Author's note: This story is a follow-up to Time and Again. This story will make more sense if you read that story first.
Johnny Tracy lay stiffly in his bed, listening. His daddy said there was nothing to be afraid of, that there was no such thing as the boogeyman, but Johnny knew different. Johnny had seen it. Johnny had seen the boogeyman, and it was terrifying.
It had happened just the other night. He'd been in bed, half asleep, when he had heard something. It had sounded like a bird's wings whooshing by, only softer, and then something had whispered his name. He opened his eyes, and in front of him was a big dark figure.
At first, he thought it was his daddy. It kind of looked like his daddy, but it wasn't him. The eyes were shaped a little different, maybe. And there were shadows on its face that were somehow wrong. He'd known right then that it was a boogeyman. It was a boogeyman that was trying to look like his daddy to fool him, and that made it all the more scary.
When the boogeyman had moved its hand toward him, Johnny had done the only thing he could. He screamed. He screamed in pure mortal terror, and the boogeyman had jumped back into the shadows, surprised.
Johnny kept on screaming until his daddy, and his big brother, Scotty, came running in, his grandma a few steps behind. His daddy turned on the light, but when the shadow where the boogeyman had been disappeared, so did the boogeyman. Johnny cried and cried, wishing for his mommy, but knowing he couldn't call out for her, because that would make his daddy sad, and he didn't want to make his daddy sad.
His mommy had gone away to heaven a long time ago, and Johnny didn't know why, or how to make her come back. As he sobbed in his daddy's arms, he couldn't help wanting her, and his tears wouldn't stop, because he wanted her, and his daddy was holding him so tight, and it was somehow okay to cry.
Johnny knew that crying wasn't okay. He was supposed to be a big boy, and that meant no crying, but sometimes he couldn't help it, and when there was a boogeyman in your room, that was one of the times. It was a long time before he could stop sobbing. In part because it was so scary, but also in part because he didn't want his daddy to stop holding him so tight.
When he finally calmed down, his daddy had asked him what had happened, and Johnny had told him about the boogeyman. Scotty, who was never scared of anything, had laughed and told him he was crazy, but his grandma had taken Scotty back to his bed. Then his daddy asked Johnny if he'd like to come sleep with him in his big bed.
Johnny's eyes had gotten wide, and he had simply nodded, holding tight as his daddy carried him down the hallway to his own bedroom. Tucked up in the big bed next to his daddy, Johnny had felt safe, and had fallen asleep for the rest of the night.
He'd slept in his daddy's bed for the last three nights, but tonight, his daddy had told him that it was time to sleep in his own bed. Johnny could tell his daddy wanted him to be brave, so Johnny had swallowed hard, but said okay.
When it was time to go to bed, his daddy had come with him and tucked him in, and then, to Johnny's surprise, had gotten down on his knees and looked under the bed. Then his daddy had gotten up and looked in the closet, and behind the dresser, then told Johnny that it was okay, there was no boogeyman in the room.
Then he surprised Johnny again, pulling out a thing that looked like a rocket ship, and plugging it into the wall by his dresser. It was a little light, and his daddy told him it would help keep the boogeyman away. Johnny had smiled, and reached up and hugged his daddy.
Now, with his daddy gone, though, the little light didn't seem to help, because Johnny just knew that boogeyman was going to come back. He lay in bed, afraid to move, afraid to close his eyes. It took him a very long time to fall to sleep that night.
The next morning when he woke up, he was surprised at first, then very, very happy that the boogeyman had not come back. He smiled when he looked at his rocket ship nightlight. His daddy was right, it had kept the boogeyman away!
He left his room, and went downstairs to the kitchen, where his grandma made him his favorite oatmeal with the raisins and things in it, telling him to hurry up because the school bus would be coming. Johnny sighed. He liked kindergarten okay, but he still wished he could just stay home like his little brothers did.
When he finished his oatmeal, he went back up to his room, and put on the dungarees and the clean shirt his grandma had put out for him. Then he put on his socks, and then sat down to tie his shoes. The first one he got just right, but the other one he kept doing wrong.
Finally, in frustration, he stomped down the hall to his brother Scotty's room, and asked him to show him how, just one more time. His brother Virgil was already there, and he told Johnny to get up on the bed, and he'd tie the shoe for him.
