Phil peeked around the corner to see if it was still there.
It was still there.
A figure lying in wait for him if he dared go around the corner alone. He was only six, and he knew better than to cross the street without holding someone’s hand, but he’d gone and done it anyway. Spitefully. His mother told him and told him all the horror stories about children being stolen away when they didn’t listen to their mothers, but had he listened? Of course not.
But all he wanted was to ride the swing at the park. His mother was busy cooking dinner and refused to take him, so he’d opened up the door quietly, so quietly, and slipped out by himself. He played for so long that all the other children were long gone with their families, probably eating dinner and getting ready for bed by now.
Phil imagined that his mother called for him until she was hoarse, and that now she was crying, rocking in her chair. His father was away on a business trip, and Phil wondered if he would come home early if Phil was missing. Probably not.
It was so late, so far past dinnertime that Phil grabbed at his stomach as it growled in hunger. He wanted to go home so badly. This was a poor decision, and he knew it. Still, swings. Phil loved the swings.
The problem now was that he couldn’t go home, no matter how much he wanted to. The monster was between him and home. Between him and dinner and his soft, warm bed. Between him and his mother.
He rummaged around under the picnic tables to see if anyone had dropped any snacks and came up empty-handed.
One last try. He leaned around the side of the building with the bathrooms, but it was still there. Phil sniffled a bit as the tears began to set in. He was so sorry for not listening to his mother. So sorry. He took a deep breath and brushed the first tear away with a small grubby fist. He had to make a break for it. It was going to be rough, but if he did it, he’d be home in no time.
Phil took off running past the monster, but he only made it four steps before he tripped on his shoelace and fell face-first onto the hard concrete walkway. One day he would learn to tie his shoes. He cried out in pain, reaching up to feel how much blood was pouring from his face. In truth, it was more than enough blood to warrant panic, but Phil actually felt much better when he looked to his left at the monster.
He almost laughed aloud at himself. It wasn’t a monster at all; it merely looked like one in the shadows and fading light. It was an overflowing trash can. And that claw that Phil feared was outstretched waiting to tear out his throat? It was nothing more than a rusty old nail.
Phil stood up without even brushing off his wood-chip-coated knees. He laughed at his younger self, because now he didn’t believe in monsters anyway. He ran home, where his mother was so happy to see him that she cleaned him up without a word and sat him at the table for a lovely dinner of meatloaf and mashed potatoes, his favorite.
I have no idea what my time was; I had a household emergency in the middle. It’s all good now, though.
Today Ian gave me a prompt:
Today I would like to read about why you have such a passion for writing. What’s the first memory that you have of enjoying writing, what was it about? What are ways I could help you with your writing?
Didn’t I just answer this the other day? Because there are so many words to string together in so many different ways. Because I love the sound and the feel of a keyboard. Because it’s easier to be myself when I don’t have to look anyone in the eye.
The first memory I have of enjoying writing is writing poetry as a child. One summer when I was eight or nine, my dad helped me submit some poems to the local newspaper that had a section for kids’ writing. They published my poems. I think I still have the clipping somewhere.
I always loved writing reports in school. Any topic, it didn’t matter.
When I was in fifth grade, we had Automatic Writing, five minutes every day, first thing. Sometimes I would tell stories, sometimes describe things, and yes, sometimes resort to the infinity of very‘s we’ve all been guilty of at some point.
In my seventh grade gifted class, I turned in a series of satirical essays about Desert Shield/Desert Storm. My teacher loved them. It’s funny; we all thought she was so weird, but I’d be willing to bet that we would get along famously now. As Ian would say, she was a hippie. Maybe I should look her up on Facebook. Anyway. I thought I was just being clever, writing like a smartass and getting away with it. I didn’t realize until years later that I was The Onion before there was The Onion.
When I was fifteen I spent three weeks at summer camp for nerds. I’m happy to see, after a quick google, that it’s still going strong. I wrote essay upon essay, and someone called me a genius to my face for the first time instead of writing it in a file. That’s rewarding for anybody.
And Ian, you do plenty to help me. You’re encouraging while minding your own business, and that works for me. Thank you.