Bruce Coville's Book of Monsters
My Little Brother Is a Monster
I. Basket Case
We both heard it, even above the late March wind whipping around the house. Mom looked up from the strand of red yarn she was weaving through the warp of her big loom and said, “Go see what that was, would you, Jason?”
I sighed, but it was mostly for effect. Despite the open math book in front of me, I was doing more daydreaming than working. So it made sense for me to go, rather than for Mom to interrupt her weaving.
However, what I saw when I opened the front door convinced me she should be interrupted after all.
“Mom,” I yelled over the wind. “You’d better come here. Now!”
She reached the front hall in time to see me carry in the big black basket. After the last few years she’s gotten pretty good at taking whatever comes along right in stride, so when she saw the baby inside, she didn’t wig out. She just said, “Oh, the poor little fellow.”
“What makes you think it’s a boy?” I asked.
“Mothers know these things,” she replied, reaching down to chuck the baby under the chin.
While Mom fussed over the baby I took another look at the basket. It was woven from thick, dark twigs. After a moment, I spotted a piece of coarse paper tucked next to the baby. When I pulled it out and unfolded it, I found this note:
“Tu Whoom I Mae Consarn,
Pleeze tayk carr of mie babie. I cannut doo it,
and I want mie litul dum pling tu hav a gud home.
Thiss is moor importun than yew kan gess.
Tank yu veree muck”
It was signed with an X.
“Better take a look at this,” I said.
Mom read the note, wiped away a tear, and picked up the baby. “I’m so sorry, Little Dumpling. But I’m glad your mother brought you here. We’ll take care of you.”
Little Dumpling puked on her shoulder.
“How do you know the note came from its mother?” I asked, as I went to fetch the paper towels. “Couldn’t it have been the father?”
“Mothers know these things.”
I was getting a little sick of that line; Mom had been using it a lot since she and Dad divorced three years ago.
* * *
Probably I should have seen it coming when we kept the baby with us that night. But we live way out in the country, so it made sense when Mom said it was too late to take him anywhere else.
I did get suspicious when she managed to get too busy to contact the authorities the next day.
By the third day I was certain: she wasn’t planning on doing anything about the baby anytime soon.
To tell you the truth, I wasn’t sure I wanted her too; I was starting to like the little guy myself. On the other hand, I was worried that we might get into trouble.
“Don’t we have to go to the police?” I asked that night, as we were hauling my old crib up from the basement.
Mom shook her head. “I’ve been thinking about it, and the fact is the police will just take him to a foster home. But Little Dumpling’s mother chose us to take care of him. So that’s what we’re going to do. Besides, it will be good for you to have a baby brother, and the way things look now, this is the only one you’re likely to get.”
Then she tried to tell me that sharing my room with him was a treat. What kind of a “treat” it really was I discovered two weeks later, on the night of the full moon.
I had gone to bed early, mostly because I had joined the baseball team, and we were practicing so hard that my body felt like someone had put me inside a giant can and given me a good shaking.
Little Dumpling was already sacked out in my old crib.
(Yes, we were still calling him Little Dumpling—L.D. for short. I think that was because naming him would have made it seem like he really was ours, and Mom was still half-expecting the real mother to show up and want him back.)
I peeked in the crib. L.D.’s eyes were scrinched shut, and he was clutching the green plastic rattle I had bought him out of my allowance. (All right, so I’m a sucker; babies do that kind of thing to people.)
“G’night, Bonzo,” I whispered.
“Bonzo” was my private name for him. I got it from an old movie I saw on TV one night, something co-starring Ronald Reagan and a chimpanzee (Bonzo was the chimp).
Climbing into bed, I turned out the light on my nightstand. I listened to the soft rain pattering against my window, the April wind rustling through the new leaves on the oaks and maples that surround the old house we moved to after Dad left. I was asleep in seconds.
* * *
When I woke the moon was shining through the window, and Little Dumpling was making a weird noise. I got out of bed to see if he was all right.
When I looked in the crib, I nearly wet my pants.
The baby was covered with fur!
He opened his eyes and smiled at me.
I began backing toward the door. “Mom?” I called nervously.
My voice didn’t seem to be working. I tried again. This time it worked better than I expected: “MOM! GET IN HERE!”
In seconds she was pounding through my door, pulling on her robe as she ran. “What is it, Jason? Did something happen to the baby?”
Ignoring the fact that it would have been nice if she had asked if I was all right, I gasped. “T-t-t-take a look at him!”
She ran to the crib. “What is it?” she asked again.
“What do you mean, ‘What is it?’ He’s covered with fur!”
She looked at me like I had lost my mind. “Jason, are you all right?”
Now she asks.
“Of course I’m all right. Little Dumpling’s the one who just turned into a monster!”
“Jason, come here,” she said in that quiet-but-firm voice that signals she means business. Nervously, I joined her at the crib. L.D. was sleeping soundly, sucking his thumb and looking cute as the dickens. The only hair I could see was the brownish-black fuzz that covered his adorable little head.
I rubbed my eyes. “But… but…”
“You had a bad dream, sweetheart.”
I shook my head. “I wasn’t dreaming. It was real. He was covered with fur. And he had fangs.”
Even as I said it, I realized how stupid I sounded. For a moment, I wondered if I had been dreaming. But it had really happened. I was as sure of that as I was that there was no way I could convince my mother of what I had seen.
“Try to get back to sleep, Honey,” Mom said. “You’ll feel better in the morning.”
I considered arguing, but what would happen? She would be convinced I was nuts—might even insist I see a shrink. And then what? If I tried to convince a doctor that my baby brother was a monster, I might end up locked in a rubber room until they could “cure my delusions”, a they say in the movies.
I climbed back into bed. But I didn’t turn out my light.
I had no intention of going back to sleep.
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