The Schoolyard / Youthful Exploits

Monsters, Ink

Chad is drawing a monster. Or dinosaur, from the looks of it. Monster sounds so threatening…but that was the assignment: “You are an explorer in an undiscovered land. You have just seen prehistoric monsters still roaming around. Draw one.” So! Dinosaurs are monsters.
It is art class, and the substitute teacher, Mr. Nelson, is observing him with interest. Chad’s color of choice: blue magic marker. His monster is smiling, has a nice open face and friendly eye (he is drawn in profile). Up and down his long back are spiky points. Hair? Armor? Punk stage costume? He has two tails, also spikey. On each of his two legs he has nicely rounded feet with precisely two toes/claws on each. These look a little intimidating. “These spikes don’t break,” says the monster inker.
Monsters, as any grown-up knows, are an important part of becoming a grown-up. Any reader of the great monster literature knows—readers of Beowulf, The Odyssey, Where the Wild Things Are—the things under the bed, hiding in the closet, skulking around the corners of the imagination are vital and accurate guides on the journey towards maturity and fulfilling lives. We like their power, their scale, their audacious attacks or mysterious dancing around our civilized campfires. And every so often, science transfers another species from the fossil record straight to our vivid imaginations, like Titanoboa cerrejonensis, the giant snake of the Amazon, which is surely scheduled for an appearance in the very next art class.
Piaget himself, the father of educational psychology, considered the Concrete Monster-Dinosaur Phase of human development to be second only to the Concrete Operational Phase. “A chief tenet of Piaget’s theory,” according to Dr. Sputnik, “is that these stages do not vary in order, cannot be skipped, and should not be rushed.” Freud said, “Sometimes a monster really is a monster—though they can be friendly, when well-fed.” Now, who doesn’t want to put on their wolf suit for a wild rumpus!
“Tell me about his face,” says the substitute art teacher. “He looks like he’s smiling. Is he?”
“No. He needs teeth. I have to come back and give him some sharp teeth,” says the artist. Monsters, by definition, do not smile. But it doesn’t mean they don’t want to.
An appendage in front of his legs was also a bit ambiguous to the substitute. “Is that an arm?”
“No it’s a hand and it has seven claws. It’s holding a gigantic remote control that moves a robot,” said the young artistasauropod. We’re talkin’ very precise claw articulation and a Transformer-sized robot capable of crushing “other stuff.” And crushing stuff is what robots are all about—by definition. Scale and proportion can get complicated, but it’s important to factor in. As it turns out, this monster is bigger than T-Rex and dwarfs even a normal-size, healthy man. “A person is only as big as his eye,” says the drawceratops.
But this is a good monster. “T-Rex is bad; mine’s good.”
Diet? Carnivore, herbivore, omnivore? “He eats other meat eaters.” Ah, carnivorus magnificus. Nevertheless, he looks like the kind of monster you could take home to your mother. “Does he have a name?” This led to a discussion of potential scientific names and the meaning of the ‘cera’ part of triceratops. After all, getting back to the assignment, the discoverer of a new species gets naming rights. Given all his spikes, claws, diet, and robot remote, we think there ought to be room in the dictionary for the Omnispikecerahamburgermonstasaurus Chadisensus.
There is a multi-colored subspecies of Omnispikecerahamburger-monstasaurus Chadisensus and it will adorn the principal’s door as soon as more field studies are conducted and drawings become available. Our intrepid artist/scientist is mounting a new expedition in the near future, as funding and equipment sponsorship permit. And at some point, the stage attenuates and finally comes to a close. This is signaled when you come home from an expedition to the undiscovered land where the wild things are, leave the monsters outside, and find your dinner waiting for you…and still hot.

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