Charles took a moment to look at the houses on his street while the last bit of sun vanished. Broken windows and kicked-in front doors stared back across overgrown brown lawns. Rusting cars slumped on driveways. Weeds pushed through cracks in the sidewalks. He ran through his checklist: backdoor secured, garage door bolted, storm windows closed, chimney capped.
He stepped inside, triple locking and barring the steel door behind him.
“It’s Back! Daddy, it’s Back!”
Charles heard the sharp crack of a twenty-two-caliber pistol as he ran towards his daughter’s bedroom.
“Daddy! I got him.”
Cory, toes sticking out of the footies in her SpongeBob pajamas, waved her tiny pistol at luminescent green monster blood pooling in front of her closet. Bullet holes riddled the barricaded closet door.
“Look, this one’s blood is green. I got him good, daddy. Waited till he rattled the doorknob and bang, bang, I got him.”
“Yes, you did, baby. You always hit your target.”
Voice aged well beyond her years, Cory answered, “No, daddy, not always.”
Charles had to turn away to regain his composure. He pressed his hands against his eyes. Cory had missed the monster under the bed, the one that got her mother. Should have cut the legs off the beds years ago. He breathed in deeply through his nose, out through his mouth. Then he took Cory’s pistol, reloaded it, and tucked her in bed. He kissed her goodnight and went to sit in the candlelit living room, shotgun across his lap.
Steel storm windows rattled as boogiemen went from window to window, testing the locks. Werewolves worried the iron cap that sealed the chimney’s top. A few pieces of mortar rattled, falling on the closed flue.
Pant legs pulled up, Charles gave a deep sigh. He added another bottle of disinfectant to a wastebasket filled with empties before cleaning cuts and bites on his ankles and calves while he waited for morning.
Charles and Cory sat on their porch soaking up the warmth, childhood monsters banished by the sun. A page ripped from a magazine, carried by the wind, landed on the top step. Cory took one look and shrieked. Leaping to her feet, she ran into the house.
Charles’ heart sank when he saw the picture of a tyrannosaurs rex. It fed, blood dripping from a mouth adorned with teeth. Trees in the picture gave it perspective. Damn! I gotta get a bigger gun.
Stephen Smith is a renaissance man, a photographer, musician, and writer. This is his second published story. The first, “Detachable Penis,” a dark comedy, can be found in the anthology Surprise.
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