oh yes, and I`m sure you find the title quite shocking. God Makes the Monsters too, indeed. How can that be?! This is heresy, you shout! This writer will surely find his place in the Lake of Fire! Him and his monsters! God makes the monsters too indeed.
Well then excuse me, but is not our Lord the creator of all things in this world? So why should the monsters be excluded then? Those denizens of the darkness that are frequently just barely seen, if seen at all. And even if seen then unbelievable in their unusual and unidentifiable nature and construct. Those believed to be among us today and reported of uncomfortably often: The Bigfoot, Moth Men, Shape Shifters and Shadow Beings, The Jersey Devil, Chupacabra, Thunderbird, Nessie and her many local and lake-locked cousins " you name it. And those too of legend and lore, believed extinct now, but probably in their day just as frequently seen and encountered, only just not as well recorded or reported of in those dark days when no media to speak of existed: the Vampires and the Werewolves, the Golems and the Griffins and ghouls galore.
But they`re evil and vile, haters of humanity, devourers of our flesh, if not even possibly our very souls as well! Oh posh, is all I can say. Pish posh. For how can we truly know? Personally I have never had the terrifying privilege to meet any of these, let us just say, unique creations with which we share, or have shared, our planetary home. And as the sum total of our knowledge concerning them and their deeds is most likely obtained from fictional sources, i.e. monster movies, horror novels, gore fest magazines; or from reports rendered of fear strained sightings and mind numbing actual encounters, well, then who`s to say? Who can truly know?
So could it not possibly then be true that there are good monsters as well as bad? If bad there even truly are? Or good, for that matter either. Because in all honesty it may all just be made up anyway. Why then can`t one just as easily imagine them to be good. Good and if not entirely normal, at least decent in their own monstrous ways. What if they protect the innocent and punish the guilty. Only eating the brains of serial killers. Ripping in half a rapist or two. Sucking the blood out of crooked bankers who trick sweet old ladies into giving up their lives savings. That sort of thing.
Ahhh " now we`re getting somewhere. And how much further is it to then also imagine them serving our Lord and savior Christ Jesus. For whom did He come to save if not sinners, and sin being but a pale imitation of the much more magnificently monstrous destructive and death bringing capabilities of those supernaturally endowed in strength and speed and skills beyond human ability. Super servants for a super God, is how one could more succinctly put it. Monsters destroying evil only they really can and oh so well in service to our savior.
Anyway and either way, perhaps you are now at least starting to see the situation from this new perspective of mine. And if not, maybe you will, after having tarried a while within the tale I am about to tell, about a young man named Mike, and about our whole world really, where everyone was just about to learn that indeed, God Makes the Monsters too. "
Helton is heaven, " Mike mumbled sarcastically under his breath as he drove along. I can`t believe they`re still putting out that stupid bumper sticker."
What`s that honey? " his wife Michelle asked over at him, all the while not even looking up from the magazine she was reading, like wives will do when they really aren`t listening, or husbands too for that matter.
The shapely little gal was hunkered down into the passenger`s seat of their compact car, her small and slender frame allowing her to do so, her suntanned legs and cute bare feet perched up and resting in the sun on the dash. This was her position of survival for the two hour sometimes plus road trip.
Nuttin` honey, " Mike said back at her, imitating that cereal commercial they both knew, trying to get a little humor into this horrid situation they were in, the horrid situation of having to attend his father`s memorial in Mike "s old hometown of Helton, California, a memorial made necessary because of his father`s murder.
And Mike, unlike his tiny wife, barely fit into the little car, his big, ex-football player frame seemingly squeezed into the compact`s interior, his blonde head bumping lightly on the headliner. But bearable, was how Mike could only think of it, especially since taking Michelle`s car instead of his truck would save them about twenty bucks on gas for the almost 200 mile round trip from San Diego to Helton and then back again.
The bumper sticker Mike had just referred to was affixed to a large motor home he was just passing by. The same, Helton is Heaven, " sticker that had been made almost famous back in the eighties during Mike`s college days when a young but gifted filmmaker had given the sticker a brief cameo in a surprisingly successful cult film he`d made. Just because the young filmmaker had spent a minor portion of his youth here. Here in Helton, the back then small but now much larger Southern California city where Mike had spent all of his youth.
Though man was it anything but heaven now, Mike could only think as he took in his surroundings while slowly flowing with the traffic that was crawling along the old main street, Alabama avenue. Just look at it, he mentally lamented. There were even prostitutes walking along certain sections of the roughly ten mile long, five lane wide, main drag. That would have been unheard of back in his day; back in the seventies, when as a kid Mike and his friends could ride their sting ray bikes up and down Alabama avenue like they owned it. Today though they`d be taking their lives in their hands. Sure right now the cars were congested to a safe, slow crawl. But at other times he`d seen them zipping along at a big city pace.
