In the eye of the beholder

Charli Mills is on a monster hunt this week.

March 9, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a monster story. You can pick any perspective, even that of the monster. It can be literal or symbolic; it can be heroic or realistic. Think about the shifting roles of what is a monster and who is a monster-slayer. Consider how easily we give the label to others or to fears we can’t name.

In Charli’s post she compiles a worrisome list of monsters who she perceives are after her when dusk settles across the land. I live in an urban jungle and large furry beasts tend to smell of alcohol or have the glint of redistribution in their malevolent eye.

But wind the clock back and the monsters I feared as a child, when I was beginning to form memory, were all in the plumbing.


weaver of stories, creator of monsters

I stayed many times at my Gran’s in a house built in the early 1800s. It was tall and ramshackle and my mentor and nemesis in its exploration, the Archaeologist had a fertile imagination. Monsters lurked everywhere but especially in the bathroom. This was a two level low ceilinged affair with a claw foot bath and sink big enough to bathe an elephant. It also possessed the kind of toilet on which small boys perch cautiously, fearing a slip might tip you into the maws of death.

In those days, toilet flushes were of the high level sort and the rush of water, on pulling at the chain roared through ancient lead pipes taking, within its flow, everything in close proximity.

I feared that flush with a secret desperation that had me dampening my shorts a little to regularly for rational explanation. My mother, gentle but persistent inquisitor that she was revealed the truth. Unlike my father who expressed the common view, encompassing the  ‘grow up’ theory of monster eradication. But mum understood. She experimented with lengths of string until she had created an archmidean system that enabled remote flushing. If I could have expressed my love for my mother in one example it would be that tug and flush system she devised.

The monsters were cunning, of course and the Archaeologist not easily deflected in his story telling. The hot water for the bath came from a gas heated contraption that first saw use at the Crimea. Most times it hissed with a suppressed threat and I waited until the beast was corralled (i.e. turned off) before heading for a bath. But the one time I let down my guard and allowed myself to be inveigled into the water before the beast was contained was the time it exploded with a build up of gas. Time has shown me these explosions are small, mostly safe and commonplace but to my hypersensitive self they represented the truth of the Archaeologist’s statement – ‘monsters are mobile’.

If I thought I was safe back home and freed from Ancient plumbing I was wrong. We lived in a 1930s semi, with a small bathroom, nicely tiled in a psychologically restful green. Being the junior partner in Sunday bath night I was never offered the choice of bath ends and for a time had to sit on the plug. That is until the transferable monster took residence thereunder and the threat of being sucked through that small hole revealed itself to my suggestible imagination.

‘You can’t squeeze through that hole. It’s too small.’ Again my father tried logic to defeat irrationality but mum, ever practical and well aware that it was the sort of thought she had had pre childbirth, simply made the Archaeologist sit at that end.

Perhaps the final straw, the point at which even my mother lost patience was when my father, dispatched on some DIY task put his foot through the bathroom ceiling. This dark as pitch aperture gave my Tormentor in chief the opportunity to create another monster lair in my imagination but since refusing to take a bath at all was not on my agenda and fixing the hole not something achieved in a moment she merely picked me up, put me in the bath and stilled my cries with a soapy hand wiped across my puling lips.

Perhaps here is the point where I should admit I cannot be sure of the Archaeologist’s role in my terror. All I can say is he was a marvellous weaver of stories based on his extensive reading and I followed him everywhere, a shadow both devoted and suspicious. If his audience was gullible to that imagination he may have been unaware of the consequences. His crime, if one it be, was to fail to appreciate how credulous I could be. I may have been terrified but, looking back, I wouldn’t have missed those stories for the world.

And thus we turn our gaze on Mary North, recent recipient of a letter from Ireland with some imformation about her long missing twin sister.

The Monster in the Room

 Mary moved the map and re-read the detective’s letter for the umpteenth time. She could see the seaside cottage, imagine the blond girl leaving for school.

‘How’s it going?’ Peter, her husband stood in the doorway, red pinny incongruously tied to his waist.

‘There’s so much here. It’s her, I’m sure. I spoke to Rupert. He said we need to go back.’

Peter regarded his wife with affection. ‘Of course if it looks like it’s her. Dinner in ten.’ He turned away, hiding his grimace. If it gets this monster off your back, he thought, it’ll be worth it.

To catch up with Mary and her story, click here

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
This entry was posted in creative writing, family, flash fiction, miscellany, writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to In the eye of the beholder

  1. Ritu says:

    I always love your background to your stories Geoffles!
    (The stories aren’t bad either!!!😉)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this latest ‘chapter.’ Poor husband. :/

    Liked by 1 person

  3. merrildsmith says:

    Having a rather vivid imagination and having been frightened by monsters myself, I totally understand your fear. I remember when my girls were young, there was a picture book that involved toy people going down the drain (The Tub People). I don’t remember the details, but it terrified my daughters. Of course, all of their toys were real.

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Now there’s a memory We had a book of poems called, I think Hairy MacClary from Donaldson’s dairy about different dogs – the Dalmatian was bottomless Potts all covered in spots. On the last page this sinister cat peeped out ready to terrorise all the dogs. He was scar faced claw and he utterly terrified my daughter. Thanks for bringing that one back.


  4. trifflepudling says:

    Your brother’s stories still have something of the fantastical about them!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I wonder if the Archaeologist might rightfully claim a percentage of your book royalties for his role as muse of inspiration? Just a thought …………

    Liked by 1 person

  6. davidprosser says:

    The story progresses and today maybe we understand a little more of how you come to create them.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. jan says:

    Such an entertaining post! Ancient plumbing is very monstrous indeed! I was terrified of toilets when I was a toddler.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Annecdotist says:

    Funny how toilet flushes are often scary for children – I suppose it’s the fear of being sucked into them and carried away. I love how you’ve finished the flash with the monster in the mind – very effective.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Charli Mills says:

    Obsession can be a monster and this one has come up between Mary and her spouse. As to your monsters, it’s amazing you bathe at all!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Where Monsters Lurk « Carrot Ranch Communications

If you would like to reply please do so here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.