This story was originally posted on July 1, 2017. I often feel like I’m in over my head and just doing the best I can. I think everyone sometimes feels that way, even wizards.
Melvo lived under Jason’s bed. He was pretty lucky. Most monsters under beds were lonely and lived on a diet of dust bunnies and half-finished homework. But Jason was different. When Melvo first moved in under the bed, Jason quickly made him feel welcome.
Jason had grinned. Instead of yelling or turning on the lights and banishing him back to the shadowlands, Jason offered him an odd sock. “Hi, I’m Jason,” he said. “I always wanted a monster under my bed.” The sock was soft, and covered in pictures of cartoon bats and ghosts.
“Are you sure I can eat this?” Melvo asked. “This is a very nice sock.”
“I have lots of socks,” Jason said. “What’s your name?”
“Melvo,” Melvo said. He bit into the sock, and it tasted better than any dust bunny he’d ever eaten. Melvo smiled, and then remembered that monster smiles are scary. He frowned and looked down.
“What’s wrong?” Jason asked.
“Aren’t you scared of me?” Melvo asked.
“Of course not,” Jason said. “Monsters aren’t scary. I know lots of nice monsters. We have a mummy visiting from Egypt next week, and my uncle is a vampire. There’s a werewolf next door, but he thinks we don’t know about that.”
“Okay,” Melvo said. “So does that mean we’re friends?”
And they were. They talked in the evenings, while Jason recopied his homework so that Melvo could eat freshly done, high-grade completed homework. On holidays, Jason shared his socks and told him all about their traditions.
Melvo told him about dust bunnies. He tried to describe the taste of a good sock. He told him about the shadowlands where there was nothing to do but sleep and wait and dream.
“What do you dream about?” Jason asked.
“Finding a home,” Melvo said.
“Is that a good dream?” Jason asked.
“It’s the best dream. I found a home and I’m happier than I’ve ever been,” Melvo said. And he was very happy.
Then one day, Jason told him his family was moving. “You have to come too, Melvo,” he said.
“How?” Melvo asked. “I know how to find your room, but if you move you’ll be somewhere else.”
Jason thought for a moment. Then he smiled. “I’ll put a box under the bed. Climb inside. I’ll close it while it’s still dark and not open it until we get to the new house. Then I’ll open it under the bed. That way you won’t have to go to the shadowlands until after you know where my new room is so you can find it again.”
“That might work,” Melvo said.
So, when the time came, Melvo climbed into the little box, and Jason sealed it shut. After a long wait, the box moved. There were noises and voices and the box swayed.
“The box is really light,” he heard Jason say. “What if he isn’t in here?”
And then he heard the scrabble of fingernails on the outside of the box. There was the ripping sound of tape pulled back, just a little. The corner of the box lifted. For just a moment, he saw Jason’s face, framed by a brilliant blue sky, and then he was pulled back into the shadowlands.
The new family in Jason’s old house didn’t like monsters under the bed. So Melvo hid, and ate dust bunnies. Some nights he paced under the bed until the floorboards creaked so that the lights would go on and he could be sent back to the shadowlands early. He missed Jason.
And then, one evening, as he woke in the shadowlands, he saw a little dot of light. He’d never seen anything like it. Instead of following the well-worn path to Jason’s old room, he raced towards the little light.
It led him down a new path, and just before he caught it, he tipped over the edge into a new room. And when he looked up at the bed, he knew where he was. “Jason?” he whispered.
“Melvo!” Jason said. “I’m so happy to see you. I didn’t know if that would work.”
“What did you do?”
Jason smiled. “I wished on a star. Have I told you about stars yet? They’re pretty amazing.” And Jason told him about stars and gave him a sock with pictures of angry pumpkins. And Melvo was happy.
One night, Isaac woke up from an odd dream where he could fly underwater, feeling suddenly very thirsty. So he slid his feet into his slippers and softly walked down the hallway to the kitchen. He didn’t need to turn on the light, because the full moon filled the room with a bluish light that made everything seem unfamiliar.
Isaac filled his glass at the tap and looked around the kitchen as he sipped the lukewarm water. It was one of those strange nights where fairy tales begin. On a night like this, little elves made shoes and Cinderella lost her slipper and Rumplestiltskin danced around a fire.
But nothing had happened by the time he finished drinking his first glass. So, he turned to the sink and filled it again. This time, he saw something moving at the other end of the kitchen.
Setting his glass on the counter, he quietly walked through the shadows. He stopped and crouched to peek around the edge of the table and saw a line of oddly-shaped beings of different shapes and sizes, none taller than a foot. They were traveling from the laundry room across the kitchen to the sliding glass door.
The first creature reached the door and didn’t pause. It hopped up and through the door as though the glass wasn’t there. The next followed.
Isaac squinted and leaned forward. Were those all socks? In the moonlight, they seemed monochromatic, but as far as he could tell, there wasn’t a match among them. This then wasn’t some sort of Noah’s Ark story where the socks were being saved two by two. That was probably a good thing, because any disaster that would destroy socks wasn’t likely to be good for people.
Isaac wanted to crawl forward and see where the socks were going, but he didn’t want to interrupt the socks. The stories mostly agreed that interrupting a fairy tale in progress didn’t go well for the interrupter. So he waited and watched.
Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the line of socks to come to an end. Isaac waited a few minutes after the last of the socks hopped through the glass door. Then, sticking to the shadows as best as he could, he circled around to peer around the edge of the door.
In the light of the full moon, the mismatched socks were dancing around the dandelions in the lawn. There weren’t many, because Marianne tried to dig them up when she saw them. She said that dandelions were not allowed that close to the garden, because they spread so quickly once they went to seed.
Isaac liked dandelions. The lawn in the park was all dandelions this time of year, and the sight made Isaac smile when he passed by on his walks. It was like concentrated cheerfulness to have so many dandelions together, like sunshine in a flower form.
Isaac did not dig up dandelions when he saw them.
The socks seemed to agree with Isaac. They continued to dance around the dandelions, twisting and leaping faster and faster. The groups scattered and reformed in different combinations. Isaac quietly tapped the rhythm of the dance on his knee.
Were they dancing to music? Could socks hear music? Before this night, Isaac didn’t know socks could dance. Was there a way to open the door or a window to check and see?
And yet, he didn’t want to risk interrupting. Curiosity wasn’t a good character trait in fairy tales. Maybe he could open the front door? It was on the other side of the house, away from the dancing socks. But what if the socks were dancing there, too?
He could check out the front window first. He backed up slowly until he could stand up out of sight of the glass door and walk to the living room. He peeked around the edge of the front window. No socks.
He opened the front door slowly, quietly, carefully. No music. He quietly closed the door and went back to the kitchen. He carefully looked out the glass door again.
The socks were gone.
Was it because he opened the front door? Was their dance done? Did they return to where they came from? Did they go somewhere else? Where would a group of mismatched socks go? Perhaps all the neighborhood socks met in the park for a community dance.
Isaac finished drinking his water and left the glass in the sink. He went back to bed. Even though he thought he’d be up for hours thinking about dancing socks, he fell asleep quickly.
He woke up early, when dawn shone through the windows leaving orange patches of light on the wall. Slippers on, he hurried to the kitchen to look out the window. The dandelions had all gone to seed in the night, and were now white puffs floating above the lawn on their stems like clouds in a green sky.
Marianne came into the kitchen behind him. “What are you looking at?” She leaned in to look over his shoulder. “Are those dandelions? Oh no!”
She rushed off, probably to change and go dig up all the dandelions she could find before breakfast. Isaac shook his head and started measuring water for oatmeal.