They were talking about it again. The carpet itched the backs of Benjy's leg, and he absently scratched with one hand and pushed the dump truck back and forth in front of him with the other. His attention was fixed on his mom and dad, though. Benjy didn't want to miss a word
"I swear, Jeff, there is such a thing as the sock monster. Look - six unmatched socks in this load." Benjy's mom didn't sound happy.
"Did you look"
"I looked everywhere I even muscled the washer and dryer out enough to make sure they weren't hiding back there. I swept a yardstick under them and only brought out dust bunnies and dryer sheets."
"Carol, they've got to be somewhere. Socks don't just disappear."
A flash brightened the room, and seconds later a deafening crack of thunder made them all jump. Benjy had all but forgotten about the truck his hand now gripped.
"Uh I mean..," Jeff faltered, "they don't disappear in this quantity, anyway. How many is that, now?"
"These six make 23. At this rate, there won't be a single pair of socks in this house by summer. I'm telling you it's the sock monster!"
Another burst of light was followed immediately by a crash of thunder. The skies opened and a torrent attacked the roof with a clatter.
Jeff's eyes shot toward the window, and he saw his son's ashen face, a full moon glowing in the darkening room. Benjy was doing his best to be brave, but his lower lip quivered.
Jeff snapped his fingers. "Hey, I've got an idea!"
Benjy tore his gaze from the storm outside, and looked up at his dad. A single tear escaped. He wiped at it with the back of his hand before it could trickle down his cheek.
Jeff lowered himself to the floor to sit with his son. "Ben, you and I going on a sock hunt. Somewhere in this house are 23 socks, and we're going to find them. I don't believe in the sock monster how about you, squirt?"
"Umm, n-n-no?" He wanted to be brave for his dad, but he wasn't too sure about the monster. His mom believed in it, didn't she?
"C'mon, it'll be fun. We'll each get a flashlight, and we'll search every corner and cranny of this house. And whoever finds the most socks wins a prize."
Benjy cocked his head to one side and squinted at his dad. "What kinda prize?" Visions of chocolate bars filled his head.
"A surprise prize."
"WellI guess." He gave his mom a pleading look, and she returned it with an encouraging smile. He left his truck and, feet dragging, trailed after his dad to the garage. And so the two set out on the Great Sock Hunt of '07, Jeff determined, but Benjy reluctant.
A half hour of poking into closets, peeking under beds, and peering behind furniture produced only one missing sock. Jeff scratched his head. "Ok, squirt, only your room left. Let's hit it."
"Dad? Can I have some milk?"
"After we finish the sock hunt, Benjy. We're almost through."
"You can wait, it'll only be a couple minutes." He studied Benjy, who had commenced to quake and tremble. Jeff squatted down and laid a hand on Benjy's shoulder. "What is it, Ben?"
"The sock The " Benjy took a deep shuddering breath and squared his shoulders. "N-n-nothing, dad. It's ok."
Jeff took Benjy's small hand in his big one, and together they ventured on to Benjy's room. Once on the other side of the door, though, Benjy stood stock still, a wary eye on the bed, as Jeff searched for socks. "Hmm, no loose socks in the closetnone behind the bureau. Ok, let's look under this bed."
"Be careful, Dad." Benjy was shaking again, and his eyes were filling.
"Careful of what, Ben?"
Sobbing now, Benjy blurted out, "The monster, Dad! The monster under the bed!"
"Benjy, we've talked about this. There's no such thing as monsters, and there isn't one living under your bed.
"But, Mommy said there is a monster The Sock Monster!"
Jeff choked back a laugh, and struggled to keep a straight face.
"But I'm not too scared, Dad. He won't eat me. I made sure."
"How'd you do that, squirt?"
"I feed him. Almost every day. And so far he's left me alone."
"What have you fed him?"
"Duh, daddy, he eats socks! Do you think Mommy will be mad at me?"
Catrina Bradley grew up in Iowa, but now calls Georgia home. She is happily married to her much better half, has a wonderful 23 year-old daughter, and a precious, long-haired dachshund named Lady.