Johnny had frowned and shook his head. He told Virgil that he didn't want him to tie his shoe, he wanted Scotty just to show him how again. Virgil didn't like that, but Scotty had said okay, and told Johnny to show him what he was doing, and when Johnny did, he reminded him about how the rabbit has to go around, and enlightened, Johnny was able to do it himself.
Doing things by himself always made Johnny smile, and he was in a good mood all that day, going to school and drawing a rocket ship, and coming home and playing with his brothers and telling his grandma, and later, his daddy all about his day.
When he went to bed that night, and his daddy came and tucked him in, he didn't even think about that old boogeyman. He went right to sleep, and had a dream about taking a rocket ship to the moon, just like his daddy did.
When the boogeyman came back that night, Johnny almost didn't wake up, but that soft whooshing broke through his happy dreams, and his eyes flew open. Just like before, the boogeyman was there, standing by his bed, looking at him.
The little rocket ship light hadn't kept the boogeyman away, and in fact, it made it worse, because Johnny could see him better. Just like before, the boogeyman tried to look like his daddy, but was just different enough for Johnny to know it wasn't him.
When Johnny sucked in a breath to scream, the boogeyman had held out his hands and said, "Whoa, it's okay, Johnny, it's okay, I won't hurt you!"
But Johnny knew it was a boogeyman trick, and so he screamed, and just like before, the boogeyman jumped back. But this time, the shadows weren't as dark, and Johnny saw when the boogeyman touched a thing on his belt, and disappeared.
Johnny's scream cut off in a surprised gasp, but then his daddy was there, and this time, although he shook so hard he thought he might shake apart, Johnny did not cry. Again, his daddy held him tight, until the shaking went away.
When his daddy asked him, Johnny told him that the boogeyman knew his name, and that he'd tried to fool him by telling him he wouldn't hurt him. His daddy had frowned at that, and asked him a lot of questions about what exactly the boogeyman looked like and what he was wearing and stuff.
Johnny had told him, and his daddy had frowned until Johnny told him how the boogeyman had touched his belt then had disappeared. His daddy's frown had faded, and he had just looked thoughtful. He held Johnny some more, and asked him if he thought he could go to sleep if he stayed with him.
Johnny would have liked to have gone to his daddy's big bed with him, but he could tell his daddy wanted him to be brave again, and with a sigh, his nodded his head and laid back down. His daddy his stroked his hair, and after a while, Johnny had nodded off.
The boogeyman didn't come back the next night, or the following night, either. If fact it was almost a week before John had heard that soft whoosh again.
This time Johnny thought if maybe he kept his eyes closed real tight, the boogeyman would just go away. But although he squeezed his eyes extra tight, he could still hear that boogeyman over the pounding of his heart, and he heard the boogeyman moving around.
He tried to keep his eyes closed, but he couldn't stand not knowing what the boogeyman was doing, so he opened his eyes just a tiny little bit. He saw that the boogeyman was reaching for his door, to go out into his house.
Johnny's eyes flew wide as he realized the boogeyman was not coming to get him. It was coming for his daddy. The boogeyman was going to take his daddy away!
Johnny screamed louder than he ever had before, terrified down to his very soul. The idea of his daddy going away forever was something he never wanted to think about. It was an idea that sometimes lurked at the edges of his thoughts making his days dark.
At the door, the boogeyman jumped when Johnny screamed, then looked back at the boy with something like disappointment, before it touched its belt and disappeared.
Johnny started to wail. He had never been so frightened before, and he didn't know what to do. He could hardly breathe for crying so hard, and didn't even realize his daddy was there rocking him for the longest time.
Once he knew his daddy was holding him, Johnny latched on to his daddy's pajamas. His head was spinning, and he felt funny, like his eyes were going out, but he couldn't stop crying, and he was terrified that if he let go of his daddy's shirt, the boogeyman would swoop in and take his daddy away.
He kept screaming and crying. At one point, he saw Scotty was there, and his brother was looking very frightened, and like he wanted to cry too. A tiny thought occurred that Scotty must have seen the boogeyman too.
That scared Johnny all over again, and he cried even harder. He turned his head into his daddy's chest, wanting it all to be over, but not knowing how to stop.
After a very long time, he couldn't cry any more. His throat hurt, and his head hurt, and he felt very stiff. He felt his daddy shift, and he tensed up, but his daddy settled back down.
He turned his head, just a little bit, and was surprised to find he wasn't in his bedroom at all, but in the living room. His daddy was sitting in his grandma's rocking chair, and he was wrapped up with his daddy in a quilt so tight that he couldn't move, and he didn't think he daddy could move either.
