Tuesday, August 7, 2012

What Was Your Childhood Monster?

Click here to see participating bloggers!
To promote her new book Fearless*, writer Christine Rains hosts the What Was Your Childhood Monster Blogfest from August 7 - 9, 2012. She invites participating bloggers to write about whatever kept them shivering under their bed covers during childhood.

Now, if any of y'all have been following my little bloggy-blog, you know that I'm of Portuguese descent, so my childhood monster has a Lusitanian flavor. My parents immigrated to the U.S. in the late 60s and recklessly brought the Coca  along with them. (I'm amazed they got it through Customs.)

I feel I should give y'all a pronunciation guide, here: Coca has two syllables, with emphasis on the first. The "o" sound is similar to that in the word "cook" and the "a" sounds like "uh." So if you've the courage to say this thing's name aloud (and I wouldn't recommend you do it often, lest you attract its attention) you should pronounce it COOK-uh.

What the hell is the Coca? I'm damned if I can describe it to you. According to the Wikipedia entry I linked to above, it's a long, cloaked figure, either masculine or feminine. Whatever—I got the distinct impression from my parents that if the Coca got me, I'd not be looking at it for very long.

Francisco de Goya y Lucientes (Spanish, 1746-1828). Here Comes the Bogey-Man (Que viene el Coco), 1797-1798.
Etching and aquatint on laid paper, Plate: 8 5/8 x 6 1/16 in. (21.9 x 15.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, A. Augustus Healy Fund, Frank L. Babbott Fund, and the Carll H. de Silver Fund, 37.33.3Image: overall, 37.33.3_SL3.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph. Image credited as per Brooklyn Museum specifications.

The Coca is a bogeyman (or woman) whose name is invoked by Portuguese parents to keep their kids in line. The last thing any Portuguese kid ever wants to hear is the stomach-twisting threat, "Lá vai a Coca!" ("There goes the Coca!") The words are usually accompanied by an upraised hand with a finger pointing up, indicating that the mo-fo is on the damn roof and ready to TAKE YOU OUT if you don't cut whatever crap you're up to.

I must have got up to a lot of crap when I was a kid, for I recall my mother frequently heralding the Coca's arrival. Apparently, when I was but a wee Goth, I enjoyed throwing things into the toilet (silverware, shoes, food, money, etc.). Mom told me the Coca would rise up from its boggy depths if I didn't stop. (Then she had the nerve to get annoyed with me when, as a teen, I balked at cleaning said toilet. What the hell did she expect?) And the Coca got around—I couldn't go down to the basement or go play outside because, according to Mom, the Coca might see me. To this day, I have to check behind the basement door and make sure all available lights are on before I can venture into a cellar.

Whatever it was the Coca would do to you if it got you was too terrible to articulate and, frankly, further explication was generally unnecessary. Adults would utter the warning with such looks of dread and such intonations of doom that only the very brave (or stupid) ran the risk of putting the Coca's patience to the test. I refused to call on the Coca for backup when Balthazar came along because I think it's basically bullshit to terrorize one's children for the sake of one's own ease and comfort. But even now, though I've arrived at the ripe age of 41, Mom still cautions me against being out on the streets late at night, because you never know where the Coca might be lurking.

*An electronic version of Fearless is available for FREE on Smashwords and a print copy for $3.99 on Createspace. Pick it up NOW!

51 comments:

  1. This is an interesting monster you had! Those legendary monsters can be some of the most frightening.

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  2. That is definitely spooky. good source of writing material, lol.

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  3. The Hulk. As a kid I was afraid the Hulk would break through the walls and get me at night.

    Also, I have some tag questions I answered that you may be interested in... (;

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  4. too funny - so I guess a mug of coca before going to bed would not be a good thing when growing up...

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  5. Sounds terrifying, Mina!

    But... I've also heard that a nice carbonated beverage will usually soothe the beast -- they generally prefer coca-cola...

    ...Insert rimshot here...

    ;^)

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  6. Talk about scary!!!

    You could write a book about this monster...

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  7. I'm planning on reading Fearless. It looks really good. On a side note, the SyFy channel is premiering a movie this weekend called "Boogeyman". It might be right up your alley. I was going to watch it.

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  8. Oh my God, that is TERRIFYING! If I'd known about that Portugese bogeyman, I would have had even more nightmares!

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  9. I was afraid of the Bogeyman. He was under the bed and would grab my hand or foot if I was careless enough to let it drape over the edge of the bed. As an adult, I have a problem with the spelling and pronunciation of Bogeyman. I am a golfer, so if I see bogey prefacing anything, my immediate go-to is a plus one score on a hole. A man under my bed wearing plus-fours and cleats is not terrifying; he's creepy and I'm going to beat him senseless with my five iron. The spelling as Boogeyman I hear as Boogie Man which brings to mind the 70s song and now I can't get the refrain, "I'm your boogie man boogie man, turn me on, I'm your boogie man, boogie man, do what you want" out of my head.