Then too, if the crazy traffic didn`t get you, the criminal element would. Up and down the street, p*rn shops, head shops and pawn shops had all popped up. And of course for the prostitutes there had to be pimps no doubt, lounging somewhere nearby, pistols in their pockets. And Mike had heard too about the crack houses back just a few blocks off Alabama avenue, in the poorer sections of town. And the gangs. But just crime, crime and more crime was what it all boiled down to. So much that it had even reached out and gotten to his father. Shot him dead. Shot him dead for his nearly empty wallet. They shot his Father, Mike suddenly and angrily realized. One of these scumbags probably walking t down the street right now that one " or that one "
Mike had to make himself stop thinking about it then, about his dad`s murder and all. When it had first happened had been bad enough. It had taken over his life " driving up here as often as he could to be with his mom " to comfort her and just make sure she didn`t completely lose it " and luckily it was late summer and school not back in yet " his junior college creative writing class still not needing him yet " so he could be here for her "
and then too his tireless bugging of the local police about the case for a few weeks " but then just having to give up " able to finally tell and accept the fact that it was all a dead end ". no witnesses " no suspects " Mike`s dad had made a late night trip to the neighborhood convenience store for some ice cream and Bam! That was it. No one else around. The store clerk hadn`t even heard the shot. He was in the fridge stocking up at the time. And just one piece of evidence " a shell casing they couldn`t match with any records.
Or so Mike`s old childhood friend Dan Hansen had told him. He had been so helpful. Dan was a sergeant with the Helton Valley PD, and going for detective even. So that was at least one good thing about the horrible situation. Seeing good old Dan again, and that he was doing so well.
But it was just like his dad to do that sort of thing, Mike knew and told Dan. He frequently got up in the middle of the night wanting a snack and then would make the short drive to the nearby all night convenience store. So that all made sense. But so horrible too, Mike and Dan both agreed then, because when they were kids they frequently would ride their bikes to that same convenience store for icee drinks all the time. So maybe Helton had been heaven. Once upon a time. When Mike and Dan had been growing up there. But it wasn`t anymore. Helton wasn`t heaven at all anymore.
Which was another problem too, Mike reflected on now as he continued to slowly crawl along in traffic. The whole idea of heaven was a problem, that is. Because though Mike was a firm, born again believer, having met the Holy Spirit a few years back in an undeniable, emotionally overwhelming and unforgettable experience, neither of his parents had been so lucky. In fact, they were both dyed in the wool liberals and devout non-Christians. His father had even called himself an animist when Mike had witnessed to them his first visit back after he`d figured out what had happened to him, that he`d been born again and all that. And an animist, which Mike had later figured out, is someone believing spirits are everywhere, in plants and trees and just everywhere, or something like that. At the same time, his mother had called herself agnostic.
But at least no hard feelings all around. Just different life views, as far as Mike`s parents were concerned. But Mike knew better, and even though in following visits the most subtle attempts at evangelism, which was all Mike`s parents would tolerate, had proven unfruitful, there was always hope. Until now. Now that his father was dead.
Honey are you okay? Your face honey? "
Oh sorry, " he answered over at his wife and touched her leg lightly. Was I scowling again?"
Yes honey, " she told him and took his hand. It`s almost over " hang in there. "
I am " I`m hangin`... thanks to you, " he told her, and wasn`t just saying it. He was learning that about being married. That now he was so dependent on her. They really had become one flesh, like the bible said. I was so ready to just bolt outta there this morning at the motel. Just couldn`t handle it. But because you were there... and he patted her thigh again.
Well, I would have chased you down, she half-joked. He smiled back.
Let`s just get through the rest of it. And then get back home. Shouldn`t be too bad."
At least he sure hoped not. Though the first part hadn`t been so horribly awful. The part that took place at the local museum where his dad and mom had volunteered so much. The part that included the meeting of all of his dad`s old friends... the tearful stories told through a microphone passed around " some music played by an old friend`s wife on her only slightly out of key violin " a poem recited by the local librarian " and like he was saying " all of that not too bad. But just so straining. Draining too, emotionally and psychologically.
But so then now like he said, " " just get through the rest of it, ` which would include standing around in his folk`s house " the same living room his dad often fell asleep on the sofa in " the den where he "d watch football games with him " but now instead eating finger foods and kibitzing with old family friends there " and those too who knew his dad but he`d never met. Just get through it though, was their prayer now. Just get through it...
