While Angie brushed her teeth, she stared in the mirror at the front teeth that seemed too big for her thin face, and she thought that they made her look like a monster. She shuddered and took a long time to rinse her toothbrush. Slowly she turned off the tap.
How she wished it was morning, with a sunny kitchen full of light and with breakfast waiting for her, instead of bedtime. Soft lamplight flooded her bedroom, but Angie thought only of the shadows in the corners and under her bed.
She whispered good night to Albert, her hamster, who lived in the cage on the table near the window in Angie’s room. Albert wasn’t afraid of the dark. She often heard him running on the wheel in his cage after the lights went out. She was glad he was there. Next to Mommy and Daddy, Angie loved Albert best, and knowing he was there made her feel less afraid. Angie’s friends teased her when she said that Albert was the bravest hamster in the whole world, but she didn’t care, because she knew that it was true.
Angie padded down the hallway to Mommy’s bedroom to say good night. Her father was away on business for a few days. Mommy smiled at her over her book and patted the bed. Angie crawled in beside her and settled into the crook of Mommy’s arm.
“May I sleep in here with you tonight?”
Mommy smiled. “It’s lonesome without Daddy, isn’t it? But I think you’d best sleep in your own room, or Albert might get lonely. Go brush your teeth, and I’ll come tuck you in.”
“I already did. But …” Suddenly Angie was crying. “I don’t want to sleep in my bed anymore. Not ever again! I want to sleep in here with you and Daddy, like when I was little.”
“What’s the matter, pumpkin?” Mommy’s strong arms held Angie tight. “Why don’t you want to sleep in your bed?”
“Because they’ll pull off my toes.”
“Who? What are you talking about?”
“The monsters!” Angie took a deep breath through the tears that streamed down her face. “The little monsters that live under my bed!” There, she’d finally admitted it out loud.
“But, Angie, there are no monsters under your bed. You’re a big girl now, and you know that.”
“I hear them at night,” whispered Angie. “And I dream that they wait under the bed, and when I get in it, they pinch and pull my toes. That’s why I jump onto my bed from the middle of my room.”
“Well, I think we’d better go to your room and take a look together,” said Mommy with a smile.
Angie hopped down and ran ahead to tell Albert that Mommy was coming to scare away the monsters. But when she got to her room, the cage door was open, and the cage was empty. “Mommy,” cried Angie, “Albert’s gone!”
“What?” Mommy picked up the small cage. “Angie, Albert needs our help. We have to find him before he hurts himself.”
Angie surprised herself by not crying. “That’s right. I have to help Albert,” she said stoutly.
While Mommy went to get a flashlight, Angie stood in the middle of her room and looked around. Albert wasn’t anywhere that she could see. She didn’t want to look anywhere she couldn’t see from the middle of the room, for fear that the monsters would get her. It was dark in the corner by the bookcase and behind the rocking chair and under the bed. They were good hiding places for Albert or monsters.
But Albert wouldn’t go where monsters were, Angie reasoned, so she looked in places she thought a hamster would like. The shoe bag that hung on her closet door had twelve pockets for shoes, and Angie searched each one carefully. Albert wasn’t there.
She looked in every room of her dollhouse and inside the pencil box on her bookcase. The flowered bedspread was smooth; it showed no small lump the size of a hamster. Albert wasn’t anywhere. My room is too neat, thought Angie. If this were my friend Susie’s room, there would be lots more places to look.
When Mommy came back with the flashlight, they searched together without talking. Angie thought it very brave of Mommy to shine her light into all the corners and behind the bookcase. She held her breath, expecting to see the monsters she just knew were hiding there, but there was only dust and a pencil Angie had lost.
Finally, Mommy said, “See if he’s under the bed, will you, dear?” She handed the flashlight to Angie.
Angie peeked under the bed. “Albert isn’t there,” she reported quickly.
“Angela Mallory, you barely looked,” said her mommy in surprise. “Now take this flashlight and look under that bed and really make sure that he’s not there. I’ll go look in the linen closet.”
Mommy left, and Angie made herself walk over to the bed again. She got down on her knees and laid the flashlight on the carpet. Slowly she put her head and shoulders under the bed and turned on the flashlight. Her heart thumped very loudly. She knew what she would see: wrinkled monster faces with mean eyes and nasty smiles, and long bumpy fingers waiting to pull her toes.
In the moment it took her to think all these things, Angie had another thought: Albert! If I’m so scared, how must Albert feel? He’s so little! She just had to find Albert before the monsters hurt him.
Trembling, she moved the flashlight beam back and forth under the bed. She saw eyes. “Monsters,” she gulped.
She forced herself to shine the light straight at the bright yellow eyes that stared at her. Angie held her breath as the flashlight caught and held the tiny figure in its glare.
It was Albert, and he was all alone!
“Mommy, Mommy, come here!” she called.
Quickly Angie got up and moved the bed away from the wall. She picked Albert up very carefully and smoothed his fur, talking to him quietly as she carried him back to his cage. Albert chittered and squeaked, scolding her the whole time. Gently she put him into the cage on a pile of wood shavings and shut the little door tight. This time he wouldn’t get out!
“Did you find him?” Mommy hurried back into Angie’s room.
“Albert was under my bed. And you know what? There weren’t any monsters there. I guess there never were, or Albert wouldn’t have hidden there.”
Angie sighed happily as Mommy gave her a hug and they watched Albert play on his wheel. “Good night, Albert,” Angie said softly. “Thank you for showing me that I really don’t have monsters under my bed.”