Mean Monster

I invented Mean Monster one night when CJ’s bedtime had gone off the rails.

Mean Monster burst into the room. “You may not go to sleep!” he bellowed.

“But I need to,” CJ said. “All little children need sleep. It makes us happy and beautiful.”

Mean Monster protested, but was soon forced out of the room by his arch-nemesis, Nice Bedtime Monster.

CJ asked for Mean Monster the next morning when she woke up. “Stay in bed!” he growled, poking her belly with a claw. “Whatever you do, do not get dressed!” CJ quickly changed into her school uniform, even pulling on shoes and socks without being asked.

“Stay in your room all day!” he said. “You may not eat breakfast!” CJ ran to the kitchen and scarfed her scrambled eggs. She grinned at Mean Monster, defiantly.

As she left for school, a little early, Mean Monster called out: “Have a terrible day! I hope you pee in your pants.”

She didn’t.

CJ loves Mean Monster. When I asked her why, she said, “Because I’m not scared of him.”

“Is he scary?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “But not to me.”

Last summer we took a little vacation in the mountains of North Carolina. We took a redeye flight and got off the plane exhausted. Checking into the hotel took too long and CJ didn’t get her lunch at the usual time. It was one of those days when no one is having as good a time as by rights they ought to be. 

As we drove out for a late lunch, I heard growling from CJ’s car seat. “We don’t like trees,” she said in her version of a low, raspy voice. “We don’t like waterfalls. We don’t like anything.”

I turned toward her with a jolt of recognition. “Who are you?” I asked.

“Baby Mean Monster,” she said.

CJ Kingfisher, Portrait of Mean Monster. 2014. Medium: Stickers and paper.

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