Our Story Begins...
MAX GRIPPED THE COLD doorknob and twisted it so quietly, pushed the bedroom door open so stealthily, that the hinges dared not utter a sound. Only the door’s wooden edge sweeping against the carpet fibers spoke with a shhh.
The narrow hallway beyond his toy-bombed bedroom oozed darkness, nighttime shadows transforming the bookcases into hulking figures that gleamed with golden alphabet eyes where the moonlight flashed on Mom’s shiny novel spines. A floorboard cracked.
Then the central heater clicked on and warm air sailed from the ceiling vent, ruffling the lace curtains over the too-high windows and causing the shiny alphabet eyes to blink in Morse code warnings.
Don’t let him catch you!
Max crept toward the books on bare hands and feet, the odor of dust motes and yellowing paper stuffing his nose. His hands probed like insect antennae with fingers splayed, reaching beyond the rays of moonlight into the inky dark, reaching and reaching and finding at last the dusty grit along the top of the baseboard along the wall.
Max followed his index finger as it found the familiar prick of the sharp nail tip, then the ninety-degree turn of the other wall, then up to the cold brass doorknob which finally turned in his anxious hands.
Again the carpet said shhh.
The living room was even darker than the hall, the floral rocking chairs and couch hunched like misshapen friendlies, outlined and colored with shades of a hasty black crayon. If the nighttime furniture could move about the room, it would glide silently and encircle and protect Max—soft cushions hiding dangerous snapping jaws, springs swiping like swords, embroidery buttons flung like ninja stars.
In the daytime, the furniture didn’t care.
It was only at night, when Max’s tummy rumbled and ached, that the furniture woke up and wondered what evil it would witness this night.
The wall clock above clicked and hummed as its battery mechanism drove time forward, beat after beat.
Max slunk from the dark living-room cave to the edge of the moon-bright kitchen, clean counters and stanch pine cupboards drenched in pools of yellow light that dripped to the hardwood floor and pooled like circular gotchya! spotlights.
Max crouched behind a sharp line of shadow at the kitchen’s edge, toes gripping the spongy carpet. The odor of the outside air pushed through the cracks in the backyard door near his shoulder like invisible smoke tendrils smelling of spicy juniper bush and tart mowed grass.
There it stood, formidable in its upright stance, armored and enforced with cold steel on the outside, overflowing with glorious treasure on the inside.
The forbidden keeper of fresh, clean food—the pea-green refrigerator.
A floorboard cracked again.
Max whipped his head around expecting a long arm to suddenly snag him, expecting hot, thick fingertips to dig into the muscles of his neck and find that nerve. The one that made Max’s eyes roll and his legs spasm.
But only the living room furniture hulked in the dark, watching and waiting and thinking their quiet furniture thoughts.