By Charles Etheridge-Nunn
“This hand,” my father said as he was driving, lifting one hand from the wheel, looking at us, “is the hand… of a demented circus clown!” and it would attack, possessed by the clown, tickling its’ prey to death. We’d always survive and bat it off, but only barely saving ourselves from the clown which took his hand over and tried to take over the world.
My dad was a magnet for monsters. We never knew why, but he was several different ones all at once.
In the car again, driving to his house past all the places we normally walked. Reality always seems different when you’re driving to when you’re a pedestrian. Moreso when you’re a gorilla, I guess.
“Banana?” my dad would grunt, or shout, or… well, it was too late to analyse, he was already making monkey noises.
“Oh no!” We’d cry. Every time we mentioned bananas, fruit, anything yellow, it all led back to bananas and that brought out the gorilla in him.
“We were descended from gorillas,” he said.
It was always the same, he would turn into a gorilla as we were getting near a red light, or an old, slow person in their car. We’d crash. We’d kill someone. Our game, no, our duty, was to make him human again. Or people would die.
His favourite was an ogre.
“You had twenty-nine brothers and sisters. I ate them all,” he was so matter-of-fact about it. “Alice is buried over there,” he pointed at a section of the park.
The story went that he was around before the dinosaurs (his mother before even that) and he drank baby’s blood. He would have eaten us, but the dog kept dragging us out of the fire until we were old enough to fend for ourselves.
As we grew older, the crocodile began to lose his teeth. The ogre was slower and rounder. We became adults and realised that we had learned nothing practical. All our lessons were about making forts or being spies. Awe became resentment. A fantastical childhood slowly became seen as neglect, danger and stupidity. Why didn’t we learn anything? Did he just like confusing the little people who were forced on him every other weekend? We lost the magic.
And yet… Sometimes I catch myself… The monster in me. It leaps out at a friend when we’re talking or when I enter a room.
“Rarr!” I paddle claw-like hands in the air and snarl as I jump through the door. “Coffee Raptor demands coffee!” and sometimes they’re good with it. They play along with me and all the raptors prance to the kitchen to get coffee. Yes, raptors prance.
Other times I fix my competitor with a steely gaze, we wait, I draw my hands to my waist like a cowboy and then shout “DEER!”
My hands shoot up to the sides of my head, fingers waving like antlers. My flatmate just looks and me and tuts “Weirdo.”
I’m good with that.