Sally's Pet Monster

Content warnings: Graphic sexual/physical/emotional abuse 


Sally has a pet monster.

On sunny days, Monster and Sally go out for ice cream and an afternoon in the park. 5802 Willow St., the quaint little playground by the big ant-ridden tree and a beehive that disappears every few months, is where Sally and Monster have the most fun. Sally runs around with sticky hands and rosy cheeks, never paying the other kids any attention. She came to play with Monster. She’s happy to play with Monster. He pushes her high high high on the swing until Sally feels like she’s on the top of the world, her laughter making music with the metal chains and the hollow green pole holding the contraption together. Mom snaps all sorts of pictures of the two: Monster and Sally on the swings, Monster pushing Sally down the slide, Monster and Sally on the seesaw, Monster helping Sally on the monkey bars. Sally’s favorite is the picture titled in the scrapbook, “Monster hugging Sally tight.”

*

At school, Sally draws Monster and her at the park under a messy rainbow made of Crayola and glitter. A cornsilk yellow sun beams in the corner of the paper, its rays alternating in length. Monster has a jazzberry jam smile.

*

Sally decides to show Monster her drawing. Monster’s sitting in his favorite chair, eyes glued to the Monday Night football game with a half empty Corona in his right hand. His team is down by seven. Monster sits up in his chair, the furniture creaking at the sudden shift of weight, and roars at the television. Suddenly shy, Sally tugs at Monster’s long, brown fur to get his attention. Monster whirls around with a snarl, the white of his fangs contrasting sharply with the dark pink of his gums. Sally steps back a bit, intimidated. She holds out the drawing, hoping for Monster to marvel at the picture in its entirety—the electric lime green triangles of grass, the box-shaped torsos filled with blue Expo, the black sticks for arms and legs, the innocent smiles too big for their heads, the blob of marker for their jointed hands—all of it. Sally especially thinks he’ll enjoy the fangs she added onto his jazzberry jam smile. Eyes leaving the screen for no longer than a second, Monster dismissively grunts at the picture. “It’s nice,” he says, waving the drawing away, “Go show it to your mom.” Sally stands in the middle of the living room, clutching the drawing in her hand. She listens to the clatter of pots in the kitchen and the soft roar of the stadium inside the tiny black box. The spices Mom cooks with waft around the house. Her eyes start to water.

*

Monster comes home with candy from the liquor store. Sally is happy.

*

Today is Sally’s birthday. Mom says that Monster has work, so he can't spend the day with her. That makes Sally sad, but Monster sings her Happy Birthday the morning before he leaves. He allows her to run her hands through the hairy skin on his belly and put the long fur in messy braids and decorate them with clip-on bows and pink hair ties. While he sings, Sally swings from his massive arms, pretending she’s a spider monkey from the childish drawings of tropical forests that embellish the kitchen fridge. When Monster finishes his song, he affectionately licks Sally across the cheek with all seven inches of his purple tongue, leaving behind a gooey trace of saliva. Sally giggles at his cool, wet touch and buries her head into his warm body. She wraps her arms around his waist, stubbornly gripping at the fur beneath her hands. She doesn’t want to let go.

*

Mom surprises Sally with ice cream cake, her favorite. Underneath the fancy plastic covering, the dessert is decorated with cream cheese frosting layered with a swirl of whipped cream, a sprinkle of Oreo bits, and five Oreos evenly spaced along the edge of the cake. Sally’s mouth waters at the sight. Mom asks if she wants to eat the cake now or wait until Monster comes back. After much deliberation, Sally happily decides to wait. Mom receives a phone call from Monster, saying that he’ll be home soon. That evening, Mom and Sally sit and wait at the small wooden dining table in the kitchen. It’s an old thing, covered in scratches, black Sharpie, and the occasional sticky splotches of old syrup that no one bothered to scratch off. As she waits, Sally plays with a dark sticky splotch under her arm, picking dirt out of it and gauging its stickiness by how hard it is to release her index finger after she pounds it against the table. She occupies herself like this for a while, but when she gets bored of that game, she starts to run her fingers along the cake’s plastic covering, over the smooth bumps and dips. Up and down. Up and down.

The tiny black box plays shiny advertisements for shiny toys Sally will never hold. It’s been an hour since Monster called.

*

Mom is mad. I knew this would happen, she says. He always does this, she says. She dials Monster, her foot tapping angrily on the kitchen tile. He doesn’t pick up.

