Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween Special: Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory

by Ben Loory 

Loory's collection of wry and witty, dark and perilous contemporary fables is populated by people-and monsters and trees and jocular octopi-who are united by twin motivations: fear and desire. In his singular universe, televisions talk (and sometimes sing), animals live in small apartments where their nephews visit from the sea, and men and women and boys and girls fall down wells and fly through space and find love on Ferris wheels. In a voice full of fable, myth, and dream, Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day draws us into a world of delightfully wicked recognitions, and introduces us to a writer of uncommon talent and imagination.


There are 40 stories in this book. Here is one of them:

by Ben Loory

A man is walking through the woods, when suddenly he sees Bigfoot.

Holy cow! the man thinks. Bigfoot!

Bigfoot sees him and runs away.

The man chases Bigfoot through the woods for a long time. He chases him for hours and hours. Finally, he gets close enough to leap—which he does. Bigfoot comes crashing to the ground.

I've got him! the man thinks, as he ties Bigfoot's feet. I've got him! I got him! I caught Bigfoot!

Almost instantaneously, the man becomes a celebrity. People from TV come to his house.

How does it feel to have captured Bigfoot? they say.

It feels good, says the man. Really good!

A lot of people didn't think that Bigfoot really existed, the people say and then wait for a response.

Well, says the man, I guess now they know!

And everybody laughs and claps their hands.

The man sits in his house and watches the news. Bigfoot has been taken to the zoo. They show the lines of people outside the gate; there are dozens of them, hundreds, thousands.

Everyone wants to see Bigfoot, thinks the man. And now, everybody will.

That night the man has a very bad dream. In his dream, he is sitting in a cage. Someone keeps asking him what he wants for dinner.

But he gets nothing, no matter what he says.

In the morning, the man wakes up feeling strange. He goes into the kitchen for some cereal. He sits down at the table, but doesn't feel like eating.

Finally, he gets in his car.

In line at the zoo, the man is recognized.

You're the guy who caught Bigfoot! someone says.

Why are you waiting in line? says someone else. Won't they let you cut to the front?

It's okay, says the man. Really, I don't mind.

Truth be told, he is terrified.

When it comes time for his turn to go in and see Bigfoot, the man stands toward the back, very still. Bigfoot doesn't look good. He's not moving around. He's just sitting on a log in the middle of the enclosure.

The enclosure itself is very nice; the zoo people built it special. There's a cement pool, and some fake rocks, and a painted backdrop of a forest.

Bigfoot is just staring at the ground.

Hey, says the man, stepping forward after a while. Hey, he says to Bigfoot, are you okay?

He doesn't expect a reply, so he's surprised when Bigfoot looks up.

Do I look okay? says Bigfoot. Does this look okay to you?

They make a big deal out of it on the news.

Bigfoot speaks! the announcers say. Bigfoot human!

The man begins to feel very, very small. The TV now pictures him in an unfavorable light.

Who is this man? the announcers say. And what exactly were his motives?

There's an interview with Bigfoot. He complains about his treatment.

I lost three teeth when he tackled me, he says. I was just trying to get home to read the papers.

That night the man decides to go to see a movie. But the second he sets foot outside, a rock flies out of the blue and smashes him in the face.

Murderer! a voice screams. Murderer!

Another rock hits him in the shoulder, and the next one breaks his knee.

The man falls to the ground in pain.

Who are you going to kill next? the mob screams. And what are you gonna do after that?

I never killed anyone! the man quietly sobs, as he drags himself back into the house. He slams and locks the door. He curls up on the rug. A few moments later, he passes out.

The days go by, and then the weeks. Still the mob screams outside. The man thought that it would lessen eventually, but it never does. News choppers circle overhead, blaring horrible things at him through megaphones. Bright lights shine through his windows at night and make it hard to sleep. The rocks slam against the aluminum siding in a constant, steady barrage. The man overturns the dressers and tables and barricades the doors.

And then one night, there it is: fire outside the window. The man watches as the torches are passed around, hand to hand to hand. He watches as the mob comes closing in, in an ever-tightening circle.

The entire house is surrounded.

There is no way out.

What do I do? cries the man, as he stumbles through the house.

What do I do? he shrieks, as it starts to burn.

And as the flames fill the house with heat and light, the man holds up his hands—and suddenly, he can see right through them.

And then he starts to laugh.

In the morning, the mob combs through the smoldering wreckage. There is no sign—not one—of the man.

It's not possible! they say. He couldn't have gotten away!

You can't catch the Invisible Man, a voice says. Not that way.


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