CHARLIE CRANE AND THE SOCK MONSTERS
illustrated by Alex Vann
My mother went away when I was just small
I don’t really remember my Mummy at all.
Something too in my father changed
He became quiet, distant, almost estranged.
Our old house only held bad memories for him,
That’s when we moved to the village called Whim.
Our new house was large with flowerbeds and lawns,
Surrounded by fields of grasses and corns.
Inside there were attics, cellars, spaces galore,
Completely ideal for an inquisitive boy to explore.
There were parlours, cupboards, every type of room,
Looked after by a housekeeper called Mrs Broome.
My father said “Charlie Crane this is a magical house,”
But so far all I had seen was a black and white mouse.
The nearest school was miles away, too long a ride,
So a Nanny was employed to be my guide.
She was called quite simply Delilah Crabbe,
Who had a face like a toad and looked like a slab.
She had big bulging eyes with a wart on her nose,
Dressing in grey from her head to her toes.
Her hair looked like seaweed on a wet winters day,
But she has a good heart my father would say.
She didn’t like children to play with their toys,
It’s better to read than make lots of noise.
Each day was run like a military plan,
Timed to the second from when it began.
Breakfast at eight, prayers at nine,
Read until ten, colouring time.
Sums ´til eleven, manners at noon,
Then lunch in the parlour with Mrs. Broome.
Drawing at one, more adding at two,
“At three”, said Delilah, we’ll go to the zoo.
Home again at half past five,
Tea in the kitchen waiting for to Father to arrive.
But it wasn’t like this on the 28th May,
For my Father came home early from work that day.
A protesting Delilah was sent home an hour before tea,
So the rest of the day was left for my Father and me.
We played in the garden making marvellous noise,
I even played with all of my toys.
“Father” I said, “could I explore the house?”
I’d decided to hunt for the black and white mouse.
“Of course”, he said, “little Charlie Crane,
But don’t go looking for that mouse again!”
So off I scurried, climbing the stairs,
Looking in corners, on ledges, on chairs.
Finally in the laundry, there’s a big cupboard where,
Mrs. Broome puts all of our clean clothes to air.
In there, I thought, it would be snugly and nice,
For most little families, particularly mice.
I crawled into the space between the shelf and the floor
And was totally surprised when I saw a white door.
From behind that door I heard a burpy noise,
Well such is the way of inquisitive boys.
That I decided not to be scared but to explore,
So I pushed very gently against that white door.
As it slowly swung open, a room was revealed,
It had gaps on the wall where the wallpaper had peeled.
Surprisingly it wasn’t dark or particularly bright,
But that wasn’t the reason my face went sheet white.
Because before my eyes in my pounding head,
I saw a little fat creature sat on a bed.
He had a bright yellow face and wore a tartan hat,
Two eyes, no ears, a nose quite flat.
His mouth was wide for one so small I suppose,
His body was round and he had thirteen toes.
He had no legs, just podgy red feet,
Long thin arms like sticks of wheat.
“Hello human, what’s your name?” he said,
Burped a little then fell off his bed.
I tried to talk but could only stare,
At the funny fat creature sitting there.
Rubbing his head with his skinny arms,
Little eyes twinkling like lucky charms.
“Well”, he said, “I haven’t all week,
I thought you humans liked to speak”.
“Oh, I beg your pardon”, I finally said,
And with that he hopped back onto his bed.
“My name”, I said, “Is Charlie, Charlie Crane”,
“Does your head hurt, are you in pain?”
“No”, he replied, then burped again,
“We don’t hurt like mortal men.”
“I rub my head when I need to think,”
“Possibly this year I will be lilac or pink”.
“Sorry”, I stuttered, “I don’t understand”
But he waved me away with a claw like hand.
“Don’t worry Charlie and don’t you fret,
I still haven’t made my mind up yet.
What a dilemma fiddle de dee,
What is my colour Hiram McFee!”
He gave me a smile with those sparkling eyes,
Then completely took me by surprise.
By doing a somersault through the air
Landing in the corner on a blue wicker chair
“Sorry to startle you Charlie Crane
I promise I won´’t do that again
But I really have to choose my colour soon
Always have to before the first of June”
By the wicker chair I could see a box
All tattered and torn with thirteen locks
“Now” he said to himself, “Hiram, remember how this goes”
And he undid each lock with different toes
“Eureka, bazooka, bamboozle” he crowed,
As the lid flew open and the room suddenly glowed
With colours I´m sure no rainbow had seen,
From orange to sunshine to magenta to green.
As my eyes adjusted to the unusual light,
I saw for me an incredible sight.
For in that tattered colourful box,
There must have been five hundred odd socks.
Some were long as some were short,
Some for Sundays, some for sport.
Some were large as some were small,
For each odd sock was rolled into a ball.
