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I’ve been writing tales almost all my life: I believe the first came when I was seven years old, now there are several dozen, both for children and adults.  Below are previews of two of my shortest.

The Good Neighbors: A Sort of Fairy Tale

Sean, twelve years old but as big as a flabby fifteen-year-old and clumsier than a crippled rhinoceros, plays his television through the night.  His neighbors, an old married couple whose bedroom is on the other side of his bedroom wall, are bothered but indulgent: he is slow and, they believe, otherwise troubled.  Even with the TV he sleeps with his light on, and there are often loud noises to go with the light, sometimes startling, banging thuds.

The old man speaks to the boy’s apologetic father; it turns out Sean is afraid of monsters, monsters in the dark, monsters under his bed and in his closet in the dark.  The banging is the sound of Sean throwing things about inside the closet as he searches for the monsters, which he thinks will disappear if he finds them inside.

One day the old man, who would sometimes look in on the boy when he was alone, speaks directly with Sean, telling him there are no monsters.

“But how do you know?” asks the boy.

“Because we’ve lived here a very, very long time and we don’t see them.”

“But,” answers the boy, unconvinced, “that doesn’t mean that they’re not here or won’t come back.”

“Really?  You sound pretty sure, Sean.  Tell me, what are these monsters like?”

“Well,” the boy hesitates.  “They are very scary and disgusting, and mean and always hungry.”

“I see.”  The old man is patient.  “Can you tell me what they are like?  You know, what they look like?”

“I’d rather not,” he answers.

“Why, Sean?  Why don’t you want to describe them?”

“Because whenever I do, like to other kids who must know about them, they laugh at me, that’s why!  They make fun.  The school counselor sent me to a doctor, and when I told him about the monsters he gave me pills.

“Oh, I see.  Did they help?”


“Well then, Sean.  Tell me.  How long has this been going on?”

“All my life.  My whole life.  I’ve never slept by myself in a room without monsters.”

The old man was not a very big believer in pills that changed people.  He did believe in clarity and understanding.  You could do a lot by just talking, he thought.

“Sean, listen to me.  I don’t make fun of people, no matter what.  And if you can tell me what the monsters look like, maybe I can help.”

The boy looked up into the face of the old man who, though bent over, was still pretty tall.  “Really?  How?”

“I’m . . . not quite sure, Sean.  There could be few different ways.  But I know I’ve helped lots of people.  I do know that talking helps.  And I promise that I will never tell anyone anything that you tell me unless you say I can.”

The boy waited a long time.  The old man waited with him.  Both were very, very still.

Then the boy said, “they are bigger than my bed.  There are, like, six of them?  And they all have three heads and mouths filled with huge, huge, huge teeth.  And they drool.  And they have tentacles, lots of tentacles.  And each tentacle has claws at the end that snap real hard.  And they slide around like snakes even though their bodies go straight up.  And they’re slimy.  But I don’t think they can see me.  They move all around like they’re looking for food – that’s me! – or are, I don’t know, lost or something, and after they bump into stuff they go back under the bed or into the closet.  Until the next night.”

“Ah!” exclaimed the old man.  “The classic swamp creature!”

The boy’s eyes widened.  “You know them?  You believe me?”  The boy’s eyes were as big as two full moons.

“Of course,” answered the old man.  “They’re not here.”

Now the boy was becoming shaky.  “But how can you know?  How can you possibly know??”

“I told you, Sean.  We don’t see them.”

The boy, now screaming, “BUT THAT DOESN’T MEAN THEY’RE NOT HERE!”

The old man, not screaming, but looking straight at the boy, tells him, very firmly, “yes, it does Sean.  It sure does mean that they’re not here.”

The boy wants to believe, wants to believe so badly, so he asks again, “how can you know for sure?  Why are you so sure?”


Heaven Knows

Tobias was a Very Old Man.  Ever since his wife, who was the love of his life, had gone to Heaven many, many years ago, his joints did not work well, so he was bent over from the waist, and his spine had a huge lump at the top, so that he could not lift his head.  That’s why he almost always was looking at the ground, but that didn’t matter very much since his eyesight was so bad.  He moved very slowly.  His small cottage was close by the long, twisting river.  That made it easy for him to get fresh water, though really nothing was easy for Tobias.  As for food, he did not need much.  Every now and then some children from the nearest houses would drop a basket of food off at his door so that he would have something to eat.  He never saw those children.  He lived with a Very Old Cat named Raffle.

Tobias did have children, and even grandchildren, but they had all moved away.  He had not seen them, or even heard from them, for many years, and he did not know why.  So his only company was his old cat.  But raffle was very good company, for he never left Tobias’s side.  Tobias would speak to Raffle, who would meow back, just as though he understood every word the old man said.  So even though Tobias was a sad men and raffle was a sad cat, they were not as sad as they might have been if each did not have the other.

One day Tobias woke up and, after taking a long time to sit up on his bed, walked so slowly and painfully to the table where he had left some bread the night before.  He began to talk to Raffle, who by then should have climbed up from floor to chair and then to the table to share the bread.  But he had not.  Tobias looked around the room and called “Raffle, Raffle where are you?  Time for breakfast.”  But Raffle was not there.  Raffle was nowhere.

So the old man went to the door and opened it and stepped outside.  “Raffle,” he called, “Raffle, where are you?  Are you all right?”  Then he heard a meow.  But he did not hear it from his feet or from one side of the door or the other.  No.  He heard it from above his head! With very, very great pain Tobias stepped out, turned around, and bent his neck back and looked up as far as he could.  That’s when he saw the cat standing at the edge of the roof looking down at him.  Was he smiling?

“My goodness,” said Tobias, “what are you trying to do?  How did you get there?  Why are you on the roof?”  All Raffle did was meow louder and louder, different kinds of meows, as though he were calling his old friend to come and get him.