“I am alone and miserable; man will not associate with me.”
– Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
The young boy was a monster of a child. I don’t mean he was your average, run-of-the-mill kind of monster child, taking pleasure in tormenting his big sister or setting neighborhood cats on fire. He was an honest-to-goodness kind of monster; certified, and independently verified through the strictest of scientific methods.
He was born, and for the first two months of his life, lived, in the basement laboratory of one Reginald Frankenstein. Throughout his troubled and often turbulent life he would be known by many names, but he began life, submersed in a vat of an ochre-colored, foul-smelling liquid, with the proper name of Eugene Frankenstein.
The term ‘lived’ should be used sparingly and with some reservation, for one could hardly describe his state of being as alive. By most scientific definitions and upon proper medical poking, prodding, probing and thorough examination, one could assert that he was indeed living. Upon placing your eyes in his general direction, however, a strong argument could be made otherwise.
The very sight of the darling child in public had been known to cause dizziness, momentary blindness, stomach cramps, fits of laughter, bloating, and on at least one occasion involuntary bowel movements. He could be most sympathetically, though perhaps not best described, as your average sized eight-year-old boy with one lazy eye and a mild aversion to fire.
Other descriptions have included but are not limited to:
“Frightful zombie-like creature.” – Esquire Magazine
“Bluish tinted, squat, and almost entirely inhuman.” – Vanity Fair Magazine
“Almost certainly not of this Earth.” – Wired Magazine
“A thought provoking and somewhat grotesque look at what science may have to offer.” – FOX news
“A work of the Devil and a sure sign of the end times.” – Reverend Patrick Beau Cannon
“The sweetest and quietest boy I have ever met.” – the blind neighbor (Most certainly deaf as well – If not completely then at least partially – for who could mistaken the horrific mutterings that escape his lips for anything but… well… horrific).
In an interview with CNN, Dr. Reginald Frankenstein, whom would become known as his father, once said that – and I quote, “Eugene is a perfectly normal boy as if he had been born to biological parents.”
Biological parents who had both been raised on a nuclear test site within the Nevada desert and subjected to a multitude of experiments dreamed of only by the most renegade of Nazi scientists perhaps.
Just to catch a glimpse of this marvel of modern day science was needless to say, plenty, and we’ll finally leave it at that.
Eugene was dearly loved by his creator parent; Loved as much as one could, a horrific monstrosity that had been pieced together in the basement laboratory of an otherwise unremarkable home.
Much to Dr. Frankenstein’s dismay, his monster’s mannerisms and intelligence weren’t quite what you would call – typical. He had in fact selected only the finest materials – what was available – to assist in the creation of Eugene.
The genius doctor had thought he would receive, per written instructions to the greater New York Body Bank – and waited with great anticipation for – the brain of a child prodigy he had spent a large sum of monies to preserve. Due to a most unfortunate shipping mishap, however, the much coveted intellectual brain was to instead be placed within the head of a two year old orangutan named Felix, who was last seen driving a stolen late model Ford Taurus, with his lovely orangutan girlfriend, Dora, in the passenger seat.
She would later be found abandoned at a corner grocery with a handful of bananas and a newly acquired, pessimistic outlook on life.
As a result, Dr. Frankenstein, without foreknowledge, would receive the former cranial contents of one William Henry Stucker. While being a wonderfully entertaining and well loved boy, Billy Stucker was perhaps best known for his unique ability to consume his own body weight in whatever leftover food items he had found lying about on the ground.
The list of unsavory consumables that had found their way into his mouth included, but by all means is not limited to: Six m&m’s found under the cushion of his mother’s lime green Ikea sofa; one half of a snickers bar left for an undetermined amount of time under the passenger side seat of his father’s 1985 Chevrolet Camaro; one half eaten Burger Boy Double Decker with cheese found in that same location; five jelly beans extracted from the slot of a candy machine; twenty-three after dinner mints discovered in the men’s room of a local eatery; an undisclosed number of lollipop leftovers rescued from various unsavory locations; twelve pieces of gum carefully pulled from underneath seven different tables; and exactly two bites of a hot dog left on a bus stop bench he had passed everyday on his way home from school. One of which became lodged in his throat and ultimately bore the responsibility for his untimely demise.