Then later that night they almost had, gotten through it that is, and it hadn`t been that bad either. Not straining so much as just mind numbingly boring. So Mike had escaped for a while into the house`s garage which was taken up, at least half of it anyway, by his father`s workshop.
But not just escaping there, Mike also wanted to look around in there too, relive old memories of seeing his dad happily tinkering around while dispensing sage wisdom to his only child at the same time. Plus too, Mike`s mom had told him to take anything he wanted from among the old tools and model train pieces and gardening implements and old car parts and whatever else was in there. So he was browsing there among them all. Trying to decide what to take... what would be a good memento.
"Well... here you are... thanks for deserting me," his wife joked lightly as she came out into the garage through the door in the corner by the washer and dryer that let into the house.
Oh sorry honey, " he said and looked up at her. They shared tired smiles as she walked over. Once she got to him they hugged and he kissed her cheek.
"It`s almost over," they both said simultaneously and had to laugh.
"Hallelujah," she added. "I can`t wait. Not that they aren`t nice people..."
"I know," he added. "But... well..."
"It`s just so strained," she said and he quickly agreed. "... and it`s like they all need something from you. As if you can tell them he`s not really dead or something. And it would be great if we could share Jesus with them. But you know what you`re dad always said."
"There`ll be no Christian talk in this household," Mike said, imitating his old man, and then could only resignedly laugh small, followed by a sigh.
"And I guess we still need to honor that..."
"I guess... plus mom would have a fit..." Mike added, then waited long enough for the subject to naturally change. "You know he really loved you." He wanted to make sure she knew that, if nothing else. Because his father had trouble saying that, both to him and her. I could tell. His eyes would light up when he saw you "" "Ohhh... honey... don`t..."
"Well... I just wanted to make sure you knew. And I love you too," he told her and took her in a hug again. A real one this time. And on top of it then a good kiss too. A medium but full one. Not the kind like when they were in bed and ready to make love but the kind that early in the evening would say that he wanted to do just that later tonight.
"I love you too, baby," she said at the end of it, and they held each other a moment longer. He wanted to tell her then too how he didn`t think he could have made it through all this without her, and how he never wanted to even try. But he knew he`d said it several times already today and would feel stupid saying it again. So he didn`t, and they just stood there like that a little bit longer, swaying and embracing, as if slow dancing, but not to any music in this world.
"Come on... let`s go back in... say our good byes... and get back home," she said softly, finally able to quietly break the spell.
"Okay," he told her. He was very ready to go too. The drive home would seem to last forever, he knew, and it was already almost ten already. So it would be good to get started. "Just one more thing though... mom said I could take anything out of here that I wanted to... you know... for a memento..."
"Ohhh... that`s great. You go ahead and keep looking then. I`ll go in and start our goodbyes..."
"Okay... and honey?" he called out, just wanting her to turn back one more time. "I love you.
She blew him a silent kiss in return and went back in. He watched her go and could feel the love he`d been talking about, down inside and swelling there near his heart.
They`d been married about a year and a half now and it had been really great. Not like so many other marriages he was always hearing about. The bad ones. It was because of Jesus being there too, he knew. Plus she was an even stronger Christian than he was. Their love would live forever, they both knew. Live forever in Jesus. Here, and then in heaven as well.
Maybe too and hopefully soon they would have a baby. He`d really wanted to so badly before his dad had died. Which was another dream shattered by the killer`s bullet. But even besides that, at 33 he wasn`t getting any younger. Plus Michelle was 30. So hopefully soon.
Then Mike let all those thoughts go and got back to work looking around some more for his memento. Maybe one of the carved wooden canes leaning there against the wall. Or one of the model train accessories. His dad was always tinkering around with those. The good ones were all gone though, long ago donated to the local hobby shop, but there were lots of little trucks and cars and scenery setups. But no. Something more personal. Something that would remind him more of his dad. Not something he could just buy in a hobby shop.
There... there were some of those old license plates he "d collected over the years " and some of his old gardening tools... and oh yeah... he hadn`t thought of that little old World War II memento of his dad`s for a long time... the old folding shovel from the war that his dad had told him the story about.
Mike picked it up and looked at it closely. It had an incredibly sturdy and hard wooden handle that stuck out a couple feet beneath the green canvas pouch that encased the metal head and neck assembly. The pouch was simply marked, "U.S." in black, stenciled letters. Ancient, brown blood stains spotted it and even pooled where the handle left the pouch, and it was these stains that had spurred Mike on to asking his father about them that one day so long ago. That one day as his old man dug with the shovel around that small palm they`d moved in the front yard... yeah... maybe almost twenty years ago now...