*

The anger on Mom’s face makes Sally nervous. Sally curls up on Monster’s chair and traces her fingers along the thin stitches of the arm rest. She rubs her face on the velvety fabric of the chair’s bottom like a lion cub does its mother. She can’t feel his warmth.

*

It’s been about two hours since Monster called. The clock reads 9:17. Sally is asleep on Monster’s vintage LazyBoy recliner, her drool creating a dark patch of fabric underneath her cheek. Mom gently picks her up, resting her chin over her shoulder, and carries her to her room. She places her under pink Disney princess blankets and softly pushes her overgrown bangs aside, making space for a light kiss on the forehead.

Before she leaves, Mom watches Sally sleep for a bit, admiring her surprising serenity, so different from the bouncing Sally of the day. She walks back to the kitchen table, sits down, crosses her legs, and waits. With the screen of the tiny black box dark, the air hangs silent. Mom listens to the soft ringing in her ears as she straightens out the faded pajama pants she’s had since the years before Sally. They fit tighter now.

A neighbor's dog can be heard barking in the distance. The ice cream cake lies in the center of the table, untouched. It sits so still it seems to beg to be cut into.

*

Sally awakens to the sound of roaring. Primitive and menacing, like a beast ready to charge. Sally lies in bed for a moment, frozen with fear. It’s Monster. Monster finally came home. But, Sally doesn’t like this Monster. This Monster comes out at night with a red face and a paper bag hiding glass bottles filled with toxic juice. It doesn’t matter whether the moon is full or waning gibbous or a crescent surrounded by beautiful stars; Monster howls nonetheless.

Sally gingerly removes her covers, as if the slightest movement would alert the entire neighborhood of her presence. Stepping out of bed, her bare feet meet cold polished wood. She doesn’t feel it. Instead, she feels nausea rising like a dead fish under water and a golf ball in her throat. She feels a pounding in her chest, like a basketball against her ribs. The roaring grows louder, more aggressive. Sally grabs her doorknob. The knob is big and uncomfortable in her tiny hand; she has to put a little strength behind the turn. She opens the door and hides in the hallway. Sally has a clear view of the agonistic behaviour playing out in their small kitchen. Monster is on all fours. He bares his fangs. Mom stands above him. Her face is a mixture of anger and disgust.

Tonight, Mom regrets getting Sally a pet monster.

“Don’t you say that! Don’t...” Monster’s voice wavers. The bright pink skin on his face starts to glow. “Don’t call me that!” Mom’s eyes widen for a moment before they return to their angry slant. Sally flinches at the sudden loudness of his voice. There’s another thing in Monster’s voice. Sally imagines it to be sadness. She’s wrong.

“Look at you. You’re pathetic.” The venom in Mom’s voice shoots arrows through Sally’s gut. The toxins start to work through Monster’s brain.

“No—”

“You went out and got drunk? On your daughter’s birthday?” Monster’s face scrunches up like an oldnewspaper, except there’s no black and white, only red all over.

“No—”

“What kind of father are you!” Monster clenches his fists.

“SHUTUP!” Monster roars. “SHUTUP GODDAMIT SHUTUP!” Mom stands her ground in front of the beast. She calmly lifts her ring finger to the patch of skin under her eye, wiping his slime off her face. “SHUTUP!” Monster rages. His fangs, sharp and menacing, don’t faze his opponent. Mom says nothing. “You!” Monster shakes his clawed finger in her face. He stands tall and towers over her, asserting his dominance. “You make me feel like shit!” Mom could smell the alcohol in his breath. “I come back from slaving all day, to provide for you people, to bitching!” His words start to slur. Neither of them notice Sally hiding in the hallway, eyes wide and scared, taking in every look, every shout, and every move. Monster raises his voice in a poor, drunken imitation of a woman,“Bitching about time, bitching about birthdays,” then he roars, “I don’t get enough appreciation around here!” Monster slams his hand against the table. The cake jumps like it saw a ghost. “I work my ass off!”

Mom starts off quietly. “That’s what you’re supposed to do. As a father—”

“She’s not even my kid!”

Mom sucks in air and brings her lips to a shaky, thin line. “Get your hand out of my face!” In a quick, angry gesture, she pushes his hand away with the back of her arm. Monster doesn’t like this. He takes her hand-swatting as an indication of battle. Before Mom can open her mouth, Monster backhands her across the face, hard. The sound cracks through the air. Mom doesn’t exclaim when she’s hit, she’s used to it. She keeps herself from falling by catching herself on the table and spits a mixture of blood and saliva on its surface. She doesn’t flinch as Monster pulls his arm back a second time. Over the ringing in her left ear, she hears Sally walk back to her room.

