Door created by Amanda Ladymon
Boots Clomping in the Nights
William W Garland
We’ve all heard the sounds of things bumping and churning in the night. These things that we sometimes hear, defined Elsa’s nights. — Night after night.
Elsa never liked the adults that walked up-and-down the stairs. Her bedroom was tiny, and the only wall big enough to fit a proper bed was shared with their grogshop neighbors. The bed was precariously tucked against the back corner of the room, and the adults’ footsteps sounded as if they had clomped up the side of her bed each and every night.
In sleepless fits, she always imagined that they were the stomps of trolls, who had climbed up from the dampened earth only to find themselves stuck in the walls with no way out. In Elsa’s mind, this image, while terrifying, was more comforting than the thought of her dad’s stumbling footsteps being one of the many sounds that echoed through her darkened room.
When her little world wasn’t overtaken by the fitful night, Elsa enjoyed her new life on Main Street. After her father’s farming accident, she knew that the day was coming when they would be forced to leave their country home, but when her parents first told her that they would be moving to Columbia, Elsa was heartbroken. Up until then, her life had revolved around the lives of her friends, Johanna and Elias. They all lived on farms in Dutch Fork, and spent their summers clogging through creek beds and searching for rumored treasure troves.
The shift from calf-high water pulling on her toes, to long days helping her mother in their new fabric store wasn’t an easy one, but owning a store was her mother’s dream, and Elsa loved seeing her so happy. Because of her father’s accident on the farm, he couldn’t lift the heavy rolls of fabric, but he still helped out where he could and spent his days in the office, looking at numbers and pressing buttons on their adding machine.
Elsa’s job was to keep the store neat and swept. But she spent more time than she would ever admit watching her mother. She was radiant as she pulled row after row of fabric off of the shelves and bent over to cut them with clean, crisp lines. Elsa would stand and stare at the way the one sweat-soaked strand of hair fell below her mother’s jaw line as she leaned over to concentrate on the cut. To Elsa, her mother was beautiful, and she couldn’t wait until she grew up to be just like her. Elsa knew that if she was older and strong like her mother, then the nights wouldn’t be frightening, and she’d be able to sleep - even if the sounds of clomping boots going back-and-forth to the Diederich’s speakeasy played over her head each night.
When Elsa wasn’t helping her mother in the fabric shop, she spent her summer days wandering up-and-down Main Street. There were other kids that played in the street, and they occasionally asked her to join in on their games of makeshift baseball or tag. But she wasn’t very good at baseball and was too slow for tag, so Elsa mostly just kept to herself. The other kids were all nice enough, and she had fun playing their games and trying out the new taunts that she overheard, but Elsa was really interested in sneaking around behind the storefronts and playing in the alleyways. For it was there, amidst the discarded crates and the broken stacks of bricks, that she could truly be herself and live in a world full of pretending.
When she was running through the alleyways, she had a sword and armor, and she could slay the clod-stomping trolls, who wandered behind the buildings trying to find their friends that were stuck inside the walls. These back-alleyway trolls were particularly terrifying, because they were too big to fit in-between the walls, but they all knew Elsa to be a fierce warrior and hid out of fear whenever they heard her rounding the corner. This was Elsa’s favorite part — their fear.
The routine went on like this: Elsa in the fabric shop; Elsa in the streets; Elsa in the back alleyways, fighting off the ferocious trolls; and finally, Elsa in her bed, unable to drift into sleep. Things went on like this until one night when the uneasy clomps were particularly loud and Elsa felt as if they were going to break through the wall and reveal themselves to be the trolls that she’d feared all along. Her dad still wasn’t home, and her mother would be sound asleep and no help to her. It was too much for the little girl, and as they continued to stomp up-and-down her wall, she slunk down beneath the covers until she found herself sinking off her bed and hiding beneath it. She tried to pretend that her armor and sword were safely stowed away beneath the bed, but even in her imaginary world, she knew that those items always lived in her closet.
Shielded only by her blanket, Elsa crawled further under the bed in hopes of finding a safe hiding place where the sounds of clomping could no longer reach her. She slid further and further beneath the bed, and yet she only felt the sounds getting louder. But eventually her foot hit up against a strange, unfamiliar thing where her wall should’ve been. When she turned around beneath the bed, an odd and tiny door adorned with items from all around greeted her. It was the strangest and most wonderful little thing that Elsa had ever seen. It made her think of a door that her father had once made for their gingerbread house on Christmas Eve. If it hadn’t been sitting on the front of the gingerbread house, no one would have ever guessed it was actually a door, but it in Elsa’s mind, it was all the more wonderful because of its strangeness. To Elsa, this door was like that. It looked as if a little mouse had crawled into her room and assembled this tiny little door with its tiny little mouse hands — full of exquisite details that only the most imaginative minds could ever truly appreciate.
The foot clomps were louder than ever, and Elsa briefly worried that this tiny little door might be the thing that would finally let the nighttime trolls escape from the walls. Maybe the mice and the trolls were friends. But as we all know, for kids, the only thing that is more powerful than fear is curiosity. And it was with a curious hand that Elsa turned the doorknob and opened the tiny door. It was too dark on the other side of the doorway to know for sure, but the unsteady clomps grew fainter as Elsa squeezed and contorted her way through the matchbook-sized opening.
Nobody knows for sure what Elsa found on the other side of that tiny little door, but each-and-every night after that, she nuzzled down beneath her blanket and slept soundly through the night.