My daughter Rachel has more toys than she knows what to do with. For the longest time, my wife and I picked up after her. However, we eventually expected her to pick them up herself. At first, she tried, but it became easier to kick toys under the bed, into the closet, or pile them up unceremoniously in corners of her bedroom.
One day I pulled her aside. “Honey, you need to keep your toys off the floor.”
“I don’t want to,” Rachel whined. “It’s too hard.”
“You must,” I replied, my voice a low growl, “or else . . ..”
Rachel pursed her lips. “Or else what?”
I scratched my head. “Uh, or you will lose them.”
Eyes wide and her lips quivering, she asked, “Are you going to take them away?”
I stared past her when an idea sprang into my fevered mind. A notion so horrible and twisted I had to use it. “No, but the toy monster might get them.”
Her mouth dropped open. “The what?”
“Oh yes,” I replied. “The toy monster loves messy toy-filled bedrooms. They attract him like raw meat attracts lions. He will start small, eating one or two a night until they are all gone. Of course, by then, he might decide he’s had enough of toys . . ..”
“And eat my clothes?” she asked, trembling.
“That,” I smiled crookedly, “Or what wears them.” Muhahahahah.
Shrieks followed me out the door as I smugly walked downstairs to finish the paper. But even the threat of nocturnal doll munching couldn’t convince Rachel to keep her room tidy. Finally, after removing sharp, nearly microscopic doll shoes from the soles of my bare feet, I decided to release the beast.
“Dad, did you see my Holiday Barbie? I left her next to my dresser.”
I’m going to hell for this. Oh well. “Sorry honey, I haven’t seen her. How long was she lying on the floor?”
“I’m not sure. Maybe two days.”
Shaking my head, I said, “Just as I feared.”
“What do you mean?”
“Remember when I told you about the toy monster?”
“You mean he . . ..”
“Yup, he figures you won’t notice after two days, so he eats it.”
“That was my favorite dolly!”
“Well, you should keep your toys off the floor next time.” Sniffles followed. Oh, I am a terrible parent. Muhahahaha.
Even losing a favorite toy did not change her behavior, so as the days followed, more toys disappeared, until finally . . ..
“DADDY,” came the unearthly howl.
“Yes, dear,” I said as I appeared in Rachel’s doorway.
She stood in the center of the bedroom, hands in her hair. “MY TOYS! THEY ARE ALL GONE!”
Sure enough, the room had been surgically scrubbed of toys.
“Uh oh,” I replied. “He’s eaten everything that means . . ..”
Face the picture of terror, she stared at me. “HE’S GOING TO EAT ME!”
“Not necessarily. There is something we can do.”
Hope painted her face. “What?”
“The toy monster hates being read to; it makes him sick.”
“Oh, I’ve got lots of books.”
Yes, and most of them are covered in dust from lack of use. “Okay, read a book out loud each night, and he should stay away.”
Her shoulders slumped. “But reading is so hard,” Rachel said.
“I can help, but you must do some of it yourself.”
“Ooooooohkaaaaaay,” she groused.
So for the next few weeks, she read her books, and most of her toys reappeared. Found, I said, outside her door in a gooey pile. Reading stories aloud made the toy monster so sick that he spit up the toys. Now they were suitable for her to take back (after being cleaned, courtesy of her loving father).
A few weeks later, I was putting Rachel to bed. “Daddy, is the toy monster real?”
“What do you think?”
She fixed me with a severe stare. “No. The other kids said there’s no such thing.”
Oh well. I suppressed a bemused grin as I nodded, but something stuck to my foot when I turned to go. “Rachel?”
“Did you ever hear of the dirty underwear monster?”