“I have three things I'd like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don't give a s**t. What's worse is that you're more upset with the fact that I said s**t than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”
― Tony Campolo, Evangelical Preacher
Here begins a parable of Morty:
Once upon a time, there was a bartender named Dudley who owned a small bar on the edge of a town called Possum Cove. He liked his customers, most of whom were decent folk, though many were poor. He liked the little town he lived in well enough. As is the case with most bartenders, Dudley had many interesting stories. This particular story begins on a dark and stormy evening.
The rain had been pelting the windows like bullets for almost an hour. Lightning animated three dank, spindly bushes at the edge of the parking lot. Not a single customer had braved the moat since the storm started. Dudley was contemplating locking up and turning out the lights when the door banged open with a smash. An outsized silhouette filled the doorway like an ink stain against the lightning. It paused for a moment and then loped up to the bar.
Dudley registered a slight shock. The figure was a monster, entirely covered with hair, long yellow teeth, and fur-covered hands ending in claws. Dudley had to acknowledge that the creature waswell-dressed. It was wearing a dark, tailored suit and a red silk tie.
Dudley was a little uncertain how to react, but the monster sat at the bar and began looking at the liquor on the shelves behind him. A customer is a customer, thought Dudley, Besides, he hasn’t done anything wrong. He just looks scary.
The monster pointed to the shelf behind the bar where brown bottles reflected against a mirrored background.
“I’ll take your best whiskey,” he said.
“I.D?” asked Dudley. He didn’t want to lose his liquor license.
“Hmmmphhh,” said the monster in a growly voice. He slapped his driver’s license down on the counter.
Dudley picked it up and looked at it, “F***ing Monster?” he asked, raising his eyebrows.
“That’s right,” said the Monster, “That’s Mr.F***ing Monster to you.
Dudley set the bottle of whiskey on the counter and pulled out a glass, but before he could fill it, the monster tipped the bottle up. Glug! Glug! Glug!
Then the monster got up to leave.
“Hey!” said Dudley, “That stuff is expensive! Aren’t you going to pay?”
“Nope,” said the monster, “That’s just not who I am.” He winked.
“I don’t know what you’re doing in this town,” said Dudley, “But people aren’t going to put up with you acting like that.”
“Aren’t they?” said the monster, “I don’t know. Now, I’m off to a party and then if I’m still peckish, I might go eat a few stray animals. If there aren’t enough, maybe some pets. Or you know…whatever I can find.”
“You can’t do that!” said Dudley, “Think of how some kid would feel if you ate a puppy!
“Nope,” said the monster, “I really don’t think about anything except how hungry and thirsty I am.”
“Are you seriously not going to pay?” asked Dudley, “I’ll have to report you to the police.”
“I’m headed to the policeman’s ball now,” said the monster, “I made a hefty little contribution to the department, so I got a free ticket. But do as you wish.”
He slid his arm across the bar, knocking glasses to the floor, then loped out the door with an enormous bang! He slammed the door so hard that several windows broke.The door hung twisted on its hinges. Dudley saw the retreating form of the monster in a flash of lightning, then he was gone.
Dudley ran to his truck and raced to the old Magnus Hotel where the Policeman’s Ball was taking place.
He ran in through the storm and asked at the front desk if he might see the Police Chief.
“Sir,” sniffed the pale, long-faced young man at the desk, “You’re hardly dressed for this event. The Mayor and his wife have requested that guests come attired in black tie. I’ll also need to see your invitation.”
“I need to report a crime,” said Dudley, “The person who committed it said he was coming here! I think he’s dangerous.”
He folded his thick, tattooed arms and stood dripping on the carpet until finally the young man complied and came back with both the Police Chief and the Mayor.
“What seems to be the trouble Dudley,” Police Chief Lumpkin sighed. He twisted his tie around his thick neck, looking uncomfortable.
“A Mr. F***ing Monster came into the bar, drank a whole bottle of my best whiskey without paying, twisted the door on its hinges and then said he was coming here. Says he has an invitation,” Dudley said, “In fact, I think I see him in there dancing with your wife right now.”
The monster was indeed cheek to cheek with the Chief's wife.
“For Heaven’s sake, Dudley,” said Mayor Chillingham, “There’s no need for such language!”
“It’s his name!” said Dudley, “I didn’t say it to be rude. Besides, he just tore up my bar.”
“Nevertheless,” said the Mayor, “I won’t have you speaking like that.”
The Mayor’s wife, Martha Chillingham, appeared by his shoulder.
“What seems to be the problem?” she asked, “I’m hostess of this event and we certainly don’t need biker types showing up dripping wet. For God’s sake! Who let him in here in a t-shirt, covered in tattoos. This is not that kind of party.”
