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Memoir Nonfiction

Creature from the Black Lagoon

A prehistoric creature lurks in the waters. A creature from the black lagoon.

creature from the black lagoon
Creature from the Black Lagoon, 1954

WHEN I WAS a kid, my mom, sister, and I would cross over to Park St. and visit the Hancock residence once a week for game or movie night. A favorite film of mine and Robbie’s during this time was Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), which we watched seemingly on repeat for a solid two to three years.

Starring Richard Carlson (“Dr. David Reed”) alongside Julie Adams (“Kay Lawrence”), the 1954 horror film, directed by Jack Arnold, follows the story of a group of scientists in search of a prehistoric amphibious beast’s ancestral lineage which bridges the divide between land and sea animals in the evolutionary chain. What they soon realize is that the skeletal remains of the creature the scientists find on their geological expedition isn’t the only specimen in the area. An alive and well descendent of the evolved creature, they come to name Gill-man, now lurks in the watery depths of the Amazonian jungle, watching the scientists.

And so on and so forth until all hell breaks loose and a handful of scientists are killed by the creature, whom, to his credit, finds himself fighting for survival after his discovery. You couldn’t ask for a better movie at the tender age of six to eight years old for a couple of small town boys out in the middle of nowhere, turn left.

Thirty years later, I still have a special place in my heart for the amphibious creature that terrified those waters deep in the Amazon.

Other films we watched included Revenge of the Nerds, Revenge of the Nerds II, every Police Academy script to ever be produced and find its way to the big screen, then onto VHS and on a shelf on Buck’s on Main, and Slumber Party Massacre II; movies that, as I now think back on them, had more exposed breasts per thirty seconds of viewing time than a Playboy magazine.

Apparently, our parents did not have any clue as to the content. Otherwise, an adult finger would have pressed ‘stop’ immediately and the slew of us lying on the wooden floor and on the couch would have breathed a collective, “Aww man.”

However, that was never the case. Our parents, unknowing of the nudity, the blood, the guts, the gore, the cheesiness, bad acting, and infinite references to bodily functions, forked out the money at Buck’s on Main and rented the films.

They were too busy shuffling decks of Uno cards to ever notice or even think to peek in on us when all of a sudden there was a collective silence — silence caused by the undressing of one Julia Montgomery. Robbie’s eyes, my eyes, and Kevin’s eyes all grew as big as glazed white porcelain saucers on a kitchen table.

Skip.
Draw two.
Reverse.

Why our parents didn’t question the motivation behind the three of us always wanting to watch the same movies over and over again, I couldn’t tell you back then and I couldn’t tell you now.

Naïveté I can only presume.

You just read an excerpt from When the Lights Go Out at 10:16. A story of childhood growing up in small town America. A story of life and friendship in the face of terminal cancer.

By Jeffrey Pillow

Jeffrey Pillow is an American short story writer, memoirist, and poet. He is the author of The Lady Next Door. His writing has been published in Urge Magazine, The Nervous Breakdown, 16 Blocks, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, TheBody.com, New York Times, Washington Post, and Richmond Times-Dispatch.

He grew up in the small town of Phenix, Virginia, population: 200, and now lives in Charlottesville with his wife, two kids, and a dog named Mozzarella Cheese. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia where he was a Rainey Scholar. This is his blog.

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