That suited Johnny just fine. He didn't want to ever let go of his daddy. His cries had died, and though he felt very very tired, Johnny didn't think he would go to sleep.
It was some time later, when Johnny woke up. To his surprise, the sun was up. He was still wrapped up with his daddy in the rocking chair, and to his surprise, Scotty was right next to him, hugging him as he slept.
It felt good to just lie there knowing his daddy and big brother were protecting him. He might have fallen back to sleep, but then he had to go to the potty, so he had to start wiggling.
His daddy awoke with a jerk, and that made Scotty wake up. Johnny, getting desperate, wiggled harder. "Daddy, I have to go to the potty!"
With a few deft moves, his daddy freed them from the constricting quilt, and Johnny ran, holding himself, to the downstairs bathroom. Once he had relieved himself, Johnny went back out into the living room, but to his disappointment, his daddy and brother had gotten out of the rocking chair and were on the couch.
"Johnny, come here," his daddy beckoned.
In the cold light of day, Johnny felt a sense of shame that he had cried worse than either of his little brothers ever did. Hanging his head, he trudged over and stood in front of his daddy.
To his relief, his daddy picked him up and set him on his lap, hugging him tight. "Now, why don't you tell me what happened last night?"
Still ashamed of himself, Johnny barely whispered, "The boogeyman came back."
Johnny felt a hand on his, and he looked up. His brother Scotty shook his head, eyes sympathetic. "Johnny, there's no such thing as a boogeyman. You just had a bad dream."
"No, Scotty! I saw it! It was there!"
"No, you just think it was there. It was part of the dream."
Johnny felt his eyes well up. He didn't know how to make Scotty understand, and it hurt in his chest that Scotty didn't believe him. His daddy said, "Scott, that's enough. Why don't you go help your grandma get breakfast ready?"
Scotty threw a worried glance at his father, and giving Johnny's hand a squeeze, said, "Okay Dad. It's going to be okay, Johnny, I promise."
Johnny watched his brother go, comforted that the older boy cared. His daddy put a finger under Johnny's chin and lifted it up so that Johnny had to look his daddy in the eye.
"Now, son, was it the same boogeyman as before?"
Johnny nodded, not wanting to talk. His father cocked his head to the side. "Are you sure? Did it look just the same as before?"
Johnny thought about it for a moment, then nodded again. "Yes, but this time it had on a different shirt."
That made his daddy frown. He asked again, "But it was the same man?"
Johnny nodded again.
"Son, have you ever seen this boogeyman anywhere else? At the store, or at school, maybe?"
Johnny frowned, confused. Didn't his daddy know that boogeymen could only come at night? He shook his head. "No, Daddy, only in my bedroom."
"And it disappeared again?"
Johnny nodded. "It has this thing on its belt. When it touches it, it disappears."
His daddy nodded, frowning again. "Okay, we'll leave that for now. Tell me this. You've seen this boogeyman before, what, twice, right?" When Johnny nodded, his daddy continued. "What was different about last night? The first time you cried, but the second time you didn't. Why were you so upset last night? John, did that boogeyman touch you? Did he try to hurt you?"
"No, Daddy." Johnny shook his head, but didn't want to say anything more.
After a few moments, his daddy hugged him tight again, and said, "Tell me what happened."
John leaned against his daddy's chest, feeling safe and warm. In a small voice, he started. "When it first comes it makes a noise, so I knew it was there."
"Noise? What kind of noise?"
Johnny thought for a moment, then said, "Like that door at your office where the people wear white clothes."
"The clean lab? The door at the clean lab?"
Johnny nodded. His daddy went still for a moment, but then asked, "Okay, so you knew the boogeyman was in your room. Is that when you called for me?"
Johnny didn't remember actually calling for his daddy, but he shook his head. "No, I thought if I didn't open my eyes, it would go away, but it didn't. I could hear it."
"Okay, so then what happened?"
"I didn't know what it was doing, so I peeked to see."
"You opened your eyes? What was it doing?"
Johnny stiffened in remembered terror. "It was opening the door!"
It came out as a wail, and his daddy immediately started rocking and shushing him, stroking his hair, and holding him tight. To his own surprise, Johnny was able to calm down after only a few minutes, and his daddy said, "I'm sorry, honey. I didn't mean to scare you again. I just wanted to know what happened. Can you tell Daddy what happened?"
