Hello, readers. December was a crazy month for me and I haven’t been able to write as much as I would like to, but I’ve got another special story from a talented guest author. I’ve been meaning to post this one for a while. Enjoy!
Tommy lay in the darkness of his room, his recently cried tears drying silvery on his cheeks. His older brother Billy had just slunk back to his room. His right arm still tingled from the Indian rope burn and his head throbbed in the spot where his brother had hit him with his hard knuckle. Eight year old Tommy had been the victim of his twelve year old brother’s relentless tyranny for as long as he could remember.
Telling his parents did no good. They told him to ignore Billy and he would get tired of bullying him. Tommy’s dad even said he should not act like such a baby and fight back. But how could he fight back? Billy was four years older than him and much bigger. He could never physically fight back. He could never scare Billy the way Billy scared him. Besides, his parents didn’t know how he bullied not only him but other kids at school. He knew from Garrett Sullen who had a brother in the same school as Billy that he was mean at school and the other kids would never tell on him because they were that scared.
In desperation, Tommy even tried to scare Billy by telling him there was a monster under his bed that would come out and get him if he didn’t leave him alone. All Billy did was laugh at him. Tommy wished there was a monster under the bed that would take him away so he could never punch his arm, or knuckle his head or give him another Indian burn. Lying there in the dark, Tommy fantasized about his revenge until he fell into a thing, troubled sleep.
School the next day wasn’t too bad. He liked his teacher Miss Turnbaugh and he had a lot of friends. The best thing was Billy was in the junior high and didn’t get the chance to bother him. But now the day was over and he was on his way home where Billy would be and once again, his thoughts turned to his deep wish for a monster to be under his bed. If only he could get a monster. If he could buy a monster, he wouldn’t have to worry about Billy anymore.
As he walked down the street on his way home, he could see a sign he had never seen before. That was strange because he had been walking this same street to and from school for years and he could not recall such a shop with such a sign.
The Little Monster Shoppe
Never Scare off a Good Ghost
Never Kill off a Good Monster
Sell, Trade, Buy
He stopped in front of the store and peered through the glass front door with the same words painted on it. The inside was dimly lit but he could see a couple of people moving around behind the counter. The shop seemed to be some sort of junk shop with old furniture and lamps and tables around and shelves with old books and things his mother called knick knacks. There didn’t seem to be a monster on the place. Maybe they kept them in the back, waiting for customers to some and ask for certain kinds of monsters. Maybe they were chained up in the back room along the wall. Wolfman and Frankenstein’s monster were maybe just waiting there for some kid to buy them. Hope sprang up in his heart like a flame and Tommy ran all the way home, knowing that whatever Billy did tonight, it would be for the last time.
After supper, Tommy went to his room. He went to his dresser and dug around in his sock drawer and found the purple felt bag his dad had given from the Crown Royal bottle from last New Year’s. Then he grabbed his piggy bank. He went over to the bed and sat down and laid the bank on his bed and smoothed out the blankets so he could dump out the contents.
Inside, the bag held all small treasures important to all small boys. There were a dozen cat’s eye marbles, his one and only steely which he’d won off Mark Sutherland in that massive neighborhood marbles match last summer.
He had a little toy gun from a cracker jack box, a tiny ball puzzle, the kind you tilted one way then another very gently to get the little balls into the little divots. There was his Cub Scout knife. He pulled out one of the blades and stroked his thumb over it. It wasn’t that sharp, but it could be sharpened and make a nice little knife for someone. And then he had a dozen or so plastic soldiers. He gathered everything back up and put it all back in the bag. He shook his piggy bank. He knew he had a dollar bill in there, but there were also a bunch of pennies and some quarters and dimes and nickels as well. It was all he had but maybe the people that had the shop would take it anyway. Maybe they had monsters on sale and he could afford one.
He decided he wouldn’t worry about that right now and pulled out his toboggan cap and snugged it around his bank and placed the cap and bank and bag into his school bag.
The next morning, he was running late and had actually gotten to the front door of his school before he thought to look for the sign. He turned to see if he could see it, but the bell rang and he headed on in and went to class. It never dawned on him it would not be there. It had to be there. He didn’t think of it again until he went to the cloak room at the end of the day to get his coat and his bag.
Full of purpose he walked down the street thinking of the old shop. He was so excited he thought he might have passed it up a couple of times but there it was, just as he had seen it yesterday. He walked faster, excited and more than a little nervous. He finally came to the door and hesitated and went into the shop. A little brass bell jingled behind him.
