The Monitor – Daniel Adler

An army of monitors has inhabited the sewers for decades now, say the news outlets, giving rise to supermonitors six, seven feet long, nesting in drain pipes and irrigation tunnels, entire networks ever-evolving, teams cooperating to hunt large birds, herons and cormorants, becoming less territorial and more communal, more dangerous to humans, living alongside their gator cousins—and what is strange, perhaps strangest: a local man was recently profiled on evening news for hunting them and selling their penises on the Indian black market. Perhaps not so strange really—people attribute all sorts of virility-inducing properties to tusks and horns. The strangest thing is that monitors have two penises.
        And now, there!—on the edge of the pond, manmade of course, all of these ponds in central Florida are manmade, as these bizarre thoughts circle through his mind like water in a flushing toilet, he sees one—a monitor—crawl up out of the pond’s drain pipe and onto the surrounding lawn. It pauses in the midsummer sun, stretching its neck, its chrysolite underside soft compared to its rough blackish hide and beryl markings. It is perhaps not a supermonitor, or only a juvenile: some four feet long. He pauses in a dogwood’s shade to watch the lizard, which does not care about him. So he moves closer. There is an urge in him to kill it—to assert dominion, but a voice of wisdom in his breast shushes him and urges him on. He goes, fear lapping at his bowels. Twenty feet now. The thought that if the lizard comes after him as prey he no longer has enough distance to escape. He stops. Still the monitor’s eyes are closed as it sunbathes; a fleck of tongue visible in its relaxation. He searches the St. Augustine grass. A few steps away is a stick of dogwood. In a moment of childlike curiosity and whimsical hatred against a creature of God, he throws it. His aim is good, the animal convulses and retracts. Locks eyes with him. Hisses. Fear sizzles through his gut. But vanishes as the animal retreats: slithers into the pond splashlessly and into the drainpipe. Its escape is so slick that the fear rises this time and lingers on his neck as goosebumps.
        The sun pushes down the hairs on his arms with a trickle of sadness—for he sees how he ruined It, how he deprived that underworld king of a golden sun, sent him into exile, withheld his crown. Yet he is no god over men, or even a child against nature, but a petty tyrant, angry at one more powerful than himself. He turns to walk home. Disgusted. Then, silly, but again a sizzle of fear—the monitor ready to avenge itself on his Achilles’ heel, drag him into its lair as prey—but no, over his shoulder, despite half-expecting the monitor to be chasing him—nothing. Concentric circles on the still water as dragonflies land. Gurgle from drainpipe into pond. The monitor hidden—waiting? No: guilt. For his pettiness. Desire for absolution.
        Or are fear and anxiety reparation enough?