Monster Under the Bed

Momma, the walls breathe at night and you don’t believe me. You and dad check every corner of my enormous room. You open the closet and see darkness. You look under the bed as it clings to my mattress like moss in a bad, wet cave. You look in all the wrong places. And while you do that you don’t even see the stars you painted on my walls turn into eyes slowly as night fills up the world. Your dragon will protect you, you say. His name is Drelion, I tell you as you wrap him around my neck like a scarf. And then you leave and shut off my light. That’s when the monster comes out. It drops down from the bottom of my mattress. It crawls out from underneath. When it hits the floor it’s like my room has a heartbeat. Then it stands at the edge of my bed. I don’t look. I keep my eyes closed, to make sure they don’t fly out of my skull.

. . .

The monster is quiet. I don’t hear it move but it always ends up right in front of my face, so close that if I opened my eyes they would dry out from his stinking breath. The monster is quiet. I listen to its breath and hear its soft voice. Its starving voice. I’ve heard that voice before. That’s why it’s so scary. The voice is thick like a slow dying tortoise but light like a feather. So light my eyelashes would blow it away as they opened. The monster smells like sour bread and strawberries, a bad smell and a nice smell. A smell that would make dad cry. I think that’s why dad pretends there is no monster because he’s embarrassed to be afraid. I wish Dad would save me but he never does. 

. . .

The monster waits. I don’t know what it waits for or what it wants for. It never touches me, never puts its teeth around my head. Sometimes I pretend it’s ripping one of my eyes out and my eye turns into a blue jay. Sometimes I think it will break my fingers off and eat them like worms, or french fries. I really think it wants to talk to me but I don’t know what it will say. Maybe it will sing me a song. Maybe it will tell me why dad is so sad. Maybe it will tell me about all its bad dreams. But I get so tired from keeping my eyes shut tight that I fall asleep before it can say anything. And when it is morning, I know it’s the monster’s turn to hide from me. 

. .

you talk in your sleep. fight, even. some sleeping dog kicking at air.

the gaps of silence are where i live, then.

when the kick to end all kicks

causes flash of eyelid collision before the breath

the cerebral cortex cerberus vanishes 

into the orange kitchen light strip below your door

then, there i am.

the half caved limbo between the glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling and the endless vortex beyond it

draw near, child. your heartbeat sounds like boiling water.

you can’t remember. you can’t remember any of it.

you know the answers of my existence and you locked it away,

you’re imagining my face, and you’re right. the stories were all right in their own way. 

but none of them mentioned how i exist for you.

Draw Near.

is it my heartbeat or yours? is it my fear,

or yours?

i hope you’re afraid. and that you still fear death.

that the hope hasn’t left you.

that mind-made castles and creatures protect you from me.

you think this is scary?

imaginary creatures in crevices collected

like stuffed animal items in a kids shopping section

you think this is scary?

curse words encrusted in the cracks of your mothers favorite plate

an accident, an honest one

you think this is scary,

but in my world we have colder commonalities.

drelion, your great and mighty dragon is loved as long as he is known.

hold him tight.

your under-eyes will slowly betray you and the light in the back of your sockets will dim.

you think paralysis is the worst of it

you think you know


you haven’t even experienced its true form.

your father fears the foundational morals of the stories that created me.

those stories, fables fighting for their place on withering page-staples

loved as long as they’re known.

a hyphenate of maturity.

i smell your fear and there’s no way to remove it.

draw near, child,

 listen to the words in your head

the six-foot-buried memories encapsulated by a halo of fantasy

i exist to warn you.


That is a field mouse. I read about it in my book about animals. The book is called Animals of the American Northeast and it has a part about mammals. That’s the part that has the field mouse. It says that humans are also mammals. But that makes no sense. I am a human and not a field mouse. How could I even be related to this field mouse? I am nothing like this field mouse. 

This field mouse fell in the little plastic pool that Dad set up. I picked this pool last year as a birthday present. I just liked the look of it—dark blue waves and bubbles on the inside, seaweed the color of grass in the springtime, just after dad mows it. And there are cool fish, like swordfish and octopi and moorish idols—like from Nemo. It’s like I can actually be in the ocean, even though I know it’s a little silly. 

I went inside to pee and when I came out this field mouse was in there. It must have fallen into the pool somehow. What a stupid animal. The water is probably not clean anymore, so I can’t even go in it. It’s trying really hard to get out. Its little hands and feet keep scraping over the moorish idol but it can’t get out because the plastic is smooth. It has nothing to grab onto. Stupid thing. If it’s not smart enough to get out of the hole it fell in, I guess it deserves to die. So I’ll just watch it. I’ll just sit here and watch.


