bit like me.”

            “Yeah, yeah,” said the Monster excitedly.

            “And people who look like you are often related to you.”

            “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” said the Monster.

            “But then, people who look a lot like you are sometimes not related to you at all.”

            “Oh,” said the Monster, becoming considerably less enthusiastic.

            “So, while there’s a good chance you’re related to me—”

            “Look,” said the Astronaut, suddenly having an idea. “We have a dog. Isn’t the dog a member of the family?”

            “Why, yes,” said Jack, “certainly the dog is a member of the family.”

            “And we have a goldfish,” said the Astronaut. “Isn’t the goldfish a member of the family?”

            “Of course he is,” said Jack.

            “Yeah, yeah,” said the D D D Monster, brightening a little.

            “Well, we also have a monster,” said the Astronaut. “Isn’t the monster a member of the family?”

            “Why, yes,” said Jack. “I hadn’t looked at it that way. Yes, he is.”

            “Monst,” said Sean, “you’re the family monster.”

            “Yeah, yeah,” said the Monster.

            “Kind of like the family dog,” said Sean, “only better cause we don’t have to walk you.” 1

            “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” said the Monster.

            “Well, that’s settled,” said the Astronaut. “Monst, would you like me to D D D you?”

            “Yeah, yeah,” said the Monster.

            And so Sean put out his finger and poked the Monster in his tummy, saying, “D D D.”

            “Thank you, thank you, Sean,” said the Monster. “Thank you for proving I’m a member of the family.”

            Sean smiled and said, “Shut up, D.”

            And for once the Monster shut up.

           

[1] Editor’s note: It is not certain whether the D D D Monster has to be walked or not.

           

 

*

 

           Today the Monster decided to write a poem. He was rather a formal Monster, and he decided to make it a formal poem. He decided he would write a haiku. The Astronaut had learned about haiku at school, and he had carefully instructed the DDD Monster in how to do it. “The first line is five syllables,” said the Astronaut. “The second line is seven syllables. And the third line is five syllables again. It’s easy.”

           

But it wasn’t so easy for the Monster. The problem was that he could go to three pretty easily. His DDD’s were like that. But getting to five and then seven was much harder. He tried and he tried. Finally the Astronaut helped him. This was the haiku he produced:

 

 

DDDDD

DDDDDDD

DDDDD.

 

 

            Everyone congratulated him, so, with another mighty effort, he produced still another haiku. This one went

 


 
 

DDDDD

DDDDdDD

DDDDD.

 

            That, however, was the end of the DDD Monster’s career as a poet.

 

*

 

            The DDD Monster was disturbed again. He was looking for his opinion. He knew he had one, but he wasn’t quite sure what or where it was. He thought it might show up if he just looked hard enough. He knew it would be a good opinion.

            “What’s the matter, Monst?” asked the Astronaut.

            “I am looking for my opinion,” said the Monster.

            “Looking for your opinion, eh,” said the Astronaut. “Any idea where you might have left it?”

            “No,” said the Monst. “Jack was talking to someone and he turned to me and he asked, ‘Monst, do you have an opinion?’”

            “And what did you say?”

            “I said of course I had an opinion. I was sure that every Monster had an opinion.”

            “Uh huh. And now you can’t find it.”

            “Yeah, yeah,” said the Monster. “Do you think you can help me?”

            “Well, now, I just might be able to,” said the Astronaut. “Come with me.”

            The Astronaut led the Monster into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator door. He reached in and got out some chocolate ice cream. He put some in a bowl for the Monster and some in a bowl for himself.

            “Well,” said the Astronaut. “Do you like that, D?”

            “Oh, yes,” said the Monster.

            “Would you say it was very good?” asked the Astronaut, finishing up his portion.

            “Oh, yes,” said the Monster.

            “Well, then,” said the Astronaut. “That’s your opinion.”

            “That’s it?” said the Monster.

            “That’s it,” said the Astronaut. “If someone asks you for your opinion, you can say, “I think chocolate ice cream is very good. That’s my opinion.”

            “Oh, thank you!” said the Monster.

            “Think nothing of it,” said the Astronaut.

            “What was my opinion again?” asked the Monster.

            “Very good,” said the Astronaut.

            “Oh, yeah.”

            The Monster was very happy. That was his opinion.

 

*

           

            “Oh, now I understand,” said the little girl in the schoolyard to Jack. “You are the D D D Monster.”

            “No, no, I’m not,” said Jack, who had been telling her about the Monster’s activities. “I just look a lot like him.”

            The question of the D D D Monster’s identity was a thorny one around the Foley household. “After all,” Jack reasoned, “just because someone looks like you doesn’t make him the same as you.”

            “You are the D D D Monster,” said the little girl, unmoved by Jack’s assertion.

            “We’ll ask Sean about that when he gets here,” said Jack.

            Soon the Astronaut appeared. “Sean,” said his father, “tell Mary here who the D D D Monster is.”

            “You are the D D D Monster,” said Sean.

            “I thought so!” said Mary triumphantly as she ran off to join her mother, who had just arrived.

            “Sean,” said Jack, waving to Mary’s mother. “How can you say that? Do I go around poking people with my fingers? Do I go around with a bewildered look on my face? Do I sing Do do do all the time? No. How can I be the D D D Monster?”

            “You play the D D D Monster,” said Sean.

            “Play the Monster!” said Jack, as if this were the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard. “We’ll see when we get home.”

            At home, the Monst was walking around with a bewildered look on his face. He was singing his favorite song, which went Do do do. His forefingers were extended and he was preparing to give Sean and Jack a welcoming D D D when Jack said, “Monst, people have been saying that you and I are the same!”

