By Rhys Hughes
The scientist who meddles with dark thoughts in the privacy of an apparatus-cluttered attic
is feeling ecstatic because of the sight that greets him on the automatic operating table in the centre of his gloomy room.
It is a monster constructed from parts that once belonged to people who now are dead
but he only knows for definite the name of the one who contributed the brawny left arm and that was Fred.
When read aloud the names of the others might resemble a chorus of doom
especially as he thinks he vaguely recognises the chap who contributed the major portion of the misshapen head
(a fellow who expired so recently that standards of decency prevent me from revealing exactly how, for what that’s worth)
so Victor the experimenter won’t mutter anything at all, thank goodness! and yes that’s the name he was given at birth.
He hopes to be famous for being the first man to create artificial life on Earth.
If he is successful with this monster he will go on to design himself a wife.
Not that he couldn’t find himself a girlfriend to marry if he really applied his mind.
But he prefers to make a refined spouse from scratch right at the top of the house and mend her as required.
All the body parts he stole came from the graves of very polite people
but he wasn’t aware of this fact when he exhumed the corpses with a spade in the moonlight shadow of a churchyard steeple.
And now the monster is ready and he will dare in his lair to pull the lever that sends electric current tearing through the flesh,
most of which is fresh but with a few gone off bits here and there.
The creature stirs, sits up and murmurs a gracious hello to his creator and notes that Victor appears to be famished
and so he invites him for tea and some buns with honey at a nice café later even though he has no money to pay for them.
His instinct is to be civil at all times even with a bolt through his neck that prevents him from courteously nodding
and thick cotton wadding in his mouth that stops him from speaking clearly when he is being impractically lavish.
Victor is baffled by this behaviour of the ghastly creature, whom he expected to act in a manner more horridly apt
but he simply shrugs his shoulders and accepts the situation as a hungry cat might allow a radish to be placed in its dish.
Not that the comparison is a good one, but the hour is late and I’m the one who happens to be writing this poem
so we’ll let it stand as it is and wait for Victor’s shrug to finally vanish.
Still hoping for an answer, the monster steps off the table onto the floor and offers his right hand for a friendly shake
and Victor doesn’t know the name of the original owner of that particular set of fingers but suspects it belonged to a girl.
Then the monster pats his creator on the back and thanks him again and again with a smile like an array of black pearls
and wishes him all the best and inquires after his health and praises his lustrous curls.
But Victor’s curls are nothing special for they are just unkempt locks that have been combed by his studious fingers.
The warm but slightly odd feeling generated by the monster’s compliment nevertheless continues to linger within him.
In the mind of Victor as he inspects his creation at a more judicious angle there rise doubts about what he is dealing with
and he feels alarmed at the distinct possibility that his monster might be congenitally friendly to all and sundry.
Monsters are supposed to be malign and frighten everybody in the nation
but this one is turning out to be the most genial entity in the entire history of biological experimentation.
Victor is bemused and considers the patchwork of good manners that stands unsteadily before him on mismatched feet
while the devoted monster sways but says thank you and remains sweet without an obvious motive or reason.
Then the scientist comes to a sudden decision and lunges for his adjustable spanner
and undoes the neck bolt with savage twists until the head falls off and rolls along the floor into a collision with the corner
but the dreadful head in motion still mouths a silent thank you and blows a majestic kiss, polite to the bitter end.
I don’t want a wife like that, Victor tells himself with a shiver, for she would offend my notion of domestic bliss.
I want a spirited woman who will keep me on my toes and not a docile little lady who will apologise when I pull her nose.
He considers his experiment a failure and plans his next move and soon in that attic room he is full of qualms and fears.
Should I take all the parts back to the graveyard, he asks himself, his chin upon his hand, or keep them as souvenirs
of the time I proved to myself that a rude and lewd nature is more desirable in a monster than a respectful gentle mood?
In the end he judges it easier to keep the parts, but the jars in which he seals the flesh turn out not to be quite airtight
and depression makes him indolent in the weeks that follow and he watches sadly as the bits slowly decay away.
He wasn’t exactly the greatest scientist of his day nor the happiest man in his town
but one thing can be said in his favour that should add considerably to his renown…
To the Victor, the spoils!
Would you like some toast?
(The waitress was a most gracious
host as she approached.)
You have bread! I said.
And she replied:
Yes, of course. A thoroughbred horse
is the best kind of bred.
Then in my silence
I would deduce you have led a
sheltered life if you prefer any variety
other than that?
To which I responded:
A horse is not a loaf
all things being equal. I don’t wish
to make a fuss but equus
for breakfast is worse
even than a poached top hat.
What else do you have?
No top hats at all, she sighed.
How about a bowler soup?
I inquired with a drooping
mouth (it surely was
uncouth of me to look like
that… but no top hat!)
Nothing, she sighed. The
kitchen flooded and all the food was
spoiled. We are growing
pumpkins to pump out the water but
they will take many more
months to be ready.
At this point I felt quite unsteady.
Pumpkins won’t pump out water!
That’s absurd. Consider
the word more carefully. They
pump kin. Though I will
concede that they sometimes
shift kith too. But H2O?
No! Rue the day that
idea came your way. Why it’s
the logic of the notion is
quite fallacious. Now please be
gracious enough to show
me the door.
There it is, she said
as she pointed with a long
itchy finger. It is ajar,
a jar of apricot
The door jambs were made
this is true, yet
there was still no proper toast
so the point is
moot. I stood up in my boots.
I swear that
I’ve had better service from
a ghost, one with a
I said as I departed. But the
at my retreating
back and started to hurl abuse.
You ought to drain your spinal
fluid, oh pesky druid.
Warts for keys!
Birds and fleas!
Pumpkins for frumpkins such as you!
There is no such word
was my final retort as I slammed
the door behind me.
Air Guitar Poem
Many people play
the air guitar. I have a friend
who plays an air lute
instead. It is cute that he feels
the need to be so
mediaeval. As for myself: I play
the air tambourine,
the air cymbals,
the air harmonium,
the air flugelhorn,
and pretty much the entire range
of possible musical
instruments, even those that
are tuned differently
from the scales I
know so well. And I even play
the air cow bells.
instruments I avoid are the
air wind chimes and
the air Aeolian harp.
I find those rather tricky…
Rhys Hughes has lived in many countries. He graduated as an engineer but currently works as a tutor of mathematics. Since his first book was published in 1995 he has had fifty other books published and his work has been translated into ten languages.
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