“I’m hungry,” complained my young niece Stevi.
“Yeah, I know,” I chuckled. “You’ve told me twice already. I’ve almost got your sandwich ready.”
She sat at the table in my kitchen along with my elderly grandmother.
“What are you coloring, dear?” asked my grandma.
Stevi looked up from her Disney Princess coloring book and gazed brightly at the old woman.
“It’s Belle, from Beauty and the Beast,” she replied as though everyone should know that.
“You’re doing a great job coloring,” said my grandma. “You haven’t colored outside the lines once.”
“Of course not, grandma. I’m not a baby, you know.” she explained.
Stevi was six going on thirty. It wasn’t just that she was bright. Her bubbly personality and supreme confidence that the world was her oyster, made for a child some might call precocious, but family knew better. Stevi was special in a way that made people realize she was going to do something amazing with her life.
“Ok, here you are. One cheese sandwich with corn chips,” I said as I set the plate in front of her.
Stevi reluctantly set her coloring book to the side. Once she started working on her “art” she didn’t like to stop, but she was famished (or so she kept saying) so she pushed the book away and grabbed the sandwich.
“What kind of cheese is this?” she asked. “It’s got orange on the outside.”
“It’s Muenster cheese,” I answered.
“Monster cheese? There’s no such thing.” she said giving me a goofy look. Clearly she thought I was teasing her.
“No, not ‘monster’. Muenster. It’s a type of cheese. It’s really good.”
“No, it’s monster cheese” she exclaimed excitedly.
“Ok, you got me. It really is monster cheese. If you eat too much, you turn into a monster.” I relented, giving in to her imagination.
“Will I turn into a monster if I eat this sandwich?” she asked smiling at me.
“No, I didn’t give you enough to change you,” I explained casually, enjoying the creative turn our conversation was taking. This happened often with Stevi.
“But what about grandma?” she asked, glancing over at my grandmother who was just finishing her cheese sandwich.
“What?” my grandmother asked a bit loudly. I figured she didn’t have her hearing aids turned up enough. She was always adjusting the volume and half the time couldn’t hear what anyone said.
“Stevi was wondering if you were going to turn into a monster because you ate a lot of “monster” cheese.” I said, raising my voice.
“How much cheese did she eat?” asked Stevi, obviously having fun with this new game.
“She ate more than you, I know that,” I replied, giving her a faux worried look. “I hope I didn’t give her too much.”
“Oh, Ok,” my grandma replied to me. She smiled.
“Hey, can I have those watercolor paints for my next picture?” Stevi asked me, her mouth full of bread and cheese.
“Yeah,” I said. “They’re downstairs in the art room in the basement. Let me go get them.”
I left the two sitting at the table and bounced down the steps to the area I’d converted into an arts and crafts room. I spent a lot of time babysitting both my niece and grandmother and they both enjoyed being creative so I kept a wide selection of paints, clay, glue, paper and other art supplies for them. The water colors and brushes were both on a shelf and I gathered them up along with a large pad of paper in case my grandmother felt the inclination to join Stevi in her endeavors.
I reached the top of the stairs and turned back into the kitchen.
“Grandma, I don’t know if you’re up to it but I thought you might like to…”
I stopped in my tracks. The paints, brushes and pad fell to the floor. Sitting at the table was a scaly, red skinned beast with large tusks protruding from the sides of it’s mouth; wild, greasy hair sprouted from it’s horned head. It was sitting in the chair that had been occupied by my sweet grandmother only moments ago. Stevi was gone. Or at least, I thought she was at first, but as my mind slowly took in the sight before me, I realized that the creature was stuffing the last of something large into it’s huge, gaping mouth which was lined with wicked and very sharp-looking teeth. With sickening horror, I spotted a yellow and purple sneaker disappearing into the bloody maw. It was a small sneaker, about the size a child would wear. My body went cold.
“Sorry dear, but that sandwich just didn’t fill me up” the creature rasped out as it swallowed the last of my niece. “The cheese was delicious but I needed more protein. Now be a nice boy and get your grandma a glass of milk to wash this down, will you?”