Several years earlier, Dr. Frankenstein and his wife had been the parents of a bright, loving, well-mannered young boy. He had acquired sparkling blue eyes from his mother and a vast intellect from his father. Both the doctor and Victoria Frankenstein adored their child and spent every spare moment of time with him. The neighborhood children would line up at their door, anxiously waiting for Sylvester to become available for play.
Sylvester was the child every parent dreams of, the perfect blend of childhood innocence and his parent’s wisdom.
Life for Sylvester, however, would end too soon.
Dr. Frankenstein tried in vain to console his grieving wife. They tried repeatedly to have another child; to fill the void created by the death of their first child. It was a comment by Dr. Frankenstein’s wife, Veronica, that had initially prompted the idea for Eugene’s creation – that and the relatively lax government regulations concerning the creation of new life.
After yet another unsuccessful attempt at coupling with his less than enthusiastic spouse, his increasingly awkward advances were finally met with her finally posing the question, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could conceive without actually having to touch one another?”
Most human beings would have recognized that moment as an undeniable turning point in a failed relationship and miserable existence; but not Reginald Frankenstein. The good doctor was known neither for his ability to communicate with or even remotely understand the opposite sex. He was, in fact, quite ignorant of anything regarding womanhood.
He didn’t know what women wanted out of life – or him for that matter – and that included his wife.
Had his marriage not been somewhat arranged by his parents, Mr. And Mrs. Eugene Frankenstein of Newark, NJ, he would have, and perhaps rightfully so, died ignorant and alone. His father, however, an intelligent man and well versed in the ways of woman-kind, had arranged a meeting for young Reggie with the daughter of his very best childhood friend.
Dr. Frankenstein, a promising young neuro-scientist at the time, had very little if anything to do with Veronica’s attraction to him. The only child of a prominent Jewish doctor, Reginald possessed a solid work ethic that kept him at the lab very late; a quality that Veronica very much appreciated as it afforded very little opportunity for him to interrupt her busy social calendar.
It could be surmised that Dr. Frankenstein had predicted a more loving and perhaps even nurturing acceptance of Eugene by both his wife and the community at large.
Genetics and experimental techniques had given Reginald the means with which to create a child whose appearance was very similar to their own. Being no sort of cosmetic surgeon, however, he could not hide the many scars of repeated surgeries. The bluish tint of the boy’s flesh was a side effect of the chemical bath in which the boy was placed prior to animation. Dr. Frankenstein had hoped repeated baths would remove it, though after a few months, he had given up hope.
When the good doctor first introduced the newly created child to his still mourning wife, her reaction was not what he had anticipated. Once he revived her with an ample supply of smelling salts – and then supplying her with a mild sedative – her spirits were much relieved. It took her several months to become accustomed to the squat, bluish tinted boy.
Regular outings at nearby parks, planned in vain to bring mother and child closer together, were doomed. At first, the mothers of neighboring children would simply retreat, their perfectly normal offspring stuffed hastily underarm, like loaves of fresh bread, as they made way to their respective homes.
Then, they organized.
Veronica Frankenstein, once an endearing socialite – loved far and wide for her lavish brunches and delectable tea cakes – had become an outcast; her memberships to the knitting circle and book clubs revoked; her credit cards declined; her garden gnomes vandalized.
There were to be no play dates for Eugene. He would spend the majority of his time alone.
“Applause may be good for the moment, but love is everlasting.”
– Pepe, The adventures of Pinocchio
Attempts to teach Eugene proper English turned into frightful fits of tears. Veronica Frankenstein simply could not understand how such a simple construct as ‘Good afternoon, Sir.’ could be transformed by the child into utter nonsense.
Although he was capable of innumerable noises and nonsensical mutterings made with a variety of body parts, his entire vocabulary seemed to contain a grand total of ten actual English words: Momma, Dadda, Hi, Bye, Yes, No, Hell, Shit, Hot and Damn – The last two usually uttered consecutively.