Mrs. Chillingham did not like Dudley at all.
Dudley stood his ground.
“Maybe your standards are not as high as you think!” said Dudley. He pointed into the ballroom as the monster swept the Sherriff’s wife past the big oaken archway and whirled her back into the crowd, “That guy is a F***ing Monster! He just tore up my bar.”
The mayor’s wife put her hands over her ears and shrieked, “Heaven’s sakes! I cannot bear that sort of language.” She stamped her foot.
“Whatever,” said Dudley, “Besides the fact that he’s a monster, he’s told me he’s going to go eat some stray animals and probably even some pets.”
“Well,” said the Mayor’s wife, fluttering hands moving birdlike to touch the diamond that hung around her neck, “He’s already told us that. It will be down by the trailer park and those dreadful little Cherry Lane apartments where they could stand to have a few less stray animals. He’s helping out the town and what are you doing? Showing up here? Causing a ruckus? Saying unspeakable things!”
“His name,” Dudley said slowly and carefully, “Is actually F***ing Monster. It’s his name for God’s sakes! I’m just telling you who he is!”
But the mayor’s wife had taken to shrieking again, covering her ears.
Police Chief Harold Lumpkin whistled for two of his officers and Dudley found himself rudely tossed back out into the rain.
His truck was parked in the back-parking lot of the hotel. By the time he crawled into the front seat he was dripping, forlorn, unsure what to do next. He started to light a cigarette when he realized he had no lighter or matches. When he saw a man in a kitchen apron walk out the back, hunch under the awning and light up, he wondered if it was worth asking for a light. Dudley really needed that smoke. Almost enough to brave the rain.
While he was contemplating this, he saw the door open again. The huge silhouette from the bar appeared. The door closed and then Dudley saw Mr. Monster lift the man by his shirt, pick him up and swallow him whole.
Dudley’s eyes met the monster’s. With shaking hands, he tried to start the truck, but he dropped the keys on the floorboard. He fished around for them frantically. He could hear his heart pounding over the thunder. When he sat back up, the monster was at the window.
The monster bellowed at him, “All full for tonight, Dudley. Don’t worry.” He laughed and patted the driver’s side of the door, “Do you want to come back in and warn everyone? You know they won’t believe you, don’t you? That was no one anyone would miss anyway. And there’s nothing left of him. Besides, Martha is in there right now telling everyone what a vulgar, vulgar man you are. Think they’ll believe you?”
Dudley did not. He went back to the bar and had a drink. Then another. Then maybe a few more.
When he woke the next day with a throbbing head, the whole thing seemed so much like a dream, that when Dudley opened the morning paper and found that no one had been reported missing and the Police Ball had been declared a great success, he sighed with relief.
Unfortunately, that Dudley quickly learned from his customers that Mr. F***ing Monster was still in town, and not at all a figment of anyone’s imagination. He’d walked into the Save-n-Go down by the Pawn Shop, grabbed a few cases of Miller Lite and simply walked out with it. When Bobby Smith called Chief Lumpkin, he was told that maybe a few less drunk people out in that neighborhood might make the town a better place.
He went through the drive-through at Freddy’s Fast Foods, and when Christy Stanton gave him his food before getting the money, he drove off. The Police Chief told the manager it would be best to write it off. Mr. Monster was considering building a hotel on the edge of town and sometimes you just had to put up with this or that for the good of the town.
Mr. Monster apparently thought he could go where he wanted to go, do what he wanted to do, take what he wanted to take, and eat the kitchen help at restaurants, without anyone stopping him. It turned out he was right.
Dudley tried to talk to Mayor James Chillingham and Chief Lumpkin about what he’d seen the night before.
“You don’t think anyone would notice a man being eaten?” the Mayor asked, “For heaven’s sake! You must have dreamed it. Or been drunk. You certainly looked it, coming in, cursing in front of Martha that way.”
When Dudley went into the Police Station to try to talk to the Chief about the what he’d seen, Mr. Monster was already in a meeting with the police chief and some members of the town council discussing whether or not the town should hire several new officers. Mr. Monster was worried about security for his new hotel.
Dudley tried talking to everyone he could find.
He tried his old Sunday School teacher, Miss Junie. Miss Junie didn’t get through three sentences before telling Dudley perhaps he should wash his mouth out with soap. He tried the Preacher at the big stone church on the corner downtown with the same results.
