The year was 1991 and my Kindergarten class was at our elementary school’s library. It was my first year at James A. Dever elementary in Valley Stream, NY, and I was getting the hang of things pretty quick. At that point in time I figured I had the library down pretty well; I knew where to find the Berenstain Bears, where to find The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and more acute to my tastes I knew where to find Waldo. Then one day while browsing the library’s catalog of books, most of which were from the mid 1970’s, I came across a series of books about monsters. There was a book about Dracula, a book about Frankenstein, a book about the Creature from the Black Lagoon, a book about the Wolfman, a book about King Kong, a book about Godzilla, and even a book about some giant praying mantis. These were the very creatures of my nightmares, the villains that scared me to death at amusement parks, and made me sleep with my door open. Yet something compelled me to grab all of the books and swiftly walked them over to the librarian to take out.
I’ll never forget the librarian asking me why I wanted to take out those books, and more so, I’ll never forget my answer; “If these monsters are going to attack me” I said, “I want to know everything about them so that I can kill them.”
If I recall, the librarian chuckled and told me there was a two book limit, so I was given the difficult choice of prioritizing which of my enemies I would be most prepared for. I wasn’t all that worried about King Kong, in fact my dedication to the video game “Rampage” made me view him as my ally. Godzilla gave me nightmares, but after watching King Kong vs Godzilla a few months before, I felt confident that my alliance with Kong would help me defeat Godzilla. I narrowed it down to three monsters: Dracula, the Wolfman, and the praying mantis. In the end, it was Dracula who missed the cut because the Wolfman intrigued me because he was in a version of “Rampage” that I never played, and the praying mantis fascinated me because I knew so little about him.
When I got back to class I came to the realization that these books were not meant for my reading level, but it didn’t stop me. I looked at the black and white photographs, found the words that I could read, and within a day figured out how to defeat my adversaries: the Wolfman could be destroyed with a silver bullet, and the Deadly Mantis could be destroyed by trapping him in a tunnel and throwing a grenade at him. I told my older brother, my parents, relatives, and neighborhood kids. I asked where I could get a silver bullet and some grenades. I found what I then believed to be tunnels on my schoolyard, I made my own silver bullets out of tinfoil, and large rocks served as my grenades.
The Wolfman and the Deadly Mantis were doomed.
After school I asked my mom if I could go to the library to return those books and get new ones. She said “ok” and we went to the library and exchanged those two books for Godzilla and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. These enemies were more complex so I had family members read me certain words I hadn’t yet learned, but within a few days I had those adversaries figured out pretty well.
I eventually read all of those books. I figured out how to defeat every monster. I set a goal, obsessed over it, and achieved it. In reality, I was never going to get attacked by Godzilla, King Kong, or any other monster, but after that week or so of Kindergarten I was never scared of movie monsters again. I learned to embrace haunted houses, and began collecting action figures of those very villains I once hid from. Today, I own most of their movies on DVD and they bring a smile to my face every time I watch them.
Jason Michael Brescia
June 28, 2012 1:47 A.M EST