Well, who should walk in this morning as I having my first cup of coffee. Yep, it was Shorty George, middle-school kid, one of C.W.’s favorite shapes. This morning, he was wearing an Arkansas Razorback tee-shirt, a Chicago Cubs baseball hat, and what appeared to be a pair of decades-old basketball sneakers with a faint ‘NC’ visible on them. Sort of a walking advertisement for broken dreams.
Shorty George is not the sharpest pin in the cushion, but what he lacks in acumen, he makes up for in adorableness. It’s usually a pleasure to see him.
“Hey George,” I said. “What’s up?”
He took on a look of uncharacteristic solemnity. “There’s a monster in the woods, and he wants to come live with us.”
“A monster?” It took a few seconds for this to register. “What kind of monster?” With children struggling to understand the world, it’s a good idea to humor their thought processes.
“He kills people,” he said, “and eats them.”
“My goodness,” I said. “Aren’t you afraid?”
“Oh no,” he said. “He doesn’t eat little white boys.”
“No, just the black ones, and other ones of color.”
“And girls,” he said. “He eats girls, but that doesn’t bother me.”
“No, as long as he won’t eat me, I think he would make a nice pet.”
“And what does my wife think?”
“I can’t repeat what Mrs. Big Dope said. You remember that talk we had about using dirty words?”
“I remember it very well,” I said. “But why would you want a monster for a pet?”
“I like the way he growls and stomps the ground ... it’s, like, awesome. It scares people that I hate. And I’m, like, wanting to be his friend so I can scare people too.”
“I’ve asked you to forgo ‘awesome’ and not to insert ‘like’ into every sentence,” I said.
“What does ‘forgo’ mean?”
I sighed. “Never mind. Does your monster scare my wife?”
“Oh no,” he said. “He wandered up close one day. When she went out, he growled a challenge and stamped the ground so hard it made the trash can fall over.”
“What happened then?”
“She grabbed a broom and started toward him.”
“He started making this gurgling sound, then he turned, ran, hid in the woods, and wouldn’t come out for three days.”
“What makes you think he wouldn’t change his mind and start eating little white boys?”
“Oh, there are so many others for him to eat first. There’s the blacks, the kids of color, there’s some lame kids who can’t run from him, and there’s lots and lots of girls … besides …”
“Once I got him here, I could train him to do other things than eat people. Nice things. I could train him to eat dog food and play the piano.”
“Oh, yes sir. I could handle him. Can I? Can I? The other boys want me to.”
“What about my wife?”
“Oh,” he said. “I can handle Mrs. Big Dope.”
“Oh yes. I know stuff on her that she wouldn’t want you to know. I can keep her under control.”
“Have you ever wondered what happened to that harmonica you loved to play so much?”
I thought. “I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t know about keeping her under control. She’s sort of the female human version of the country of Afghanistan as far as exerting control over her.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, lots of people have tried,” I said. "None have succeeded."
“What’s a ‘aftercanistand’”?
“Never mind.” I said. “I think you better study up on monsters before you take this on.”
“But, I don’t like to study.”
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