by Nathaniel Tower
Narrated by Bob Eccles
My daughter told me there was a giant squid under her bed. She told me this many times. I always assumed she was just telling me this because we went to Sea World and saw a giant squid and she thought it was scary, so she imagined there was one in her room to get some extra attention. She said it so many times my wife begged me to go up and check even though the very notion of a giant squid fitting under her bed was completely and utterly ridiculous.
“Your bed is so small,” I told her. “How could something so big live there?”
“It rolls itself into a little ball,” she said with such certainty I thought maybe it had just snuck into our belongings and made its way home with us.
I still refused to check, mainly out of principle. “There’s nothing to worry about. Besides, the giant squid would need water to live.”
Which of course made her panic because now there was a dying giant squid under her bed.
When she was at school the next day, I left work early to go home and peek under the bed. There it was, all balled up, a giant squid. But it didn’t look like it was dying.
“It’s okay, little fella,” I said to it, but it wouldn’t come out of its ball. It actually seemed to tighten itself. “Fine, suit yourself,” I told it and went off to take a shower.
A few minutes later a tentacle crept into the shower and took the bar of soap right as I was reaching for it.
I asked for the soap back and maybe for a little privacy if it didn’t mind. I didn’t expect the squid to respond, but he did.
“I’d like some more water and maybe a few hundred minnows a day,” he told me. I couldn’t see his face, but it sounded like he wasn’t really asking.
“I can’t give you those things,” I stammered, even though deep down I couldn’t believe the squid was talking to me. “Just give me the soap, please.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that until you’ve met my demands,” it responded. Its voice was much higher than I expected from a giant underwater creature.
“That’s fine. We’ve got plenty more soap,” I told him as I pulled the curtain open and reached for the cabinet. Before I could even grab the handle the squid opened the cabinet and took all the soap. Then he swiped a few more tentacles out and took my towel, my razor, my shampoo, and a few other items. I never realized how many tentacles a squid had, and I certainly wasn’t able to count them in that moment, but there sure were a lot of them. I also knew I didn’t want to get out of the shower without washing up first, so I told the squid I’d give everything he wanted if he just gave me the soap.
“I’m not sure I trust you,” he told me.
“You have my word,” I said and offered him a hand to shake. Somehow I knew he could see me even if I couldn’t see his face. He wrapped a long thin tentacle around my hand and shook it quickly. I expected the shake to be slimier. I’d touched used car salesmen with more slime.
He returned a sliver of soap and told me he had an eye on me even though I couldn’t see it. I imagined him squinting his eyes and pointing at me.
I hurried and washed my body, expecting the squid to reach a tentacle around me and suffocate me before hopping into the shower and living happily ever after, but he really did leave me alone just as I had asked. The squid had better manners than I had anticipated. I wondered if it was a common trait of squids.
After I finished with the shower I toweled off and went to the store to pick up a few things. I asked the squid if he wanted to come along but he told me he was afraid of cars.
It took quite some time to amass a big enough collection of water and minnows to satisfy the squid. I had to visit six pet shops before I had what could even pass for a hundred of the little fish.
The squid seemed quite pleased with my purchases. I was worried he would count the minnows and tell me there weren’t a hundred, but he just accepted them, gobbling up half of them with one swallow.
“Those aren’t half bad,” he told me, but I could tell he thought they were more than half bad. I left him alone in his new pool filled with water under the bed. I had to raise my daughter’s bed a little to fit the thing under there, but I figured she wouldn’t really notice.
When she returned home from school, the scream alerted me to the fact that she didn’t like the little change I had made to her room. The squid screamed right back, his louder and higher than hers.
“What’s the matter?” I asked in a panic after I sprinted up the stairs to their room.
“She screamed at me,” the squid said. I don’t think my daughter heard him.
“See. There’s a squid under my bed,” my daughter said with a firm point. “And now he has a little pool. He’s going to pull me in there and drown me while I sleep.”
“Squidsy will do no such thing,” I instantly replied. The squid gave me an odd look, and I knew I should have consulted him before bestowing a moniker upon him.
“The name is Charles,” the squid said with a disgusted look. “Squidsy? Seriously? That’s the best you could do.”
“You named him?” my daughter said in an appalled voice.
“Yes, but apparently the name I gave him isn’t good enough.”
“It is a pretty dumb name,” Charles said. My daughter gave no sign she agreed.
“Can’t you get rid of it, Daddy?” she pleaded.
“Sorry, sweetie. You’re just going to have to share your room now. I think you and Charles will get along pretty well,” I insisted. She turned up her nose and stormed out of the room.
“Women,” I said to Charles, but Charles either didn’t acknowledge my comment or didn’t understand. I guess he didn’t have much experience with the ladies in his underwater days.
Within a few seconds my wife marched into the room with my daughter in tow.
“Our daughter is not sharing a room with that thing,” she said from the doorway, my daughter clinging to her legs.
“Well, we can’t really give him his own room,” I shot back. “We don’t have the space for that.”
