October 5, 2012 Page 41
Playing the part at the Montauk Manor on Halloween
Monk of the Month By terence lane
n Halloween Kathy takes a miserable call at the front desk. Young woman says her boyfriend’s out of control. He’d been drinking and may have swallowed some pills. He’s already struck her once. There are two small boys in the room. Kathy looks at me with eyes that exude a tired call to duty, a look I’d seen before and would see again. We have to respond to the call. I sigh. I tighten my sash and adjust my hood. I’m dressed head to foot in monk robes. My boss thought it would be funny if I came to work in a costume. And she was right. The monk act had been hilarious earlier when I was driving the hotel shuttle. I’d really gotten into character. When the drunks I was driving asked where they could find some tail in this town, I simply replied: “but thou monk driver is chaste, my good men. He knoweth not where thy squirrel curls its tail.” I excelled at that sort of thing; firing off witty, creative tidbits for the amusement of the inebriated, my fan base, my niche. It was only when I took out my good pen and yellow paper to “write this stuff down,” as non-writers aware of my interest constantly insisted I do, could I not hack it. As a creative writer I’d seen no validation for my efforts. I had an irrational fear that my manuscripts weren’t even getting delivered to the offices of the important literary journals, but burning up ignominiously in the blast of their atmosphere. Some wouldn’t even mail the rejection slip, leaving me to wallow for an entire year, believing, grinding my teeth, strung out like a junkie hopped up on pure, 100% uncut hope. I had a girlfriend who thought Terence Lane is working on his Masters of Fine Arts degree in Writing and Literature at Stony Brook Southampton. Later this month he will travel to Thailand to teach English.
I was the best writer going, which, every time she reminded me of it, evoked terrific laughter from every corner of the room. If we were outside, it came from the skies. Nowhere was safe. Mockery lurked in the bowl of water below my shaving, in the heart and mind of this humble man, this hooded monk. Kathy and I cross the lobby and head toward the room. She leads, I shuffle after. The sash is on good and tight around my waist but the hood is proving to be a problem. It keeps slipping back. I almost ask Kathy for a pin— a bobby?—but feel stupid doing so and let the words spoil on my lips. Kathy knocks on the door and it opens immediately. It’s the girlfriend. Oily hair. Bags under her eyes like melon slices. “Take them,” she says. Below her stand two beautiful little boys. It occurs to me I haven’t seen children this young in a long time. They are not identical twins but nearly. Golden hair. These wise guy blue eyes. I reach for one and he submits like this is an old routine. He fits his legs around my side and pushes back my hood. Kathy takes the other boy. The girlfriend gets a diaper bag. Beyond her are the bottoms of two dirty feet on the sofa bed. A mess of dirty blond hair at the other end. He seems to be unconscious. “Miss, you need to stay with us,” I say to the girlfriend. “I told him,” she weeps, over and over. I fall back and put my arm around her, not to comfort her so much as to keep her moving. We get them into a room on the other side of the hotel. I sit with the boys on either side of me. Kathy puts on a cartoon about trucks. The boys keep reaching for my hood. I bow my head to them. Kathy leaves for the lobby to call the cops. The girlfriend is splayed on the carpet rifling through the diaper bag. “Forgot their (Cont’d on page 44) formula,” she curses,
This essay is one of the many nonfiction essays entered in the 2012 Dan’s Papers $6,000 Literary Prize for Nonfiction competition. Our judges enjoyed reading it and trust that you will too.