Johnny knuckled his eyes with both fists. He knew his daddy wanted him to be brave, but it was very hard. He didn't like to think about the boogeyman, but if his daddy wanted to know, Johnny resolved to tell him.
Nodding his head, Johnny said, "The boogeyman was trying to open the door so it could come get you, so I yelled, and it touched its belt and disappeared."
"What do you mean, it was going to get me?"
"It was going to take you away." Johnny wailed again, and this time it took him a long time to settle down.
By the time he had stopped crying, his brothers Virgil and Gordon were in the room staring at him. Virgil was upset, looking worriedly from his father to his brother and back again. Gordon was too little to understand, and just stood there clutching his favorite stuffed toy, an octopus, and sucking his thumb.
"Virgil, take your brother out to the kitchen and get some breakfast."
Virgil nodded, and took Gordon by the hand, leading him toward the kitchen. John watched them go, ashamed to have cried in front of them. His daddy said, "John, look at me."
Johnny looked up at his daddy, and his daddy said, "I want you to listen very carefully, all right? I am not going away. There is no boogeyman big enough or tough enough to make me leave you and your brothers, understand?"
Johnny felt his eyes widen. It was a thought he hadn't had before, but he realized it was true. His daddy was stronger and tougher than anybody else in the whole wide world. Of course he could stop a boogeyman. His daddy could do anything.
Infinitely relieved, Johnny reached up and hugged his daddy hard. "You promise? You promise, Daddy?"
"Cross my heart. I promise you I won't leave you. Not even when you're old and gray. You'll never be rid of me!"
His daddy said it in a playful tone, and suddenly reached down and tickled Johnny's ribs. Johnny started to laugh, and soon, as the tickling continued, the scary bad feeling Johnny had had disappeared.
Knowing that his daddy was safe from the boogeyman made all the difference to Johnny. And for the next several days, he felt very good, and he didn't even think about that old boogeyman any more.
His big brother Scotty told him the reason the boogeyman didn't come back was because Johnny wasn't thinking about it. That didn't sound exactly right to Johnny, but as the nights passed, and the boogeyman didn't come back, Johnny started to think maybe Scotty was right.
But then came the day that his daddy told Johnny he wanted to have a man to man talk. It always made Johnny's tummy hurt when his daddy said that, because usually it was because he did something wrong.
Johnny didn't know what he'd done, so he followed his daddy to the living room with his head hung low. When his daddy sat on the couch and told Johnny to sit next to him, Johnny did it, even though he felt like he wanted to cry.
"Son, why the long face?"
Johnny just shrugged, not wanting to say anything. He didn't dare look up at his daddy, because he might just start to bawl before he even knew what he'd done wrong.
His daddy didn't say anything at first, but then he said, "You're not in trouble, you know."
Surprised, Johnny looked up at his daddy's face. His daddy didn't look mad at all, and Johnny smiled, the tummy hurt going away. His daddy cocked his head to one side. "That's what you thought, isn't it? Honey, I happen to like talking to you, okay? Now, what I have to say is serious, but you aren't in any trouble at all."
"Okay, Daddy," Johnny replied, relieved and just a little curious.
"All right then. Now, you know I told you that I'll never leave you and your brothers, right?"
Johnny nodded, his tummy starting to tighten just a little bit. His daddy nodded, and continued. "That's what I said, and I mean it. But you know, I have to work, right? And sometimes that work means I have to take a business trip, right? Taking a business trip isn't the same a leaving you. I want you to understand that, okay?"
Johnny frowned, not really understanding. He thought about it for a while, and a happy thought occurred to him. If his daddy wasn't home, that old boogeyman couldn't get him. He'd be safe!
That thought made it possible for Johnny to smile tentatively up at his daddy. "Okay, Daddy."
His daddy's eyes widened like he was surprised, but then he smiled. "That's my big boy!"
His daddy's smile showed he was proud of Johnny, and that made Johnny feel all warm inside. For a while, he sat next to his daddy on the couch with his daddy's arm on his shoulder.
Another thought occurred to him, and he looked wide-eyed up at his daddy. "Will you bring me something?"
Late that afternoon, Johnny stood on the porch with his grandma and brothers and waved as his daddy drove away. He sighed, listening to Gordon cry. The little boy was only now old enough to understand the difference between his daddy going to work, and his daddy going on a trip, and he showed his upset with tears.
