Lee Klein: Jrzdvlz

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Lee Klein Jrzdvlz
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Jrzdvlz: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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JRZDVLZ (pronounced “Jersey Devils”) is the autobiography of a sympathetic monster on a centuries-spanning quest for redemption. Based on long-suffering legend and historical fact, it’s about the sacrifice, civility, endurance, and humility required to transform a monster into a man.

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Lee Klein








“A Mob’s a Monster; Heads enough, but no Brains”

Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1747

Note to the Reader

Streaks of phosphorus, a reptilian chicken, a hybrid of man, rat, and heron with the horns of a ram and the sculpted physique of a dumbbell enthusiast… an unkempt crowd paid a dime to see something along these lines, a weird and horrific beast sure to force squeals from deep inside them, but when the threadbare curtain rose, they laughed. My story could begin with a curtain rising on a pathetic rendition of me in February 1909, and then I could describe what happened to the animal onstage, slathered in green paint, a pair of antlers atop its head, makeshift wings across its back, heavy-buckled shoes on its paws. Or I could begin in mid-January 1909 when headlines in New York and Chicago proclaimed “New Jersey on alert! Mass hysteria!” after a snowy week yielded hundreds of sightings of a retriever-sized rat with wings and a chirping bark, a Jabberwock with eyes like blazing coal, a beast of fur and feathers with the face of a German Shepherd. My story could begin with reports filed for every supernatural encounter just five days after the largest New Jersey Pine Barrens landowner died on January 11,1909, a man who dreamed of channeling freshwater from an enormous aquifer beneath his land to every faucet in his choleric hometown of Philadelphia. Or I could begin my story nearly a hundred years later, with my final appearance in beast form—an eyewitness account of which a prestigious national magazine published a few years ago, inspiring me to set the record straight. Or I could begin, quite naturally, on the day of my most unnatural birth, when I, the thirteenth child of Mowas Leeds, devoured my family (save one sibling) moments after my arrival into this world on the night of a raging nor’ easter toward the end of October, 1735.

A composite of thirteen beasts in a single body, a chimerical advance on the ancient Chimera, or perhaps no more than a prank of a famous early American, I’ve arranged this story as I am. Yet even after compressing some two hundred and seventy-five years into something resembling a straightforward progression, I feel the need to apologize for its form. Maybe my unusual shape and the persistent repercussions of unfortunate early experience make me yearn for start-at-the-start/end-at-the-end convention? Stiff and flightless, my wings like pungent drapes, my tail an ancient and inanimate cable of flesh, at this point I believe an unassuming storyline accurately portrays the convolutions of truth. You may prefer a more monstrous monster, of course, a gargantuan brute who stalks with Cyclopean single-mindedness scrumptious human beings like yourself. If so, please realize that what follows relates a tender creature’s quest for a semblance of acceptance. As such, instead of introducing myself as some apoplectic fiend, I hope these apologies prepare you for the storms and silences to come. A unique creature, or so I once thought, I’ve stitched together this undulating composite of memory, conjecture, speculation, projection, hearsay, fantasy, and fact. Whenever encountered in beast form, like the brightest stars of a constellation, my parts were recognized before the whole: similarly, as elements of this story accrue and come alive in your imagination, if you sense a reasonably coherent human spirit rise from the words, I’ll have successfully reclaimed the complexities of my life from the simplifications of legend.

Adam Merriweather2017

Accursed Birth

SOLDIER EMERGED from the cave of night. He stood at my mother’s door and gasped with dehydration and hunger, though his stomach did not seem hollow.

“Please keep me till dawn,” he said. “I’ve lost my fellow sentries. A strange cry in these pines, as though legions of abysmal phantasms formed a choir and merged their voices into a single sound.”

“My husband lately crossed the bogs to the west never to return,” my mother said. “Maybe this cry felled him?”

“Such coincidence must be linked to the beast we pursue.”

“A beast?” she said.

“An unseen threat against which the Crown cannot defend. We shake as though from cold despite warmth in the air.”

“Wandering in the dark only improves thy state by chance. Settle in as we heat soup for comfort.”

“I extend the security of my presence on such a horrid night.”

“It was peaceful before you appeared,” my mother said.

“Until I heard the beast’s wounded, diabolic howl. Without a notion of its presence I would conclude myself mad to perceive such clamor.”

How fantastic for my mother Mowas to entertain a man offering security and intimations of what might have happened to her husband: not face down in the tide but fated to encounter this scream, perhaps no more than a transparent shimmer that sliced the air and enveloped man and beast in unknown and inescapable space.

The soldier described subterranean expanses beneath the pines. In these endless lairs in limestone rock, a beast that roamed long ago may endure. Perhaps now, with so many arrived from across the ocean, some unseen enemy defended its home.

“Could this beast be related to those impressions they found last summer after the floods?” said Mowas. “Those colossal prints of claws?”

“They have dug around those sites and there found evidence of an unfathomable behemoth, its snout like that of a mallard, but wingless, with a backbone and tail as long as from here to the path out front.”

“A relative of this monster could still be alive?” she said.

“If it exists, like so many monsters it may only wish to inhabit a paradise beyond the incursions of man, and so when threatened it strikes to restore its isolation.”

My mother’s eldest son asked to spend the night on guard. His hands held axes. But Mowas sent him to sleep, saying the soldier would keep the peace.

Her eldest daughter delivered a warm bowl to my mother, who thanked her and handed it to the soldier, who blew at its steaming surface. Relief entered his eyes as the broth calmed his blood.

“Care for your sisters and brothers,” Mowas said to my doomed half-sister, “and once they’re asleep put yourself to bed and forget all you have heard. The morning shall restore our safety, and this good soldier shall protect us tonight.”

They whispered once alone. The night was cool and quiet. They sat side by side, uncommonly alert. She said she felt not much grief for her lost husband. Life on the salt marsh with a dozen children had turned her into an impression in stone herself.

“And might you ever return to life?” the soldier said.


“It is a time for the improbable, perhaps.”

He seemed restored, and considering the threat at large, my mother was not wary. She welcomed this man. His unleveled accent soothed her.

The soldier held her, an arm around her shoulders. He pressed his side to hers.

“We must be strong and alive,” he said, “and not yield to temptation that does not make us stronger and more vital. Your strength is clear, so let’s bring life to your blood.” He kissed her cheek. She froze. He turned her, found her mouth, warmed and wet it, and made her smile.

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