We break our read-aloud habit for only one television show: Dancing with the Stars. My kids take this show very seriously. They never know who any of the “stars” are, and, frankly, neither do I. It doesn’t matter, though. Seeing people step out of their comfort zone and risk failure is inspiring to me. I like how some of the contestants find it within themselves to work harder and improve.

Watching the show does make for a later than usual bedtime. So after a super quick version of Hush Little Baby (my son’s favorite song), I was leaving my boy’s room when he flipped on his flashlight and said, “Wait. Can you move that thing in my closet?” He shined the light on a folded stack of soccer clothes, on a high shelf.

“Sure. Why?” I could see what was bothering him, but I wanted to hear how he phrased it.

“When I wake up in the middle of the night it looks like a frog. A scary frog. The white neck is the mouth and the red is the tongue.”

Could anything be more frightening than some huge-mouthed amphibian hiding in your closet at night? I mean, if you were six. I remember being that scared as a child. I was positive that living things were under my bed, and if I hung my foot over the edge, I would be captured. My imagination didn’t extend to what would happen after the capture, and thank goodness for that. I would probably still be having those nightmares.

Not so long ago, I woke in the night, sure that I heard a noise downstairs. My husband wouldn’t wake up, so I decided to be a grown-up and check it out. I mean, someone had to protect the kids. There could have been an intruder, a maniac with an axe. I checked all the second floor, including a very quiet inspection of the closets and under bed areas of the kids’ rooms. Nothing. Down to the main floor. I turned on every single light on my way through the house (evil hates the light) and didn’t find one single axe-wielding crazy man. After my heart slowed to a normal rhythm, and I drank a glass of water, a realization came to me: I hadn’t checked the basement.

I stood at the top of those stairs, looking down into the very darkest part of the house. The heart of mechanization, home to boiler, hot water heater, well pump. Plenty of places for a grown man to hide. The place where all the tools, hand and power, are stored. If we had an intruder, that is where he would be. I would like to think that if I was faced with an actual baddie, I would do the right thing and protect my family. But at that moment, it was beyond a normal bad guy. This was a supernatural, middle-of-the-night terrifying monster. So, I went back to bed. Yup, yellow-bellied.

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