The Pine Barrens

The Pine Barrens is spoken by a woman named Marla who tells us that as a teenager she saw a creature with wings, a horrible snout, and feet like hooves that flew in “this impossible clumsy, dorky way.”  She says she loves living in the Pine Barrens, in the presence of possible danger, and realizes that the creature she saw, the Jersey Devil, was her brother.  When her Crazy Aunt Betty died, Marla tells us, she moved back to Betty’s ramshackle house in the Pine Barrens and found the creature in her house one evening, making murmuring noises in the upstairs bathroom.  She left some food on a tray outside the bathroom door and went to sleep.  In the morning the food was gone, but she kept putting out food and discovered that the creature liked ham sandwiches and Ding Dongs and liked to sing or wail along with the radio.  After months without seeing the creature, she noticed when she was outside that the upstairs bathroom window was open.  The creature was getting out at night and coming back to spend the day with her.  Needing company, Marla sang with the creature and told it all her troubles.  She found out that the Delaware Indians used to live in the Pine Barrens and called it the place of the dragon, and she says there was a story about a woman named Leeds who in 1735 supposedly gave birth to something with “a forked tail, bat wings, hooves and a horse’s head.”  She says the Barrens have always been a place for the strange, oppressed, and odd because we are herd animals and kill what is different from us.  She is afraid that if she opens the bathroom door to look the creature will go away and she’ll never see it again.  She says love isolates and eventually kills you and that she doesn’t go anywhere or do anything except make ham sandwiches.  She asks how her isolation is different from the life of anyone who’s lucky enough to love something, because love is doomed and the only real love is love without hope for a person we have imagined.  She says time is passing and she can’t seem to move; but, she adds, everyone else is trapped, lost, doomed, strange.  “We’re all monsters,” she says, but she thinks she is lucky because she has found somebody to love.

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