He gasped, “What a dilemma, fiddle de dee,
What is my colour Hiram McFee.”
He turned to me saying “Sorry I really am rude,
But this for me is what you humans call food.”
My mouth must have been open, my eyes very wide,
At the sight of the box with what was inside.
“You look puzzled, bewildered, Charlie Crane,
Yes of course you are, let me explain.
You have heard of sock monsters of course you know,
I heard your father say it not long ago.
Always remember Charlie, if you ever have odd socks,
Go and look for the sock monster box.
So every year on the first of June,
We choose our colour and sing to the moon.
Singing we are sock monsters, with podgy red feet,
We burp, have no legs, we are what we eat.
And as the sky turns from black to blue,
We pick our first sock and begin to chew.
The minute that magic night draws to a close,
We change to the colour of the sock we chose.”
“Oh” I said, “that´s perfectly clear,
You have to pick for the rest of the year.”
“Eureka, bazooka, bamboozle” shrieked Hiram McFee,
Burped, did a somersault then chuckled with glee.
“Charlie Crane you are particularly bright,
Would you like to join us on Colouring night?”
“That would be lovely, you´re very kind,
But I have a few questions if you don´t mind.”
“Not at all” he said “but it´s time for a snack,
Give me a second and I´ll be right back.”
With that he scrambled back under his bed,
Presently returning with a bright yellow thread.
Carefully he rolled it into a neat little ball,
Then swallowed it whole, without chewing at all.
Hiram burped twice before he said,
“What are these questions in your bright little head.”
“Well,” I asked, “are there sock monsters in every house,
Or only ones with a black and white mouse?”
He said “Sock monsters live where there are good girls and boys,
Who have horrible nannies or very few toys.
So when you are unhappy, your world on the rocks,
Try to think of the sock monster box.
And I´ll bet you a kipper that after a while,
You might even burp or happen to smile.”
With that thought my whole tummy glowed,
Maybe Nanny Crabbe wasn’t such an old toad.
I mean she always did find different things to do,
Like walks in the park or maybe the zoo.
She would help me with sums, encourage my art,
After all Father said she did have a good heart.
“You see, you see, just what I said,”
Chirped Hiram McFee from the end of his bed.
“Now what other things do you need to know,
It´s getting late, soon time to go.”
“Oh my, oh yes, you are perfectly right,
How many others will be here on Colouring night.?”
He rubbed his head saying “Let me see,
De da, do da, oh yes, one plus three.
Myself of course and Hairy McJohn,
He looks after Mrs. Watkins son.
Then no doubt there will be Silas McWhirl,
He takes care of the Buttevant girl.
Finally the fourth is Waldo McRoy,
He watches over the Bultitude boy.”
“Thank you” I said “it is time to go,
What time and when, how will I know?”
“Now Charlie Crane don’t you fret,
I haven´t even chosen my new colours yet.
But quite right, quite right, I have to say,
Be here at midnight, thirty-first of May.”
My excitement grew over the next two days,
My head was spinning in a million ways.
So on the eve of the Colouring Night,
I went to my father and said “Is it alright,
If I went early this evening to my bed,
I´m feeling tired with a woozy head.”
“Of course my Son,” he softly replied,
“You are growing up fast his voice full of pride.”
With that he gently ruffled my hair,
And bade me goodnight from his big leather chair.
“Off you go son, god bless, good night,
Have the sweetest of dreams, God bless, sleep tight.”
I picked up my milk from Mrs. Broome,
Then went upstairs and sat in my room.
The time went slowly, tickety tock,
I kept getting up to look at the clock.
Then after what seemed like an eternity,
It was time to revisit Hiram McFee.
I crept to the laundry, opening the cupboard door,
And crawled into the space between the shelf and the floor
The door to Hiram´s room was open wide,
As promised with all four sock monsters inside.
“Hello Charlie Crane,” said Hiram McFee,
“I´ve finally decided what colour to be.
Eureka, bazooka, bamboozle, imagine that,
I´m going to be green with a pink fluffy hat.”
He was sitting in the corner on the blue wicker chair,
Next to a monster with a mass of red hair.
“Charlie,” he said, “let me introduce everyone,
This over here is Hairy McJohn.”
Hairy was the colour of a ginger cat,
Had red podgy feet and a big flowery hat.
“Hello,” he said, with a gingery burp,
Then said “Silas McWhirl, you are such a twerp.”
With his claw like hand he pointed to the bed,
Where Silas was eating stood on his head.
“Hairy” said Silas, “you know I stand on my head to eat”
With that he somersaulted to his feet.
Then put out his arms and did a full twirl,
“It´s good to meet you Charlie, I´m Silas McWhirl.”
“Hello” I said, “nice to meet you too”
He had an orange cap, his colour was sky blue.
My eyes were drawn to the tattered old box,
Where another monster stood, examining socks.