Private tutors were brought in from far reaches of the country, each with their own thoroughly unique way to instruct Eugene.
Miss Grace Honeywell brought with her the idea of unschooling, an attempt at instructing young Eugene through life experience. The thought of a text book would cause the young woman to swoon and the idea of a structured classroom would incite a tirade about the fall of modern society and the failings of the public school system. After a particularly disastrous attempt to instruct Eugene in the field of Entomology; one in which the tiny blue boy ingested several of her much prized butterfly examples of the papilio genus, she fled in the night.
Dr. Thomas Fletcher entered home with a PhD from Columbia Theological Seminary and a small trunk of texts both religious and secular. The good Dr. Frankenstein came home one afternoon to find Dr. Fletcher, surrounded by a flock of supportive teaching aides, performing an exorcism upon young Eugene, who sat in his bed quite unmoved by the experience, if not somewhat entertained.
And so it continued for several months. Each new instructor claiming to hold the key to unlocking Eugene’s young mind. And with each promise, a new found excitement for Dr. Frankenstein, that young Eugene would indeed blossom.
Eventually however, each tutor’s method would prove ineffective and each would leave, usually in great haste, explaining that they simply could not tolerate working with such a heathen of a child.
Shortly after Eugene’s eighth birthday, having reached both their emotional and financial limits, Reginald and Veronica Frankenstein enrolled their makeshift son into the local public school, Colburne Elementary, hoping that an education through immersion would benefit the young boy.
Throughout the first week of school, Reginald and Veronica Frankenstein would prepare Eugene in the morning, provide him with his breakfast of oatmeal and toast, which he would of course consume in the most grotesque manner conceivable. Afterward, he would be dressed in appropriate attire and driven to the school, where Reginald would drop him off at the sidewalk in front of the main building.
Eugene’s day consisted of the normal regiment of kindergarten instruction, interspersed with regular trips to the playground. Lunch time, however, was time Eugene spent alone in the nurses office, as kindly Nurse Rita was just about the only adult capable of watching him eat.
While Eugene’s classmates did not openly display the contempt for him that many adults would, he was most certainly not the most well liked child in his class. His mannerisms were atrocious, his communicative skills abhorrent and he just plain smelled funny.
In the beginning, Eugene spent more time with his nose in a corner of the classroom than actually participating; a fact appreciated by the students, teachers, and Eugene. The less time he spent with other children, the more time he could spend thinking about various other matters that interested him; whatever those matters were could be anyone’s guess.
Eugene’s school day ended promptly at 2:30, when he would be escorted with the other children to the curb in front of the school building, to await their parents. Eugene looked forward to this most of all. On most days, either Veronica or Reginald Frankenstein would arrive on time, with a smile and a loving hug.
When questioned by police about Eugene’s disappearance, Veronica Frankenstein could say very little. His being snatched by some insidious villain out of the question, it was decided that he must have simply wandered off at some point during the day.
Try not to judge Veronica Frankenstein solely upon her abandonment of young Eugene. She had done her best to accept the young child as her own. It’s an unfortunate circumstance that his striking similarities to her own child caused her so much distress and dread. Time spent with Eugene only served to bring about memories of her own beloved Sylvester, which highlighted Eugene’s glaring imperfections.
As the laws regarding the creation of such a being as Eugene are particularly lacking, so apparently are the laws regarding the disappearance of such an individual. There was to be no man hunt for his captor and an amber alert was not set into motion; his picture was not to be placed on cartons of milk. Instead, his file was to be placed on the bottom of an already sizable stack of cases regarding missing children.
Eugene was not to be missed, except perhaps, by Mr. Puddles. Mr. Puddles – a rather awkward mix of terrier and collie – knew something was amiss. The grumpy mutt would normally spend his evenings tormenting a young bluish tinted human child, and that child was no longer available for him to play with; a situation he set about right away to remedy.
Veronica Frankenstein had told Eugene they were not going to school that day. Instead, they would go to a place he would thoroughly enjoy. He sat in his booster seat, jabbering incoherently the entire ride until finally the car stopped and he was helped from his restraints. Immediately, the sights, sounds and smells of the carnival filled his senses. Eugene was delighted. He had dreamt of such a day and he hugged his mother before she took him by the hand and led him through the crowd.
