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The Short Form

“Monstress”

Lysley Tenorio

Excerpt

In its first week in release, Squid Children played in just one theater in all of Manila, the midnight show at the Primero. “A place for peasants and whores,” the president said, tearing the poster in half, “and is it true they use a bedsheet for a screen?” Then, speaking in Tagalog, he fired us.

From CocoLoco we walked home, and when we passed the Oasis, one of the English-only movie theaters that had been sprouting up all over Manila, Checkers threw a stone at Doris Day’s face: Send Me No Flowers was playing, and above the box office Doris Day and Rock Hudson traded sexy glances and knowing smiles. “Their fault!” he said, and I understood what he meant: imported Hollywood romance was what Manila moviegoers were paying to see, and Checkers’ low-budget horror could no longer compete. “All that overacting, that corny shit!” But here was the truth: those were the movies I longed for Checkers to make, where men fall in love with women and stay there, and tearful partings are only preludes to tearful reunions. Real life—that’s what I wanted to play, but my own roles were Bat-Winged Pygmy Queen, Werewolf Girl, Two-Headed Bride of Two-Headed Dracula, Squid Monster—all those monstrous girls Checkers dreamed up just for me.

We read it in Monstress.

Originally published in The Atlantic: June 2003.