Today I want to find the monsters and ask them where Bô is. It’s Nam’s birthday, and he wants Bô. Nam was ten last night, but when the sun came up he changed to eleven. Mẹ says we’re going to have a party in the house. I’m excited. I like parties, and I want to get Nam a present. Right now, Nam and Mẹ are not awake, so I’ve got to think of a plan to find Bô. Don’t know why, but Mẹ says not to go outside. But I like the outside and so does my doggy, Kiki. I tiptoe past Mẹ, who is sleeping on the couch again to keep the house safe from the monsters. I tell Kiki, “Shush.” If she barks, Mẹ will never let us outside again.
I’ve never seen the monsters, but I need to find them so I can ask where Bô is.
Kiki walks next to me as I go into the backyard. Sun is up. Birds talk. Bugs fly around me. The morning is gray and dusty – smells like fire. I go to the river and try to find rocks. My feet touch the water. Cold. Really cold. Small fish swim between my toes, kissing my skin and making me giggle.
I look at the trees and yell, “Monsters, where are you?”
I cover my mouth. Too loud. Don’t want to wake up Nam and Mẹ, but I want to know where Bô is. Nam needs him for his birthday. I wait. Don’t know how long, but the chickens start to sing.
The monsters never speak to me.
They never come. Never come yesterday. Never come last week. Been wishing, but they never come. Maybe I can ask the nice lady. Don’t know if she will be coming today to play with Mẹ, but I hope she will.
Monsters never come, and I don’t see Bô.
So I get some rocks. Not pretty ones, but good ones. They’re round and not too big. Maybe Nam will like the rocks. White with gray spots.
Like chicken eggs.
Kiki barks and runs off. I call her, but I see Nam walking to me, so I hide the rocks in my pocket.
He grabs my hand. “Minh, what are you doing?”
I say nothing. Don’t want him finding out about my present. I say I’m hungry and want some eggs. Nam takes my hand, and we go to see the chickens. I run to the chicken house and say good morning. The chickens talk to me, saying cluck-cluck. I say cluck-cluck back. I grab the eggs under them and give them to Nam. We walk back to the house, and we hear a zoom sound. In the sky, three big birds fly above us. I point to the birds, and Nam starts to run to the house.
In the house, Nam closes the door. We both stand still. Zoom sound becomes smaller. Until no more whoosh. I look at Nam. He stares at the ceiling.
“Quiet.” Nam covers my mouth.
I try to pull his fingers off, but Nam is too strong. Then he lets go.
I don’t want to be quiet, but I need to listen. Today is his birthday. Clock, ticks and tocks. Ticks. Tocks. Ticks and t—
“Do you want breakfast?” he asks.
“Yeah.” I run to the kitchen and pull a chair to the stove. “Can I make?”
“No, you make really bad food.”
I don’t make bad food. Mẹ tells me I make good food. She says she loves my food so much. I talk to Nam as he makes eggs. I jump off the chair and zoom around until I fall on the ground. I ask about the birds. He tells me they are the monsters. I grab Nam’s arm and shake it real hard. The monsters did hear me.
“They came!” I jump.
“Came?” he asks.
“Yes. I need to ask them to find Bô.”
Nam pokes the eggs with the chopsticks. “He’s not with the monsters.”
“Who’s he with?”
“A witch,” Nam says, pushing me away.
But I don’t believe him. Mẹ always told me stories about the monsters and how Bô fought them. She says they eat people, and people are scared of them. They take everything. Poof! Kids gone. Parents gone. Even the house is gone. I don’t understand why everything has to be gone.
“Will Bô come back?” I ask.
“Don’t talk about that.”
“Right now, he’s with the witch. The more you talk about them, the more Mẹ will be sad. Do you understand?”
I nod. I don’t want to make him mad. “Sorry.”
Nam doesn’t say anything. Kiki barks again and behind us is Mẹ. She gives us both kisses. A long special one on the cheek for Nam since it’s his birthday. Mẹ grabs the spoons, but I stop her and tell her, “I want to do it.”
Spoons. Plates. Rice. Veggies. Lots of veggies. Bread. We eat the food Nam made. Mẹ talks about what we are doing today. I want to go into the town to see everyone, but Mẹ says we stay in the house. No trip today. I’m sad, but we need to listen to Mẹ. She gives Nam his gift. Some clothes. Blue with stripes. I want to give my present to Nam, but I see him staring at a picture of Bô. I touch the rocks inside my pockets. The rocks are pretty, but they are dead. They don’t play. Sing. Or make food like Bô. Rocks don’t talk. They just sit in the dirt. Bô is a better present than rocks. But where is he? He makes Nam happy. I will find him.
Don’t know how, but I will.
After breakfast, I help clean the table, while Nam plays with Kiki. Mẹ washes the dishes and I dry them. I tell Mẹ lots, like the fishes in the river, and I want to swim. Mẹ always gives me the same answer. She tells me not to go outside. Mẹ gives me the last plate to dry, and when I’m finished, I call for Kiki. She comes to me and jumps on my body. Licks my face. Then I hear a loud zoom.
I open the door and run outside and yell for the monsters to come back.
I jump up and down at the sky. Five huge birds fly above me. I follow the birds, and people start running. Everyone hides. They run back to the house. Close the doors. Yelling at everyone as they point to the sky.
Nam calls me.
He carries me. “We need to hide.”
“But I want to talk to the monsters.”
Up in the sky, the birds fly back and forth dropping down loaves of bread. Like the ones I ate at lunch. The ground shakes. We fall down. We run into the house. Mẹ locks the door and tells us to get under the table, but I tell them I want to ask about Bô.
“He’s gone,” Nam says.
Tears drip down his face and hides it in Mẹ’s arm. I know Bô is not gone. He is still here. I will ask the nice lady when she comes. The nice lady that Bô hugs and kisses. She came that day to talk to Bô. He had everything. Suitcases. Books. Stuff to go to fight the monsters. I said I wanted to come, but Bô won’t let me. He kissed the nice lady again and walked out of the house. I followed them and saw Bô and the nice lady got into the car. They still haven’t come back. She must know where he is. I will find her and ask where Bô is. He needs to be here for Nam’s birthday. I want to tell Nam and Mẹ my new idea, but Mẹ tells me to shush. She says the monsters are coming. So I cover my ears and try not hear the boom, boom, boom.