The little girl wandered into her daddy’s workshop even though she knew she wasn’t supposed to be there. How is it that small feet so often find themselves in places they’ve been told not to go?
“What are you doing down here?” she asked the back of his head.
The daddy turned. The little girl’s voice wasn’t big enough to startle him, but he was definitely surprised to see her in the basement.
“I’m doing what all daddies do in the basement,” he said. “I’m making a monster.”
“Oh,” she said, and tried her hardest not to glance into the too-dark corners. And then, after an uncertain pause she said, “A monster? Can I see it? Where is it?”
“Oh it’s hiding down here in the dark,” he answered. “But I’m not sure you should see it yet. Monsters can be very frightening, especially to little girls.”
“I’m not sure I believe you,” she said, her eyes wide.
“No?” he replied. “You know that monster that lives under your bed? Where do you think he came from? And the one in your closet? And what about the one that peeks under your brother’s door after we turn off the lights? (Well, to be honest, that monster was already in the house when we moved in.) But those other ones I made down here, in the basement.”
The daddy carefully laid his hammer on his workbench next to a glass jar full of rusty bolts and screws. The jar once held something like grape jelly, pasta sauce, or dill pickles, but now it was filled with a mismatched assortment of pieces and parts leftover after various projects. Every workshop, it seems, has one almost exactly like it.
Noticing the jar, the little girl asked, “what are those for?”
“Those? Oh, those are the bolts that hold the monster together.”
“They must be very special bolts if they’re strong enough to hold a whole monster together,” she said. “But daddy, what if the monster is too frightening? What if you make it too well?”
The father was good at building monsters, but he wasn’t a skilled question answerer. After taking the moment his inexperience required, he said, “If you grow up one day and decide you’re tired of having a monster under your bed, or in your desk drawer, or creeping around the corners of your marriage, or wherever you decide to keep all the monsters I make, all you have to do is wait until they hold still for a moment and then take out their bolts. Most of the time, they’ll fall right apart.”
“But how will I do that,” the girl asked. “How will I remove them, and what if they’re screwed in too tightly? And how will I make the monster stand still?”
But before the daddy could answer, a very old monster – one he had apparently neglected for quite a long time – jumped out of the shadows and gobbled him up in one big bite.
Then, after a loud burp, the monster ducked back into the shadows and left the little girl alone with her questions.