by Thomas Scopel
Author's Note: Although growing up with most of the Universal Studio’s monster clan, never once did I find them all that frightful. Maybe that is why I envisioned this piece. With the exception of Creature from the Black Lagoon, a couple of years later I found myself revisiting each of the monsters, one at a time for a series called Interview with a Monster. Nonetheless, it was September 2010 when The Argument found a place at Litfest Magazine and too runner-up for Most Suspenseful.
The campfire crackled, popping loudly and casting a spark up into the air away from the flames. The cherry red amber, having a comet-like trail, flew up into the darkness before arching and coming down to land directly on the top of the Frankenstein monster’s foot. Immediately his heavy lidded eyes, nestled deep into the greenish face, flung open wide, full of fear, and he jumped up off of the log he was sitting on and hurriedly stomped his oversized feet about. A thick dust cloud formed and only after realizing the spark was fully extinguished and completely gone did he calm somewhat. After double checking twice, he returned to the sitting position.
Seated to the right and having watched the untimely event, Dracula, menacing white fangs chronically reflecting the campfire’s light, waited until Frank sat back down before letting out a chuckle. A few moments later, the humor having subsided, his chuckling stopped and the fangs came to rest sticking out and over his bottom lip. Not realizing that, while laughing, he had inadvertantly tilted the martini glass, allowing most of the authentic bloody Mary to create a saturated pool at his feet. He righted the glass managing to save a small sip and spoke with a thick accent.
“See, my friend, you’re afraid of fire and I am not and that is what makes me the better classic monster!”
“Ah baloney Dracs,” Wolfman, sitting next to him chimed in. “That doesn’t make you the better monster at all. Everyone has at least a small fear of fire. It can destroy each and every one of us, so let’s get this straight right now and just call fire a universal fear.” He brushed the loose brown hair hanging over his face away, sat up a bit more and stared at the vampire with conceited yellow eyes. “Alright?”
Seated directly across from the three, the half man half fish Black Lagoon Creature ignored the conversation and continued concentrated on sliding a head to tail row of freshly caught minnows on a roasting stick. He gurgled while slipping on the final fish.
“Shut up! Fish lips! Nobody asked you.” Wolfman snapped. The creature took note flared his gills and gazed back through large, black pupils. Wolfman stared back. “We all know that water is fire’s worst enemy and I would say that gives you an unfair advantage. And for that matter, how many movies have you actually been in? Two, maybe three, tops? That pretty much sums it up and tosses you out of this equation now doesn’t it?”
“Now just hold on there Wolfy,” Frank’s deep and somewhat labored voice seemed to amplify in the surrounding darkness. “That’s not exactly fair now is it? We are all quite well known and I would w-w-wager to s-s-say,” he stuttered a bit, took a deep breath and continued. “If you took a poll of…let’s say…one hundred monster fans, you would probably find Lagooner on the list somewhere, maybe within in the top ten. Of course, that would p-p-probably d-d-depend upon the age group of those polled t-t-too.
The caped one cut him off. “Yep, Frank’s right, age certainly matters. With all the new breed movie monsters that came onto the scene within the last twenty or so years, I, for one, am feeling more than a little obsolete. Look at Freddy or Jason. What about that Michael Myers character? Those guys are simply ruthless, aiming more toward gruesome, not the class act we are. Therefore, polling would surly need to specify and distinguish the age group. Probably to find that the older generation would more likely choose one of us, while the younger generation may most likely choose one of them. Therefore, let’s define classic first”
Lagooner nodded vigorously, pulled the fish loaded stick out of the fire toward him and with a webbed hand slid the one nearest to the end off. His wide-open eyes glistened in the fire light as he popped the fish into his mouth and began to chew.
“And, another thing,” Dracula continued, “you take it easy Wolfy. No name calling here.” He took the last sip of his drink, used his tongue to catch the small red trickle from the corner of his mouth, pulled the celery stalk out of the glass, licked it clean and tossed it into the fire.
“W-w-wha’d ya do that for?” Franks spoke while intently watching the flames flicker and poke, forcing the vegetable to hiss and shrivel in the process. “That’s gonna cause another spark to fly out,” he added worriedly.”
