Jack sent his girlfriend Frankie an SMS with the text “I can’t see you anymore.” Jack was a monster. I don’t mean that he was behaving like monster because he ditched his girlfriend by text. Jack actually was a monster and he liked being a monster. He whistled as he walked to the office and his excitement grew as his boss passed out assignment folders to the waiting monsters. He believed the act of scaring children was an art form and took real pride in his work. Jack didn’t go for standard scares like hiding in the closet or under the bed. He could have got scares easily as unlike some of the guys, he really looked frightening without any effort. He had a huge and very hairy body, yellow eyes and fang like teeth. Despite these natural blessings, Jack liked to put in the extra effort to get under the skin of his kids. So, for a fear of ghosts he would don a white sheet and if the child hated dogs he would be growling on all fours. Christmas was good as a fear of Santa was surprisingly common and he loved that cheerful red suit.

One night he took a break between assignments to grab a coffee. He was having fun. A full bright harvest moon had allowed him to throw a terrifying werewolf shaped shadow into a young boy’s bedroom. He was so happy about this stylish scare that he smiled at the cute bunny in the canteen. He knew that monsters and imaginary friends didn’t tend to socialise but, she couldn’t object to a smile. Unbelievably, Frankie came right over and plonked her tray down beside him as she said “hey, big guy.” Her snow white fur looked like it was soft to touch and Jack had to smile again when she wiggled her floppy ears. They really hit it off over coffee so, after work, they went back to his place. He discovered that her fur was indeed soft to touch.

They lay together in bed afterwards and talked. Soon Jack was crying and Frankie was full of empathy. “I can tell you’re a very sensitive individual, but the firm has typecast you as a big scary monster.” It felt so good to cry.

He took Frankie to meet his parents, “you guys are lovely,” she told them. They loved her and she loved them. Frankie pulled out her mobile for a group selfie and shouted “smile”. They all smiled without showing their fangs. Jack loved the resulting photograph so much that he made a print and pinned it to his locker in work.

A few weeks later he knew he had to end it with Frankie as his work was suffering. He’d been given an assignment to frighten a mere toddler and he wondered if his boss knew he was struggling to deliver the scares. Jack sat in Jenny’s closet and peeked out in preparation for jumping out and roaring at the little girl. He knew this was a pretty lame scare, but he was trying to get his confidence back and he was worried that anything more subtle might not work. Just as he was about to jump out he spotted a drop of water falling onto Jenny’s quilt. “That’s not good,” he thought, “poor little lamb.” Another three drops followed in quick succession and Jack grabbed a diaper from the closet, crept over to the bed and placed it below the drip. He returned to the closet and felt miserable as the leak in the roof slowly filled the diaper. He was still there when Jenny’s mom came in to check on her. She looked confused and asked “Jenny, what did you put in that diaper?” Then she saw the dripping water, worked it out and was delighted at the apparent ingenuity of her daughter. When her husband joined her she smiled and said “see how smart our little girl is.” They both thought it was very cute when Jenny confided “Not me.” She shook her head seriously. “It was the funny monster from the closet. He’s sweet.”

Jack’s humiliation was complete. It wasn’t his job to be sweet; he was a monster for God’s sake. Back in the office he looked at the photo on his locker door. His family looked nice. In fact, they actually looked a bit cuddly. He tore the photo off the door, ripped it up and let out a truly blood-curdling howl. It felt good.

6 thoughts on “Empathy

  1. I liked the way you had the monster fall in love with an imaginary friend, and how that’s what caused him to lose his mojo. The integration of the diaper worked well, and I liked the conversational feel of the intro paragraph. I’m not sure it flowed well into the rest of it – something about that transition felt unresolved or like a key piece was edited out. It took me a bit to figure out that you went back after paragraph one. But overall, it was very enjoyable. Poor ole Jack.


  2. I like that you gave your monster a regular-Joe name. You did a great job describing his transformation during the story, and Jenny’s observations were a funny moment. The chronology of the story confused me a little. We start with Jack breaking up with Frankie. The second paragraph is Jack meeting Frankie in the work cafeteria? Should the second paragraph be in past perfect progressive (had taken)? Is it a flashback?

    Liked by 1 person

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