Sally wonders if blood makes sticky spots too.

*

At school, Sally draws another smiling picture of Monster. Except this time, his hands are covered in red marker. Mom is lying on the floor, in a triangle dress outlined in flamingo pink Crayola. Her mouth is an upside-down U.

This drawing does not go up on the fridge.

*

Monster is mad. He didn’t go to work today, so he stomps around the house, fee-fi-fo-fuming throughout the place like someone climbed up his beanstalk and took his gold. When Monster finally settles on his chair, watching reruns of game shows with a cold beer in his hand, Mom tells Sally to play with her ball a little quieter. Sally assumes she doesn’t want to invoke the wrath of the beast again. Sally feels the quiet fear in Mom’s voice, sees it in her eyes, her walk, her shrunken presence—she despises it. Sally loves Monster. He takes her to the park, he buys her candy, and sings her Happy Birthday. Sometimes he’s mean and violent and scary and violent, but Sally loves Monster. So Mom should too.

The bruise on Mom’s left cheek still remains purple and ugly. Sally feels the urge to lick her thumb and rub it against her face, to see if it will wash off like paint in the rain.

Sally thoughtlessly launches her cheap Dora-print bouncy ball off her foot. She watches in petrified horror as it flies into the kitchen and knocks down the decorative vase of aloe vera sitting on the counter. It crashes onto kitchen tile with a sound that rings through the house, so loud that it seems to echo in her ears. A heavy dread rises from within her. She freezes. It was an accident. Mom gasps. It was an accident. She hears the deep creek of the recliner. It was an accident. Monster stands and sniffs the air, his ears twitching. I swear. He stomps into the kitchen. I was only playing. He crawls on all fours and sniffs at the dead plant, the spilled soil, and the shards of clay splattered across the floor. I didn't mean it. Monster’s face twists into a deep frown. His red eyes rest upon the girl. A clawed finger beckons her over. Please. Sally stands in front of the beast, eyes down. Mom exclaims. It was an ac—

Now Mom and Sally are matching.

*

The teachers’ whispers are like flies buzzing in her ear. “This is the third time,” they say. Sally's headache worsens. She doesn’t feel like drawing.

*

Monster attacks again today. You’re too loud Sally. Be quiet. Be quieter. You’re too loud!

Sally doesn’t want to cry.

*

Mom is different. She used to walk into the lions’ den with courage and authority, but now she quivers like a cornered fawn, certain she’ll be eaten. Brown wisps of hair hang like dead roots from her head, which hold sunken eyes and new wrinkles around her mouth. She rarely smiles, rarely speaks. Sally often shouts at her, picks fights, refuses to eat, escapes baths, kicks and screams when it’s time for bed; she does everything she can to live up to her rotten reputation. She watches Mom’s face for a reaction—anything. Mom always hands her the same shaky smile each time; no ear-twisting, no scolding, no nothing. Sally hates it. She’s mad at how weak—no—cowardly she’s become. Sally sees it in the late night shouting matches. They've become one-sided beat-downs. She sees it in the eerie, empty look in her eyes. She sees it in the tired tears. She sees it in the old bruises, new bruises, blood, and week-old dishes left in the sink. She sees it in the smelly pile of dirty laundry and the empty fridge. Mom has given up.

*

Sally loves Monster. Sally wants to love Monster. Sally is sure Monster loves her too.

Sally sleeps in the dark. Mom says the lights must go off, the electricity bill is too damn high! It’s okay though, Sally’s not afraid of the horned, blue-haired monster that comes out of her classmates’ closets at night. She has her own monster.

Sally’s monster slides through the cracks between her door and appears like a shadow at the side of her bed. In the dark, his bright pink skin and brown fur change colors. He becomes one with the night, a giant chameleon. He takes the form of a snake and slips underneath Sally’s blankets. Sally is awake, but she says nothing. His invisible face is inches from hers; she can smell the alcohol. Sally hears the familiar jingle of a belt buckle, the fumbling of fingers, the quick rustle of clothing. Monster comes closer. Sally uses all the strength in her arms to push him off her. Bad Monster. Go away. Monster wins. He pins her down, his sharp claws creating red crescent moons in her arms. Sally squirms at his touch, his giant hands cold and rough on her skin. This is wrong. But Sally loves Monster. Monster loves Sally. No. No? Sally’s blood stains the sheets, drops spreading into sharp puddles like spores of mold on old bread. The pain tells her, this isn’t love.