“I’m sorry Franks,” Drac retorted with a small dab of compassion. “I just wasn’t thinking. I’ll be more careful next time.” He tossed the empty glass aside, gave Frank a wink and turned back to Wolfy.
“So,” his eyes infused red, “as I was saying when I was so rudely cut off, you’re such an egotistical snot Wolfy. Don’t you realize that we are your only friends? You really need to be a little bit nicer to all of us and stop being so sarcastic and mean. We all have a common bond and need to stick together. I know you rage from time to time, but let’s try to keep this discussion as diplomatic and respectful. Okay?”
“Alright,” Wolfy nodded before turned toward Lagooner. “I’m sorry pal.”
The creature’s eyes softened and he slid the last remaining fish off the tip of the stick. On open, webbed palm he held it out and offered it to Wolfy. Repulsed, Wolfy leaned back and raised both furry, long nailed paws.
“Thanks anyway fish breath. I prefer my meal raw.”
The creature shrugged his shoulders and popped it into his mouth.
Dracula continued. “Let’s get back on track shall we? Where were we?”
Frank’s neck bolts glistened in the full moonlight as he spoke. “We were discussing who is the better classic monster. I know one thing. At least I can go out anytime I want, day or night, which is more than I can say for two of you guys. Lagooner, you have to stay in water most of the time and that sort of hampers you somewhat. And…fire is the only thing that seems to truly trouble me. Therefore, the way I see it, if I stay away from burning buildings and fire in general, I’ll be all right. And that, my friends, is why I am the better classic monster.”
Wolfy blurted, “Yes, maybe so Frank, but it won’t stop the hordes of torch carrying folks that view you as an abomination and are bent on chasing and destroying you. And, I might add that you just plain stick of death. I, on the other hand, can change and be completely normal on nights that don’t have a full moon. This allows me to flow relatively unscathed virtually anywhere. Of course, when fire is involved, I must admit to sharing the some of the fright you harbor, just not as much as when a silver bullet is concerned.”
“Never gave it much thought,” Frank chimed in.
“Another thing Frank,” Dracula jumped into the conversation, “let’s be blunt, shall we. You aren’t the brightest star in the sky. You may be strong, but you are slow and a bit dim witted.”
“Are you calling me stupid?” The monster reiterated in offense.
And so, Franks my rather slow friend, please don’t take offense and realize that each of us have pitfalls we need to meticulously avoid.”
Wolfy spoke up with conviction, “Wait just a minute there Dracs! I’m just as fast, maybe even faster than you and equally as strong as Franks over there to boot!”
“That’s true,” Dracs rebutted. “However, that is only when a full moon has forced change. Otherwise, you would remain in a mere human form and be quite vulnerable. Tell me I’m wrong?”
“I suppose so,” Wolfy, feeling defeated lowered his head. A few quick seconds later he perked up and snapped back. “At least I can go out in the sunlight.” His large eyes squinted with the grin across his face, obviously feeling superior at getting the last word in.
Suddenly, without making a sound, the creature stood up, walked to the calm flowing adjoining creek and with a splash, dove in headfirst.
“What’s with him?” Wolfy growled, pointing a hairy thumb toward the centric ripples.
Franks giggled lightly. “Nothing, just watch.” He raised a stitch scarred green index finger and pointed to where the creature had submerged.
The three of them sat watching and waiting. A few minutes later the creature broke back through the surface. It wasn’t until he was at the edge and nearly out of the water that they noticed the large fish he carried. Nonchalantly and dripping, he strolled back over to the log and sat back down. Retrieving the stick he sat nearby, he carefully slid the pointed end of into the fish’s mouth and drew the fish along until the stick’s end popped out the fish’s tail. After carefully inspecting for security, he held the fish over the bright coals at the fire pit edge and carefully rotated it over and over.
Wolfy, Frank and Drac glanced around at one another, a somewhat embarrassed look cascading down their faces. Frank’s was more so a sad smile.
Focused on the stick, Lagooner pulled it from over the coals and took turns offering it to each of the others. Although Wolfy appeared disgusted, he still took a piece and they all chewed in unison.