Jimmy threw back the tent flap, poked his head out, and squinted across the yard.
He’d begged his mom to let him camp outside. And at three o’clock in the afternoon it seemed like a good idea. But that was before a skunk sprayed the neighbor’s yard, before the night air hinted rain, before he heard low growling from the house in back.
He could swear someone-or something-had poked the tent next to his head. The fabric sagged like wet tissue. He wasn’t waiting around for someone to come ripping though the back of the tent with a chain saw.
One! Two! Three deep breaths and he was gone, arms and legs flashing, heading for the porch lights his mom had left on, feeling something closing in on him from behind. He jumped the stairs and tore open the screen door and threw his shoulder against the inside door, sprawling into the hall. He willed the door shut and it slammed behind him.
He lay still, chest heaving, letting the cool of the floor tiles seep into him.
The television roared from the living room.
Great. Dad’s away and mom must be out, he thought. That meant Todd was slouched in front of the flat screen with a soda in one hand and the remote in the other. He could picture Todd with that dazed look on his face. Wondering how to torture me, Jimmy figured. Just his luck to have a really mean slob for a brother.
Or stepbrother, as Todd liked to remind him. If it wasn’t for my father, Todd whispered one night from his bed, you and your mother would be homeless and eating dog food.
Jimmy didn’t want to get into it with Todd. He got up and slinked past the living room.
"Hey, wienerbreath!" Todd called out. "Get your butt in here." Jimmy complied. He knew that resistance was futile.
"Where’s mom?" Jimmy said, lingering in the archway.
"At the store, monkeymeat. Probably buying you some diapers." Jimmy turned to leave.
"Whoa, Kimo," Todd said. "Sit down. It’s Forbidden Planet."
"I’m not allowed to watch that," Jimmy answered. "Mom said."
"Mom said," echoed Todd, wrinkling his nose. "Mom said. Mom said."
"It gives me nightmares."
"Nightmares? You’ll have knuckle marks in a minute if you don’t get in here," Todd said.
Jimmy stepped into the room.
"Just for a minute," he said. He sat on the floor.
"This is the best part," Todd told him. "Right here. Watch. The monster is trying to get through the force field and the space rangers are blasting it. Awesome! Look at those teeth!" Jimmy stared at the screen and didn’t move. Something was happening inside his head. Something was trying to move in there without his permission. He pushed back.
Todd’s soda flew off the coffee table, fell onto the rug spouting brown foam.
"Little creep," Todd snarled, grabbing Jimmy. He sat on him, righting the can and putting a pillow over the puddle of soda. "Looks like you’ve got some explaining to do when your mommy gets home, dogmeat."
Jimmy struggled briefly. This wasn’t the first time he’d been a seat cushion for Todd. He knew he’d get tired of it. And he did.
But not before Jimmy saw the end of the movie where the beast created by the scientist’s mind comes back and tries to kill everyone. He shut his eyes at the really scary parts. They kept popping open, though, and he kept staring.
He shut his eyes again and looked for his mother. He found her in the car, turning the corner a mile away. Soon she was walking in the front door.
Jimmy told her what had happened, or as much of the story as he could get out between Todd’s interruptions. Staring at the soda stain on the carpet, one hand on her hip, his mom was in no mood. She banished them both to the backyard for the night.
Todd smirked. "I wanted to get out of the house anyway," he told his stepmother.
"Now," she said, pointing to the back door. Todd tripped and fell. Somehow his sneaker laces had gotten tied together.
It was a four-man tent, but when Jimmy stretched out to sleep his face was an inch away from the side wall. "Move over," Jimmy said.
"Sure thing," mumbled Todd. He didn’t move. "So where do you think your dad is?"
"You know he died in Iraq," Jimmy said. "He’s buried in Arlington."
"No," Todd said. "I mean, where in Hell do you think your dad is? What part of Hell is he burning in? Maybe he’s part of the devil’s elite body guard. Maybe he gets to crawl around inside Satan’s ass, eating it clean."
"You shut up about my dad," Jimmy said. But Todd wouldn’t, and Jimmy closed his ears and went to his happy place until Todd fell asleep.
Jimmy fell asleep soon after. He had the worst nightmare of his life. The monster from Forbidden Planet came alive inside his head and chased him across the desert past charred bodies of soldiers and burnt-out Humvees. Jimmy moved as fast as he could through the stink of burning plastic and flesh, but the sand bogged him down.
Jimmy spun around to face the monster, who gleamed triumphantly right before Jimmy reached down into the bottom of his pounding heart and heaving lungs and summoned a mind blast that annihilated him. The monster gave a surprised little gasp, then melted away.
In the morning, Jimmy woke refreshed. He sat up. Todd was gone, and the entire back of the tent was in tatters.
They found what was left of Todd over in the yard of the house in back. The English mastiffs growling there had been snacking on his roasted flesh.
They did not eat his sneakers.
"Monsters from the ID"Robert Meade is a transplanted Bostonian now firmly rooted in Mohegan Lake, in Westchester County, NY, with his wife and three children. He teaches at Loyola School in Manhattan. He won the Wordweaving Award for Excellence for his book, Daily Bread: Seven Days to aHealthier Soul. A published author of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, his recent work has appeared in Angels on Earth magazine and online at Guideposts and Apollo’s Lyre.
Copyright: © 2010 Robert Meade
Copyright: © 2010 Robert Meade