I am young, not yet school age, sitting on a hay bale in the center aisle of the barn while Dad tells me a story. From my vantage point, I see only the back ends of the cows–their broad dusty sides and and manure-flecked tails, their constant shifting and switching while Dad moves in and out from between them with the milkers, his voice rhythmic with story.
That is all I remember; I don’t know what the story was about. Maybe it was about a little man, no higher than your knee, who lived on the edge of a great deep forest behind a door in a tree. I loved the little men stories best.
Nowadays when I tell stories to children, those old rhythms leap up in me. Many of my stories revolve around little men with long beards, great forests, buckets of berries, doors hidden in trees.
Sunday night, though, it was monsters. I told my nieces, MacKenzie and Madison, and Lori, my little cousin who was visiting, all about the monsters that stay in our living room. They hadn’t known they were there.
There was the flat green monster with googly eyes who lives under the couch and bites feet that hang too low. There was the black snake-like monster who stretches behind the curtain rod and is very sneaky. And of course, the fat funny lazy monster who sleeps all day under the Lazy-boy.
“Oh my goodness!” Lori repeated, several times.
“What about the one who lives under the chair?” they asked. In the computer? In the fish tank? In the sewing room? Under the love seat?
So I told them about every one of those monsters, and more, my mind scrambling for details.
“Now let me tell you about a monster,” said MacKenzie, and she told us about the monster named Electricity who lives in the chandelier–a nice monster, but she has an on-going feud with Humpy Grumpy, the monster who lives under the love seat.
Then Madison told about the monster who lives in our clothes and likes to eat clothes, and like to have more clothes and better clothes than all the other monsters. “He eats your teef, too.”
“Oh, no! Teeth?”
She nodded, eyes shining.
“Is that why your teeth get loose sometimes?” MacKenzie asked.
“Yes, because he’s trying to get it, and when you get it and he can’t, he goes to look for someone else’s teef.”
MacKenzie told about many more monsters, as well as the story of a naughty mouse who attracted cats and humans until one day he played the church organ at his grandmother’s funeral and made his family proud.
Madison’s monsters were sly, gruesome things, the kind who lived in strange places–even in human bodies!–and ate teeth and eyes, cellphones and computers.
Lori couldn’t be persuaded to tell a story at first, but finally she told a scary story about a lady who woke up from a sleep and looked into her cupboard–“and there was a bear looking at her, a bear bigger than my dad.”
“How could the bear fit in the cupboard?” Madison asked.
“They were big cupboards, bigger than my dad.”
Thankfully, the story ended well, with the bear doing no harm to the woman and her feeding all the bears honey.
So now you know, if you ever come to visit us, that our house is inhabited by monsters. Don’t worry: most of them are friendly and harmless, and we keep the bears in the woods.