BAD MONKEY is a collection of images and emotion. Each theme settles itself in a reader's subconscious, requiring one to ask questions of one's own impulses and prejudices. Curtis Smith requires a great commitment from his reader, and no story better exemplifies this commitment than the first, "The Girl in the Halo."
A summary of "The Girl in the Halo" is a difficult one to offer. The tale is a kind of test. To give you the plot is to infect your own reaction to Smith's images. As the story begins, Smith creates an image of a house, and a life, falling in on itself. Dangling wires and a rickety foundation are as perilous as the protagonist's future. The reader at once pities this boy, and Smith takes advantage of that pity to test our prejudices. As much as we may pity this boy with the world against him, you cannot help but judge him in the end.
Is a boy who cannot bring himself to end the life of his late father's cancerous dog capable of committing a heinous murder? This same boy who cares for his invalid mother and struggles to keep a home together as best as a boy can. What does that say about the reader to suspect him of such a crime? What does that say of the boy to harbor such dark impulses?
Smith's destitute protagonist is juxtaposed with a heartbreaking image on the late news. A young girl is missing and as the broadcaster beseeches the small town for any information, images of her purity and privilege flash on the screen. Throughout the story circumstantial evidence collides with a reader's judgement to cast suspicion on the boy, this boy we once pitied. Now we notice his dilapidated truck, his tattered sneakers, his condemnable house, his crazy mother, and we use the superficial to condemn him.
The second person narrator only serves to inject the reader further. I felt guilty at the conclusion. I've thought often of what my own suspicion says about my Self. Curtis Smith has gotten in my head. He may even be judging me.