Small Monsters by E. Lily Yu
My rating: 3/5 cats
One morning, after they had devoured the remnants of a mountain lion, the small monster spoke.
Why do you eat me? it said.
Its parent lolled onto one side, spines bristling. Gobbets of meat warmed its belly and weighed it down, and it felt pleasant toward the world and its whelp. Because I am hungry.
But why not eat—the small monster took a breath—your own leg?
Silly. I am your parent. I birthed you. You are mine.
But it hurts.
It grows back.
And neither said a word more.
man, this little monster can’t catch a break! it’s ‘rescued’ from a limb-munching parent by a beastie who promises to only monch a limb if it can’t find a meal less destructive or humiliating to consume, but once the beastie gets a taste of how delicious little monster’s little limbs are, it’s MONCH CITY until the little monster is whisked away from its clutches by a bird, for a delicious-morsel price.
then, little monster’s sympathies are roused by a wounded creature it tries to help, which—predictably—ends terribly, View Spoiler »although the outcome is unpredictably in the monster’s favor and involves some excellent eye trauma:
Its claws clamped onto its pursuer’s skull. And as the rat-nosed thing swung its head and shrilled, the small monster bit out one silver eye and slit the jelly of the other. Then it leapt down and tore at the taut, thin skin where the rat-nosed thing’s wounds had barely healed. The small monster scratched until the tender flesh parted and showed again the stark white bones. It bit and squirmed into the rat-nosed thing, crawling inside the warm, plush cage of its ribs.
The small monster ate what it found there: bitter, bilious, savory, sweet.
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and then it meets a little crab-critter; an artist/therapist/hippie type who teaches the monster how to protect itself from monchers of the world and channel its pain into something beautiful.
None of us can change what has happened to us, the clawed creature said. But if we are lucky, we live. If we are lucky, we do not lose more than we can afford. Much regrows. Claws, tail, teeth, even the vaporous stuff the poets call soul. And bitter experience provides material for art. Ask a shipwreck. Ask an oyster.
there’re some visits by ghosts of trauma past (the left-behind sibling part is particularly well-done), and some confronting prior injustices and it’s definitely a dymanic story.
however, it’s a little smack-you-in-the-face with its metaphors for my tastes, although i get why others love it.
and before you start feeling all awwwww for this poor l’il monster, please note:
A seagull stooped at the seal carcass. The small monster broke its neck with a blow.
Wish I could do that, the clawed creature said.
Eat, the small monster said. You’ll be big enough, one day.
first of all, yikes. second of all, while i am no apologist for birds, if you kill a seal, take a couple of bites out of it, and just leave the corpse lying on the beach, birds are gonna consider that a buffet, and breaking a bird’s neck for trying to snatch a bird-mouth-sized bite seems disproportionately aggressive to me. just saying.
read it for yourself here:
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