Bruno is sad. Recess isn’t very much fun. He can’t play on the teeter-totter because he is so small he stays up until the kid on the other end jumps off. Then he comes down hard on his butt, plop! It’s hard being the littlest monster. The other children play kickball. Bruno isn’t allowed because his claws keep popping the balls. It’s hard being the only monster.
The only good reason for being a monster is so you can scare people. Rawr!! But no one is scared when you are so little. Bruno sits alone on a bench and watches the other children play. He’s not sad because he’s not scary. He’s sad because he’s not not scary. He’s sad because he has fangs, and a thick coat of dirty white fur, and glowing yellow eyeballs that blink sideways.
Sally is pretty. She has red curls on her head that make Bruno think of fire. They bounce about when she plays. When he hears her laugh, it tickles him inside. He wants to laugh too and he wants to make her laugh some more.
The teacher caught someone handing Sally a note today. “Bruno likes you. Do you like him too?” That’s what the note said. Bruno had to read the note to the class. It didn’t matter that he didn’t write it, or that he didn’t pass it. His name was on it.
Poor Sally was embarrassed. Even more embarrassed than Bruno. The other kids teased her while they ran out for recess, “Sally loves the monster,” they laughed. So now Bruno sits and watches them play. Sally isn’t playing with them. He thinks about how upset she was, and he begins to cry.
“You shouldn’t let them make you cry,” a voice nearby him says.
He looks up to see Sally smiling underneath her pretty curls. He can’t tell her it’s not the other kids that made him cry. She sits next to him on the bench and puts her hand on his shoulder.
“You’re soft,” she says, stroking his fur gently.
“Aren’t you afraid of me?” he asks.
“Why would I be afraid of you?”
“People are supposed to be afraid of monsters. What if the other kids see you with me?”
“They’re mean,” she says. “I don’t care what mean people think.”
“But you were upset before, when they teased you.”
“I know. I’m sorry.” She scratches the hair behind his ears. “That was before I thought about how you felt.”
Bruno looks up into Sally’s green eyes. The tickling inside that happens when she laughs starts tickling all by itself and he turns away again quickly, afraid that she will see.
“What’s the matter?” Sally asks, tugging at his ear.
“Nothing. It’s just that…”
Just then one of the mean boys comes to the bench followed by a herd of tag-alongs. “Hey, Sally really loves the monster everyone,” he taunts. “Are you going to kiss him, Sally? Go on and kiss him. Bruno and Sally sitting in a tree…”
Bruno isn’t sad anymore. He is angry. He jumps from the bench. He bares his fangs. He unsheathes his claws.
“RAWRR!!” he roars.
The other children run away screaming. Bruno grins a proud snaggle-toothed grin and sits down next to Sally again. Her red curls are bouncing all about as she laughs. Like flames dancing in a hearth. It tickles Bruno inside and he laughs with her.
© 2012 Anne Schilde