It began as yet another bonding attempt by the dutiful mother, but every passing child and every joyous mother brought about more memories. Every memory made her realize that the child she was escorting through the carnival was not her own.
Eugene was not her child. Her Sylvester was gone, replaced by this blue-skinned doppleganger. She had tried to manufacture feelings for the monster, but found she could only muster contempt; both for the unfortunate creature, and his creator.
His mother had made sure he was the first child on the merry-go-round, to assure his pick of steeds. She placed him gingerly on the unicorn – his favorite – kissed him on his forehead, and quickly retreated behind the fencing with the rest of the ogling parents. He thought for just a moment that she was sobbing, but quickly dismissed the idea, as the metallic contraption began to move, its pipe organ spouting out a merry melody.
Time after time he would pass the section of fencing where he believed his mother would be standing, his arm outstretched and a wide gaping smile smeared across his face and time after time she could not be seen.
When finally, the ride came to a slow but eventual stop and the music died to a whisper, Eugene climbed down from the unicorn, patting its muzzle with gratitude for such a fine ride.
He ran to where she had left him and surely would still be – with a smile and a camera full of keepsake snapshots – but his mother was not there. He then ran on to the ticket booth and again he found only the glaring, hateful eyes of those around him; The same hateful eyes his mother’s arms had afforded him protection against. He ran to both places once again to make sure he had not missed her, but much to his trepidation she was nowhere to be found.
She was similarly not found at the funnel cake emporium, tilt-a-whirl, ferris-wheel or beer garden.
Panic began to set in; she was gone and Eugene feared the worst. Despite that fear, Eugene did as he was instructed to do in just that situation.
“If you become lost,” his mother would say. “Stay where you are and I will find you.”
So he did.
For nearly four hours, Eugene stood in the middle of the busy midway, stared at by passersby, pointed at by frightened children and avoided by all. After he found he could no longer stand he found a bench nearby and sat for an additional two hours, during which time he cried, tears streaming down his normally awful face.
The tears did something for poor Eugene, however, that no other thing had done; those giant crocodile tears humanized him. No longer did those who passed by him pull away in disgust. No longer did they stare down at him, glad their own children were safe at home. Instead, they huddled around him, stroking his fine hair and patting his back while speaking words of encouragement in soft voices.
“It’ll be okay.” They said to him.
“We’ll find your family.” They promised. “Everything will be alright.”
And he believed them. “Thank you.” He replied, which of course sounded much more like, “Blat Snorf.”
Even with his warmed cheeks and more child-like demeanor, a certain onlooker knew a good thing when he saw it.
Pepe Garcon, the curator and barker for the theatre of the strange stood amongst the crowd, marveling at the enormous stroke of luck that had happened upon him. His small sideshow had been struggling more with each town; until that is, he stumbled across this tiny piece of Americana. Eugene, along with some other recent acquisitions, would surely boost his sales and secure his place among the finest of showmen.
Pepe knew what was happening. He had seen it many times before. “These poor people.” he thought “They have been taken in by the monster’s tears.” The instinct to nurse and protect others is a difficult one to push aside, but he had years of experience. He had seen through the human disguises by some of America’s most famous monsters and freaks. Carl the Caterpillar Man, Dickie the Penguin Boy and Myrtle, the Four-Legged Girl from Ipanema to name a few. He would do for this one what he had done with the other misfits. He would provide him with the love and security the little monster needed and in return Eugene would provide a means of escape from this wretched carnival life. This abomination would make him rich.
It took just a short time for the crowd to disperse. Once Pepe brought everyone’s attention to Eugene’s lazy eye, misshapen head, premature male pattern baldness and widespread surgical scarring, they were quick to abandon him; once again leaving Eugene alone with his misery – and Pepe Garcon.
Eugene sniffled – or perhaps snorted; with Eugene one never can tell.
“Now, now.” Pepe cooed, after bending down low to face Eugene, placing a finger under his chin, “These people don’t know what they want. They fear that which is different.” He winked at the small child and stood up. “Come with me, child, and the very same people that have feared and alienated you, will pay to be in your presence.”