Today Mom and Dad did something weird. Really it was Dad. It was weird because he never does it. Why would he suddenly do things he doesn’t do? I don’t like that. It’s like in my book Animals of the American Northeast. All the animals are split up into groups and they don’t cross. Mammals don’t breathe water all of the sudden. Where would we be if all the animals in the world acted like every animal except for the animal that they were? It would be discord. That was a vocabulary word from school last week.

Mom or Dad almost always wait at the end of the driveway with me for the bus to come but today they told me to wait by myself to prove I was a big boy. Dad said that. Mom thought it was weird also but didn’t say that. I was waiting then realized I forgot my axehead for show and tell. I found it in the dirt when I was doing something called excavating. It looks like a rusty tooth of a huge monster that lived a long time ago. An axe was used to kill people. I left the axehead on my nightstand and went inside to put it in my backpack. 

But before I go inside I can hear Mom and Dad whisper so I stand and listen. Whispering means they want to hide something. If they whisper when nobody is around they want to hide something extra bad. I listen.

Dad says, He was just standing there. 

Mom says, For how long? 

Dad says, For a while. For a few minutes. 

Mom says, Maybe he didn’t know what to do. 

Dad says, No, he did. I was waiting for him to do something, to call for help maybe, but he didn’t. So I rushed outside and scooped up the mouse. And you know what he said?

Mom says, What?

Dad says, He said, “Why are you saving the mouse?”

Mom says nothing. I agree with her. I don’t get why Dad is talking about this.

Dad says, I feel like most kids would try to save it, right? Or at least be upset about it.

Yeah but that’s because I’m smarter than almost all the other kids. Other kids don’t know that a mouse is a rodent and not a human.

Mom says, I don’t know.

Dad says nothing.

Mom says nothing.

I guess they’re done so I go inside. I startle them. I laugh. I go get my old weapon.


I know it’s my bedtime but I can’t sleep. I was sleeping for a little bit, but then my eyes opened and all my tiredness was gone, like it was a goldfinch on my chest that suddenly got scared and flew away. There’s a page in Animals of the American Northeast about goldfinches.

I hear this weird roaring sound—it’s not really a sound. Somehow it’s less than a sound. I guess Mom and Dad are watching a movie downstairs. I’ll go watch with them since I have nothing better to do, except lay here and twiddle my thumbs like a dummy. I’m not a dummy. I’m much smarter than that.

I walk down the stairs to the living room and I see a white-blue light moving around on the wall, and I hear people scream. I was right: Mom and Dad are watching a movie. 

I turn into the living room and stand in the doorway. Mom is curled up against Dad on the couch. Their eyes are fixed on the TV—entranced. That was a word on the vocabulary list in school last week. I was the only one in class to get all the vocab questions right last week. Everyone else is pretty dumb.

Their eyes look like dark circles, and Mom keeps ducking away into Dad’s shirt. I don’t really get it, but Dad looks like he can’t look away. Then the room is covered in dark red. I look at the TV screen. There’s this big man in a weird, ugly-looking mask that doesn’t really fit his face. He’s stabbing a woman through her stomach with a chainsaw and her blood is going everywhere. He lifts up the chainsaw and hoists her off the ground. This is so stupid! How could she still be screaming if her stomach was being destroyed like that? Scooby-Doo is a cartoon and even it is more realistic than this, because the ghosts are never ghosts or anything like that. Just really unhappy people pretending. I laugh at how stupid it is. 

Jesus!” Dad jolts up and looks in my direction. “Aw, shit.” Mom smacks him and they rush to grab the remote and turn it off.

“What’re you doing out of bed?” Mom asks me.

I shrug. “Couldn’t sleep.”

“Oh.” They look at each other. 

I go over and pat Mom on the knee, because she still looks scared. “Don’t be scared, Mom. That’s not how people actually die.” I look at the TV screen. It’s switched to a basketball game now. “Plus, if anyone tried to do that to you, I would do it to them first.” I wouldn’t let someone hurt my mom. And if they did, they would deserve what I did to them.


They are in the hallway after they carried me back to my bed. They think they are whispering. Their voices echo down the hallway.

Dad says, What kind of kid laughs at Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

Mom says, Kids laugh at weird shit. 

I guess this is bad because that is a bad word.

Dad says, But after the mouse thing?

Mom says nothing.

Dad says, I feel like we should look into it.