    Katy O

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  10. I must be the only person on the planet that wasn't afraid of monsters. All the ones I ever saw on TV were so adorable that I kind of thought of them as benign, cute, goofy creatures. My dad used to tease me about 'Willie Jones' haunting us, the original owner of the house but I always got the sense that it was a younger person, a teenage boy maybe. I found out many years later Willie had a son named Chester, and I had Chester's room.

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  11. @LG - thanks!

    @Brandon & Jackie - Hmmm, I hadn't thought about using the Coca in any of my fiction, but you're both right, of course. (Though I'm kinda a-scared to...) ;-)

    @Elise - excellent, I'll go check it out!

    @David - I don't actually remember hot cocoa being available in my house until, maybe, my sis was old enough to ask for it...

    @Chris - ::groans:: ;-)

    @Michael - Cool, thanks for letting me know about it!

    @Talli - you only have to worry about the Coca if you're a bad girl, which I know you aren't...or ARE you??? ;-)

    @Katy O - LOL, your golf-speak means absolutely nothing to me, it might as well be Greek! (Except I dig the idea of beating the ever-loving crap out of a bad guy with a five iron.) :-)

    @JoJo - Whoa! And you know, Willie Jones does seem a good name for a restless spirit...

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  12. I definitely think you should write a book, about your monster!
    Whoa....scary stuff

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  13. Yikes! My parents never used anything like a monster to scare me, but I think it would have worked thinking they believed something supernatural was coming to get their misbehaving child! I won't use such tactics on my son either. There's enough real stuff to be scared of out there, never mind!

    Thanks for sharing your monster with us and for helping promote my novella. :)

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  14. That is one freaky-sounding bogeyman.

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  15. @Ella - well, now I just might! :-)

    @Christine - Agreed. And my pleasure! I've downloaded it, am waiting for some quiet time to read it - can't wait!

    @Tonja - thanks!

    @Aldrea - I know! :-)

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  16. That's a good one. I'm Creole myself, and my dad used to hold up a finger at me and say, "Tu voit ca, eh?" ("You see this, right?") Not sure what he was going to do with that finger, but it was enough of a threat . . . That and the Yuk-Tuk bird . . .

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  17. That's a very interesting monster! I love learning about other cultures, particularly their paranormal creatures and myths. I kind of wish I had something like that to use on some of my difficult campers, though that's probably not very kosher at an Orthodox camp!

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  18. That's quite the cultural lesson, Mina--thanks for sharing! In Mexico and Spain there's the Coco (accent on the first syllable) which seems to be a relative of the Portuguese Coca. This sounds like an awesome blogfest; I'll sign up and share my own tales of nighttime heebie-jeebies :) Thanks for stopping over at my blog earlier, by the way!

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  19. @M Pepper - I can relate to that gesture: the Portuguese'll hold up a hand and say "Ve la," or "See there..." In other words, "See how this here hand's gonna connect with that there butt." Tsk.

    @Carrie-Anne - LOL, I expect your campers parents would be somewhat displeased. :-) (But I can TOTALLY appreciate the temptation!)


    @Guilie - thanks, and my pleasure! Do sign up, I'm getting a kick out of reading everyone's personal monster histories! :-)

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  20. The Coca sounds terrifying. My friends when I was growing up were terrorized by their parents invoking La Llorona. Mrs. O was the worst offender. Man, she had us hiding under the covers with her stories. I was so afraid I'd feel her bony fingers spending the night over at their house.

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  21. I think this was very much the norm for our generation, parents trying to scare the living death out of you to get you to behave. Thankfully (or not) my little mind was already messed up with horrible nightmares that came every night for most of my childhood without anyone invoking some demon from beyond. Nobody could explain why the nightmares nor cure them until I was about seven or eight, so my mother went the other direction: trying to convince me there was no monster under my bed, no demons living inside my closet, no zombies strolling around my hallway. It did me little good but I follow the same philosophy for my girls and I'm happy to say they're not afraid of the dark, they don't believe in witches, and the only thing that scares them 'till next year is Scooby-Doo. That doggy bastard! ;)

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  22. I love these folklore stories. I had not heard of this. Very interesting. Maybe Coca is a shape shifter and that's how it made it through customs. Thanks for a very interesting post!

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  23. My parental units, too, avoided the "scary monster" route. If they did ever threaten with something, it didn't work very well as I can't say I remember it! However, I was afraid of fire. I blame the 1970's show "Emergency". Fire has always been a fear for me!

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  24. @Melissa - as I noted over on your blog, you were a very brave little girl - you kept sleeping over there, even after hearing all the scary stuff!

    @Gina - "That doggy bastard!" - ROTFL! You're right, though, about it being a generational thing, for sure.

