The Thing Under The Bed
By Beki Muchow
Ms. Muchow lives in the suburbs of Portland where she tries to do her fair share to keep everything weird.
It was my first apartment, a sublet actually, and I was terribly excited. I rang the buzzer and was greeted by the tenant, a scruffy, greasy-haired fellow, his arms loaded with boxes and a donut in his mouth. He was on his way to study bugs in the Amazon or some such thing.
"Hi! You must be Julian. I'm..."
"Keys are in the kitchen drawer," he said as he somehow managed to inhale the donut.
A car horn blared out front.
"There's a list there, too. Things you need to know. And stuff around the neighborhood, menus, like that."
The horn blared again.
"That's my ride, I really gotta go," he said pushing past me. "See ya in six months. And don't forget to feed the thing under the bed. It likes powdered," he called from somewhere on his way down the stairs.
"Wait...what?" I leaned over the railing just in time to see a foot disappear out the door.
I went in and quietly closed the door, my door, and took in my surroundings. The building was over 100 years old and the décor was about the same age. But I didn't see grimy walls; I saw vintage wallpaper. The sofa wasn't dated and lumpy, it was shabby chic. And the leaky faucet, well, that was a leaky faucet but I caught the water and used it for my plants. Over the next few days I made several trips to garage sales and thrift shops and on my meager budget created my home. I'm a master bargain hunter and will chase down on good deal on anything. Anything that is, except socks. I love socks. They are my one weakness. Soft, fuzzy, warm, colorful socks.
I had been there for a few months when I noticed I had an unusual number of socks without mates. I clipped them together in pairs so I rarely lost one, but as winter settled in, I was forever short of warm socks.
In February I caught whatever creeping crud was going around. I came home and changed into warm pajamas, leaving my clothes where they fell. My grandmother always said feed a fever and I was contemplating some soup when I saw it. A sock left on the floor among my other clothes ever so slowly inching its way under the bed.
Even though I had sat right there and watched it, I didn't believe it. The cold medicine, I thought. I must have taken too much. I abandoned my thoughts of soup and drifted off to sleep there on the sofa wrapped in grandmother's quilt, the following hours passing in a feverish blur.
I awoke in the morning a sweaty smelly mess. I took a shower and set about tidying up a bit. I untangled my clothes but found only one sock, a black one with pink dots, a solid lime green toe and a lime green ruffle around the top, one of my favorites. It was then the foggy memory of my sock inching its way under the bed resurfaced. But that was a fever-induced hallucination. Wasn't it?
I was kneeling down to look under the bed when I heard what sounded like a laugh, a sneering laugh. The kind when somebody is laughing at you rather than with you. I had heard it before, but I thought it was the antiquated heating system. Part of the building's charm I had told myself. But here, on the floor, with my head under the bed, it sounded much more sinister.
There was no room to move the bed since it was apparently put in prior to the walls being put up. I finally managed to get hold of just the teeniest bit of my sock between my index and middle fingers, but for every little tug I gave, it seemed to give one back. Fear, or common sense, (I'm not sure which) prevailed. I let it go and watched as it was sucked into the baseboard beneath my bed.
I returned to the sofa and took more cold medicine.
The following day I felt better, and decided soup was indeed in order. I went to the kitchen drawer and pulled out the menus Julian had left. They were scrawled with helpful hints such as "have exact change" and "don't get the fish." I picked what appeared to be the least objectionable and reached for the phone, spilling the menus onto the floor. There amongst them was the list Julian had left with things like the thermostat is 5 degrees off and the window over the bathtub doesn't lock. But I had never turned it over. On the back it said, "Don't forget to feed the thing under the bed. It likes powdered best."
I placed my order for delivery including a box of powdered donuts. As I ate my soup, I contemplated the donuts, the bed, and gave thought to how many of my precious socks were missing. I felt the fever coming up again and as I curled up under my grandmother's quilt on the sofa, I rolled a single donut across the floor towards my bed.
When I awoke, I truly did feel much better and immediately grabbed for a donut, congratulating myself for being clever enough to order them. It was then that I noticed the trail of powdered sugar across the floor where I had rolled the donut the night before. I was about to have a good laugh at myself for being so foolish when I saw the donut was gone. In its place lay a sock, dark blue with yellow swans. It had been quite expensive and I now recalled it had been missing for some time, but every time I noticed that fact, I was in a hurry and then it would slip my mind.
I took another donut from the box and placed it on the floor where I found the sock. I watched but nothing happened so I retreated to the sofa. Pretending to watch TV, I kept a watchful eye on the donut. Still weak from my illness I dozed off, and when I awoke the first thing I saw was that the donut was gone and in its place a sock, this time a red one with black bows.
Befuddled, I looked again at Julian's note. "Don't forget to feed the thing under the bed. It likes powdered best."
I went through my sock drawer and counted the ones that no longer had a mate. Twelve! With the two I had just retrieved, that was one for every week I had lived in this apartment.
I called the deli and placed another order for a cup of soup and a dozen donuts. When my order arrived I sat on the sofa with my stray socks.
"Hey!" I yelled. "How about the brown one with pumpkins." I rolled a donut under the bed and waited. A few minutes later my brown sock with pumpkins, rolled up in a ball, shot across the living room at me. One by one, as I supplied donuts as ransom, my socks were returned.
I have since paid tribute with a donut each week. On holidays and special occasions, I leave an extra, glazed or sometimes sprinkles. I am usually rewarded with a pen or a stray earring, none of which belong to me. Now, late at night instead of that sneering laugh, I hear what sounds like ymmmmmm, but it's hard to remember in the morning.
It's been two years now. Julian found more bugs to study.
Perhaps one day I'll be gifted with something that will give a clue as to what lives under my bed how this all started. Meanwhile I scour the city for beautiful socks, bargains and new donut flavors in anticipation of what stolen treasures will appear on my floor.