Dudley now tried not repeating the Mr. Monster’s first name and focusing on the things he’d seen. As he ran frantically through the town, he heard even more awful tales. Edna Lewis went out to find her flock of chickens as gone as gone could be with only a few feathers floating through the hen house and a trail of bones picked clean leading back into the forest. It was obvious that someone had simply opened the door, walked in and taken the chickens. There were missing cows, someone’s whole vegetable garden was decimated. Mr. Monster was in the vicinity every time.
In desperation, Dudley went back to Chief Lumpkin one more time, with all his evidence.
“Did you ever consider that Mr. Monster was on the scene because he was trying to preventthese crimes? He told me he’s trying to track down the criminals who’re doing this stuff. Having our own monster might come in handy. Less work for me. I’ll probably just let him handle any criminals he happens to find,” said the Police Chief, “To be honest, I appreciate the help.”
“Even if he is looking for the criminals,” Dudley said, “Which he’s not, he’s doing a terrible job. We’re having a crime wave.”
“Well,” said the Police Chief, “I don’t know why anyone would listen to you anyway, especially after you broke into the Policeman’s Ball cussing like that. Besides, look at you. Did you see Mr. Monster’s watch for goodness sakes? That thing must be worth a couple thousand bucks! A man with a watch like that knows what he’s doing.”
“He’s a Fu…he’s a monster,” said Dudley.
“Out,” said the police chief.
And so it went. People began to be afraid. Some, like Dudley, saw the obvious fact that Mr. Monster was committing the crimes. Others wanted so badly to believe that he was going to do good things for the town, that despite the evidence, they tried to reserve judgment.
Within a few days, some of the citizens who were initially on the monster’s side found themselves victimized as well. For instance, Farmer Brown found his prize Bull, Big Jeff, skeletonized behind the barn.
“I thought Mr. Monster was going to be good for the town,” he told the Sheriff, “I didn’t mind a bit him eating stray animals or some of them pit bull mixes or the mongrels they keep down at the Cherry Lane apartments or at the Fog Creek Trailer Park. But I don’t hold with him eatin’ my good stock. Now I guess I know why he’s called Mr. F***ing Monster.”
But Chief Lumpkin told him in no uncertain terms that he did not want to hear that kind of language, for the sake of the children. Besides losing one bull in pursuit of a truly grand hotel was nothing, and he was sure Mr. Monster would find the real criminals and make them pay. Now Mr. F. Monster was even talking about buying the country club and expanding the golf course. Farmer Brown needed to quit thinking about only himself.
People on the lower end of town were beginning to move away. No matter they couldn’t afford it. They were afraid. Mike Patton said he’d seen the monster loping towards the bus stop where his three kids were waiting. When he arrived with his shotgun, he heard the monster say to his youngest child, “Hello young one, you look like a tasty little morsel.”
The next day Mike Patton and his wife packed up the pick-up truck and headed out. Dudley tried to get him to talk to the Police Chief one last time, but Mike just laughed.
“The Chief don’t care about folks like us,” he said, “We’ll end up like Sam Brown’s bull.”
Those who had anywhere else to go went. Those who didn’t formed shotgun posses and walked their kids to and from the bus. The children who were left were kept inside.
Within weeks, the population of the town reduced itself as the residents who understood the danger fled. The mayor’s wife was exultant. They had finally rid the town of the sort of people she didn’t care for. Her only difficult moment was when she realized she couldn’t replace the maid who had worked for them for nearly twenty years.
Dudley spent his savings, and nearly wore the old tires off his truck, helping people move. He had quit trying to warn people or save the town. At last, Dudley was left almost alone. He spent lots of time pointlessly polishing his glasses and wiping down the bar. He was just too stubborn to leave.
Jimmy, his best friend since high school, came into the bar. Jimmy sat down, rolled up his plaid sleeves and ordered one last beer.
“Well,” Jimmy said, “I’m outta here. If you need a place to stay, I’ll be out in Bakersville. Got a two-bedroom apartment.”
“Thanks,” Dudley said. After Jim finished his drink, he rubbed his beard and looked at Dudley, “You better get on out of here, you know that. Look me up.”
“Yeah, okay,” Dudley said. His heart sank as he watched his friend walk out to his Jeep and tear away across the gravel parking lot. The swirling dust settled flat and still.
Not long after Jimmy left, the door banged open again. The huge dark stain of Mr. F***ing Monster once more filled the door. He loped back up to the bar.
“How are things, Dudley?” he asked, “Going well?”
“Fine,” Dudley said. He was nervous. He’d been so afraid of the monster that he’d left his shotgun in the car. Anyway, it was rumored that Jack Curtis had tried to shoot him when he grabbed Jack’s best hound dog, Frog Leg, and the bullets had bounced right off him.