The shop had the smell of a thousand different kinds of dust. There was the dust smell of his father’s workshop in the garage, with its mix of wood shavings and motor oil and paint stripper. Then there was the smell of the attic where his mother stored the Christmas tree and ornaments, and boxes of old books and clothes. Then there was the smell of his Great Aunt Ida’s house, which was the smell of old lace curtains and tabby cats. There were shelves of books and tea cups and book ends and salt and pepper shakers and dolls that were moth eaten and beat up. In the back of the shop was a long glass display case and on the end of it was a very old cash register and leaning against the top of the glass counter was a man.
The man was old, at least as old as Mr. Davis who was in World War II and lived across the street from Tommy. The shop keeper was bald on top and had snow white hair that ringed around his head and curled a little. He was clean shaven and had round rosy cheeks. He wore a plain white shirt and had brown suspenders and the cuffs of his shirt were turned under. To Tommy, he looked like a Santa Claus without a beard. Behind him was a plump little woman wearing a blue dress with little red flowers on it. She was reaching with one of those old fashioned feather dusters with brown feathers, dusting the books on the shelves. Just like the man, she could have been a merry Mrs. Claus with her hair pulled away from her face and twisted up into a neat white bun.
“Good afternoon, young man, what can I get for you today?” asked the jolly man. Tommy suddenly felt his mouth dry up and he felt nervous all over. What if they laughed at him? What if they made fun of him? Called him silly and told him to get out of their store? But all those fears flew away when he thought about Billy back home doing something nasty to him. He looked at the ground and mumbled something.
“What’s that sonny? You’ll have to speak up. Can’t hear like I used to,” said the man. The woman turned and smiled reassuringly. Tommy cleared his throat.
“Do you really sell monsters here?” asked Tommy. The man laughed a little but he smiled at him too.
“You bet we do, some of the best. Now, how much did you have to spend on …er…it?” Tommy slung his bag carefully off his back and set it on the floor and dug out his little purple bag and set it on the counter. Then he lifted out the toboggan capped piggy bank.
“I know I got a whole dollar and some pennies and silver money in there, but you will have to break it to get it out,” said Tommy. “And then I got this stuff to trade.”
The man reached under the counter and got out a thick terry cloth towel and wrapped the piggy bank up and then with a small hammer, he tapped the ceramic pig a couple of times and unwrapped it. He picked the pieces of ceramic out and threw them in the trash can and then picked out the money. There was the dollar and he counted out the change. He had 2 dollars and seventy-five cents. He then opened the little bag. He dumped out the contents and ran his fingers over the marbles, the little puzzle game and the plastic soldiers and the toy gun. He picked up the knife and opened up the blade. He tested the edge.
“This could be sharpened up and make a fine little knife for someone,” said the man.
“Is it enough mister?” asked Tommy. He man looked at everything.
“I think you have just enough for a medium sized monster,” he said, gathering everything up and handing back the little felt bag.
“Martha, I’m going in the back to get this young man his monster.”
The woman turned and looked at Tommy.
“Don’t you worry about it sonny, he’ll pick you a good one, just you wait,” she said reassuringly.
“Do you think a medium sized one will be enough?” he asked.
“Plenty big, don’t worry about that. Medium sized monster will be big enough,” she said, returning to her dusting. It was taking the man a few minutes, so to while away the time, he looked around at the things in the glass case. There were all these bottles with cork stoppers of glass of many different colors. At first, he could not figure out what was so special about the bottles, when he caught something wispy moving around with eye and mouth holes. Ghosts! As he was studying the bottles, he did not notice the old man return.
“You don’t want any old ghosts, get loose in your house and you like to never get rid of them,” he said. Tommy straightened up, expecting to see a monster on a leash behind him. Instead, all the older man had was a cigar box with a thick red rubber band holding it shut.
“Now, what you do is when you get home, you take the rubber band off real careful like. Put it in a dark place like under your bed or the closet. Now don’t look in the box or you will just waste it, okay?” the old man explained. He must have seen the look of disappointment on Tommy’s face. “Don’t worry now, he’s in there, but you have to do what I tell you or he won’t work for you and monsters always have to work for one who bought them.”
Tommy walked out of the shop and stopped only to put the box in his back pack. He then headed on toward the corner and just before he turned, he looked back and it seemed to Tommy he couldn’t see the sign anymore. But it was getting late and he hurried home.