He was humming a tune like I´d never heard,
From humans or creature not even a bird.
He was dark purple with a lilac top hat,
On the brim of which the black and white mouse sat.
And as he hummed he tapped is feet,
He looked very smart, decidedly neat.
“Excuse me my boy” he said in a very deep voice,
“But I have yet to make my choice.
I won´t be a jiffy, I won´t keep you long”
As he examined and tapped, humming his song.
“Sparkling” he chortled, “spiffing, supreme”
As he spotted a sock of brilliant pea green.
“That´s the spirit” he piped up with obvious joy,
“Good day Charlie Crane, I´m Waldo McRoy.”
“It´s my pleasure” I said “to meet you all”
As Waldo picked up the brilliant green ball.
“Thank you for the invitation Hiram McFee,
But really you are not monsters, not to me.”
“Yes we are” said Hairy, “of course we are,
We don´t have a house or a shiny new car.
We don´t go to school, we have a flat nose,
We have podgy red feet with thirteen toes.
We don’t have ears, we don’t have legs,
And most of our food is found hanging on pegs.”
“Yes” chimed Silas, “I tend to agree”
Twirling he said, “It´s quite simple you see.
We somersault, we burp, and change colour each year,
If most humans saw us they would shudder with fear.
So it is best we are hidden, quiet and mild,
Only to be found by the loneliest child.
Or those who have nannies who don´t like noise,
Or won´t let children play with their toys.”
“Well” I said “I´m glad you found me,
I could not wish for a better place to be.”
“Quite splendid, quite sparkling boomed Waldo McRoy,
You really are such a fine little boy.
Now you know why we are quiet and don´t make a fuss,
Making children happy gives pleasure to us.”
“Enough, enough chit chat” said Hiram McFee,
“It´s nearly time for the ceremony.”
With that, all four monsters went to the box,
And carefully picked their chosen socks.
Silently they moved to the middle of the floor,
Side by side with their backs to the door.
Waldo began singing as you might know,
His voice was a melody, soft as snow.
“We are sock monsters with podgy red feet,
We burp, have no legs, we are what we eat.”
With that each monster bowed their head,
Then one by one wriggled under Hiram´s bed.
The black and white mouse just sat on the box,
Twitching his nose as he smelled the odd socks.
Time went by a minute or two,
The mouse picked a black sock and began to chew.
Then I heard a unanimous burp,
Followed by giggles and a delicious slurp.
Hairy was first from under the bed,
“Gosh!” I exclaimed “you are completely red.”
Waldo was next resplendent in green,
Sporting the bluest top hat I´d ever seen.
Silas was beige with a purple cap,
Around his shoulders was a purple wrap.
Last but not least was Hiram McFee,
Oh what a colourful sight he was to see.
Eureka, bazooka, bamboozle can you fancy that,
He was the deepest sea green with a pink fluffy hat.
They somersaulted, burped and sang again,
“Look at us little one, little Charlie Crane.
We are sock monsters we have podgy red feet,
We burp, have no legs, we are what we eat.”
I suddenly felt tired, I must have dozed off,
Because I was awoken by a loud A-hem cough.
A voice exclaimed, “He´s here Mr. Crane, in the laundry room!”
For looking down at me was Mrs. Broome.
“I found him asleep” she tutted, “behind the cupboard door
In the space between the shelf and the floor.”
Father picked me up in his big strong arms,
His eyes were all worried like fire alarms.
My head was fuzzy but I could hear them talking,
“That´s the first time he´s been sleep walking!”
I remember being tucked up, tightly in bed,
I didn’t study that morning just slept instead.
Father came to my room later that day,
And asked “Charlie do you feel better, are you okay?”
“Oh yes, I had the sweetest of dreams” I said,
He ruffled my hair then sat on the bed.
“Are you happy here Charlie, in this house?”
“Oh yes,” I smiled, “I have a black and white mouse.
And if I feel blue or down on the rocks,
I just have to think of the sock monster box!”
He laughed aloud saying “My, my little Charlie Crane,
I sometimes wonder what´s in your brain.”
“I am happy, Father” I said, “happy as punch,
Can I go downstairs now it´s time for lunch”.
In the parlour was Mrs. Broome,
Then Delilah Crabbe walked into the room.
She looked at me then smiled with a beam,
It was the scariest thing I´d ever seen.
She patted my head and gave me a wink,
Saying “You can play with your toys today I think.”
She was still dressed in grey, still looked a toad,
But my whole body felt warm, my whole tummy glowed.
And there in the parlour in that magical house,
On the shelf by the biscuits was the black and white mouse.
Never again in the laundry did I see,
The little sock monster called Hiram McFee.
Nor Silas, or Waldo or even Hairy McJohn,
Because when I looked in the cupboard the white door had gone.
But I felt glad for them as I felt glad for me,
For there are lots of other children to keep them happy.