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A Little Green Monster, Thirty Years Later

By Edie Cay
November 8, 2022

Back in 2005, I graduated from a Masters of Fine Arts program that focused on short stories. I read short stories, I wrote short stories, I dissected short stories. I was determined to have a short story collection published while still in my twenties.

Reader.

Listen.

Reader, I did many things in my twenties, but publish a short story collection was not one of them.

But short stories have remained a passion of mine, and a well-done short story is still breath-stopping to me. One of my professors, who never seemed to like my short stories, called that breath-stopping moment the “singleness of effect.” And now that I’ve shared that phrase, you will need to pay me $25,000 for your MFA education. Joking. But if checks start showing up at my house, I will cash them.

One short story that still haunts me is from the 1993 collection The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami. The story is called “The Little Green Monster.” It’s short, and you can read it while on hold for your prescription refills. It’s about a woman who looks out her kitchen window one day and sees a monster climbing up out of the earth. It is ugly and scaled with long, cruel fingernails. It wants to love her, but she cannot overcome her disgust and repulsion.

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When I read it first, I saw it as a metaphor for a young man who stalked me and scared me. He came to my work and I had to have coworkers intervene. But this was what was in my life during that first reading. Years later, I read it again and saw it as an allegory for those feelings that may arise in oneself that we don’t like—jealousy, hatred, prejudice. Because as a struggling writer, constantly sending off manuscript requests with hope in my heart, then getting rejected after the agents read the full, this is what I felt when I saw another contemporary get published. Or worse, read a book that I thought was not as good as my own.

But now when I read it, having scratched off many professional writing goals, and feeling generous in my heart towards friends who succeed, I see this short story as another allegory entirely: the monster is the bits of me that I cannot forgive. The bits of me that are ugly and of which I am ashamed. I have grace in my heart for those in other people, but for me, it is unforgivable weakness. Reading “The Little Green Monster” now fills me with compassion for Haruki Murakami, for it compels me to speculate that he and I are the same. That perhaps we all carry those bits that make us feel unlovable, and they erupt from our carefully manicured backyard demanding love, and we cannot.

And that’s why I have a therapist.

But the singleness of effect in this story is where the external plot: monster appears in the garden, and the internal plot: woman is disgusted by this creature asking for and giving love, intertwine. It is that we have compassion for the little green monster, who is asking for something so simple, so easy, so necessary for human life. But we can also place ourselves in the woman’s shoes, not wanting to love something ugly, and not wanting to give something so precious just because this creature asked. Should love not be earned?

It is this conundrum—what is the monster? Are we the monster or are we the woman? Is the garden our professional life, or the life we put on social media (which didn’t even exist in 1993)?

The genius of this story is that 30 years later, a reader from across the Pacific still thinks about it, constantly reinterpreting. And if that isn’t success, I don’t know what is.

 

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Edie Cay
Written by Edie Cay

Edie Cay writes award-winning feminist Regency Romance about women’s boxing and relatable misfits. She is a member of the Regency Fiction Writers, the Historical Novel Society, ALLi, and a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers. You can drop her a line on Facebook and Instagram @authorediecay or find her on her website, www.ediecay.com

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