Scott moved over and picked the little boy up. "Hey, kiddo, stop with the waterworks, and I'll let you sleep with me tonight."
Gordon wasn't listening, and just kept crying. Johnny scrunched up his nose. If Gordy wouldn't sleep with Scotty, Johnny would. Johnny loved sleeping in his big brother's bed. It was almost as good as sleeping in the big bed with his daddy.
Before he could tell his big brother, though, Scotty turned and carried the small redhead into the house, followed by Virgil. Johnny felt his grandmother's hand on his shoulder, shepherding him into the house as she carried the baby in out of the cold.
"Grandma, any chance we could have sloppy Joe's for dinner?" Scott asked.
That got Gordon's attention. The toddler knew what sloppy Joe's were. "Gamma make sloppy Joe's?"
Johnny looked hopefully up at his grandma. Gordy wasn't the only one who liked sloppy Joe's. His grandma stood looking at her grandsons, and at first, Johnny thought she'd say no, but then her face softened, and she cocked her head to the side. "Well, I can't think of a reason not to. All right, we'll have sloppy Joe's."
Johnny joined his brothers in cheering. His grandma put Alan down and raised a hand. "Now, why don't you boys go outside and play? No, Alan can stay here with me. And Scott, keep an eye on Gordon, please. Don't let him take off his clothes. It's too cold out there, and I don't want him getting sick."
Virgil joined Johnny in giggling. Gordy had a habit of taking off all of his clothes if you didn't watch him. Just the other day, they'd found him without even his underwear splashing in rain puddles as a storm raged.
Scotty rolled his eyes. "Okay, Grandma. Come on, guys, let's go out to the barn."
Johnny had a good time playing with his brothers in the barn that afternoon. And the promised sloppy Joe's for dinner had been so good he'd eaten most of a second one.
After dinner, he'd gone up to his room to get ready for bed, and as he was pulling on his pajamas, his eye was caught by the little rocket ship night light.
It made him pause, with a bad thought. What if the boogeyman came back while his daddy was gone? Who would hold him if he was scared?
What if the boogeyman didn't know his daddy was gone, and got out into the house? Would it take his big brother? Or his grandma? Suddenly, his tummy started to hurt, and he started to breathe hard.
His daddy could fight off the boogeyman, but it was a big boogeyman, and his grandma wasn't very big at all. And Scotty would fight, but that old boogeyman could just carry him off.
Johnny didn't even want to think about what the boogeyman would do to his little brothers. Scared, tears came to his eyes. He wiped his hand across his face, and frowned hard, refusing to let the tears fall.
Johnny knew if he told Scotty, his big brother would just tell him to not think about the boogeyman. But Johnny knew, he just knew, the boogeyman would not stay away.
Johnny froze as he had a new thought. He realized that it was all up to him to keep that boogeyman from taking any of his family. He sat listening to his own harsh breathing as he tried to work out how he could make the boogeyman leave his family alone.
He swallowed hard as he thought of the only way he could think of. He'd have to clobber that old boogeyman. He'd have to clobber it so good that it wouldn't ever want to come back.
The idea was very scary to Johnny, but he couldn't think of any other way to make the boogeyman go away and never come back. He slid off of his bed and went to the bedroom door.
Johnny tried to be very quiet opening his door. He pulled it open just enough to stick his head out, and look and see if any of his brothers were out there.
He couldn't hear anybody, so he went out into the hall. He tiptoed down the hall to Scotty's room. He listened at the door, but he didn't hear anything.
Johnny swallowed hard. He knew he wasn't supposed to go into Scotty's room without permission, but he needed to. He needed to very badly, so he opened the door and stepped in.
He tiptoed over to Scotty's closet, and opening it, he found what he was looking for. His big brother's baseball bat. It was a new one, and Johnny knew Scotty would be very mad if he found him taking it, but he just had to.
The bat was heavy, but Johnny held it in both hands, and quickly tiptoed back to his own room. Looking around, he hid the bat under the blankets on his bed.
The bat made a lump that no amount of smoothing would cover, and Johnny stood for a long time looking at it. The scary feeling in his tummy wasn't going away.
After a while, he sighed, and left his room. He went downstairs and found his grandma and brothers in the kitchen.
"There you are. Wanna play some Go Fish with Virg and me?" Scotty asked.
