Affinity Konar

Monsters I’ve Known, Part One

1.When I was small the Ark of the Covenant loved to crouch beneath my bed. To make its sacred presence known it went ahem ahem amen. It sent up holy coughs in the direction of my pillow. I knew the Ark by its ahem; I would’ve known that face-melter anywhere. I tried to say my prayers over the coughs but my prayers were no match, especially when the coughing gasped into words and the words were about being lonely. I tried to tell the Ark of the Covenant that all people are lonely in their own ways, especially when they’re not real people, but real objects like you and me. The Ark of the Covenant liked the sound of you and me. You and me, it coughed, you and me. Beneath the mattress there occurred the veil-lift, the spark, the capture. It coughed that it just wanted me to take a look at it, but I wouldn’t. It coughed, hey, just for a second, hey please, just for a minute or a second. Just so I know I’m still here, ahem and cough and amen.

2. When I was less small there was a whistling hunchback at our place of worship. Later, he’d go to prison for his monsterisms against girl children. The monsterisms occurred behind the drapes during whistle lessons. The whistle lessons had been trilling along for years, ever since his whistle solo at the holiday show. The solo showed just how high, just how low, he could go. After the show, parents praised his talent and let him give their girls whistle lessons because his price was fair and because their girls weren’t trying to learn enough and because—in secret—they were afraid that if they weren’t sweet to the afflicted that God would make them hunchbacks too. And no one was interested in shuffling eyes-down to the earth in a lumpen manner, not in our town’s earth at least, because who wants to look at the two snakes fighting in the grass like that?

3. That’s what I was asking Hank when we were walking out of the hospital. My smallness hadn’t yet fallen away—I was working on it—and Hank had smashed his guitar hand. His index made a sick noise and his bones knuckled down in the muffle of a cast. Because Hank’s bones weren’t holding things together anymore the weather had to pick up the slack and the city went stupid with the air shimmers and the bottles wouldn’t spin in the right directions and the dust couldn’t decide if it wanted to settle or not. The weather didn’t care for this slack. In response, it threatened Hank’s plaster. The forecast for weeks was grim. We quit the weather by going into the church, mostly. Some days they’d let us dry up inside there. One day, they didn’t. Communion isn’t for everyone, the priest said. So we started to leave, to go home to home-knows-where, but leaving was hard because Hank kept stopping and pointing. I couldn’t see what he saw. Not at first. Not for a blink. And when I saw I knew why I hadn’t seen before. Because no one wants to see a quartet of misborns curled kitty-corner on the sidewalk, a pinker stillness stacked flank to flank, full of whiskers and earfolds and tail-starts.

Sometimes it helps to be part of the world because sometimes you have to bury something in it. Unable to bury, we stalked instead.

We stalked the cat-killer for the rest of that summer. We tried to distract him from his interests, but nearby the small and the slit piled up, the old, the catchable, the dim, the best. We left notes for him by his victims. At first, we were gentle, we wheedled, we negotiated, we invited. We wrote, come talk, here’s our address, and we suggested peaceable hobbies fit for any haunted individual: succulents, pills, telescopes, bathtub drains. We told him he was too good for all this, or at least, too good for the part that involved thumbing your nose at the pulse of a stray. We told him there were people who loved him. We told him that was probably a lie. We told him there might not be people who loved him, but we’d try to find someone who would. We promised.

I always did the writing because Hank’s writing hand was also his guitar hand.

And when the cat-killer ignored the notes, when he kept on with the minx and the manx, we informed him of himself, we wrote you sorry suffocator, you sick such-and-son and so on. We don’t believe in the goodness of you (you uneven shrug). We never did (you pale failer). And we continued: Hiatus! Goner! Drunk! We tried to call him the worst of the horrible that we knew, which was difficult, because back in those days the worst we knew was the way we felt ourselves becoming, and then finally, we just gave up.

We forgive you, we wrote.

After the last note, Hank’s cast came off and Hank was ambidextrous--he was gifted on all sides, he could do the right and the left and he could hold the things that he wanted to hold without too much pain--and this didn’t make matters easier always, but they were brighter usually, invisible less often, never really untrue.

Affinity Konar is the author of The Illustrated Version of Things, published by FC2. She's working on a second novel, One Trick You Can't Repeat. She has an MFA in Fiction from Columbia University.


  1. If ever there was a finer writer this woman swallowed it like poison. Thank you.

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  3. This woman indeed. Say an absolute hi to our best writer. Diamond in a bear-trap.

  4. I'm proud of and happy for my great-niece.