The Grimmies in the Closet

by David Garstang

for his beloved daughter, Jennifer

July 20, 1994


"They live in your closet, and they creep out late at night," Billy said, the corner of his mouth curling upward as it always did when he teased his little sister. His belly shook as if he were laughing, but no sound escaped his lips.

"They do not!" Sara replied angrily. "There’s no such thing as Grimmies!" At five, she could tell when he was just being mean. She knew she should ignore him, but he made her so mad sometimes. "If there were Grimmies, we could see them when the light’s on." That should fix him!

But it didn't. He just grinned bigger. "Don’t you know anything? The light makes them go to sleep, and they’re invisible when they’re asleep." His voice got very quiet, almost a whisper. "They’re covered with green warts and slime, and they have huge, sharp teeth." Sara leaned closer. She couldn't help herself. "And they EAT little children!" On the word "eat", he grabbed her arm.

Sara jumped. "They do not!" she shouted. "You’re just being mean! Leave me alone!"

But Billy wasn't done yet. "When the Grimmies are out, only your bed is safe, because they can't climb on beds. If you stick even a toe out, they'll gobble you up!" Sara started to cry and ran out of the room. Billy laughed out loud; the sound followed her down the hall.

Over the next few weeks, Billy told her more about Grimmies. How they would hide under the bed at night so that some people thought they lived there, but they really lived in closets. How they glowed green when they were hungry. How their breath smelled like old sweaty sneakers. How they made little creaks and thumps when they prowled about. How they could squeeze out through the tiniest opening in the closet door. Sara didn't believe a word of it, of course, but she started keeping her closet tightly closed at night.

After a while, Billy stopped talking about Grimmies. He found other ways to torment Sara, like making funny faces when she talked and calling her "pimple brain" and tying her shoelaces together and stealing bites from her dessert when their parents weren't looking. The only time Sara was truly happy was when her brother ran away from home. But her happiness never lasted long -- he always came back in time for dinner.

But Sara couldn't forget the Grimmies. Late at night, she could hear little creaks and thumps coming from her closet, so she made sure the door was closed tight each night before she went to sleep.

One night, Mom came in to hang up some clothes after Sara was asleep. She knew that Sara liked the closet door closed, but she didn't know about Grimmies and wasn't as careful as she should have been. Mom left the door open just a tiny crack when she left. But it was enough.

The sound of squeaky voices disturbed Sara's sleep. She opened her eyes. A bright green glow filled her room. Several little green creatures moved around on the floor between the closet and her bed. Warts covered their faces, and huge pointy teeth stuck out of their mouths. She pulled the blanket over her head, but couldn't shut out the voices.

After a while, Sara noticed that the sounds had a rhythm and made a strange sort of tune. The Grimmies were singing! She carefully peeked out from under her blanket. The ugly green creatures bounced and twirled around the floor in time to their music, waving their long, bony arms in the air. They were dancing! Seeing this, Sara forgot to be scared. Sticking her head out, she coughed and said, "Excuse me!"

Suddenly, the room was silent and dark. The Grimmies had vanished! Sara couldn't figure out where they'd gone at first, until she noticed a faint green glow coming from under her bed. "I know you're under there," she called. "Why don't you come out and talk to me?"

She heard a furtive whispering, then the largest and ugliest of the Grimmies crept slowly out from under the bed and stood staring at her. It was about half as tall as she was. "What to talk about do you want?" it grunted.

Sara struggled through his backward way of saying things, but finally figured it out without asking . "Oh, nothing really. I've just never talked to a Grimmie before. I thought you were mean and ate little children, but you dance and sing. You seem nice!"

The Grimmie's laugh was merry, even if it wasn't pretty. "We dance and sing because happy we be to be free from closet. Children we do eat, yes, but only when very hungry we are. Usually bugs we eat, and bits of food that on the floor are dropped, and dust bunnies. They be my favorite, because they tickle when you swallow!"

Sara sniffed the air curiously. The Grimmie looked puzzled. "For why sniff do you?"

Sara was getting used to the Grimmie's way of talking, so she answered right away. "I heard that your breath smelled like old, dirty shoes, but I don't smell anything!"

"That because teeth we brush, yes, after every time we eat. Live in closets, we do, with dirty shoes sometimes , so say people we smell like dirty shoes. But the shoes it is that smell, not us!"

"Can I dance with you?" Sara asked.

The Grimmie ducked under the bed and there was more whispering. It sounded like they were arguing. Finally, it returned. "Dance you can, for one hour, before you we eat. Some say eat now, but nice you are, so we dance first."

At first, Sara just stared at him, not believing her ears. "But WHY?" she cried at last. "Why must you eat me?"

The Grimmie looked puzzled. "Why? Because the Rule it is. When we are locked in closet for long time until very hungry we are, eat we the person whose fault it was that we were locked up. It not fair to eat someone else. It is our biggest Rule. Did not you know this?"

Sara started to sob. Big tears squeezed from her eyes and rolled down her cheeks. "I thought we were becoming friends. Could you really eat a friend?"

The Grimmie picked a crumpled tissue off the floor and handed it to her. "It is the Rule. Can not break the Rule. Sorry be me." It looked like it might cry, too.

"I wouldn't have locked you in if I'd known how nice you are," she protested. "My mean old brother made me scared of you. I would never have done it, except for him!" Between sobs and sniffles, she told the Grimmie about her brother and the terrible things he'd said about them.

The Grimmie sat quietly for a minute when she finished. "I an idea have," it said at last. "Wait you here." Back under the bed it went. The whispering was louder and angrier this time, and she was afraid they might start fighting , but finally there was silence. The big Grimmie came out again. "Settled it is. The Rule does not make us to eat you because it not be your fault. We can friends be!"

Sara threw her leg over the side of the bed, but then she remembered what her brother had said about only the bed being safe. She jerked it back in. "Hey, wait a minute. You aren't trying to trick me or anything"

The Grimmie looked confused, but then his eyes lit up. "Oh, about safe the beds being and all. That a game be that we play. When bad little boys and girls out of bed climb after mommies say stay, we pretend that they only safe be when on bed. But beds we can come on any time we want." To prove it, he hopped up next to her and stuck his face right up to hers. She pulled back and clutched at the covers, but he just laughed and hopped down again.

Sara clapped her hands in delight and jumped out of bed. She danced with the Grimmies for hours, singing along with their songs even though she didn't know the words. When she got too tired to dance any more, the Grimmies helped her climb into bed, then tucked her in.

The next morning at breakfast, Mom said, "I haven't seen your brother all morning. I think he ran away again." She sighed. "Oh well. He'll probably come home tonight as usual."

Sara smiled a secret smile. "He never misses dinner!"

And to this day, Sara always sleeps with the closet door wide open.