Sally gives thanks to the dark. He can’t see her tears.

*

The spider monkey. Sally’s favorite animal. In the tropical rain forests of Central America, the spider monkey swings from tree to tree, soaring through the wind. Their tails grip onto the trees for life, just as the baby monkey wraps its tail around its mother. Spider monkeys do everything with their friends, from playing to sleeping to eating—a true family.

A faded, wrinkled picture of two spider monkeys hugging sticks to Sally’s wall with a piece of Scotch tape.

*

Mom manages to wrestle Sally into the bathtub. She says nothing to Sally, not even a remark about the kick in the face she received when she grabbed her. She turns on the water and adjusts its temperature. She doesn’t ask if it’s too hot or too cold. Mom grabs the soap and sponge, creates a spring-scented lather, and vigorously scrubs at Sally’s dirty skin. She starts from the neck and moves down to the back in large circles. Mom moves the sponge to Sally’s chest and starts to scrub downwards, but Sally grabs the sponge and flings it across the bathroom. The wet sponge bounces off the wall before landing on the tiles. A trail of tiny white bubbles marks its path. Sally doesn’t watch for her shaky smile; she turns her head in what looks like defiance and stares at the wall beside her. The silent shell slowly picks up the sponge and returns by Sally’s side. She tries to pick up where she left off, but the second Sally feels the sponge reach her belly button, she twists it out of Mom’s hand and launches it once more. Mom picks it up, and tries again. Then she tries again. Sally feels Mom’s movements freeze. Mom becomes a statue, the sponge remains pressed to Sally’s belly. Sally knows. She’s seen it. The marks. The marks of a monster. The statue speaks. “I’m sorry.” Her voice is haggard, like it pains her to speak, like it pains her to see. Sally turns her head to look her in the eyes, her face no longer a picture of childhood and innocence. Mom can’t meet her gaze. “I—” Her tears finish her sentence for her. Sally doesn’t notice her own tears until they blur her vision.

Mom gently scrubs at the bruise around her wrist. She scrubs and scrubs as if it would wash away. Like paint in the rain.

*

The ostrich. A bird who can’t fly, but instead, runs. Sally hates it. It reminds her of Mom.

*

“Who gave you those bruises?” Sally was called to the principal’s office for hitting her classmate, but it isn’t her fault. He’s the one who kept touching and poking her, so why is he the one crying?

“It couldn’t have been one of my students.” Mrs. Simmons, her teacher, speaks as if Sally was some girl they found on the street.

“Mrs. Simmons,” the principal says sharply, “let the girl answer.” The two women stare at Sally from the other side of the table, awaiting a response. Sally continues to look at the floor, silent. “Was it Max?”

“No.” Sally’s answer almost comes out in a whisper.

“Was it a student?”

“No.”

Mrs. Simmons and the principal give each other a look. The principal leans forward, her face a mixture of concern and pity. “Is it someone at home? Is anyone hurting you at home?” Sally grips the seat of her chair and brings her lips to a tight line. “Is it your father?”

“No!” Sally looks up, her eyes angry. “No!”

“There’s no need to shout, darling. It’s okay, you can tell us—”

“It was Monster! Monster did it!” Sally’s words burst out with no restraint. She doesn’t care. She needs to make them understand.

“Monster?”

“Monster did it!” Sally’s yelling grows louder. “Monster!” She stands up. “Monster!” She starts to thrash the table. Pens, pencils, and papers go flying. The women are horrified. “Monster did it!”

*

Roaring. The sudden noise makes Sally jump. Her heart twists with dread—a sinking, aching feeling in the pit of her chest. Sally leaves her room and follows the sound. She finds herself peering through the crack of the front door. In the middle of their dead front yard, stands a towering beast and a woman with waving arms and furious, crazed eyes. Monster is livid. His claws clamp around Mom’s arms, as if restraining her movement would restrain her words. Despite the threatening snarl on his face, she still screams. “How could you!”

“I didn’t do nothin’!” Monster’s face glows an angry pink, panting like a rabid dog, eyes full of malice—a truly ugly sight.

“My daughter!” Mom cries. “How could you!” She clutches the fur on his chest and presses her head against his body. If you ignore her moans of outrage, for a moment, it looks like she loves him. “How could you!” She pounds her fist against his chest.

“Crazy bitch!” Monster grabs Mom by her thin strings of hair and throws her on the ground. She hits the ground with a sinister thud and rolls over in pain. Sally remains frozen behind the door. Then, the beast becomes unquestionably feral. Sally watches in suspended terror as he sends a sharp kick into Mom’s stomach. She watches her body jump and crumple over itself in agony.

