My Halloween post included part of a story and I posed the question as to where you might take the story, given its various elements. Today’s post includes one solution for the story. Certainly there may be others and if you’ve given the subject some thought I certainly hope you’ll share them with me.
But before we move on, I have another short story, “Grayson’s Mountain”, in this month’s issue of eFiction Magazine. You can download eFiction for free, so I hope you’ll check it out. If you do, please be sure to let me know if you enjoyed it.
Now, without further delay…
Sock Monkey, Crucified
Chester Hendricks was not a superstitious man by any standard definition of the word. He wasn’t scared of black cats and he cared nothing about breaking a mirror or walking under a ladder. He considered himself firmly rooted in reality, assured that whatever happened could be explained with science. He brought that understanding to every part of his life and all his relationships. But it wasn’t easy; his surety of the preeminence of reason often put him at odds with his daughter and her husband, both evangelical Christians. Worse, it threatened his relationship with his granddaughter whom he loved as much as life itself.
It was his granddaughter he was thinking of that cold Halloween evening when he pulled into the driveway in Stammerfield. As he stepped out of his car his left hand pulled his coat tight around him in a vain attempt to escape the bone chilling wind that carried waves of sleet from an early nor’easter. His right hand clutched a black leather valise. He carefully made his way to the front door and knocked twice. It opened quickly, as if to do so might admit only him and not the terrible storm.
“My God, Dad, why are you out on a night like this?” asked Martha, his daughter.
“You know damned well.” His voice was rough, strained, forced, betraying obligation rather than desire.
“Bill is at church. The Fall Celebration is tonight.”
“Good, the less he knows the better.”
He pushed his way past her and towards the stairs that led to Trisha’s room. She tried to stop him, tried to keep him from doing what he had to do, what he had no choice but to do. His steps resounded in the stairwell, quickening as he approached the topmost landing. He thrust his right hand into the valise and without trying the door, forced his way through it. Trisha screamed a heart-wrenching little girl scream to ward off her attacker, but with a single fluid practiced motion he removed his hand from the valise, grabbed his terrified granddaughter, and pulled her close to him.
“Dad, please don’t,” his daughter pleaded above the child’s crying. “She’s only four. She won’t understand!” Hendricks ignored her.
“Mommy,” cried Trisha, “Mommy!”
The child’s pleas were heart wrenching and he was not immune to then, but this had to be done. Her grandfather let her inch away from him, but still held her firmly with his left hand. His right hand, the one that had been in the valise was now behind her, clutching something unseen. He looked into her tear-filled, terrified eyes.
“Trisha, my darling, Grandpa won’t hurt you. Grandpa wouldn’t ever hurt you.” With his left hand, he stroked her soft auburn hair and wiped away some of the flood of tears that glistened on her cheeks, but he never surrendered control to her. He wished that he could just hold her and rock her and pretend everything was alright, but it wasn’t. She was of age, yes, even one so young, and it was time for her to know.
“Trisha, you need to listen to Grandpa.” This was a command, not a request. “There is no Santa Claus. There is no Easter Bunny. There is no Tooth Fairy. There is only the Sock Monkey, and him crucified! Only the Sock Monkey that bears our sins! Only the Sock Monkey that is truth!”
From behind Trisha’s back, clutched in his right hand, was revealed the Sock Monkey. Its cloth covering was faded and tattered, evidencing the wear of a thousand hands. Its face, consisting of woven eyes mouth and nose, seemed at first sight unremarkable, dumbly bereft of expression. And yet, there was something, something contradictory in it. Remarkably cruel and compassionate, the sight of it brought Martha to her knees. She clasped her hands together in silence now, watching her daughter coming to know the fullness of it.
“Before we were, there was the Sock Monkey. Before the Sock Monkey there was nothing. It is all that is or will ever be. It is that which connects us to the beginning and leads us into the future. It is through the Sock Monkey that we shall someday return to that which was before all things.”
Trisha’s countenance had changed from tearful terror to wistful curiosity. Hendricks handed her the Sock Monkey and she held it at first tenderly, respectfully, then wrapped her arms around it as if it were a long forgotten friend.
“That’s better,” said Hendricks. “The Sock Monkey is yours now. You must keep it safe. You must care for it. You must feed it.”
“I will take care of it, Grandpa. I promise.” Her eyes were filled with sleepy delight.
“Just remember, sweetheart, the Sock Monkey isn’t just a gift, it is a responsibility.”
“Yes, Grandpa.” Trisha lay back on her bed, holding the Sock Monkey close.
“Now, let’s hang the Sock Monkey properly, shall we?” Trisha handed the Sock Monkey to her grandfather without protest.
From the valise, Hendricks retrieved three nails and a hammer. With these he hung the Sock Monkey, a nail in each hand and one for his two feet. Trisha lay there staring at the crucified Sock Monkey until heavy sleep reclaimed her. With his mission accomplished, Hendricks placed the hammer back in the valise and stood to leave Trisha’s room. Martha waited for him at the door. Wordlessly she took his hand and led him to the stairwell.
She offered him coffee, but he politely refused, saying that her mother would be concerned if he stayed away any longer. Coffee was just an excuse to delay his leaving and he knew that. did she, but there were words that needed to be said.
“Dad, I’m sorry for the way I behaved. I guess over the years I’d forgotten how important this was.”
“You must never forget that the Sock Monkey is who we are. That it is not a doll, but a living connection to the place from which we came. No one else has that, only us, only our lineage. And someday the Sock Monkey will receive the call that will allow us all to return.”
“But why deny her the childhood fantasies all her little friends share? What’s wrong with believing in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny? She’s just a little girl.”
“Trisha’s mind must be clear and uncluttered by the foolishness of this world, if she is to return with us. And the returning is all that matters.”
Martha looked thoughtfully at her father. He kissed her forehead as he hugged her good-bye. He pulled the door open and just as quickly Martha pushed it shut behind him. Her brief exposure to the wintery wind chilled her.
Beyond the door Hendricks pulled his coat tight around him and cautiously negotiated the icy sidewalk that led to the driveway. Suddenly behind him the front door opened and Martha was shouting to be heard over the sleet-filled wind.
“Dad, you didn’t tell me, what did you mean when you said Trisha had to feed the Sock Monkey?”
Hendricks turned and faced his daughter. He smiled despite the bitter cold and stinging sleet.
“Don’t worry, Martha, the Sock Monkey will find something to eat.” He said this nonchalantly, as if it was not the least matter of concern, then added, “What time does Bill get home from church? He’ll probably eat then.”
So that’s my take on it. I’d really like to hear other possible solutions or what you thought of it. Feel free to contact me either on the blog or using other social media. Thanks.