"Dad..." Mike had said in that tone that meant a question was soon to follow. He must have been about ten or eleven years old and just hanging out, watching his dad working really hard, digging like crazy around the little palm tree, up to his knees in the small hole he`d made surrounding the thing.
"Yeah Mike," his dad had answered in between hard breaths. Which then made Mike think maybe he shouldn`t ask about it. His dad could get kind of worked up if things weren`t going right. And from the looks of it this tree was turning out to be more than he`d bargained for. The old man was sweating bullets. But Mike went ahead and asked anyway, being brave, or maybe more accurately, just highly curious.
"What are these stains on here from," and he held up the little shovel`s pouch. He`d been just sort of playing with it, snapping and unsnapping the fold over portion of the thick canvas cover.
"Tell ya what, Mikey," his dad said, taking a neatly folded, blue bandana from his pocket and wiping off his brow. Then he hefted himself up and took a seat on the hole`s generous berm. "Go in the house and get me a big glass of ice water from your mom and hustle back out and I`ll tell ya all about it."
So Mike had run in then, super excited, gotten the water and then ran back out again, ignoring how his mom told him not to run with a glass like that. He gave it to his dad and the old man took a big drink.
"Well my boy," his dad then started in with. "You better sit down for this. And don`t tell your mom I told you."
"Oh... I won`t," Mike assured him and took a seat on the berm too. His dad got down then and took up the little shovel again. He brought it over and handed it to Mike. The boy took it respectfully. His dad was real strict about his tools. So this was a pretty cool treat. As would be the story to follow also. His father was generally a pretty quiet man. So stories were rare.
"More stains there my boy too... see `em... at the top of the handle and near the edge on the head "" Which Mike checked out while his dad for some strange reason looked around as if checking to see if anyone else was watching.
and son, " he started in again, I want you to know " I`m only telling you about this so you`ll know what it was like " the war " the big one " World War Two " and you`ll know " Mike " you`ll know war is serious business " not to be taken lightly " and too you`ll know more about your dad."
And then he tousled Mike`s hair, which he really liked.
Oh I know dad. You were in the Marines. I remember " I remember when I was being too picky about dinner and how you told me in the Marines they had the Peanut Butter in those big old barrels and there was all kinds of stuff in them barrels too like bugs and stuff but you guys had to eat it anyway so I shouldn`t be too picky and so I try not to be now. "
Yeah " yeah son. That`s good, " his dad had said then and smiled. But this is a part of the war, son " the fighting " "
Yeah well "mom said"
I know " I know your mom said to never ask me about the war... and especially about the fighting"
Yeah" she said that she didn`t want me to remind you of all the horrible things that happened".
and that`s true son. But also I think she doesn`t want you to hear about it but I think we can both handle it " don`t you? "
sh sure " I think so, " he told his dad, not sure if he could handle it or not, but not really caring either. It was just great that his dad was going to tell him a story.
Okay my boy. It`s just between you and me then " all right?
Right, and Mike remembered then how his dad had shook his hand on it, then started in with the story.
Well " we were on the Island of Tulagi " one of the smaller ones... in the Solomon`s " a jump off point for Guadalcanal " the big one " but we had to secure Tulagi first. "
Where`s that Dad? Tulagi " " Mike asked, seeing his dad take a break for another drink of water. He liked how his dad was really getting into the telling of the story too. So he was happy and not afraid to ask questions like he normally was.
Tulagi? That`s an island that the Japs " err " that the Japanese Military had taken over. And we had to take it back. It`s between here and Japan see? There a whole buncha islands. They were working their way over here and we had to stop them you see? "
Oh yeah " " Mike answered, understanding better now. Sort of, and just wanting his dad to start the story again.
" and after we landed there... well... these little shovels were life savers Mikey, " and his dad took back the, entrenching tool, " as his father had told him they also called it. " we had to dig like crazy " dig our foxholes for cover " fight " and then move up " then dig some more."
Wow, " Mike said, looking then to the little shovel, holding it with his dad and seeing how perfect it still was, like new, except for the obvious use. It`s still so strong and good."
