Damnit Rufus- pay attention.
“What’s the matter, Nugget?”
A pair of tiny, frightened eyes were peeping at me from around the corner of the wall leading down the hallway to the bedrooms. I could feel them watching me without seeing them. I paused Indiana Jones in his exploration of a temple which may or may not contain his doom and turned to look at the five year old hovering in the doorway.
“I can’t sleep.”
“Why can’t you sleep, Nugget?”
“I want some water.”
“You had some water.”
“I’m still thirsty.”
I sighed and got out of the chair. The problem wasn’t thirst: once the Nugget had a drink it would be time for the bathroom and then it would be another bedtime story and then it would be “Can I stay with you?” and Indiana Jones would never get to experience his doom.
“C’mon,” I said, sweeping the Nugget into the air. “Let’s get you back to bed.”
“No! I can’t go on there!” Nugget squealed and writhed like a clawless cat trying to get away. I got a firm grip on the elastic waistband of a pair of alphabet themed pyjamas and hefted the kid to eye level.
“There’s a monster in my room.”
This too was a familiar tactic: the Nugget’s bedroom at home was a veritable menagerie of monsters and bogies tucked into every dark nook. But this wasn’t the Nugget’s bedroom, this was my guest room- an art studio by day furnished with an old fashioned Murphy bed that folded into the wall when not in use. It seemed that Nugget was determined to bring the monster infestation to my place. And there was no getting rid of them once they settled into the house. My sister had already tried all the conventional techniques: logic, reasoning, outright denial. This was going to require pre-emptive containment.
“Yes of course.” I said. “That’s where I keep them.”
The Nugget tensed, uncertainly.
“What do you mean?”
“It’s my guest room. All my guests stay in the guest room, even monsters.”
“You have monsters as guests?”
“Yes of course.”
“Well, I invited him. His name is Rufus.”
“Because I knew that you were coming over and I know you’re used to having monsters at home. Don’t worry, you won’t see him- he’ll stay under the bed.”
We were at the bedroom now. I put the Nugget down on the bed and pulled up the covers.
“But the monster’s not under the bed- it’s in the closet.”
The Nugget had seen the opening and jumped on it.
“Oh is he?”
“Well, he shouldn’t be. I’m paying for a bed monster, not a closet monster.”
“There’s weird noises and the door opened all by itself.”
“Is that so.” I went to the closet and the Nugget’s eyes got wide.
“What are you doing! Don’t go in there!”
“I’m going to have to have a word with Rufus.” I said. “A contract is a contract. The real monster is a monster who doesn’t honor contractual obligations.”
I didn’t wait to see if the Nugget understood. I stuck my head in the closet and let my eyes adjust to the dark.
“Rufus, what are you doing?” I said. “This isn’t what we discussed.I hired you to be a bed monster.”
Rufus huddled in the farthest corner, a dim lumpy shape made of shadows and uncertainty.
“I’d make a great closet monster. Just give me a chance!”
“We agreed that you’d start under the bed and we’d see how it went.”
“It was just a little… You know, improv.”
“There are no small parts, Rufus, just small monsters.”
“I know, but…”
“Who’s going to make noises under the bed if you’re in the closet?”
“I dunno. No one I guess.”
“And who’s going to guard the room from gurglers?” (this was the Nugget’s other great fear- burglars.)
There was a slumpie sound as Rufus’ shrug knocked a sweater off of a hanger.
“And who’s going to keep the nightmares away? Don’t you like nightmares?”
“They’re delicious, but…”
“But nothing, Rufus. Look at those fingers- they’re not meant to be hidden in a closet.”
Rufus looked at his hands.
“You like my hands?”
“Yes.” I said. “Very snakey, but furry. Good long reach. Those are fingers just meant for grabbing little feet that hang off the bed.”
“Also for catching Nuggets that fall out of bed so they don’t hurt theyselves.”
“You’re catching on.” I peeked out of the closet to see Nugget eavesdropping on every word with a wide eyed expression. I ducked back inside to Rufus.
“I’ll let you head back to the bed in your own time.” I said. “But Nugget’s awake now so wait until you won’t be seen, ok?
“Ok. I’ll be a good bed- monster, you’ll see.”
“I’m counting on it. I’ll just leave the for cracked open, ok?”
Retreating from the closet a dusted my hands and turned to the bed. The Nugget regarded me with solemn doubt.
“He’s really in there?”
“Don’t worry.” I said. “He’ll be out of the closet just as soon as you fall asleep.”
“I wanna see him.”
“Well you’ll just have to stay in bed and watch for him.” I said. “You know if you go out of the room that’s when he’ll make his move. We should turn off the lights too- monsters can’t come out in the light that’s why they stay under beds and in closets.”
I went to the door and clicked off the light leaving only a narrow path of light from the hallway.
“Ok. You keep an eye out for Rufus, ok?Stay very quiet and still so that he thinks you’re asleep. He’s keeping an eye out for you.”
Nugget nodded solemnly and settled back into the bed, hands folded on top of the blankets settling in to wait and I shuffled down the hall to where Indiana Jones awaited his doom.