Sandy couldn’t remember when or where the monster first appeared.
When she thought about it, and she often did, the first couple of sightings blurred together. There was that time she saw it in the coat closet in the hallway, behind the itchy wool sweater and the yellow slicker that was too hot in the summer. But Sandy couldn’t remember if that was before or after she saw it under her bed, or rather, when she caught a glimpse of its shiny tail as it whipped out of sight when she opened her bedroom door. She must have been seven or eight at the time, because her brother still lived in the house then and he left home when she was nine. Both of those times that she saw the monster she had run straight to her brother’s room, knowing full well that he would tease her if she told him what she saw but wanting to be close to him just in case the monster followed her, which, of course, it didn’t.
Years later the monster began showing itself more often. She saw bits and pieces of it ducking out of sight around corners, and in rooms with half closed doors, and behind furniture and curtains and once slinking away beside the trash can in the garage. Each time she saw it she got startled, but then less and less so as the years went by, and she began to wonder what it was doing in her house. As far as she knew the monster never bothered anyone, and it didn’t upend furniture or leave any telltale signs that it was there. When Sandy was thirteen she causally asked her mother if she had ever seen anything. Her mother, distracted as always, brushed away the question and told Sandy to ask her dad, which, of course, she didn’t.
And this, my friends, is why I don’t write fiction. I have no idea where to go from here. When I sat down today I didn’t have a plot outline or a point to the story, I just started writing. This is fine when what you write is stream of consciousness and you just follow where your thoughts lead you. My thoughts have lead me into a dead end with poor Sandy. I don’t know why the monster is in her house, and I certainly haven’t come up with any lesson she might learn or revelation she will make. So far what I’ve got is Sandy and her monster. What I need is more action.
Sandy decided to trap the monster and have a chat with it. She began keeping notes about when she saw it and where, trying to discover a pattern to its behavior. The monster definitely hung out in her room when she was at school. She knew this because she had come home early one day and caught the monster diving for her closet when she opened her bedroom door. By the time she got to the closet it had disappeared again, into whatever small crevice or nook it escaped to at times such as that. On Fridays it was in the garage in the mornings and in the laundry room in the evening. It never spent much time in the kitchen; oddly enough it was only there on days when her mother made salmon cakes for dinner. Sandy watched it watch her mother as she made them one night and she waited for her mother to turn around, which, of course, she didn’t.
After gathering the data and considering various plans Sandy finally settled on a surefire way of catching the monster: she decided to have a slumber party. It had to be on a Saturday night because it always spent the entire day in the basement. It was not a showy monster but she had noticed that it was becoming bolder about being visible when other people were around and certainly it would have a difficult time staying hidden with six or seven teenage girls in attendance. So she got permission from her parents and invited her friends. On the night before the party, when the monster was settled into the laundry room for the evening, she went about setting her trap. Her mother had made salmon cakes the night before, so Sandy had smuggled one off of the table to use as bait. It took awhile to make the trap because it had to be strong and it had to look like it fit right in, which, of course, it didn’t.
I could totally turn this into a children’s story. I was thinking about that when I woke up this morning, imagining how I would make this into short sentences, a one or two on a page thing, and then I could illustrate it. It wouldn’t be anything fancy or detailed, but surely I could come up with a drawing of the monster.
Sandy’s friends came over as planned, and they asked her about the unusual contraption in the corner of the room, so she told them it was her younger brother’s science project. All night long as they played games and ate pizza and giggled, Sandy watched for the monster to appear. When the other girls finally fell asleep she thought that certainly it would show up and she struggled to stay awake, which, of course, she didn’t.
In the morning Sandy awoke to find the salmon cake gone, but no monster in the trap. She was disappointed and sad. Her friends stayed for awhile but since Sandy wasn’t much fun they decided to leave. She moped around the house all day, and even her usually distracted mother asked her if something was wrong or if she was feeling sick. Sandy said no, so her mother went back to being distracted. There were no signs of the monster that day, not in the bathroom nor under the china cabinet in the diving room nor in the garage next to the trash can. Sandy felt bad that she had tried to trap it. When she went to bed that night she said out loud “Monster, I am sorry I tried to trap you. I promise never to do it again.” She hoped that the monster would say it was okay, which, of course, it didn’t.
So there we have a set up, a little action, and the subsequent failure of a plan. That sounds like a story, doesn’t it? You’re all curious now, wondering what is going to happen to Sandy and her monster. Will the monster reappear? Will Sandy learn a lesson about trying to cage a wild creature? Will Sandy’s mother ever stop being distracted? These are things that both the reader (you) and the writer (me) want to know.
For the next couple of days there were no signs of the monster. Every day Sandy waited patiently for a glimpse of it, and every night she whispered her apology. On the third night as she was slipping off to sleep she thought she heard a voice. She sat up in bed and looked around, but her room was empty. Settling back under her blanket Sandy heard the voice again, but this time she stayed still, eyes shut, pretending not to have heard. She wondered if the monster would come closer so that she could hear what it was saying, which, of course, it didn’t.
After a few minutes Sandy opened one eye, hoping to see the monster in her room. There it was, standing next to the window, holding back the curtain, and staring out into the night. For the first time Sandy noticed that it looked lonely. It was speaking very softly to something that was on the other side of the window, and when Sandy moved her head a little she could see a smaller monster on the outside. A new plan popped in her head, and she rustled around on the bed a little so that the monster would know she was waking up. Sandy sat up, stretched a little, then got out of bed and went over the window. She thought she saw the little monster hiding in the rose bush, but she pretended not to notice. Sandy opened the window and went back to bed, then waited to see what would happen. Through half closed eyes Sandy watched the monster creep over to the window, then glance back at her as if deciding whether or not leave her. Sandy thought that it really wanted to go with the other monster, which, of course, it did.
So, not the greatest story in the world, but I’m glad that I wrote it. I don’t like being afraid of things, and I have definitely been afraid of writing fiction and of looking like a fool on this blog. Both fears revealed and faced right here, in this short story about Sandy and her monster.