    @Stephen - LOL, that the Coca shapeshifted to get through Customs totally makes sense! ;-)

    @Me - I'm glad you had sane parents! :-)

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  25. My mom's version of coca was a hobo (homeless tramp) that carried bad kids off in a gunny sack. There was plenty of hobo's hanging around the train yards, so the threat had some backing.

    The things we tell our children to keep them in line, lol. Weird that it actually works sometimes.

    Nice to meet you Mina. I've browsed around and I like your site, and your content. Super cool :)

    .......dhole

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  26. Like the Grim Reaper.

    I never scared my kids with tales of monsters. I did, however, did threaten to take all their stuffed animals. That got 'em back in bed. After 8pm is my time.

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  27. I am officially creeped out by that! I'm surprised you ever managed to get any sleep!

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  28. Very creepy indeed! The only thing I ever scared my kids with were fairytales...Some of those are really brutal :)

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  29. Oooh that's creepy! It usually gets worse when an adult - big, strong, and can face anything - tells the child that 'cause that child will be like "If mom is scared, I should be as well".
    It's great to meet you Mina! :)

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  30. @Donna - I can see how that would've felt very threatening indeed! And thanks so much (and likewise)!

    @Theresa - Nice. You reminded me that the thing I threatened Balthazar with was not reading to him at bedtime. That usually did the trick. :-)

    @Kyra - Me too. I'm making up for it now, though, as I have a devil of a time getting to sleep, most nights. (Not because of the Coca.)

    @Siv - if you read them Grimm's stuff, then yes, they really are!

    @Cecilia - Yes, very true! Great to meet you too!

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  31. Okay, I'm scared now! It doesn't take much. I might have to avoid these blog fest posts - I have enough nightmares, I don't need help! lol

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  32. Great story, and this is a creature I've never heard of before. I'm the type that loves being scared, but the Coca might be too much for me, LOL.

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  33. Ah parents. The original enablers of the Boogey-man.

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  34. @Annalisa - no need to worry, if you've been a good girl. ;-)

    @Ella - I'm impressed that so many folks have expressed a fear of the thing when I can't even properly describe it! :-)

    @Robin - I KNOW, RIGHT?????

    @Brian - LOL, that's a funny idea! (And so horribly true!)

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  35. It does sound pretty scary to have this coca used as a threat... I'd be scared for sure.

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  36. Much like in movies, I think often the fear of something unknown is much more than something you've actually seen. Though I love how, after all these years, your mom still uses the Coca to keep you in line.

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  37. How neat to learn this bit of cultural trivia, and I find it interesting that all parents have this "creature" in reserve to keep their children in line. Perhaps not as much now as when we were kids, though. Hope the Coca stays far away from you.

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  38. That would have done it for me for sure. Looking forward to reading more of your posts. New follower here and great to meet you!
    A2Z Mommy and What’s In Between

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  39. That is really cool.

    It is not often I am introduced to a new monster/ghost. I am going to have to look into this one!

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  40. I would never tell my kids something was going to get them for being bad. They did get things for misbehaving, timeouts, no toys, extra chores. Nice to meet you.

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  41. Wow, I learned something new. Thanks for sharing some of your culture.

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  42. @tfwalsh - as a threat, it certainly did the trick!

    @Nate - she only says it as a joke...I think.

    @Maryann - thanks! (Me too!)

    @Tracy - thanks and ditto!

    @Timothy - glad you enjoyed!

    @Susan - nice to meet you too! I found (and still find) that withholding privileges does the job without traumatizing one's kids, for sure.

    @Holly - My pleasure and thanks!

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  43. Freaky! It would have kept me in line, that's for sure.

    My monster: http://thewarriormuse.blogspot.com/2012/08/childhood-monster-blog-fest.html

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  45. Mina, the Coca sounds like one bad mamajama! I was terrified of monsters and ghosts when I was a kid. We had this creepy ass basement that I hated to go into. Even with the few lights that were down there, it was always so dark and the only way to go through it was to run of course. I was convinced that a monster or demon lived under the stairs, just waiting to grab my ankles and drag me away.

    Then again, my house was super spooky anyway. To this day, I still hate pitch darkness...it terrifies me. Makes for a lousy paranormal investigator lol. Not many people want to do it at dusk. So, I'll just forego and leave the investigating to others. :)

    Very cool story! Glad you didn't use the Coca against your son too. My mom used to use the generic bogeyman, but it still scares the living daylights out of me to think about what might be lurking behind dark corners! *shivers*

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    1. Yeah, is it, like, a rule somewhere, that basements need to be made as creepy as inhumanly possible???

      I've found that a livid ME is pretty successful in keeping him in line (or in annoying him, which is almost as good). ;-)

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  46. I've never heard of this monster, but s/he sounds terrifying.

    This reminds me of scary stories my mom told me, and I believed them all.

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    1. 'cause if you can't believe your mother, who CAN be believed, amiright??? ;-)

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