A Story by Dan Bright

A short story about a man and his son in a park on a cold bright morning.


Beneath the dappled sunlight the man and the child sat amongst the pile of fallen autumn leaves. A giant amber and ruby coloured piled swept clear of the grass and waiting to be collected and burned. Around the pair the park stretch away, busy with it's mid-morning dwellers. It was a large city park, criss-crossed with wide paths and caged on every side by busy roads, idling buses and the dreary service ramps of the shops. Even in the winter, with the trees almost bear and the beds empty of their summer bloom the park looked pretty. Bleakly beautiful on a cold morning, the twisted skeletal frames of the roses pruned back into unnatural forms. You'd be dubious that they'd ever return to the full splendour of summer. A small bandstand stood a short distance away but it had been a long time since any music had been played there. It served more as a giant sundial, its shadow slowly lengthening in the bright winter sun. The light played through the few remaining leaves on the trees and across their faces, flushed pink with the morning air. The morning was bright but cold and the air dry. A few patches of frost remained in the shade. The child had forsaken the play park, the metal bitterly cold on his exposed hands, instead taking shelter in the warm colours of the leaves. The man watched the child intently, watched his nose glistening and his corn coloured hair tossed by the wind.

The little boys attention seemed focused solely on the steaming sausage roll within the greasy paper bag. He clutched it close to his chin, doing his best to keep it clear of the leaves. But the man knew that he was thinking intently. The child always was.

"Daddy." He spoke without looking up. "Is there such thing as monsters?" Mouthful of hot meat and pastry, breath turning to steam around him.

The man looked thoughtful for a moment, sipping his coffee from the polystyrene cup. The pair sat in silence as the ebb and flow of the park continued. Leaves being raked, dogs being walked, a young couple sat furtively on a bench nearby, their eyes darting nervously about them. Up by the dormant rose garden an old man watched the butchered stalks, as if seeing the ghosts of the flowers that once bloomed there.

He thought about the childs question and didn't quite know how to answer him. He thought about the noises the he must have heard outside at night, the shrieks of drunken banshees and the threats and the fights. The deep mechanical rumbling of the trucks bound for the docks, building to a crescendo beneath his window before dying away. He thought about the shadows the street lights must cast on the boys wall, twisted and distorted representations of his own toys. The boy looked up at him expectantly. His three year old eyes seemed older and wiser than they should and the man felt his heart sink a little in his chest. His eyes stung and filled with water. Just the cold he thought and wiped them on his sleeve before wiping the childs nose.

"That's a good question." The man said, buying himself some time.

"Yeah." Said the child, again, totally absorbed in the sausage roll.

The man wondered if he'd ever asked his own Dad that question. No definitely not. The man thought briefly about his own Dad and swallowed hard.

"I think there probably is, Mister." The man said cheerfully as the child wriggled himself deeper down into the leaves.

"That's what I thought."

"Don't talk with your mouthful. "The boy opened his mouth wide showing the world the chewed mess within. "Oh that's gross. In fact, I think I see one now." The man ruffled the boy’s hair and fixed his scarf. The boy wriggled down completely beneath the leaves and out of sight. He began to growl, a deep rumbling sound.

The boys question echoed in his minds and he couldn't shake the thoughts of monsters and the role they played in the boy’s world. He thought about the things the boy must have seen on the television news. Men who lay disembowelled in the road whilst the world looked on through the lens of a camera phone. Women kept in basements for so long that they'd been forgotten about by everybody they'd ever met. The burned and disfigured victims of far flung conflicts howling and raising scarred arms to the camera. All these things he'd tried to shield from the boy but he must have seen so much. The dark CCTV footage played on a loop on the news channels, the grainy stills plastered the next day on the front page of the newspapers. A world so far removed the quiet park on Sunday morning.

Quite giggles emerged from beneath the leaves and the mans mind wandered back to his own childhood and his own monsters. Huge swirling beasts within the floral pattern of his Nan’s wall paper. His uncles heavy metal poster had haunted his dreams long after he had left the room. He thought about his childhood heroes that had vanquished the monsters. The more he thought about it the more he realised that he didn't want the boy growing up in a world without monsters. There should be things lurking just out of sight, waiting for him in the shadows. The far corners of his imagination should be haunted by the fantastical and the unknown. For in a world without monsters there would be no use for heroes and nothing to stand up against. He thought about that for a while.

"I'm safe from the monsters in here." The boys muffled voice rose from beneath the leaves and the man felt the warmth of him against his leg.

Before the boy was born he'd woken in the middle of the night to the sound of a girl screaming. Hysterically screaming, not the drunken shrieks he'd heard before, genuine screams. He was barely dressed as he left the flat, lost a flip flop on the stairs, and then ran across the very park where he and the boy now sat, to a girl staggering alone at the far end. Her dress askew on her thin frame. All the girl could say was "His hair, his hair was in my face." He'd sat with her until the police arrived, they'd taken his details but he'd never heard anything and didn't know what had happened to the girl. Monsters, the man thought. His mind wandered further, to the early hours of the morning at a distant train station. A girl sat on the cold stairs, short dress riding up her thighs. Two men leered either side. Her make-up streaked across her face, eyes still wet with tears. "Can you get me home?" She smiled at him as another tear rolled down her face. One of the men waved a hand at him dismissively whilst the other lifted the bottle of vodka to her lips and she coughed and gagged. He'd looked at the men, large and threatening, he'd looked at the girl between them and he'd walked on to the end of the platform. He'd stopped, shook his head and returned to where the girl had been. All three had gone, in a matter of minutes they'd gone. All that remained were a few wet marks on the concrete floor. Tears. Heroes, the man thought and shook the memory from his head.