“Good to hear,” said the creature, “It’s been too long since we’ve had a conversation. I have a sort of special fondness for you. In fact, I’ve decided I will eat you last before I move on. I think that would amuse me. Now. How about more of that whiskey.”
Without speaking Dudley pulled a bottle off the shelf, watched the monster glug it down. Then he packed his bags and left. He realized there was nothing he cared about in the town anymore anyway.
He took Jimmy up on his offer, moved into the spare bedroom and took a job at a local bar. He occasionally wondered how things were going back in town. He had the Possum Cove Paper delivered to his doorstep. It was all happy, cheerful news. A new hotel was going to be built! The town now had no crime! Dudley wondered about this.
One day no paper came. And then another, then another. Dudley began to wonder what had happened to the town. The curiosity finally got to him.
“Jimmy,” he said to his friend, “What do you think? Should we go back and see what’s happened to the old hometown?”
Jimmy looked thoughtful, rubbed his beard and said, “Why’d you want to that?”
“I wouldn’t mind to pick up a few things from the bar,” said Dudley, “That old neon Budweiser sign that Dad left me for one thing. Maybe I’ll have another bar of my own someday.”
“What the hell.” Jimmy shrugged, “Why not?”
They loaded up their shotguns. Jimmy said if the monster was going to eat him, he would certainly test the theory that he was impervious to gunshot. They drove back in Jimmy’s old red Jeep Wrangler.
The bar was on the edge of town, and the men loaded up the few things that Dudley wanted. The neighborhood surrounding it had the eerie appearance of a ghost town.
“Guess everybody around here had the sense to leave,” Jimmy said.
“Want to drive down Main Street and see what’s going on?” Dudley asked.
“What the hell.” said Jimmy, “Why not?”
As they entered town on Main Street the first thing they noticed was a thick, eerie quiet. They saw no one and nothing. There were a few broken out windows in the store fronts, but they saw no movement. As they drove further down the street, they began to notice a terrible smell. The smell of death. Empty cars and trucks sat on the streets. At last they could go no further.
Jimmy parked the Jeep and swung his shotgun over his shoulder. He and Dudley walked slowly towards City Hall and the Mayor’s house behind it. There were skeletons eaten to the bone here, scattered throughout the town. Sometimes there were single bones. A lonely thigh bone peeked out of a planter of pansies. Jimmy got a couple of teeth stuck in the bottom of his workboot.
The men walked in through the open doors of Peerson’s department store. Clothes and bones were scattered here and about. Still no sign of life. Dudley, now more sick than nervous, needed to know the worst of things. They walked into the offices on the second floor of the store.
There was a skeleton sitting in a chair behind Michael Steven’s desk. He’d been the manager of Peerson’s department store. There were a few skeletons at the police station and bits and pieces of them here and there throughout the jail. There was a skeleton still robed as a judge in the courthouse. Jimmy stood staring at this one for a moment.
“Lordy!” said Jimmy, “How the hell do you think he managed that?”
As they made their way into town, the skeletons were no longer picked clean, some still had tissue clinging to them. It looked like the final carnage had happened in a hurry. Everywhere doors were torn off hinges, furniture damaged and torn. A trail of beer cans and cheeseburger wrappers littered the ground by the corpses.
They followed the trail all the way to the mayor’s house. Here the smell of death was particularly strong. Dudley and Jimmy wrapped bandanas around their faces, looked at each other, nodded and walked bravely into the house.
When they reached the front hall, they found the nearly destroyed corpse of a man who must have been the mayor. The mayor’s thick black glasses and his wallet lay near it. They followed the smell through the hall and into the formal dining room. There they saw it. The mayor’s wife, half eaten. One hand clutched her diamond necklace and her face was locked in a grimace that reminded Dudley of the face she’d made when he’d told her the creature’s name. Next to her, lay the monster. Dead.
They held their breath as they crept towards him. Jimmy poked him with the end of his shotgun.
“Gone,” said Jimmy.
“Smelly,” said Dudley.
When they talked about it outside, later on, Jimmy said, “I reckon eating Missus Chillingham killed him. Gave me indigestion just talking to her. I reckon it’d kill someone to eat her, for sure.”
“Guess so,” said Dudley, “Maybe I shouldn’t have said his name though. Right at the beginning. Maybe then they would have listened to me. Maybe I could have found some way to be more polite about it.”
“Ha!” said Jimmy, “People don’t go along with that kinda crap unless they’re already thinking about doing it. They say they don’t like those words, so they don’t have to listen to folks they don’t want to listen to. Bunch a crap, I guess.”
“Yeah,” Dudley said, “I guess it is.”