Usually, Johnny loved playing Go Fish with his older brothers, but this time he didn't really want to. He couldn't think of a reason to say no, though, so he climbed up into his chair at the big farm table, and watched as Scotty dealt the cards.
After a while, Johnny got caught up in the game, and when his grandma finally said it was time for bed, Johnny was surprised that the time had passed.
Most times, he didn't want to go to bed. He didn't think it was fair that Scotty and Virgil got to stay up later than him. But just for tonight, he didn't argue, but instead, surprised his grandma and older brothers by simply leaving the kitchen to climb the stairs to his bedroom.
Johnny was climbing into his bed, when he heard his grandma coming up the stairs to tuck him in. He had a moment of panic, afraid his grandma would find the borrowed baseball bat in his bed.
Quickly, before she opened the door, he put the bat on the floor on the far side of his bed. He barely made it in time. His grandma came in just as he pulled up the covers.
She came over and perched on the edge of his bed, feeling his forehead with the back of her hand. "Are you feeling all right, baby? You were awfully quiet after dinner."
Johnny didn't want to tell his grandma about the boogeyman. It would probably scare her, so he just shook his head. "I'm okay, Grandma."
His grandma looked at his with shrewd eyes. "Well, I think next time, we'll just cut that second sloppy Joe in half. You probably just ate a little too much. You'll feel better in the morning."
Johnny's tummy did hurt, but he didn't think it had anything to do with how much he ate. Sighing, he said, "Okay, Grandma."
His grandma tucked the covers in all around him, then leaned down to put a kiss on Johnny's forehead. "All right, then, good night, sleep tight, and I'll see you in the morning bright."
"Good night, Grandma."
His grandma left the room, turning out the light as she left. That was okay as far as Johnny was concerned because his little night light was good enough for him to see by.
Johnny frowned. He realized that he would have to wiggle free to get the baseball bat off the floor. He liked being tucked in, and he sighed as he loosened the blankets.
He got the baseball bat, and got back into bed, the bat a comforting strength next to him. After a while, he started to nod off, and then jerked awake with another scary thought.
What if this one time, he didn't hear the boogeyman come in? What if it got by him, and got out into the house?
This was so scary an idea that Johnny's eyes flew wide. Now that he'd thought it, he didn't think he would ever fall asleep. He clutched the bat to his chest, his tummy hurting worse than ever.
After a few minutes, Johnny had a good thought. He pushed his covers off, and got out of bed, and went to the toy box in the corner. Reaching in, Johnny pulled out his big red fire truck.
He put the truck between the bedroom door, and the corner where the boogeyman always appeared. Looking at it in the gloom, he went back to his toy box, and got all of his other trucks, and some of his Legos too.
He spread them on the floor and stood back satisfied. There was no way that old boogeyman would be able to get to the door without making a racket.
Johnny climbed back into his bed, and pulled the covers up. It wasn't as good as being tucked in, but still, with his bat, Johnny felt snug and safe.
A little while later, as Johnny was again nodding off, the bedroom door opened, and Scotty looked in. He started to come in, but there was enough light for him to see the toys covering the floor, and he hesitated.
Apparently spotting a clear path to the bed, Scotty stepped in. he came over to the bed and perched just where his grandma had. Johnny didn't want Scotty to see the bat, so he sat up in bed.
"Did you put all of your toys on the floor?" Scotty asked.
Johnny just nodded. Scott cocked his head. "Why?"
Johnny shrugged. "Boogeyman."
Scott's head came up at that. "I thought you were past that."
Johnny shrugged again, not knowing what to say.
"Just being sure, huh?"
That was a good answer, so Johnny nodded, and Scott nodded back. "Okay, but in the morning, make sure you put them all back into the toy box, okay?"
"All right. You gonna be okay, tonight?"
"All right. Good night."
"Good night, Scotty."
Johnny watched as his big brother left the room. It felt good that Scotty hadn't laughed at him, or told him it was just his imagination. He snuggled back down into his blankets.
The next morning, Johnny was surprised when he woke up. He'd been sure the boogeyman was going to come in the night. He looked at all of his toys on the floor and smiled. Maybe the boogeyman knew he'd better not come back.
Mindful of what Scotty had said, Johnny got out of bed, and started picking up his toys. As he put the last of them in the toy box, he heard someone pounding up the stairs.
Curious, Johnny went to his door and opened it. As he did, Scotty ran by grinning. "It's a snow day!"