During supper, Tommy was quiet. He planned what he would do that evening. He decided that after supper, he would sit in the living room with his dad and watch tv. Then around eight, he would go get his bath and get ready to go to bed. Then he would take the rubber band off the box and slide it under his bed. He was tempted to look inside but he was determined that he would get his money’s worth out of his monster.
Tommy wondered what would happen to Billy. He hoped it would not hurt too badly, but Tommy figured he deserved it. After supper and dessert, chocolate pudding with whipped cream and a cherry, which Billy took away from him, and while his mom did the dishes, he went to watch M*A*S*H with his dad after the news. They laughed at the funny things Hawkeye did to Frank Burns. Then they watched All in the Family. Tommy didn’t get all the jokes Archie Bunker told but when his dad laughed, Tommy laughed too.
Finally it was time to take his bath. He went into his room and got undressed and put on his robe and went in and ran water into the tub, testing the water just like his dad had taught him. He bathed and dried off and dressed in his pajamas. He then grabbed the cigar box and took off the red rubber band and slid the box under his bed. His mom came in and gave him a kiss.
“You have been such a good boy today, I think I will let you sit up and read one of your comic books,” she said.
“Thanks mom,” said Tommy.
“Good night Tommy.”
“Good night mom.”
Tommy had just settled into his new Spiderman comic and had virtually forgotten about his brother when he heard the bedroom door open. He peered over the top of the comic and saw his big bully brother Billy standing there.
“Whatcha reading you little weenie!” said Bill walking over to the bed. He yanked the comic out of his hand and looked at it. “Spiderman…what a silly comic book, a baby comic book, really.”
“You give me that back,” said Tommy.
“Or what? Whatcha gonna do you shrimp, you baby. I tell ya what, cry for me whiner and maybe I’ll give it back,” said Billy, holding the comic between his forefinger and thumb.
“You better give me back my comic or the monster under my bed is going to get you,” said Tommy.
“What monster, little weenie?” said Billy.
“The big monster I bought today,” said Tommy, a little louder. There was an expectant pause and nothing happened.
“Right, you bought a monster. Where’d you buy it, the five and dime?” asked Billy, as he began to rip the comic into ribbons.
“I did too buy a monster!” he said louder.
“You are so lame,” said Billy, throwing the pieces of the comic on Tommy’s bed. He then knelt down and raised the blankets and looked under. “I don’t see nothin’, just all your baby junk. I don’t see a monster under your bed, all I see is a cigar box. I don’t see no monster under your be….hey, let me go!”
There was a sense of elation that soared through Tommy. It had him, the whole things was real. Billy let out with a sharp, short scream and he froze wondering if his mom and dad heard anything. Then he felt the bed move and a huge hand came out, so big he could have stretched out in the palm. It caused the side of the bed to raise up so high Tommy had to grab the head board to keep from being bucked out. The hand enclosed Billy like a cage then slid back under the bed. There were a few muffled bumps and a thump and then a final yell and then nothing. After a long pause, Tommy leaned over the bed and pulled the blankets up and peered under the bed.
It was just as it had been earlier. There was his baseball mitt and bat, some comics he’d already read, his baseball cleats, a stray sock, a couple of loose jacks…and the cigar box, closed, innocent looking…lying there among the dust bunnies. He reached for the box and replaced the rubber band and slipped it under his bed.
They searched for him over a week. His mother had gone to wake him up for school the next morning and he wasn’t there. The policeman was nice and asked questions and took a recent photo of Billy to post on the news and for the fliers they would be handing out. The police searched for him and there was simply no trace. They told his parents later that he must have run away, that they interviewed people at his school and they found that Billy had some problems at school and was in trouble and this may have caused him to run away.
Another theory he heard them say was that he’d gone out of the house and was taken by someone, maybe a pervert. The police offered that Billy had maybe gone to have a smoke, as they had found some cigarettes in his sock drawer and butts in the small alley where Tommy’s dad put out the trash cans. Maybe he had gone out there to smoke and someone just snatched him.
Good. It was good they thought that. Tommy sort of felt sad about his parents but he couldn’t help it. They had never taken him seriously about Billy and he had to take care of things on his own. His dad said so himself.
On Saturday, Tommy took the trash out for his mom and he left the cigar box in the trash can. Now it was not only rubber banded, it was taped up with a whole roll of tape. He made sure it was well mixed in the trash and put the lid back on it. It was a nice fall day and he wanted to go and play Mousetrap with Mark Sutherland. That was always fun.
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