“Hurry Simon, your parents found the book,” Alfonzo hissed. Simon paused, leaving Spiderman in his hand hanging in midair above a battered Wolverine.
“Are you sure, Alfonzo?”
Alfonzo says nothing.
Simon dropped Spiderman to the floor and reached to his neck where he had worn Alfonzo ever since Simon’s sixth-grade class trip to the Natural History Museum. Simon had become entranced by a cheap necklace bearing a spotted cow ornament. The cow figure reminded Simon of the sweetly dumb cows he had grown up around and the Sumerian god statue featured in the Museum’s Mythology of the Fertile Crescent exhibit. Half bull and half man. A god that nobody would mess with. Later that day, on the bus trip home, Simon named his new friend Alfonzo, pleased by the last syllable’s sound; zo. Simon’s classmates had little respect for the phonetics, no respect for Sumerian deity’s badass attitude, and even less than none for what they saw as Simon clinging to baby stuff. Alfonzo helped Simon convince them. Alfonzo had shown Simon how to fight back. After Simon had broken the shin of the mocking seventh-grade bully with one kick, nobody dared to even squeak an unkind word in Simon’s direction.
“Simon, did you hear me? Put your toys away; they found the book you hid under the couch.”
“Yes, I heard you, Alfonzo. What should I do?” Simon could hear the creaking of the stairs leading up from the basement. He pushed Spiderman and Wolverine under the bed and stood up in his bedroom, grasping Alfonzo tight. “Simon?” came his mother’s timid voice from the other side of the bedroom door. “Yes, mother?” Simon’s mother slowly opened the door. She gazed at Simon with a moon-eyed expression. Over her shoulder stood Simon’s father, his mouth drawn into a lipless frown. His father moved closer to Simon and spoke. “We’d like to talk to you downstairs, Simon.”
Simon and his parents sat in the basement on an ugly multi-colored rug. Simon’s parents bought the hideous thing to cover the basement floor’s bare concrete after a flash storm had caused a flood of Biblical proportions at a construction site at the hill above their home. The soft carpet Simon loved to feel under his bare feet had been drowned like the Egyptians in the Red Sea. He missed going barefoot ever since they had moved away from the cow farm into this city house. God’s plan, his father said. Simon’s parents had been awarded a settlement from a civil suit against the construction, and his father had used the money to buy a hot tub instead of replacing the carpet. God provides everything we need, his father said.
“We found this under the couch, and it’s disgusting,” Simon’s father declared, shaking his head. “How do you explain this?” Simon turned his gaze to his father’s meaty fist holding a paperback copy of “Aliens vs. Predator,” a Dell Sci-Fi Original high above Simon’s head.
“Where did you get this, Simon? Tell us it’s not yours,” his mother pleaded.
“Deny it, Simon. You don’t know what that is.” Alfonzo seemed to move in Simon’s hand.
“I don’t know what that is. Whatever it is, it’s not mine,” Simon intoned.
“That’s right. You tell the bastard.” Simon squeezed Alfonzo, feeling the heat in his fist.
“You don’t know what it is?” Simon’s father moved closer to Simon, opening the book to a random page. “Maybe if I read some of it, that will refresh your memory.”
Simon looked at his mother. Her eyes looked past him at a pile of his father’s un-ironed shirts laying on the ping-pong table on the opposite side of the basement.
Simon’s father cleared his throat. “Lieutenant Philips, the doc says the creature that attacked Marco has a prehensile penis. That’s probably the same monster that laid those eggs we brought inside the command center…”
Simon’s father stopped reading. “This is not the type of thing you should be reading. It’s satanic. You’re inviting the devil inside you by reading this garbage.”
“But you told me I could check out any book at the library. You said I was an advanced reader,” Simon protested.
“Ah-hah!” Simon’s father exclaimed, throwing the book down. “So that is your book.”
“No, Simon, no, why did you say that? Stupid. Stupid.” Alfonzo screamed inside Simon’s head.
“You lied to me. You lied to us.” Simon’s father stood, his hand on Simon’s shirt collar quicker than Simon could recall the most sacred rule of all God’s rules: No lying.
“Kick him, Simon, smash his balls,” Alfonzo roared.
Simon dangled futilely from his father’s fists, legs flailing, as his father tossed Simon onto the ping-pong table. Simon landed with a crack. His parents had set aside some settlement money to buy the table as a gift for Simon. After all, they aren’t monsters.