He waited but saw no response from young Eugene. He thought quickly and continued his hard sell. “Explore the world. Travel to exotic locales and meet extraordinary people.” He spun his cane once upon his wrist. “The life of the carny is one of hard work and high adventure,” He continued, “But you look to be the sort that would fit right in.” He extended his bony hand toward the boy. “Come with me and those that have tormented and chided you will no longer see you as a monster, but as a thing of beauty, a work to behold and cherished.”
At first, tiny Eugene looked at the man, doubting his character.
“Come with me, my boy,” sly Pepe finished, “and you will be loved.”
Eugene stood up without a further thought, and took his new friend’s hand.
“Very wise, young man.” Pepe nodded his approval.
Eugene’s face contorted into what could only be surmised to be a crooked, toothy grin, but even Pepe Garcon could bare to look at it for no more than a brief moment.
Pepe grimaced slightly, “You should probably refrain from making such faces in public.”
Eugene’s smile immediately faded. “Shit.” He said, which sounded just as it should.
It was indeed Pepe Garcon’s luckiest of days as well as perhaps the beginning of his meteoric rise amongst his peers. It is an unfortunate matter of simple physics however, that whatever goes up, must come down; and so too shall Pepe Garcon.
Unbeknownst to Eugene or the public at large, another child was to be taken that night, confiscated somewhere between the twinkling lights and beer vendors; snatched up by a pair of desperate – and somewhat hairy – arms.
“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
– George Orwell, Animal Farm
It was a trying year for Philip Muzzello. Going through some sort of mid-life crisis, he had purchased – on credit at a fixed APR of 15% – the red Italian sports car of his dreams. He had no idea it would lead to his end-life crisis.
The car was magnificently engineered to project him at unreasonable speeds down long stretches of highway and around impossibly tight turns with just the slightest touch of his steering wheel. The interior, while stylish and expensive, was uncomfortable and caused a sharp pain in his back whenever he sat in it; something he was willing to overlook if it made heads turn.
It was because of this pain in his back, that he was forced to adjust his seat, eyes not affixed to the roadway ahead of him, hands and feet not in their proper positions. It was because of that uncomfortable seat and the pain that it caused, that he did not see the cement truck crossing the intersection in front of him – at least, not until he was upon it.
He remembers very little of the event or of those that followed. He doesn’t remember being rushed to the hospital in the back of an ambulance. He does not remember being pronounced dead on arrival or his lengthy stay in the morgue. He does not remember his wife crying over him when she came to identify his body.
He does remember waking up six months later with an insatiable appetite for bacon, and an intense desire to pee on things. It was only a short time later that he realized he had been altered. The body he now wore was not his own; Hell, it wasn’t even his own species.
The grumpy terrier was Dr. Frankenstein’s first patient; his first foray into brain replacement. The doctor had successfully taken the brain of Phillip Muzzello and placed it within the cranial cavity of the family animal, a trust worthy, albeit slightly unbalanced, terrier. It didn’t take as much as the doctor had initially imagined to make the brain fit into the smaller cavity of a canine; a nip here, a tuck there. So it came to be that, a 38 year old investment banker was given a second chance at life. He must, however, do so within the confines of an incontinent terrier named Mr. Puddles.
Tracking Eugene’s scent from their modest home to the carnival grounds, Mr. Puddles stopped abruptly at the Merry-Go-Round. The trail was cold.
He sniffed about for several more minutes, frantically scurrying back and forth across the midway, his nose to the dirt. He thought several times that he had latched upon the scent once again, concealed by the stench of stale beer and intermingled with the aroma of polish sausage, but would lose it again moments later.
After scouring the emptied carnival grounds until well past midnight, Mr. Puddles had just about given up hope of finding his favorite chew toy.
While searching through a particularly suspicious dumpster, Mr. Puddles happened across a peculiar sort of cat. He was positioned with his rear in the air, tail straight out and twitching back and forth; his head jammed into the narrow opening of a food container. The cat was more round than it was long, with thick, matted white fur highlighted by splotches of various neon colors interspersed along it’s length, most likely from a night spent wallowing through a trash bin filled with cotton candy remnants.
