by Hollister Ann Grant
The Kid Chompers
“The woman next door to us has claws,” Cassidy said when her father
came home. “I saw them under her coat.”
Her father put his briefcase down. “Oh, big fingernails?”
“I didn’t say big fingernails. She has claws on her feet.”
“She can’t have claws, sweetheart,” he said.
“She does so! Big, thick claws like some kind of a horrible animal.”
“She had on a costume then,” he said and moved to the kitchen.
Cassidy followed him. “You’re not listening to me, Dad. She has claws
on her feet.”
“It’s Halloween weekend.” Her father opened the refrigerator and took
out a Heineken. “Everybody at work was in costume today. The secretary
was dressed up like a pirate, and I saw a Frankenstein in the library.
The woman bought her claws at some shopping mall.”
“Oh,” Cassidy said. Hot tears of relief welled up in her eyes. “I
thought they were real. They were just awful.”
He laughed and ruffled her hair. “She was going to a party, Cass, or
she just left one. I know everything’s been hard on you lately, losing
your mother, the move, dealing with all these boxes.”
“I’m okay, Dad. Really.”
He put his arm around her shoulders. “I’m going to tell you a story.
You’ll like this one. When I was ten years old, just like you, the
roof of the house next door was right outside my bedroom window, and
my granddad told me that the Kid Chompers lived in the chimney.”
She smirked. “The Kid Chompers.”
“He said the Kid Chompers would come out at night -- not every night,
just when the moon was out. The Kid Chompers were like genies in a
bottle, and they’d get bigger and bigger and look in the windows for
kids. That’s why kids should never crawl out a window because the Kid
Chompers will chomp down on them. They control the kids who climb out
on the rooftops. They eat ‘em up and nobody ever sees ‘em again.” He
laughed. “I was so scared I slept with the blanket over my head.”
“You’re making fun of me,” she said, smiling in spite of herself.
“No, you’re my best girl. You’re my all-time favorite.”
“You’re my favorite, too, Dad.”
Cassidy woke up in the middle of the night. The windows didn’t have
curtains yet and mysterious tree shadows swayed across the bare wood
She’d been dreaming about Kid Chompers, but the dream began to fade
the more she tried to remember what it had been about. Something about
Kid Chompers scratching at the window, trying to get inside.
The cat lay on the end of the bed. Everything seemed to be fine.
Just in case, though, she crept to the window. And sure enough, their
neighbor was out there on the roof of the porch. I knew she was out there. I knew it. She ducked down and then dared another peek.
“And she’s still wearing her party claws,” she whispered.