It was a clear, cool Saturday. The birds were chirping, the sun was shining, and my kids were napping. Bliss. Until my husband turned to me and said these terrifying words: “Have you seen the keys?”
For you see…I had not seen the keys. I had not seen the keys since I had come home from work the day before. I might have possibly heard the keys as they were thrown around the room by one of my toddlers, but no visual contact had been made.
This is a common problem in my household – between two kids who like to steal keys and two adults who are too lazy to stop their kids from stealing keys, we often find ourselves dropping our important activities (read: Netflix) and searching the house for the keys. Inevitably, we find them underneath a toy, or in a drawer, or any other location that only tiny people would think of.
But this day…oh, this day. This day was different. This day, the keys were not in any of our usual places. They were, in fact, nowhere to be found. We asked our two-year-old, fresh from his nap, where Mommy’s keys were, and he giggled and said, “Poo-poo.”
I looked at my husband. He nodded. “It’s time,” he said. “We need to enter The Maw.”
And I swear scary music played from somewhere overhead.
You see, our couch, which looks comfy and fluffy from the outside, is actually home to a deadly monster: The Maw.
You know of The Maw, too, don’t you? The Maw lives in homes across the world. It is a giant, terrible hole, deep inside the couch, where all happiness and lost items go to die. Your kids feed it Cheerios. Your dog feeds it socks. Your in-laws offer to vacuum it out, but you know better. You know better. The Maw must never be empty. If you don’t lose enough things in a week, The Maw grows angry, and you are forced to throw Cheeze-Its at it in order to pacify its desire for more fodder. If a wandering child brings a toy to the couch that is not at least the size of a cinder block, you know it must be sacrificed, lest we all be consumed.
When The Maw is happy, we never speak of it. We never speak to it. And we certainly don’t stick our hands down it and search for things.
But, alas, on this day, we knew what we had to do: We had to enter The Maw.
I gathered the kids around me. “Be brave, children,” I whispered as my husband approached the couch in the same way someone would approach a sensitive bomb or Britney Spears. He looked back at us one last time. Then he moved the couch cushions, took a deep breath, and plunged his hand into the gaping hole in our couch.
At first, nothing seemed to happen. Then the full power of The Maw was known.
“Are these…chocolate Goldfish crackers?” my husband asked, a horrified look in his eyes, buried up to his elbow in the couch. “Or…is it…poop?”
We decided it was crackers.
More and more things came flying out of The Maw. Cheerios, shoes, seven single socks with no mates, dignity, and substances of unknown origin were all there, mocking us with our inability to defeat The Maw. My husband persevered, bravely hiding his fear to show his children that they, too, could be brave, when The Maw inevitably ate us and they were left to raise it alone. Tears were shed as so many hair ties were rescued. More tears were shed when the hair ties were removed from the room and put into a cabinet. School papers, old photographs, tags from a million different articles of new clothing, Legos (we don’t even own Legos) – The Maw had taken them all. With no remorse or sorrow The Maw had slowly sucked our entire lives into its tan, stretchy fabric.
Finally, after what seemed like days, the search ended. The Maw had not claimed our keys. Or perhaps the mysterious substances were some sort of digestive fluid that had dissolved our keys into nothingness.
Slowly, hauntingly, my husband covered up The Maw with the couch cushions. He fed The Maw some trash and old pizza crusts. Then he sat next to me and drew the children close to us, and we all sat together in silence, contemplating our place in the universe and how many more crackers The Maw would consume before the year was over. Nothing seemed the same. We weren’t the same. The Maw had changed us all. For better or for worse…well, that remains to be seen.
The car keys were in the kitchen, by the way. My bad.