“Then we’ll just have to get rid of it,” my wife ordered.
“We can’t just throw him out on the street. Who would take care of him? You don’t do that kind of thing to a member of the family.” I wasn’t sure why I had become so attached to Charles. Maybe I just didn’t like being bossed around. Regardless of the reason, I wasn’t going to give him up.
“Then you can share the basement with it,” she said with her coldest death stare. I glanced back at Charles and saw him curled up into the tightest ball imaginable. The water in his pool looked like it was about to freeze under the wrathful gaze of my wife. I shivered at the thought of Charles suffering in that icy water.
“We will not go to the basement,” I roared at her. “Charles will stay right here, and I will sleep in my bed. If you don’t like it, you can go to the basement.”
Charles uncurled himself and placed a thankful tentacle on my shoulder. I patted it and shot him a quick smile. I couldn’t quite tell, but I was pretty sure he reciprocated.
My wife huffed in frustration and pulled my daughter away, pulling the door shut behind her and leaving me alone with Charles.
“Like I said before, women,” I said with a roll of my eyes.
Charles stroked my shoulder for a moment and then brought up a handful of tentacles to work the knots out of my back.
“Not all women are bad,” Charles said while working his magic.
“Name one that’s not.”
I laughed. “You’re not a woman.”
“Of course I am.”
“But your name is Charles,” I squeaked.
“And you’re so big.”
“Actually, females are bigger than males in my species. We typically have stronger names because of that.” Charles continued to dig her tentacles into the loosening muscles of my back.
“Is that a fact?” I asked in a state of perfect peace I hadn’t felt in years.
“Do you have any reason not to trust me?” she asked. It didn’t take more than a few seconds of thinking to realize I had none.
Charles and I slept in my daughter’s room that night. Eliza never came in, not even to get any of her stuff. I slept there the next night as well. My wife and daughter avoided me at all costs during those two days, so I decided it was time for Charles and me to get our own place.
“Charles and I are getting our own place,” I told my wife when I happened upon her while I was packing my clothes in our former bedroom.
“That’s stupid,” she said. “I can’t believe you are choosing a squid over your family.”
“Charles gets me. She knows what I want. We’ve got a little place in the city lined up.”
“You’re moving to the city with a giant squid?” she said.
“Yeah. You got a problem with that?” I wanted to throw my arms out to challenge her, but I knew it wouldn’t be much of a challenge.
“Good luck,” she said before storming out. I could tell she was just jealous.
The first week went okay, with Charles giving me massages every night and I giving her baths. On the eighth day I started to realize that we never really talked about anything.
“So how many tentacles do you have anyway?” I asked her.
“How should I know? Squids can’t count.”
“Why are they called tentacles if you have more than ten?”
“I don’t think that ten is a prefix there.”
“Why did you decide to leave the ocean?”
“To get away from annoyances,” she said with a sharp look. I stopped asking questions then and there. I wondered if this was all a big mistake. Perhaps humans and squids weren’t meant to share a life together.
“I’ll take you back to the ocean if you want,” I told her.
“Nope. I’m good here.” Then she curled up into a little ball and stayed there for the next three days. During those three days she didn’t eat or say a thing, and although the quiet was nice, it really made me focus on how much she stunk. Giving her all those baths must’ve warded off the awful decaying ocean scent, but unbathed, she was just unbearable.
Finally, when she rolled out of the ball and glanced at me on the fourth day, I told her it was over and that I was going home.
“That’s nice,” she said.
“What will you do?”
“How will you pay for it?”
“Squids don’t need money,” she said confidently. “I’ll manage.”
When I returned home that very night, my wife and daughter gave me the cold shoulder at first, but after a few hours they just couldn’t hold back their curiosity.
“So what’s it like living with a giant squid?” they asked.
“Let’s just say I have no desire to go to the ocean anytime soon,” I told them. We all shared a hearty chuckle even though I didn’t think there was anything funny about what we said. I washed out Eliza’s room and had some decent sex with my wife that night.
The next day I drove to the city apartment and tried to check in on Charles, but she didn’t answer when I knocked. I came back the next three days, but she never answered. On the fourth day, the landlord asked me what I was doing and demanded I stay off his property unless I could honor the lease. I gave him the year’s worth of rent right then and there and told him to take good care of Charles. He told me I was crazy but gladly took my money.
A month later I saw what looked like a giant squid wearing a trench coat enter a pet store. I would’ve followed her, but I was running late for a date with my wife. We were going to a seafood restaurant with the best calamari in town. We had wanted to go there for quite a long time.
BIO: Nathaniel Tower writes fiction, teaches English, and manages the online lit magazine Bartleby Snopes. His short fiction has appeared in over 100 online and print magazines and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His first novel, A Reason To Kill, was released in July 2011 through MuseItUp Publishing, and his debut novella, Hallways and Handguns, is due out in May 2012. Visit him at www.bartlebysnopes.com/ntower.htm