Johnny blinked. He looked back toward his bedroom window, and sure enough, he could see the snow coming down. He had a vague memory that a snow day was a good thing, but he couldn't remember why.
He followed Scotty to Virgil's room, where his big brother was bouncing on the bed, trying to get Virgil to wake up. "Wake up, Virg, it's a snow day!"
"Uuugh… what? What's going on?" His brother Virgil asked sleepily.
"It's a snow day, Virg, get up!"
"What? A snow day? Are you sure?"
"Yeah, they said it on the radio!" Scott continued bouncing up and down on Virgil's bed.
"Hurray!" Virgil crowed.
Johnny frowned. "Scotty, what's a snow day?"
Scotty turned to him, and grinned, "It's a day when the snow is so bad that they close down the school. We don't have to go to school today, Johnny!"
Johnny's eyes flew wide. "Really? You're not just making it up? We really don't have to go to school?"
"Really truly, kiddo! There's enough snow out there to make forts."
Johnny cheered. He loved snow forts. And it would mean snowball fights, too!
"Well, what are we waiting for? Let's go get dressed!"
Scotty ran from Virgil's room, and Johnny ran after him, singing, "Snow day, snow day, we're gonna have a snow day!"
Johnny started to put on his school clothes that his grandma had put out for him, but then he stopped and grinned at himself. He could wear his play clothes today!
He put on his favorite Buzz Lightyear T-shirt, and a pair of jeans and his shoes that lit up when he walked, and ran down the stairs to the kitchen. Scotty was already at the table, eating cereal.
Johnny went over to his grandma, and hugged her around the waist. "Grandma, Scotty says we don't have to go to school today."
His grandma looked at him. "That's true, and I appreciate the fact that you didn't put on your school clothes, but honey, if you're going to play outside you're going to need your heavy sweater, and a sweatshirt."
Johnny had almost forgotten that snow was cold. He nodded his head, and turned to run back upstairs. "Okay, Grandma."
"Wait, wait. John, come eat your breakfast first. There's plenty of time to change after you've eaten."
Johnny frowned, not wanting to wait. "But Grandma, I want to go out and make a snow fort!"
"I'm sure you do, but you're not going anywhere until you've had your breakfast and made your bed. Now, come over here and sit down."
Johnny groaned, but dragged his feet back over to the table. His grandma put a bowl of oatmeal in front of him. Even though it had the apples and raisins and cinnamon that he liked, Johnny was determined to sulk.
When his grandma poured cream on his oatmeal, he just frowned. Scotty never looked up from his bowl, but just said, "Attitude, Johnny."
Johnny sighed. His daddy had had a talk with him telling him that a bad attitude would only give him grief. He frowned ferociously. Why was it attitude when his grandma was keeping him from having any fun?
Scott looked over at him, and said casually, "I will help with your snow fort, but only if you lighten up."
Johnny continued to frown for a few minutes feeling very put upon, but the promise of help with his snow fort was just to tantalizing to ignore. Johnny thought for a minute, and knew just what to say. Turning in his chair, he said, "I'm sorry Grandma. I won't have no attitude no more."
"Have any attitude any more," Grandma corrected. "Thank you, sweetheart. I appreciate that. Scott, could you go get the babies up, please?"
"Yes, ma'am." Scotty pushed his chair back, and went out of the kitchen, just as Virgil came in.
"Grandma, I tried to put on my snow boots, but they don't fit any more," Virgil complained.
"Well, you know the box where the old boots are. After breakfast, take your boots and put them in the box, and find a pair of Scott's that fit."
"Okay," Virgil replied, scratching at his head. He sat at the table, and Grandma put a bowl of oatmeal in front of him that Virgil eagerly dug into.
"Scotty's going to help me build a snow fort." Johnny told the older boy.
"Yeah? Well, he better make it good, because I'm going to make the biggest pile of snowballs in the world."
Johnny smiled, his excitement growing.
That night, Johnny was very tired. He had spent the entire day playing in the snow, and at dinner, he had agreed with his brothers when Virgil declared it the best snow day ever.
When his grandma tucked him in, he'd asked her if she thought tomorrow would be a snow day, too. His grandma had smiled and told him he'd just have to fall asleep fast so tomorrow would come.
When Scott came in later, and looked around at the clean floor, he'd nodded, saying, "No boogeyman tonight. Good."
