When I was around five years old, we still lived in the little red house on White Oak Dr., but now the house is white. However, as a child, it was a stark red color with wooden shingles and a leaky basement. When you entered the house and turned to the left, you would go down the only hallway in the home. My room was the last bedroom on the left.
One night, my dad put me to bed and said his customary “love you” and then turned off the light and went to his room. I sat there in the dark and being a little kid, got scared. I can’t tell you beyond just saying that I was scared of a monster, what that monster really was, but it was terrifying enough for me to call my dad back into the room with a loud call of “Dad”! He came back into the room and asked what I wanted.
“Um, I’m scared that there might be a monster outside of my window.” To be fair, my room had two windows and while one of them was a story up over the top of the garage, the one I was scared of was about four feet above the backyard. Dad went over to the window and beckoned me to come over and look out the window. “No…” I said, still slightly scared. “Get over here.” He said. I came over to the window. “Look out that window. Do you see any monsters out there?” He asked. I shook my head no. “That’s because there’s no such thing as monsters and there certainly aren’t any outside of your window. Now go to sleep.” I went back to my bed and dad walked from the room giving me a slightly gruffer version of “I love you; goodnight!”
Several minutes went by while my little boy brain continued to spin tails of monsters clawing their way into my room via the window to the backyard. Finally, I yelled again, “Dad!” … slowly he appeared in my doorway. “What?” It was a question devoid of desire for the actual answer. “I’m afraid a monster is outside my window…” Dad looked defeated. His logical argument had failed to suppress my imagination in the darkness and boredom. “Come here.” He said again. “No…” I said, shrinking back from his gruff utterance.
As scared as I was of the monster outside the window, I was much more scared of dad and the possible solution he was churning away at in his head. “Come. Here.” He said in a deliberate and just slightly menacing way. I slinked from the bed, sliding out from under the covers without even throwing them back. Like a magician pulling the tablecloth out from under a dinner place setting without even clinking the glasses.
Dad opened the window. “Stick your head out there and tell me what you see.” I slowly peeked my head out the window. The light was still holding on in the evening. It was summer and there was still mugginess to the West Virginia evening despite a slight tinge of coolness in the air. Thinking of it now, it was an evening that should have created a sense of comfort and home. Of sitting outside on the front porch in the evening with a glass of sweet iced tea and talking with a neighbor.
Instead, for the little boy in that room, the evening was full of possible fear. Fear in spite of the knowledge that my dad was there, protecting me, sheltering me, loving me. “Do you see a monster?” He asked again. I shook my head “no” once more. He closed the window. “Go to bed, I don’t want to hear from you again. If you aren’t bleeding or dying, I don’t want to hear your voice. Got it?” I got it and nodded my head.
I sat alone in my bed once more. It should have been a peaceful aloneness. Darkness that comforts you and wraps you up in the silence and stillness of a night. There’s the knowing that you aren’t alone in a house where your loved ones are safe and sleeping or just being quiet in another room just beyond your door. But this wasn’t my way of being this night. I lay with my head draped over the side of the bed with my face looking up at the dome of the ceiling light. The patchwork of textured ceiling melded together and blurred out as the blood would pool in my brain. The white of the glass globe slowly slides into and melds with the white around it. I sat up again, the blood cascading back into my body. I sat there… crisscross apple sauce on my transformers bed sheets, waiting for sleep that didn’t come.
I honestly believe I made it around fifteen minutes before the fear crept back into my mind. It was long enough for dad to believe his tactic of opening the window had worked and perhaps even time enough for him to go to sleep as well. However, given that I went to bed fairly early in those days, I am assuming dad was not only still awake, but just relaxing in his room with my mom. I debated for some time in my mind whether or not I should risk calling my dad into my room again. For a little boy, this was a very difficult decision. In the end, my imagination won out and I called out again. “Dad!” … It took him some time to get to my room. I could hear him having a discussion with mom in the next room. In the end, I could hear him as his feet pounded down the hall. He was mad…
He came into my room without saying anything and went straight to the window. Opening it, he gestured for me to come over to it. I shook my head “no”. He didn’t open his mouth, but hissed the words through his teeth, “Now…”. I came over.
Dad then proceeded to throw me out the window.
Now it wasn’t a graceful action in any sense of the word. Let’s be clear, I fought tooth and nail to stop him. When the dance of the adult man and wiggly little boy was done, I was clinging to the window sill crying for all I was worth, molten tears creating an emotional river on my cheeks. “No daddy no!” I screamed. He was holding onto my wrists and I tried and failed to climb back in the window. “Look here. Listen to me.” He said, in a calmer voice than he had any right to use after doing what he had done. “I’m going to prove to you that there are no monsters out here.”
My eyes were wide, and I listened very carefully to what my dad said next. For all I knew, my very life depended on following the directions he was about to give. “I’m going to shut the window, and you are going to go over there to the back door and knock on it. I will let you in the house through the back door. That way, if there are any monsters out there, they will have ample time to eat you up before I get to the back door. However, if there aren’t any monsters out there, then you should be fine.”
My eyes were the size of softballs and I glanced towards the back door. In reality, it was maybe fifteen feet away if that, but as a little boy, it seemed as though the back walk was made of lava, and getting there was an impossibility. “No! No, daddy!” He pried my hands from the sill, still holding my wrists. “See you in a sec”, he said. Then he shut the window. I might as well have flown to the back door, grabbing the handle to jerk on it to see if perhaps it was already unlocked; no luck there.
I began pounding on the door. My father, on the other hand, meandered out of my room and stopped in the hall to stretch and yawn. He turned into the kitchen and stopped to check the fridge to see if any of the mac and cheese from dinner was leftover; there wasn’t any. Closing the fridge door, he walked over to the back door and calmly unlocked the deadbolt, and then opened the door.
I slid into the kitchen like a Hall-of-Famer getting home as the pitcher crashes in just behind him. Getting up I went after dad, pounding on his chest and crying hysterically. He was laughing at me, a big smile on his face. “Hey…” he said, in a much too jovial tone. “You’re alive! You made it!” … I looked around the kitchen. I looked up at my dad. “You didn’t get eaten.” He said. I stopped crying and wiped my nose. Walking me back to my room, he got more serious, “Now, go to bed.” He said.
I walked into my room and laid down on my bed. You might say the adrenaline surge had tuckered me out. You might say that the rush had spent all my brainpower so I was able to then sleep. Or, you might say that I was not much more afraid of my dad than imaginary monsters, and all that might be true. Or you might say that my dad had taught me a valuable lesson in trust and reality. I believe the latter. In any case, I slept soundly that night and many more in the future and was no longer afraid of monsters outside my window.
D. Michl Lowe