Matt Leibel

Here are some of the things that were found on the island: a ball of twine; a 1/10000 scale model of the Sistine Chapel made out of seaweed; a half-eaten grapefruit; the eight of clubs from a deck of nudie cards; a ruffled paper plate slathered with French fry grease; a ring of interlocking paper clips wide enough to fit around the neck of a lion; a wallet full of Albanian currency and the business card of a Tiranese magician and/or musician (the card was wet and blurry); a treasure map; a solid gold baseball stuffed inside a coconut buried under sand deep inside a seaside cave; a green magic potion reputed to give the imbiber a one in ten chance at immortality (we won't know how this pans out till later); a letter to the Sultan of Brunei signed by a woman named Claudia de Passolini, the former hostess of an Italian television program on which people have various of their body parts turned into molds and made into truffle-filled chocolates; a famous painting of a famous photograph, which photograph depicts a painting of a photograph, and so forth in a kind of endless Escheresque progression; a kangaroo, whose pouch doubles as a fax machine; a garden in which giant asparagus grow so high they reach the sun, then grow right through the sun as though skewering it;  a species of frog whose facial features change depending on who or what is looking at it; a map of the island as imagined by mapmakers who had themselves never visited but had had the island lovingly described to them over the phone (this is the most accurate map of the island extant to date); a teardrop the size of a small child (speculation about the creature who cried it leading to a lonely monster residing in the same cave where the gold-baseball-stuffed-inside-a-coconut also resides); a message in a washed-ashore bottle that reads: "Sorry, Try Again"; several sticks lined up along the beach arranged to read RESCUE ME, followed several yards further on by more sticks lined up to read JUST KIDDING I LIKE IT HERE AND GOING HOME SEEMS TOO SCARY NOW; a non-fiction book about comets purportedly written by an actual comet, whose previous book (according to the jacket copy) was more of a psychological thriller, though also about comets (i.e. the effect on the residents of a small New England fishing village when struck by a comet); another monster, this one female, who apparently lives in the cave with the first monster, and who, the pair of them, are in the midst of a messy divorce; a musical instrument entirely made from bamboo with strings fashioned out of stray electrical wiring found amidst the wreckage of the small plane that crashed here around 1997; an increasingly hairy and long-bearded human being who has forgotten his name (it is Mike Davidson) who strums the instrument (it is a harp) in an attempt to lure the dueling monsters out from their cave in order that he can retrieve the solid-gold baseball (a parting gift from his former professional team, upon his retirement as a professional baseball pitcher back in 1989, honoring his 300 minor league wins) he had hidden in the cave soon after the plane crash; a Virginia Slims cigarette in the mouth of the male monster, who had taken up smoking only after several crates of cigarettes washed ashore years before; a weathered tan baseball glove that fits snugly around the four-fingered right hand of the female monster, who is, just now, tossing the solid gold baseball against the wall of the cave and fielding grounders; a response, by the male monster, to the tune being played on the bamboo harp by Mike "Minnesota Masher" Davidson, in the form of the monster's decision to step outside the cave for the first time in several years; a response to the response, in the form of the female monster (whose name is Bellaguizzin) following her soon-to-be-ex-husband (whose name is Parabogoragak) outside the cave, baseball still in hand; a pen, bearing the address and phone number of the Minnesota Twins front office, in the front paw of the kangaroo, who is jotting down an account of these events on the back of Claudia De Passolini's letter to the Sultan of Brunei (which, incidentally, expresses her undying love for the Sultan, who has hundreds of other lovers, a fact she well knows, in all likelihood) and is faxing said account, via his pouch, directly to the office at my Marina Del Rey beach house; a negotiation, between Mike Davidson and the two married-but-estranged monsters, which starts with Mike Davidson offering the monsters 1.5 million Albanian lek in exchange for the solid gold baseball (they could keep the coconut); a confrontation, following the failed negotiation, in which Mike Davidson attempts to fell the two monsters by pelting them with the bottle and sticks lined up on the sand; a slaying, in which the monsters, who can breathe fire (did I mention earlier the monsters can breathe fire?) char Mike Davidson to a crisp; a reconciliation, between Bellaguizzin and Parabogoragak, who were both so ancient and venerable they could barely remember what had caused the strife between them in the first place; a tsunami, subsuming all of the above to underwater oblivion, excepting one small, test tube vial containing the green immortality potion, which washes up on shore outside my beach house, and which I drink quickly and then immediately find myself wondering, do I really want to live forever, do I, in a world in which the island no longer exists? 





I love the idea of the short story as a compendium of wonders. Two fantastic examples: "Cathay" by Steven Millhauser, and "Paraguay" by Donald Barthelme. Also, it's just a kick to name monsters.