Just when he said it, Johnny's tummy had dropped. He'd forgotten all about the boogeyman. As soon as Scotty had closed the door, Johnny had jumped out of his bed, and hurried to the toy box.
No sooner had he put the toys on the floor, and picked up his baseball bat, than he heard that soft whoosh behind him. Johnny gasped, feeling naked outside of his covers. He spun around, and there, bigger than ever, was that boogeyman.
The two froze for a moment, and Johnny wasn't sure who was more surprised. But then, a fierce anger gripped him. The stupid boogeyman had waited until Johnny had had the best snow day ever, and then he had come to spoil it.
With a scream of absolute hate, Johnny swung his bat. The boogeyman jumped back, arms up to ward off the blow, but Johnny followed him swinging the bat again. He almost got it with that second swing, but the boogeyman hit his belt just in time, and the bat swung through empty air.
Johnny screamed his frustration and defiance, and threw the bat where the boogeyman had stood. Suddenly, the light in his room went on, and Scotty was there, and behind him, his grandma.
Scott tripped on the toys, but grabbed the footboard of Johnny's bed, and didn't fall. His grandma looked at the toys on the floor, and said, "What in the world!"
Johnny stood with clenched fists, face red with anger. Scotty took him by the shoulders, and said, "Are you okay? What happened?"
It took Johnny a moment to catch his breath, then, shaking he snarled, "That stupid boogeyman came! That stupid boogeyman came to spoil everything!"
Scott looked around and saw his baseball bat lying on the floor. Leaving his brother, he went over and picked it up. "Johnny, what did you do?"
With a sudden jolt, Johnny remembered he wasn't supposed to touch Scotty's things. He frowned. "Scotty, I had to take your bat. I just had to. I had to clobber that stupid boogeyman so it couldn't take anybody away. I don't want anybody to go away."
As quickly as that, the anger turned to tears. His grandma said, "Oh, honey," and came over and picked him up, and moved to the bed, sitting down and holding and rocking him.
It wasn't the same as his daddy holding him, but her soft arms cradling him felt good, and it only took Johnny a little while to calm down. He looked up to see Scotty sitting next to him, but to Johnny's surprise and annoyance, his brother was grinning.
As soon as Scotty saw Johnny looking at him, he said, "Johnny, do you realize what you did? You took on the boogeyman all by yourself! That's amazing!"
Johnny was surprised. Scotty didn't sound mad, he sounded happy. Still frowning, Johnny asked, "How come?"
"What do you mean, how come? Nobody takes on the boogeyman! Nobody. But you did! That's about the bravest thing I ever heard in my entire whole life. You're a hero, Johnny!"
"I am?" Johnny's head came up, his eyes wide.
"You certainly are," his grandmother nodded her head. "And here's something I've never told you boys. When a child attacks the boogeyman, that boogeyman can never ever come back to the house that child is at."
"Really, Grandma?" Johnny looked up at his grandma, hope in his heart.
"You never told me that, Grandma." Scotty said.
"Well, it's just not something you can tell a child, but I know that it's true. I'm very well-versed in boogeyman lore," Grandma said, sagely.
Johnny wasn't really sure what she meant, but all the bad achy feeling in his tummy was gone, and what she said sounded like it must be true. Scotty was nodding his head. "Grandma, does that mean no boogeymen for Gordy or Allie, too?"
"Way to go, Johnny. Just wait 'til Dad hears this!"
Johnny perked up. "Can we call him? Grandma, can we call him right now?"
"No, honey. Your daddy is asleep by now, and so should you be. We'll call him in the morning. For now, do you think you can go to sleep?"
Johnny looked around at the toys on the floor, and the little rocket ship nightlight and wondered how he would fall asleep. Scotty cocked his head. "You know, just to be sure, I think I'd like you to sleep with me in my room. You can protect me."
Johnny smiled. He knew Scotty was only kidding about needing Johnny to protect him, but he would sleep with Scotty anytime he offered. He nodded his head, and Scotty stood up, and turned his back to him, saying, "Hop aboard."
With a happy cry, he climbed up on his brother's back, and rode him piggyback all the way to Scotty's bed. Scotty dumped him onto the bed, and tickled him for a while before saying it was time to go to sleep.
As Johnny snuggled up against his brother's warm back, he thought about the boogeyman, and how he had chased it away. He nodded to himself, smiling, knowing that the boogeyman would never come back, and he had made his brothers and his daddy and his grandma safe. He fell asleep with that smile on his face