“There isn’t much I wouldn’t do for you.”

“I know.”

“But that’s not true for you, is it?”

“No. Yes, you’re right, it isn’t true.”

“…I still love you.”

“Thank you.”

Monsters thank for being loved, but fear to love at all. Lenny, from that book she kicked, then picked up, fanned the yellowed pages and smelled, and finally read. Of Mice and Men. Lenny was a monster. How can I say that? Big, dumb, kind-hearted Lenny who loved soft things? It was her opinion. A monster’s opinion. Monsters can kill by accident. Or on purpose. Just like people. Monsters are people turned inside out. Fangs filed to a point and sharpened. It’s how they are. They can’t help it. Too big to wrap your arms around. She smiled at people and they winced and flinched, seeing her big teeth, thinking she was growling. So she stopped smiling, and they thought her cross and unapproachable. And her fellow monsters were far off, in their own wildernesses with their own fellow monsters with their own people they tried to love. Monsters are supposed to be okay with the dark and being alone. And she was.

But sometimes, monsters must come out. And sometimes they are ignored, which is fine, but they don’t understand. Maybe they’ve seen monsters before, and are not scared. Or worse, the big monster heart contemplates, maybe they hate monsters. How do monsters fight to be seen without terrifying anyone, if standing there, tall and monstery and smelling like the game they’ve eaten, isn’t enough?

They stand still. And the people move around them like water around a boulder. Children tilt their heads back to catch the monster’s eye, which tries to wink at them. Sometimes an old woman will pat the left big paw and smile. And the monster smiles back.

Sparks of kindness in the dark keep monsters going for years.

But one year, the monster when out to be seen. To be seen and to see, if there were any monsters like her. She made circles, and wandered, and finally stood still, waiting. There was a lamp this year, which both elated and terrified her. No hiding in the darkness above their heads, no dulling of the whiteness of her fangs when she tried to smile.

The woman was standing just outside the circle of light the lamp cast over the monster and the courtyard like a net. Trapping the beast there. The monster stood, shifting its weight from one giant paw to the other, acting as if it were afraid of the dark that stared in at her. Pity crept into her heart.

The monster sniffed the air and turned her head toward the bare feet and shins illuminated by the light.

The monster played with one of her claws, nervously and unsure. She felt hunted. She hated the light. But she was sure this was a gentle creature, or she would have felt the stab of the pitch fork already. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I don’t want to hurt anyone. She whispered in her head, hoping somehow the feet would hear her.

“I’m not going to hurt you.” the darkness said.

The monster smiled. And quickly covered her mouth full of daggers.

“I’m – I’m not going to hurt you either” she said quickly.

And the woman smiled back.