Every night, my father would drink four or five beers, watching sports on broadcast TV, which is all there was back then. He liked manly sports—boxing, hockey, and football, and detective shows when there was no sports.
Being small, I got no say about the TV, and, in any case, was shooed off to bed after dinner. My mother would read me a story, tuck me in, and kiss me goodnight. Then she did dishes.
And every night, I would get back up to scatter salt around the bed, then kneel as if I was praying, and speak the charms that would keep the monster silent and safely trapped while I slept.
Sometimes I would wake in the night with the TV fuzzing static, my father snoring in a stinky heap on the couch. In those days, the stations mostly went off the air at midnight, or maybe an hour or two later. Then there was no help for it—if I was going to get any more sleep, I had to cross the salt and creep out to turn the thing off.
Getting out of bed was no problem. The monster was trapped in the spells until dawn dispersed both spells and monster, or until the salt circle was broke. I’d slip out and creep, as silent as I could, to the bathroom. If my father’s snores continued undisturbed, then I could tiptoe into the living room to the television. Then, the tricky part. I had to slowly, slowly turn the volume down. Too fast and I’d wake my father, who was invariably grumpy from drinking, and from missing the last of whatever game or match or show had been on when he fell asleep. But I couldn’t get it all the way down, or the click would wake him. So—almost silent, then off. Then freeze—don’t even breathe—for at least five more snores. Then creep back out—and don’t trip.
Then I could use the bathroom, and grab more salt from the kitchen, dash some at the monster if it came after me, and re-seal the circle, re-speak all the charms.
You see, that’s the problem with salt and spells, they’re temporary. And time consuming. The whole thing, TV and sneaking around and saying the charms, it’d take an hour, easy.
So I started to dream of a permanent solution, or at least one that didn’t make the floor gritty. I tried laying in wait with my baseball bat, but the monster was very fast, and very good at not being seen except out of the corner of an eye. Now, I was good at baseball, but—well, you can’t hit what you can’t see.
One day, my father left one of his beers in front of the television, so that I had to pick it up to turn the volume down. As I held the sour-smelling bottle, watching him snore and slowly, slowly turning the knob down, I remembered times he’d drunk the beer and fallen asleep in the afternoon. Early in the afternoon. And I thought about how slow and clumsy he got after a few of these things.
‘Course, he also got irritable, but the monster was always irritated.
I stopped messing with the TV, leaving the static on to cover any noise I might make, and returned to the kitchen. A saucer would be nice—like the fairy and milk thing—but it wouldn’t hold all the beer. And I didn’t want to break anything—that would get me in trouble with Mom. So I carefully, quietly, pulled out one of her cake tins. Then back to my room, where I carefully put the tin in the middle of the floor, within baseball-bat range of the bed. I poured the beer in and, silently, set the bottle on its side in the hallway, rolling it toward the bathroom, as if my father might have dropped it there.
Then I scattered the salt, careful to do it wrong, and said the charms so the Monster would think I thought it was trapped. I climbed into bed, bat in hand, and wiggled into position to whack anything drinking the beer, and pretended to snore.
After a little while there was a glimmer in the room, a ripple in the pan. Had I seen the monster? If so, it was gone already. What if it came after me? I gripped the bat tightly, and kept snoring.
Another glimmer. And another. Then a funny sound like a hiccough under the bed.
Then I saw it, darting out, still awfully fast. It stretched out from under the bed, and gathered together, slink, slink, like a huge slug with arms and legs. It was a weird, glowing greenish color, like the mold on old bread. I was frozen in place—I’d imagined a troll, or hobgoblin, or maybe a dragon, not this—this blobby—thing
. It reached the plate and looked around with eyes the colors of un-brushed teeth.
I let out another snore, and it smiled. Its teeth were very sharp, and very white. Then it leaned down and slurped up the rest of the beer, all at once, licking the pan dry with a mottled grayish tongue.
Then it pulled inward and giggled, and sat there on my floor like a pile of green snot. Slowly, its eyes closed.
I snored a few more times. Then, still snoring, I sat up, raised the bat, and brought it down on the thing.
It burst, staining my bat and flinging green and yellow and blue fluids everywhere. The stench was amazing, though, at least, it didn’t smell like beer. I spent the rest of the night cleaning up, and still got in trouble with my mother before school. And with my teacher for falling asleep in class. And with my father, who heard from my mother and teacher.
But I killed it.
And no monster dared to invade my room, ever again.copyright 2009 Deirdre M. Murphy
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