Despite the pain, she still mutters, “My daughter,” like she’s handing a wish to the stars. Monster delivers another kick to her side, knocking the wind out of her. Mom tries to get to her knees, so she can crawl to safety, but collapses. She gasps for air. Monster stands over her crumpled body. He enjoys it. He enjoys the power. Knocking the wind out of Mom isn’t enough, Sally knows. He wants to teach her a lesson. He wants to make sure she never speaks against him again.

He kicks her in the face. He kicks her until her nose bleeds oceans and her teeth turn red. He kicks her until her eyes are swollen shut and her skin turns different shades of purple. He kicks her until she hangs on the edge of consciousness, seeing nothing but darkness and flashes of light. He kicks her again, and again, and again, until the rhythmic sound of each strike to the face becomes music. Sally is certain this time: he’s going to kill her. He’s really going to kill her.

Sally’s body moves on its own. She barges out the door and runs into the yard. “Stop!” she cries. “Leave her alone!” She wraps her arms around him from behind. “Please! Leave her alone! Leave her alone!” She squeezes her eyes shut and repeats those three words over and over again; a prayer.

“Sally...my daughter.” Mom pulls all the muscles in her face to give Sally a small smile.

“Mom!”

“I’m...sorry.” Mom doesn’t hear Sally’s cries. She doesn’t hear or see anything, but even in unconsciousness, her smile remains. It isn’t the fragile, pitiful smile that she would wear like a mask made of glass. This one is different. Happy and strong and oddly beautiful—no sadness, no regret. Looking at her limp body, Sally realizes, Mom is no ostrich.

Monster pulls Sally off him and pushes her to the ground. Sally lands on her back and props herself up on her elbows, ignoring the dull ache traveling through her body. Monster looks down at her from black clouds, his eyes wide and evil. Staring into those eyes, Sally feels a strange chill of fear run through her blood. In a mad scramble, she tries to crawl backwards on her elbows. Her trembling doesn’t allow her to get very far.

“Leave her alone?” Monster laughs mockingly, a hint of mania in his voice. “Why would I? This is my house. I own everything inside. I own you,” he smiles, “and I own this right here.” He steps on Mom’s head and squishes her face into the dirt like he’s posing for a picture with hunted game. Blood paints the fur on his foot.

“Don’t touch her!” Sally glares at Monster, hoping he doesn’t see the fear in her eyes.

The beast prowls towards her with a low, guttural growl, his yellow fangs bared. Sally freezes in place, helplessly watching him advance in her direction. “Don’t forget.” He pulls his arm back. “I own you too.” Sally closes her eyes and blocks her face, bracing for the pain.

Instead, she hears police sirens. Sally opens her eyes and sees two police cars and an ambulance stop in the street in front of them. Two men and a woman dressed in all black step out. A booming voice erupts from the policeman with a hat. “Step away from the child!”

Within the next two minutes, the beast himself is face-down on the grass, pinned down by the hatted officer. He roars and snarls and bites at the air as his arms are forced behind his back in handcuffs. Sally hears the officer say something about “dyslexic violence.” She doesn’t understand what it means.

The officer forces Monster on his feet and walks towards Sally.

“Officer James, I don’t think we heard about a girl in the report,” says the policeman with glasses.

“I know.” He stops in front of Sally and presents the creature to her. “Young lady, do you know this man?” 

Monster begins to roar. “Sally! Tell him! Tell him I’m your father! Tell him!” His voice is laced with desperation and panic. He begs her with crazed eyes.

Sally thinks about the officer’s question. What is a father? She thinks about melted ice cream and smiling drawings and sticky spots and bouncy balls and red sheets and purple bruises. She thinks of Mom’s glass mask of misery, her broken smile, and the first real one. She watches her swollen mother carried into an ambulance.

She comes to a conclusion.

“You’re not my father,” she whispers. Sally takes a deep breath and gathers all her courage, all her pain, and all her suffering. “You’re not my father! You’re a monster!”








Chinonye Omeirondi is a high school junior from Southern California who often prefers the flexible world of fiction rather than harsh reality. She has a love-hate relationship with writing, but she keeps practicing her craft for the sake of a childhood dream. In her free time, she listens to music and stresses about how humans are destined for destruction. Chinonye has prose published in The Heritage Review, The Incandescent Review, and is a co-editor-in-chief of the newly created Elysian Review. She also hates onions. 

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