I know that it’s late and I really must leave you alone, but I too would be scared all alone down here in the rumpus room. Mommy calls again, so I look straight ahead and march up to the kitchen like a responsible dog-owner, but I hear you scrambling up the wood stairs and then stopping to whimper—because you are too little to whimper and scramble at the same time. Without looking, I see the soft yellow fur on your chest tuft with sweat as your lungs—which are only baby lungs and don’t know what they are doing yet—fight to give you enough air to climb this Everest, this Matterhorn, this all-the-way-to-the-top-of-the-Statue-of-Liberty. My chest tears like a donut until grape jelly drips down my insides. I close the door and lean against it, like someone trapping a monster or a dragon, except it’s me that’s the monster, trapping you down where the real monsters are. Your nose pushes the door.
I have to open it, just to kiss you goodnight, tug your ears, and apologize, and then maybe sit by your basket until you fall asleep (with the light on). I open the door, but I’m so stupid, my brother is right, I’m so stupid. Opening it knocks you backwards.
You tumble to the monster pit.
I’m so scared for you that I fly down the stairs, without turning on the light, to where the monsters are. Their gaping mouths pant over us, steaming hot stink that makes children decompose and that, when it burns off with sunrise, clings to your fingers and face from where you couldn’t fight them off, where their rotted gums gnawed your cheeks and their curly tongues slurped everything out of your nose and your parents call it morning breath. I race back up with you squirming in my arms. We are under the covers before I realize I didn’t slam the door behind us. I am so stupid. Now the monsters are out. Oozing up the stairs, filling the kitchen, swamping the hallway. Everywhere. So, we have to stay put. No peeping from these covers. But you are already asleep on my chest. Your puppy heart beats my jelly heart back into place. I hope you don’t pee in your sleep like Mommy says you will, but we’ll face that in morning. Just love me tonight.