Mom says. What do you mean by it?

That is a question I also have. 

Dad says, The possibility that our kid is, you know.

Mom says, No.

Dad says, A psychopath. Or a sociopath. Or something

Mom says nothing. I hear my heartbeat. Then Mom says, It’s not called that anymore.

Dad says, What?
Mom says, It’s antisocial personality disorder.

Dad says, Oh, great.

But the way Dad’s voice sounds tells me that he doesn’t really think it’s great.

Mom says, What, are you scared?

Dad says, I think it’s reasonable for me to be a little creeped out that my son thinks a woman getting disemboweled with a chainsaw is funny.

Mom says, That’s just made up for TV plots.

Dad says, What?

Mom says, He won’t—he wouldn’t kill anybody. Most don’t.

Dad says, Most


No one plays with me anymore because I pushed someone down once. 

It was finally time for recess and we were all running out to the baseball field next to the playground because we wanted to play tag. Then this boy suddenly ran in front of me and almost made me fall over. That’s not nice so I just pushed him down and ran right over him. Then I turned around and yelled DICK! It’s a word I heard from one of the older kids around school. Then when he tried to get up I pushed him down again, then I kept on running. I didn’t think about it. It just happened. It was autonomic. That was another word from this week, autonomic. It just happened, like when a dog sees a squirrel and just starts running. It doesn’t think about it, it just does it. Kind of like that. So I pushed him down and stomped on him as I kept running. And then it was over. But he didn’t think it was over. 

It’s still like that. Like I’m still stomping on him, like I’m constantly stomping on him. But I’m not. Now I just want to play tag. Whenever I go out into the field everyone stops running and just stares at me. “You’re the mean kid,” they say. But I don’t want to be the mean kid and I don’t see how they don’t get that.

So now I just sit on the swings and kick wood chips and look at the sky. It’s all gray but a really dark gray, like it has rain in it. There’s one cloud shaped like scissors, a cloud shaped like an hourglass, and one kind of shaped like a heart in the palm of someone’s hand.


When Mom stops the car in the driveway and gets out of the car I don’t get out of the car. I just stay there. I’m tired from crying.

Mom opens the door and unbuckles my seatbelt then picks me up. She hasn’t picked me up in a long time. I wrap my arms around her neck and hold on like a sloth in a tree that could walk around. That is ridiculous but the world is ridiculous.

Mom opens the door and carries me through the kitchen. Dad is in the kitchen and sees us. He starts following us. He asks what happened but Mom doesn’t answer him. I don’t answer him. I don’t want to answer him.

Mom opens the door of my room and puts me in my bed like she is tucking me in. How did she know that? How did she know I want to sleep? She’s a good mom. She gives me a kiss on the forehead and closes the door. 

And then Dad starts whispering again. He thinks he is whispering but he’s not. He is right outside my door so of course I could hear him. 

He says, What happened?

Mom sighs and says, When I picked him up from school today he just sat there and cried. All the way home.

Dad says, What did he do now?

I feel accused. I had to look that one up in a dictionary one time for a story I had to write for class. It was about someone saying you killed someone even though you didn’t.

Mom says, Nothing.

Dad says, Then why was he—

Mom says, No one would play with him.

Dad says nothing. 

Mom says, What’s wrong?

Dad says, I’m just trying to think.

Mom says, Think about what?

Dad says, About how this happened. 

Mom says, What do you mean?

Dad says, I mean…did I give it to him? Or did—did I fail—

Mom says, Hey.

Then there’s this weird sniffing sound. Then there’s another sound. It’s sad and small, and it hurts. It comes from something that hurts. I’ve heard that sound before. I don’t know where. 

Mom says, Hey. Come here.

Dad says nothing. It’s just that sound—I remember where it’s from. It was the sound that field mouse made except if it came from a human. From my Dad.

Mom says, It’s okay. He’s going to be okay. His first session is next week. 

Dad says, Okay.

Mom says, It can be passed down, but it’s all nurture, okay? It doesn’t matter if he has it, as long as he can deal with it.

Dad says, Okay.

Mom says, We’re doing okay. He loves us. He’s a good boy.

Dad says, I know. I’m just worried now—way more worried than I was before, you know?

Mom says, Of course I do. It’s okay.

Dad says, I just don’t know what to do now. And that scares the shit out of me.

Mom says, Hey.

Dad says nothing. 

Mom says, Look at me. We just need to love him, like we always have. Okay?

Dad says, Okay. 

I’m glad my parents love me. I hope they don’t stop.