Call me old-fashioned, that's fine. I grew up in a time when women were treated with respect. Today, they are self-sufficient, and I'm not saying it's a bad thing. Just don't blame me for being set in my ways. You of all people should know me, Edmund.
How did this happen, you ask? I was walking to the cafe down the block. Every Tuesday evening, I put on my good suit and my wingtips and go get enjoy some cups of coffee and a danish. It's soothing. The waitstaff is lovely. They compliment my ties and treat me with dignity, not like some befuddled old fool.
I walked down by the alley and heard some yelling. This young punk, tattoos and a Mohawk, the whole ensemble, was bellowing at this young lady. It's not my business to pry into other people's activities, but he grabbed her neck violently. It was just for a second, but I couldn't help myself. You've seen me change. I've seen you change. It's not always possible to keep it in check.
My wings expanded. I flew down the alley and landed behind this hooligan. My mind went blank. My left hand shook and the claw came out. I plunged it into the small of his back. It must have been deeper than I anticipated, because this beautiful young woman got blood and pieces of stomach all over her white blouse. It was as if that, that delinquent wanted to go out with a final insult. He let out a soft wheeze. The woman sobbed. I usually don't show this side, but I impaled my fangs into his neck and shook my jaw. I try to be mild-mannered, you know that. I just can't abide by young folks with no decency. I sucked the blood from his body with one deep inhale. If I can withdraw just a few pints of evil from this city, my awful legacy will not be in vain. You know how it goes, Edmund.
I retracted my teeth and shoved his body to the ground. I wiped my mouth and tipped my cap to the belle, who crouched against the wall, shaking. I took a step in her direction. She looked up at me, her mouth open, with no sounds escaping from her lungs.
“It's okay, my love.” I reached into my pocket and pulled out a handkerchief. I gently wiped blood from her cheeks. She never say anything. She must have been overwhelmed with gratitude. I flapped my wings and coasted up the side of the building and out into the night.
Edmund, I didn't judge when you spit and blinded that gunman with venom. I lost myself in the screaming mass of people when you flew away. I know we have to hide these mutations. We do our best to remain quiet old men. But as this city collapses into itself, we have no choice but to use these defects as we see fit. I simply had to defend that woman. If chivalry dies, then so will I.
“Dada?” Her dark brown eyes peered up, enveloped by gnarled sleep hair. The innocent face begged the question.
“Yeah babe,” he replied without looking, busy folding laundry.
Milk dripped like snow flakes falling from the spoon, “I don’t wanna go to school today.”
He stopped, immediately concerned, “Sarah, what’s the matter?”
Her pouty lip curled, she choked back tears, “I don’t feel good, I couldn’t sleep.”
“Honey, I know that things have been hard with the quick changes. You have to learn to sleep at Dada’s and Moma’s.” He went back to folding the laundry. He silently cursed his ex for letting Sarah mix and match socks for style. He couldn’t find a pair. It was just perfect that he send her to school looking like a ragamuffin, he already felt like he was doing a lousy job as a newly single father.
Emphatically, she shook her head, “Naw-uh. It’s not that. It’s…”
“What honey? Tell me, because you have to get ready for school.”
“You won’t believe me,” she said and crossed her skinny arms. “Moma didn’t believe me either.”
He took this as an opportunity. He would listen and be the savior. “Tell me and I promise I will listen.”
She was hesitant. She looked around and whispered, “There is a monster in my closet.”
He was taking a drink of coffee and almost spewed it across the room, but he bit his tongue. The acrid coffee taste met the metallic taste of blood. “Babe, there are no such things as monsters. We can play pretend and we can watch movies, but remember they are just people. Like when Dada is on stage, playing another person.”
“I know, but Dada…”
“I’m just Dada, not Butt Dada.” She smiled. He continued, “Finish up or you are going to be late. I’ll put a flash light by your bed tonight and then you can see for yourself that there are no such things as monsters.”
The next morning, Sarah dragged her blanket behind her as she walked into the kitchen rubbing the sleep out of her eyes. “Couldn’t sleep huh kiddo?”
“No. Dada, I saw it. The monster. He was trying to get into the dresser.”
“Okay. I tell you what, if the monster comes again, we are going to catch it.” He said it with such surety that he almost convinced himself.
Her face lit up, “Really Dada, you believe me?”
He didn’t want to encourage such fantasies, but he wanted her to feel safe at his new house. “No one messes with my girl.” He ran over and scooped her up. “I’m the only monster in this house…the tickle monster.” She squealed as he mussed her hair, tickled and kissed her neck.
That night, he put her to bed as normal. He set up a small animal trap, from Home Depot, right outside of the cracked closet door. “Twenty bucks for her piece of mind is nothing,” he said to himself as he crawled into bed. The scrapping metal clap sound jolted him up-right. He jumped out of bed and ran to her room and flicked the light on.
With a childish smudge look, she said, “See Dada, told you.”
A ten-inch moldy green ball of snot was perched on two stick legs. Toothpick arms grabbed the cage, it looked up, “What are you looking at ugly?”
“Did you just talk?”
“Yeah, I talk ugly. Howsabout lettin’ me outta here?”
Incredulous, he shook his head and thought about pinching himself to be certain he was not still asleep, “What are you doing in my daughters closet?”
“My job. I got kids too,” the gruff voice replied.
“Job. I steal socks and take bites outta shirts and undies.”
“That’s what we eat in the Dreamland.”
“That’s really weird.”
The monster crossed his arms, “Oh yeah and what do you eat judgey?”
Perplexed, he replied, “Ahh, vegetables, fruit, meat from animals…normal stuff.”
“Oh yeah, gross muddy animals in their own waste. Food from the ground, disguising. At least our stuff gets clean in the washing machine.”
The debate ensued. There was going to be no convincing either party. Dad figured out where all the missing socks went. He agreed to let the monster go, with bags of fresh socks from the store, if it never came back. Though Sarah was hoping for it as a pet. The agreement was made and “hands shook”. Dad always listened to Sarah after that, no matter how preposterous.