He thought about what the idea of a monster must mean to the boy. Malevolent things that meant him, and those he loved, harm.

Returning to the present the man watched the young couple on the bench again. They were growing more agitated, visibly uncomfortable. The girl checked her handbag, fastened it closed, and then checked it again. The kid was trying his best to look nonchalant, drinking his early morning beer a little too casually. He didn’t look any older than fifteen. It was then that the saw a third person approach, a homeless man. It was impossible to tell what colour his clothes had once been. They were now a monochrome greenish brown. He was young and very thin, probably mid-twenties with an unkempt ginger hair and a full face beard to match. He'd approached the man and the boy earlier, asking for his bus fare. "Just a couple of quid short. Ain't beggin' or nothin'". The man recognised him instantly. He'd used the same line countless times but had never realised, or never cared, that he'd asked the same man twice, sometimes three times, in a day. If the man had change then he'd give it to him, if not, then he'd shrug apologetically and walk away amid a torrent of curses. The man wasn't so naive that he didn't know what the money was for. He watched the homeless man try to give the kid a handful of coins but the kid just raised his hands in an exaggerated gesture and shook his head. He nodded towards the girl; she recoiled visibly from the man, his stained brown teeth and his dirty hands. He dumped the crumpled notes and the coins into the girl’s handbag and she retrieved a small bag from within. She failed in her attempts to be discrete and dropped the bag at the mans feet. All three looked around startled. It was then that the man noticed the black car parked a short distance away, black car, black windows, black driver, casting a subtle yet formidable presence over the area. The bag was retrieved and the satisfied customer shuffled off, with more purpose than before, across the park and over the road before disappearing into the estate beyond. He looked anxiously over his shoulder and at the black car especially and then he began to run. The man watched the girl take the money from her bag and count it. Her eyes widened in panic and she counted it again. The kid looked at her and then took the money. He counted it and appeared to come to the same conclusion as the girl. His face reddened and he looked over his shoulder at the car. The driver shook his head slowly and the kid stood up and approached. The driver got out of the car and looked around. He appeared to consider the bins overflowing at the back of the shops and then looked fiercely at them both.

The man sipped his coffee and watched anxiously, waiting to see how the drama unfolded. The leaves around him shuffled and giggled.

The driver of the car snatched the money from the boy and forced him against the car. The act went unnoticed. Dogs continued to be walked, the old man still stared longingly at the rose stems, waiting patiently for them to bloom. From within the pile of leaves two eyes emerged beneath a tussle of golden hair.

“Daddy?” The eyes asked.

The driver took the boy by the lapels of his jacket and threw him bodily back against the car.

“Yes son?” The man stood up, leaves falling from his clothes. He watched the two men, the tension mounting. The young boy started to plead with the man. He suddenly seemed so much smaller, every ounce of the nonchalance he’d displayed earlier gone.

“Are they monsters over there?” The boy pointed to the car with a gnarled stick he’d found under the leaves. The man wasn’t even aware that his son had been paying attention.

“Maybe.” The man said. Not taking his eyes off the men. The girl had risen from the bench and was hurrying towards them.

“I’ll get them.” The boy muttered, sinking back beneath the leaves.

The girl had reached the men but tripped at the curb and fell at their feet just as the first punches were being thrown. A harsh lesson was about to be learnt. The world continued, paying no attention to violence about to be acted out in broad daylight on a bright Sunday morning. A street sweeper passed within inches of the car and either didn’t notice, or didn’t care enough to stop. Sea gulls picked through the rubbish for food.

“No, stay -”

Too late. The boy burst forth from the leaves. An eruption of reds and yellows and browns. A vision aflame as he charged across the frosted grass towards the car. He charged through the gulls, sending them wheeling through the air, squawking in protest. The boy wore a homemade costume over his waterproof coat. A haphazard arrangement of egg boxes, toilet roll tubes and cereal cartons that clattered about him clumsily as he ran. His armour against the monsters. Twice he tripped but quickly he picked himself up. The man watched, rooted to the spot, as playful squeals and the sound of laser beams mixed with the sound of the gulls. The boy continued to charge down the drug dealer and his runner with the gnarled stick.

The blows stopped and so did the boy, a matter of feet from the car. The three of them stared at the child as he pointed the stick at them accusingly. Even the gulls had fallen silent.

“Ka-pow” The child shouted and turned back towards his farther and the safety of the leaves.

The three stared at the child in disbelief, egg boxes taped to his chest and a trail of snot running down his face. The driver quickly got back in the car and started the engine. The tyres span as he pulled aggressively away from the curb and accelerated out of sight. The roar of his engine and the squeal of his brakes sounded the anguished sounds of some vanquished monster.

The Child chuckled as he sat himself back down amongst the leaves at his fathers feet. The man reached down, straightened his armour, and pulled the leaves from his hair.

© 2013 Dan Bright

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Added on December 30, 2013
Last Updated on December 30, 2013
Tags: son, father, monsters, reflection, memories, heroes


Dan Bright
Dan Bright

Southampton, United Kingdom

I'm Dan, I'm 28 and living in the UK. I've just started writing a few short stories and I'm keen to know what people think of them. Nothing too serious, I just want to get my thoughts down on 'paper' .. more..