Ms. Geraldine Manville’s Beauty School for Little Goyles
for Anya Martin

by S.J. Chambers


Ladies? Ladies! Ladies, can I get your attention for one moment, please?  Gertrude, get that rat out of your mouth. It’s filthy.

Prudence--a pigeon?  Don’t you know we have strict rules regarding fowl? Their feathers are horrible for digestion and they carry messages.

Now, you’re all here for one thing, and that is how to pull a funny face. Funny faces are integral to our function as the city’s gargoyles. It requires muscular stamina, a zen-like concentration, and most of all intimidation. You don’t think those evil spirits are just scared of a little tongue sticking out? No, this is the twenty-first century; our tactics need to be more precise.

Not only do you have to have an ugly face, but it needs to be a face no ancient demon has ever seen before. You need to strike them; stun them with your homely ingenuity. Most importantly, you need to keep coming back with different scowls, twists, and wrinkles to keep them spellbound and outside of our buildings.

Ah, we have a question.

Did everyone hear that? Dorothea has asked how yours truly began Gargoyling.

Well, back then evil was pretty stupid. It was just disembodied spirits and bed-goblins. From time to time, we still got a demon, and those who warded off possession were considered the heavyweights of
the industry.

My beginnings were humble. Manville is a famous name now (some say I could scare my laundry list), but back then it was a name that belonged to an amateur sculptor and his young and timid wife. He had molded me for practice, giving me a particularly uncouth scowl that
drove the Missus up the wall. So rather than install me above the front doorway, he stuck me over the Manvilles’ backdoor where the only things to scare were bluebirds and squirrels. Boring job, but we all start somewhere.

It was 1975. I was five-years old and had not seen one spirit. Oh, how these cracked teeth ached to sink into some evil. The evil came, but in a different form. The evil came as a man.

It was in the early morning. The bluejays slept perched on their limbs; the squirrels slumbered inside the tree trunks. Even I snoozed until the creaking fence-door disturbed me. I cocked open my left eye--like this--and saw a tiny man creep into the yard. He carried an axe, which he leaned against the door while he picked the lock.

Now, goyles, if you take anything away from this class it should be that evil reeks, and this man stank of horseshit and chicken bones. He wasn’t a ghoul or a demon, but I knew this was someone who had to be kept out. It was instinctual, you see.

So, I stood on my haunches and hovered over the nasty man. He stared in cold fascination as my mouth stretched and my canines extended. He came at me with his stupid axe, but the cheap clay I was made of was
still pliable and the blade caught in my skull. He tried to pull it out, but he was trapped like Gertrude’s rat. I swallowed him and held him in my gut until the police arrived.

Who was this pungent human evil? Anyone? No one knows?Well, I don’t mean to name drop, but it was Ted Todd. Ted. “Axe’m.” Todd.

He’d already visited five houses in the neighborhood, none of which had gargoyles. I was the first gargoyle to recognize human evil, and the first to prevent a serial killer from entering an edifice.

From then on, gargoyles grew in demand, and that’s why you’re all here.

Well, I can see from Bernadette’s expression that you are all eager to get started, but I’m afraid sticking one’s tongue up their nostril, no matter how flaring, just isn’t enough of a variation of the trope. Don’t worry, we will go over all the techniques here at Geraldine Manville’s, including tongue protrusion.

We’ll take a break. When we return, we’ll begin with freezing expressions.