Excerpt of The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff
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The day I returned to Templeton steeped in disgrace, the
fifty-foot corpse of a monster surfaced in Lake Glimmerglass. It was one of
those strange purple dawns that color July there, when the bowl made by the
hills fills with a thick fog and even the songbirds sing timorously, unsure of
day or night.
The fog was still deep when Dr. Cluny found the monster on his
morning row. I imagine how it went: the slide of the scull's knife across the
lake, the oar heads casting rings on the water, the red bow light pulsing into
the dark. Then, sudden, looming over the doctor's shoulder, an island where
there had never before been an island, the vast belly of the dead beast. Gliding
backward, the old doctor couldn't see it. He neared; the bow-ball of his boat
pushed into the rubbery flesh like a finger into a balloon; the pressure of the
boat versus skin reached a tensile limit without piercing anything; the boat
checked its bow-ward motion., and jerked to stern. The doctor turned, but he was
prepared only for the possible, and didn't at first know what was before him.
When he saw the large and terrible eyes still milking over with death, the good
doctor blinked. And then he fainted.
When Dr. Cluny came to, the dawn had thinned, the water was shot
with bars of light, and he found himself rowing around and
bellied-up beast, weeping. In his mouth there was the sweet burn
of horehound candy, the exact savor of his long-ago childhood. Only when a
seagull landed upon the flat chin of the leviathan and bent to
steal a taste did
Dr. Cluny return to himself; only then did he skid back over the
water to the
awakening town, shouting his news.
"Miracle," he called. "Miracle. Come, quick, see."
At that precise moment, I was idling in the park across the
street from Averell Cottage, my childhood home. For at least an hour, I had been standing in the depression that the town flooded in winter to
make a skating
rink, gathering what courage I could. The fog veiled my grand,
house, with its original cottage from 1793, one wing from
and another from the tasteless 1970s, turning the whole into
something more coherent, almost beautiful. In my delirium, I thought I could see
my mother inside with a few lifetimes of family antiques and the gentle ghost
that lived in my childhood room, all traced like bones on an X-ray, delicate as
I felt the world around me creak and strain, snapping apart,
fiber by fiber, like a rope pulled too tautly.
Back near Buffalo I had had a glimpse of myself in a rest-stop
bathroom, and was horrified to find myself transformed into a stranger in
rumpled, dirty clothing, my once-pretty face bloated and red
with crying jags. I was drawn, thin, welted with the bites of a thousand Alaskan
blackflies. My hair, shorn in April, was now growing out in
weird brown tufts. I looked like some little chick, starving, molting,
kicked out of the nest for late-discovered freakishness.
As the night thinned around me, I leaned over and retched. And I
still hadn't moved when, down Lake Street, there came a muffled trampling sound.
I knew before I saw them that the sounds were from the Running Buds, a small, dear band of middle-aged men who jog around the
Templeton every morning, in all weather, in ice, in rain, in
this fine-pelted fog. When the Buds came nearer, I could hear gentle talking,
some spitting, some wheezing over their footsteps. They moved out of the dark
and into the glow of the single streetlamp on Lake Street, and seeing me in the
park in my little depression, seeing, perhaps, something familiar about me but
quite recognizing who I was at that distance, all six of them
raised their hands in my direction. I waved back and watched their thick bodies
disappear down the street.
Excerpted from The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff.
Copyright (c) 2008 Lauren Groff. All rights reserved. Published by Voice, an imprint of Hyperion.