Monroe Huff from A Boy Called Duct Tape by Christopher Cloud
Monroe Huff looked at me, an odd smile spreading across his Neanderthal face. “Do you know what I like about caves, Pablo Perez?”
Sucking in an anxious breath, I said, “You’re avoiding the question.”
“One reason. I’m the best spelunker in Missouri. Period.”
Monroe had to be the scariest looking human being on planet Earth. Built like modern man’s prehistoric relative, short and squatty, his thick brow sloped and his massive jaw jutted. His stomach was flat, his hips were narrow, and his muscular shoulders looked like an Olympic weightlifter’s. If Christopher Cloud had meant to intimidate me by introducing me to Monroe…well, he’d succeeded.
“It’s not the silence, although silence is divine,” Monroe began. “Not a word, nor a
whisper, only the melody of dripping water, the ghostly gurgle and splash of a rippling
stream, the quiet roar of a waterfall, and the distant cry of bats in the dark.”
A rush of wind blew over Monroe’s cabin, moaning, and an icy chill arched up my spine.
“Nor is it the darkness that I cherish, for heaven knows I do worship those places totally absent of light,” Monroe continued. “The complete blackness is my blessing. It renews my world. I am in the belly of Mother Cave waiting once again to be reborn, without light and helpless.”
Monroe was one scary dude. Pia and Kiki would freak out when they met him.
“Nor is it the coolness that draws me again and again to the bowels of creation,” Monroe said. “For I am a man who loathes heat. The cool air of the cave is my sanctuary.” Eyes closed, he inhaled a mighty breath through his wide, flat nose. “No, it’s none of these things that bring me back to my caves.” A soft, guttural laugh rolled out of his mouth and his eyes popped open with a frightful suddenness. “It’s the smell.”
“The smell?” I asked, trying to put some muscle in my voice.
“Yes, the smell,” Monroe said, opening his nostrils and sucking in another big breath. “The odour of Mother Cave is magnificent. Wet earth mixed with dry dust. The ammonia smell of bat urine. The stink of guano. The decaying bodies of spiders and beetles and cave rats. Tiny carcasses radiating that wonderful smell of death.”
“So…how long have you known Chris?”
Another odd smile. “Longer than you, Pablo.”
“That doesn’t seem fair,” I protested. “I’m the main character…the protagonist.”
“Chris has carried me around in his head for years,” Monroe said. “It’s only natural that he would breathe life into me first.”
“It’s still not fair.”
“Literature is fickle, Pablo. You’ll learn that as you get older.”
About A Boy Called Duct Tape
Pablo Perez is a 12-year-old poor kid without much going for him. His classmates have dubbed him “Duct Tape” because his tattered discount-store sneakers are held together with…you guessed it, duct tape. He can’t escape the bullying.
Pablo’s luck, however, changes after he finds a $20 gold coin while swimming in a river near his home. Pablo later buys a $1 treasure map at the county fair. The map shows the route to the “lost treasure” of Jesse James. Pablo can’t help but wonder: Is there a link between the map and the gold coin? He is determined to find out, and he, his 9-year-old sister and 13-year-old cousin hire an ill-natured cave guide, and begin a treacherous underground adventure in search of treasure.
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About Christopher Cloud
Christopher Cloud admits he came to literature late in life. “I was in my 60s before I developed a real interest in writing fiction,” he said. A Boy Called Duct Tape is Cloud’s debut middle-grade novel. It is a first-person account of three Latino children searching for the “lost treasure” of Jesse James.
Cloud began writing children’s fiction after a long career in journalism and public relations. He graduated from the University of Missouri in 1967 with a degree in journalism. He has worked as a reporter, editor, and columnist for newspapers in Texas, California, and Missouri. His work has appeared in many national publications, including Time Magazine.
He was employed by Sun Oil Company, Philadelphia, as a public relations executive, and later operated his own PR agency. He created the board game Sixth Sense in 2002. The game sold at independent bookstores nationwide.
Cloud said his next project is a young-adult novel. “I have written the first draft of a story I’m calling 16 And In Love,” Cloud said. “This story—like A Boy Called Duct Tape—is multicultural.”
Cloud lives in Joplin, Missouri.