            “The same?” said the Monst.

            “Yes, the same. It’s a rumor that’s been going around. Why, even Sean here—”

            “You think I’m Jack?” said the Monster to Sean.

            “Not exactly,” said Sean, “I think Jack is you.”

            “Oh,” said the Monster, somewhat puzzled by this.

            “I think Jack plays you,” said Sean.

            “Jack plays me?” said the Monster. “I thought he played the guitar.”

            “Yes, he does play the guitar,” answered Sean patiently. “But he also plays you.”

            “Do I sound like the guitar?” asked the Monster, who was beginning to get very perplexed.

            “No, not much,” Sean admitted. “I mean Jack plays you the way an actor plays a role.”

            They had had rolls for breakfast that morning so the Monster was naturally a little confused by Sean’s turn of phrase. “I thought Jack ate his rolls this morning.”

            “Yes, he did,” said Sean.

            “You should never play with your food,” said the Monster seriously.

            “No,” said Sean. “No, you shouldn’t. Monster, you’re a part Jack plays.”

            “I’m apart?” said the Monster. “No, I’m right here.”

            “Monster!” said Sean, exasperated. “You don’t exist!”

            “Huh?” said the D D D Monster.

            “You see,” said Jack, “it’s perfectly clear that we’re separate people. It’s as plain as the nose on your face. How could anyone make that mistake?”

            “Oh, all right,” said Sean, tired. It had been a long day at school. “All right, you’re separate people.”

            “I’m Jack!” said the Monster.

            “What?” said Sean.

            “I’m Jack!” the Monster repeated. “Do do do. Do do do.”

            “This is a very strange family,” said Sean.

            “Yes,” said the Monster. “But it’s a nice family.”

            “Nice, but strange,” thought Sean. “In fact—”

            “Sean,” said the Monster, “is there anything you might like to say to me?”

            Sean was at the end of his tether. He was really tired. He gave in. “Shut up, D,” he said wearily.

            “Thank you, Sean,” said the Monster, smiling. And he immediately shut up.

 

 

            *

 

            “Let’s say mean things about Jack,” said the Monster.

            “All right,” said the Astronaut.

            But the Monster couldn’t think of a single mean thing to say.

            “Monster,” said the Astronaut, “you’re pitiful.”

            “Thank you,” said the Monster.

 

 

            *

 

            “Shut up, D,” said the Astronaut, smiling on a sunshiny day.

            The Monster smiled back. As usual, he began to talk.

 

          *

 

 

CODA: LE MONSTRE BIEN-RANGÉ

 

            Un jour, le monste a décidé de visiter son grand ami de vingt ans, Ravi. Il a voyagé à la France, où Ravi demeurait. En France le monste est un peu renommé.  Il est “le plus grand monstre de D D D de la France (aussi le seul).”

            Le monst était étonné de decouvrir que Ravi n’était plus enfant. Ravi est homme: il s’était marié à une très belle jeune fille qui s’appellait Christelle. (“Elle est comme cristal,” pensait le monst.) Et Ravi et Christelle étaient les fiers parents de Léna, une belle enfante de presque deux ans. “Par ma barbe,” pensait le monst, “comme le têmps coule! Les enfants deviennent les parents—et voilà! plus d’enfants.” Mais le monst—le monst est toujours le monst, ni homme ni parent ni enfant. Ca c’est très mystèrieux pour la  pauvre créature.  Alors, il est “le plus grand,” mais personne ne le connaît. Est-il monstreux, ce monstre? Non. Il est ni homme ni bête. En vérité, c’était bizarre. Mais Ravi—grand ami du monst—a dit, “Ça va, Monst. Ça va. Ca n’est pas grande chose. Tu es le monst. Tu fais le D D D. Tu es heureux.” “Heureux?” a dit le monst. “Je suis heureux?” “Mais oui,” a dit Ravi avec un beau sourire.  “Mais oui!” a dit le monst. C’était vrai. Il était heureux. “Quelle visite!” a dit le monstre. Et il a donné un grand D D D  à son ami français.

 


THE WELL-BROUGHT-UP MONSTER

 

One day, the Monst decided to visit his great friend of twenty years, Ravi. He traveled to France, where Ravi lived. In France the monster is a little bit known. He is “the greatest Monster of DDD of France (also the only one).”

 

The Monst was astonished to discover that Ravi was no longer a child. Ravi is a man: he married a very beautiful young woman named Christelle. (“She is like crystal,” thought the Monst.) And Ravi and Christelle were the proud parents of Lena, a beautiful child of nearly two years. “By my beard,” thought the Monst (whose command of idiomatic French was a bit out of date), “how time runs on! Children become parents—and then more children.” But the Monst—the Monst is always the Monst, neither man nor parent nor child. That was very mysterious to the poor creature. He is “the greatest,” but no one knows him. Is he monstrous, this monster? No. He is neither man nor beast. In truth, it was bizarre. But Ravi—the Monst’s great friend—said, “It’s all right, Monst. It’s all right. It’s no big thing. You are the Monst. You go D D D. You are happy.” “Happy?” said the Monst. “I’m happy?” “Yes!” said Ravi with a beautiful smile. “Yes!” said the Monst. It was true. He was happy. “What a visit!” said the monster. And he gave a big D D D to his French friend.

 

 Copyright © 2011 Jack Foley

 

Jack Foley is a widely-published San Francisco poet known for his "spoken-word performances" which involve choruses. His Cover to Cover radio show, can be heard online at Berkley Radio KPFA www.kpfa.org
"Jack Dancing"
by Leonard Breger