Mr. Puddles gave an inconspicuous bark that actually meant something like, “Ahem.”
The cat either didn’t notice him or was pretending to do the same, either of which Mr. Puddles could not have. Putting aside his usual dislike for the feline species and ignoring the rather grotesque demeanor of this one, Mr. Puddles continued to vie for its attention.
“Ahem.” He coughed again. “Excuse me.”
The cat withdrew his head from the container and looked at Mr. Puddles. Both his face and paws were coated in whatever food item he was busy with, and he set about quickly to clean himself. “Excuse you indeed.”
“I hate to bother you,” Mr. Puddles began, “But I am in search of a human child that seems to have come up missing.”
“Haven’t seen one.” the cat responded in between long exaggerated lickings, feigning its disinterest.
“What have you seen?” Mr. Puddles was in no mood for a game of cat and mouse.
“Last night.” Mr. Puddles took a step forward, pushing the cat back against the wall of the dumpster. He thought of the many ways he could make this particular cat’s life uncomfortable. He disliked cats when his brain was in his human body and for some reason he found them even more intolerable once it wasn’t.
“What?” The cat snorted, “You going to rough me up?”
“I’m not going to lie.” Mr. Puddles took another step forward. “The thought has crossed my mind.”
It laughed. “I’ve been roughed up by better than you.” And with that, the cat coughed – hacked really – like there was some bit of food stuck in its throat. He stuck out his paw. “Pardon me.” He managed in-between fits of coughing.
Mr. Puddles stepped back from the cat and waited a ridiculous amount of time, during which he found himself sniffing and snorting through the refuse himself. He was sometimes repulsed by his own dog-like behavior, though at this moment in time, his growling stomach got the better of him.
After his rather lengthy coughing fit, which in the end, produced a hair ball of both undeniable girth and stench, the feline dropped back on his haunches and began cleaning its paws yet again. “So what’s in it for me?”
Mr. Puddles hadn’t considered this option; payment for information leading up to the safe return of one Eugene Frankenstein. “I’m not sure.” He said at length and waited.
The cat made no attempt at a reply, but went right on cleaning it’s sticky paws.
“Well, cat, what is it you would like?”
The cat stopped licking it paws, looked at the dog and smiled. “I thought you would never ask.”
Mr. Puddles rolled his eyes and sat down. “Get on with it.” He barked.
“I want a home.” It said.
That was easier than the terrier had thought it would be. “Done.”
The cat held up his paw. “Hold on.” He said. “Not any home.”
Mr. Puddles was getting anxious and he was sure it was showing.
“I want your home.”
What a tremendous stroke of luck. Not only had Mr. Puddles found a cat with information that could lead him to Eugene, but a new guinea pig for the good doctor to experiment upon. “I couldn’t possibly.” He said.
“Then I can’t help you.” The cat responded with an evil snicker.
“Okay.” Mr. Puddles put on his best show of humiliation. “Okay, you got me. You can have my home.”
“You sure your family will take me?”
“Most definitely,” Mr. Puddles replied. “Doctor Frankenstein will love you.”
The cat hopped happily into the air, making a funny wheezing sound as he landed. “Excuse me.” He blushed.
Reluctantly, the terrier with a human brain performed the customary action in lieu of a handshake to seal the deal. The two animals sniffed each other’s backsides for a period of time to extend no less than ten, but no more than thirty seconds.
Apparently, even animals find that crossing the line.
“The surest cure for vanity is loneliness.”
– Thomas Wolfe
Unencumbered by the sideshow that was Eugene, Veronica Frankenstein was once again able to continue the lifestyle she missed so dearly. Long lost friends stopped by, with cakes and flowers, giving her their warmest regards and condolences; telling her over tea and tears about what they admired most of her lost boys.
She would accept both their condolences – and their pineapple upside down cake – with a brave smile, and ask them in for a mimosa.
Eventually she would discover that something was missing; her brunches were empty and without solace. In time, she would find an empty glass and her refrigerator in need of orange juice.