Oh yeah my boy. We really made things strong for that war. High Carbon Steel solid Oak handle " I think. But anyway the fighting went on for thirty-six hours. Tough fighting. Those Japs were some soldiers errr Japanese let me say " don`t ever call a Japanese person a Jap okay Mikey? "
But we just kept slogging," his dad said now, stepping back with the shovel, starting to act out what he was talking about. "and thanks to these shovels " and digging such good cover " we held the ground we took " and made the Japanese use up all their ammo. But not long after we ran out too. So when we started charging with bayonets and mine was broken well... I took this shovel instead this here very shovel, " and as the old man continued telling his tale, Mike felt like he was right there, right there on the island charging the Japs... errr Japanese soldiers.
and it made a heck of a weapon. I swung it like this, and his dad swung the short shovel like a sword with both hands. " and that old shovel head was a real noggin splitter. And then even closer in I held it like this and just kept driving it down driving it down."
Mike watched his dad and was thinking how he was acting sort of like he was drunk. But he hadn`t been drinking. He had a faraway look in his eyes too, like Mike had never seen there before, and now he had taken the shovel in a grasp with one hand at the far end of the handle and the other near the head and he was driving it down from overhead hard into a thick section of the berm, over and over. Like he was really there again.
But the blood, Mikey. The blood came then. Not that we could even take notice of it though. It was just like the sweat running down into your face " down into your eyes " you just had to blink through it and keep going " keep fighting " keep fighting, " and now his dad was mimicking a few different kinds of attack moves. " and then we could tell we had the upper hand " we were going to win " but this one crazy Ja-- this one crazy guy would not surrender. He had his old samurai sword swinging " he was one of the officers " but then we got on all sides and eventually forced him down on the ground and we should have let him surrender then " but " but we`d seen him kill several of our friends " and so I took the shovel and-
Then with a final thrust, Mike`s dad planted the shovel hard into the bottom of the hole. He stopped then and took a step back, looking hard at the dirt there, and Mike had to wonder if maybe he was seeing the Jap soldier there again, the way he was just frozen that way and breathing hard. Then his dad turned toward him and was smiling again.
But then we had to pack up and move on so fast that all I had time to do was break the shovel down again, slip it in the pouch and hook it onto my belt. And that`s how the blood got on the pouch like that."
Wow, " Mike had said and then felt along the canvas chording of the pouch where the blood had dried, one more time. That was the blood of some crazy Japanese samurai soldier, he imagined. How cool was that "
" and now, back in the garage and back in the present, Mike did the same thing, and then took the shovel out of the pouch and unfolded it`s head and screwed the large nut up to hold it firm.
Man " his dad wasn`t kidding. This baby is rock solid. Even to this day. And short enough to handle quickly and forcefully and with that strong and still sharp head " and for just a second Mike imagined getting the guy who`d murdered his dad on the other side of the shovel. He imagined ramming the sharp head into the guy`s gut, doubling him over " and then cracking him over the head with it. ` "it`s a real noggin` splitter, ` he remembered his dad calling it and Mike thought how sweet it would be to split the guy`s noggin that had killed his dad. If he could just find the guy.
Then Mike heard it. Coming from inside the house. A big verbal eruption of everyone ooohing and ahhing, followed by some applause.
What the, he wondered out loud and broke the shovel down again, storing it into its pouch and then heading back inside with it to see what all the fuss was about.
Ohh Mike " it`s so wonderful, " his mom said and rushed over as soon as he got in the room. She hugged him extra hard and long. Many of the others still there were gathering around him too.
Congratulations, some were saying. Or, your father would have been so proud wonderful, wonderful news " and other phrases like that were bombarding all around him.
Honey... honey!? Mike anxiously called his wife over and slightly blushing she explained.
I wanted to wait until we got home " I found out just yesterday " the doctor`s office confirmed it " I wasn`t sure whether to tell you or not with everything that was going on " but then the subject just came up and I couldn`t keep it from your mom " " she explained rapidly, squeezing his hand extra hard too. In his other hand he still held the shovel, and his grip tightened on it as well.
What what, " Mike asked, not able to process it all yet.
You`re going to be a father, his mom exclaimed.
What!? And he looked wide-eyed at his wife. She nodded her head rapidly. What " really?! " and then it finally sunk in. "Ohhh you."
So he set the shovel on the table before grabbing her up from under her shoulders and swung her around the room like a child. Everyone cleared back and watched and laughed and applauded some more. Mike smiled so broad it took up most of his face. He shone with happiness.
Outside the house in the night the brightness flowing out from the windows seemed to get even a little bit brighter in the darkness there. The joyful noise of those inside filtered out as well, and somewhere up even higher, up beyond the stars, even in heaven itself, one could just imagine the angels rejoicing too, with the Lord himself even taking notice, His family getting ready to grow just a little bit more.