October 18:  Yukon Cornelius investigates a (suspected) Closet Monster

At the end of a tasty dinner hosted by my friends in their new home, their 8-year-old son, Felix, came down the stairs and hovered by his mother’s elbow. “What’s wrong, hun?” Mom asked. There was a monster in his closet. Everyone looked at me. “Okay. Sure. I’ll go check.” I couldn’t rule out something being pulled in because I was here. “If it is, I’ll deal with it,” I assured his mom. I followed Felix back upstairs. “It’s a beautiful new home you have,” I told him. “Do you like your big room?” He wouldn’t go in the door.

I flipped on the lights bright. The closet door was half open. “Okay,” I told him. “We don’t want to scare him.” He said, “I’m the one who’s scared.” I told him that sometimes the monster is scared too. “I mean, he’s got new people in his house and he doesn’t know you very well. How does he know you’re going to be kind to him? He doesn’t.” I knelt with him in the middle of the room, “But I’m not a monster.” Well, I said that we might not look like our version of a monster, but what would be a monster to a closet monster? He thought about that. “Do you knock on the door before you go in?” I asked. He did not. “Do you pop your head in there all of a sudden and start moving everything around?” He did. “Well, that could be surprising if that closet were your room.”

We looked at the closet across the room, which, I have to say, looked mighty comfy for a closet monster. I told him we should go check on the monster and see if he’s okay. I told him he might want to sit on the toy box. He did. I knocked on the door, even though it was open. “It’s a courtesy,” I said to Felix. “Hello. I’m Cornelius. This little boy is Felix and he’s moved into the room next to you.” Felix braced himself for any response. We waited. “We’d like to turn on the light if that’s okay?” I said. I didn’t hear anything. I looked at Felix. We both thought that a non-answer was an implicit yes. I turned on the light. Lots of dress shirts and sweaters and a couple of coats. Some shoes on the floor, and several unopened boxes. “We haven’t finished unpacking yet,” he said. He had managed to come to my side, still wary. I said, “What a lovely room you have,” to whomever might be in here. Just because I couldn’t see him didn’t mean he wasn’t there. I whispered to Felix, “You might put something colorful in here—like a small basket with plastic flowers.” He said, “But it’s dark in there? How can he see it?” Night vision, I said. They can see color. “And it’s a housewarming gift. You know how we all brought gifts tonight to you and your mom and dad?” He nodded. “That means, hey, we’re glad you’re here!” He was uncertain at that last sentiment. I also suggested him selecting a toy to put in there. “He could like toys, we don’t know. But the flowers and the toy says that you’re not going to hurt him. That you are welcoming him.” He nodded.

“How do we know he won’t hurt me?” he asked. I told him if the monster hurt him that his parents would hurt the monster back and the monster didn’t want trouble. “He actually wants a good person in the room. Someone he can trust. It would ruin everything for him if he hurt you.” I was, of course, saying this for the monster’s benefit too. I had to cover my bases. “He needs to feel safe with you,” I told Felix. “Oh, and they tend to like the door shut at night. They need to be in the dark. Just like you need that night light, they need to be all wrapped up in the dark to feel safe.” I asked Felix if he wanted to introduce himself while I was standing there. He was unsure. “You know, if you make a habit of telling him one interesting thing about yourself every day, he will get to know you.” But what if he talked back—Felix got scared again. I asked the monster if maybe, in a non-scary way, he could leave clues to the kind of monster he was and what he was like. “People tend to be afraid of things they can’t see so a voice out of the closet at first might be scary, but over time–,” and I looked at Felix, “Felix will feel more comfortable.” Felix asked, “Will he come into the room when I’m asleep? I don’t want that.” I told him that was a perfectly legitimate request, and I passed that on to whomever might be in the closet. “Anything else?” I asked. He thought. “No, that’s it.” I said we were going to turn off the light, and I did, and Felix said, “I’m glad you’re here!” suddenly into the dark, and I smiled at him and nodded, and then I shut the door.

Did I think there was a monster in his closet? asked his mom. “I can’t be 100% sure that there isn’t, but I set up some ground rules in case there is. I didn’t sense there would be trouble. But you call me if there is.”

I got a call a week later. His mother told me Felix had a ritual that he sat on the toy box every night and told the closet about his day. There were gifts that Felix left in the closet on the floor. He never got scared in his room again. “I have Magellan,” Felix told her, “and he makes sure I’m safe.” We laughed. “Oh, kids,” she said. She thanked me. I said, again, with emphasis, “Really, if anything else happens, anything at all, call me.” She laughed nervously.

Eight years pass and, whenever I am in the area, we have wonderful dinners and times together, and then, I get that call. She’s found a note from Felix that he and Magellan will be out adventuring and won’t be at dinner—having gone “through a portal in the closet!”—but he’ll “find something to eat along the way?!” He’s sixteen, I told her. He’ll be okay. Trust me. “He’ll probably be home by ten o’clock.”

I looked over at sixteen-year-old Felix who smiled at me and nodded, holding his plate ready, as Magellan the Blue, the four-armed swordsman, flipped hamburgers on the grill.



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