Leonard knew the monster under his bed was going to eat him even before he felt its scratchy tongue rake across the pad of his right foot. That why why he hired the Monster Hunter, Rex Manderson.
Leonard found the Ad in the back of the latest issue of Rue Morgue Magazine and with the money from his Bar Mitzvah he paid for the first consultation and one evening stake out.
After the sun went down, Rex said, “Imaginary monsters are tricky. They have to feel safe to reveal themselves. Back in Em-Em-One-Two I spent three weeks in this kid’s room waiting for the most horrific monster I’ve ever laid eyes on. Hanging, I was hanging form the ceiling in a hammock so as not to cause any undue vibration. So, kid, you gotta understand that one night ain’t gonna be enough to get this bastard.”
Leonard said, “I’m scared, Mr. Manderson. My parents are fighting so much, now. I can’t have my room be a scary place too.”
“Your parents are splitting, you say?” said Rex.
“No way. They fight alot. They yell alot. All my friends’ parents aren’t together anymore. But not mine.” Leonard said, blinking away the wet in his eyes.
Rex got up. Shotgun resting in his arms. He opened the closet. “The thing ever hang out in here?”
“No. Only under the bed.”
Rex moved to the window, he could see the driveway. Leonard’s Mom was in the passenger seat of an idling BMW. She was talking with a man. Rex said, “Where’s your Dad tonight?”
“I don’t know. Out of town or something. Edmonton, maybe. Alberta probably, anyway.”
“And does your Mom have many visitors while he’s gone?”
“I don’t know. The same as always. Just friends, some church. guys, or something.”
In the car the driver leans to kiss Leonard’s mom. She pulls away and then kisses him again. Rex walks back to the rocking chair he had been sitting on.
“And when does this guy usually show up? The Monster, I mean.”
“I don’t know.”
“Okay, the last time. When it licked you. What was going on?”
Leonard scotched up in his bed, leaned against the headboard. “Dad had come home early from somewhere. Mom, yeah… Mom was with one of her friends from Church and Dad came in and they all started yelling. Yeah- I remember, all of a sudden the front door slams and I hear a car screech away. Then,” Leonard said, looking at the edge of the bed. “Then I felt this wet scratch on my foot.”
Rex nodded. Got up and opened the door, looked down the hall and then walked to the head of the stairs, walked back and closed the door. He sat on the edge of the bed, put the shotgun on the floor.
Leonard said, “Well, don’t put that there.”
“It’s fine,” said Rex. “Listen, Leonard. I think we need to chat about something. Then, when we’re done, we’ll go back to hunting the monster. Okay?”
“Okay?” said Leonard, scrunching his nose and furrowing his eyebrows.
“What if I tell you your parents are going to split up? Maybe not now, but soon.” said Rex.
Shaking his head, “No. I don’t think so. No. Why would they. Lots of people fight.”
“It’s okay. I’m going to tell you something. Would you believe that my parents broke up?”
“And when it happened I remember sitting at the kitchen table. I was fifteen. I was listening to them talk to me and my sister. Telling me that we were not going to live in the same house anymore and I could not believe it. Now, you’ll relate to this: I thought, When you get married you are married forever, even when the days are tough, and have fights. Right? I was sitting there listening to all this and holding in so many tears. I was devastated. I went to my room, right after and called this girl I was seeing at the time and I told her it was not going to work out. Now, you see me? You see me and you think, that guys a hunter. He’s an adult. He’s got his shit together, right? Well, I am here to tell you I cried that whole night through. And sometimes I would wake myself crying for weeks after that night.”
“I don’t understand.” said Leonard.
“I want you to know that sometimes, people just… fall out of love. And it doesn’t change how much they love you. They just are not able to be with each other anymore. And it is okay. You have nothing to fear.” Rex reaches out a hand and places it on Leonard’s knee.
“But, will they leave me?”
“Never. They will never leave you. They will just leave each other, and you will see them as much as you need to see them. And believe me, soon you will find that you are too busy to even think about whether they will leave you that you will be leaving them. You’ll find a girl to like. You and her will break up. You will meet another girl, and that one will work out better and then maybe it won’t and it all just kinda keeps moving along.”
Leonard started to cry. Not because he felt unloved, and not because he felt forgotten, but because he knew that his parents needed to break up. The fighting and the yelling and the strange men were not good things for people to live through.
At Leonard’s door there was a soft rap. Rex ruffled Leonard’s hair and stood up, picking his gun off the floor. Leonard’s mother opened the door and Rex nodded to her that it was okay to come in. She saw Leonard crying and moved to him. She held him and said everything was going to be okay, over and over.
Leonard said to his Mom, “I know.” And under his bed the sound of a light pop was heard and a thin plume of smoke streamed from the dark.
Rex slid the door closed and left the house. Another Monster slain.