The Monster Under Your Bed

By Kendra Fortmeyer

There is a monster living underneath your bed and the monster is lonely. His wife has left him and taken the dog, and his only son is a queer who went to UCLA and got liberated and runs around with a gaggle of men in v-neck shirts. The monster learned all this from his ex-wife's neighbor, the only person from his old life who still talks to him. She is kind of hot, the neighbor, in an older, spank-you-with-a-spatula way, but the monster knows that she pities him, and that's a huge turn-off for the monster. The monster has pride. Not the way his son has pride, mind you, but pride. Pride in his character, pride in his work. The monster has worked for the same company for the last thirty years, in a cubicle next to salesmen named Lenny and Bob. The monster always arrives at eight on the dot and has never taken lunch. Sometimes people try to talk with the monster about football or the weather, but since his wife has left him the monster exudes an air of horrible sadness that makes people feel tired, and so they talk about football without him. Somebody still has to do it.

The monster goes home on Friday nights and sits on the couch and stares into the quiet empty space of time ahead of him with no dog to walk no wife to argue with no son to speak of. The light is gray and aging in the window. The monster lies beneath your bed and stares at the springs. He wonders what it's like to carry all that weight, and thinks that if someone would give him some weight again, something to carry, maybe he could squeal for joy, too.

The monster frightened you when you were little and still believed you could grow up to become anything. You tucked away your fingers and toes, worried that his loneliness would touch you. But now you are old enough to know better. The monster deserved it, you think. Why else would he be a monster?

One night, drunk after your high school graduation party, your ears still ringing with congratulations, you let your hand trail down to the floor beside your bed. You wait for the monster to take it. The monster thinks about his son. He stares at your hand, and he stares at the phone. By the time he reaches out, if he reaches out, you have long since gone to sleep.

Originally published in Broad! magazine