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Serving Monster 

Thursday, Apr 14 2005
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Illustrations by Erik SandbergWhile we were pondering the Michael Jackson trial and its various tributaries the other day, we happened across this ­resonant passage in the manuscript of Jervey Tervalon’s latest novel, a completely fictional account told in the voice of the personal chef to a pop star who bears not the slightest resemblance to the bard of Santa Ynez. Still, it made us think . . . In the morning I heard a car drive up, and the sound of someone approaching my bungalow. But before I could get myself out of bed, the door flung open, and I saw Thug’s huge arm sweep Monster into the room. I sat up to greet them and find out what kind of trouble I was in. Monster smiled and waved for Thug to leave. He sat on the edge of the bed, wearing black silk pajamas, sunglasses and a bright-green fedora. He crossed his hands and waited as though he anticipated me asking a question. I didn’t say a thing. “Well, how did your conversation go with Sheriff Graves?” he asked almost in a whisper. I had the presence of mind to collect my thoughts before I responded. “We talked. He wanted to know what I knew about what goes on here. I don’t know what goes on here, so I didn’t have much to say.” “Did he ask you anything specifically? Anything about the boy?” “You mean the dead one?” I said, and watched Monster flinch. “Yes,” he said, just as softly. “He asked me about him. I said I never saw the boy before and didn’t know how he died, though I suspected he overdosed.” Monster’s mouth fell open. “You told him that?” “Yes, I did. Anybody who saw that body would have known that the boy had overdosed.” Monster shuddered, and his placid expression gave way to grief. He took a minute to compose himself, dabbing away at his eyes with a silk handkerchief. “Listen, other than that, I need to discuss another matter with you. I’m not sure how you’ll feel about this, but I think it would be good for you, for me . . . and Rita.” “What?” I asked, probably too quickly. Monster straightened his shirt and ran his hand through his mop of hair (he had an exceptional weave), then focused his sunglasses onto me. “Earlier, I talked to you about coming onboard with me, in a different capacity than as my personal chef.” “Yes, I remember.” “Well, this is it. I want you as a consultant.” “As a consultant? The only thing I know is food, that’s my business.” “Honestly, I need your advice about my wife. She trusts you, and she’s not doing well with all the craziness going on here.” “I don’t see what I could do for her.” Monster stood up and reached into a pajama pocket and came out with a checkbook and started to scribble in such a dramatic, theatrical fashion I thought it would be illegible, but when he handed the paper to me it was very clear: a check for $50,000. “Is that enough for you?” “What am I supposed to do for this money?” Monster wrote another check just as dramatically. He handed that one to me with disdain, as though touching it hurt him. Another $50,000. “My gift to you. I want you to take them now and leave, go straight to the bank and deposit them.” “I don’t know what to say.” “You don’t have to say anything. The money is yours.” “Thank you,” I said uneasily. It didn’t feel right taking the money, but I couldn’t bring myself to give the checks back. “Thug!” Monster called, and the big man appeared. “Drive him to Santa Maria so he can deposit his checks.” Thug nodded. “I’ll get the ride,” he said. I stood on the porch, waiting for Thug to return with the car. Monster stayed in my room, and though he had just given me two checks for a 100 grand, I wasn’t comfortable with him being there. I glanced back, and there he was, sitting on the edge of my bed, as if ready for an early-morning nap. I guess for the kind of money he had just dropped on me, I could forgive that — if he didn’t use my pillows. I should be able to stand the idea of that, or him getting under my sheets. No, I’d have to get rid of the bedding, burn that shit. To my relief, Monster finally wandered outside, and though it was just a short walk, Monster produced a mini-umbrella and opened it to shield himself from the morning sun. Thug arrived and hurried to open the door of the Maybach for Monster. “No, I’ll walk back. I want him at the bank when it opens so he can take care of business.” Thug nodded. We waited for Monster to meander up the path back to the Lair before I stepped into the back seat of the massive sedan. Before I could sit comfortably, Thug hit the gas. Gravel spewed in every direction. We started down the steep and narrow road until he slammed on the brakes, and I fell forward. Thug stopped to struggle with a stack of CDs. A moment later the sound of Maze’s “Happy Feeling” flooded the cavernous compartment and Thug nodded with contentment. “I love me some Maze,” he said, nodding his big head.

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