Read an Excerpt
THE BODY OF FIFTY-ONE-YEAR-OLD DAISY ROTHS-
child floated above the antiseptic sheets while her mind paid a visit to
the day she discovered the plughole.
It was the first time Nanny Rita let her play unsupervised in the massive
claw-foot tub. Doofus, her yellow rubber ducky, bobbed and dipped between
the clouds of gardenia-scented bubbles while the Bad Thing that usually
hid at the back of her toy closet hovered near the privy, waiting for a
lapse in her bravery to rear up and take shape.
A chubby balloon of babyflesh adrift on an enchanted sea, Daisy was lost
in daydreams of princesses, wish-granting fairies, and an island where
people lived in houses made of chocolate cake and whipped cream. It had
all been perfectly pleasant until Nanny Rita came in on a blast of cold
air wielding the thin rough towels and told her she was going to shrivel
like an old prune if she didn't come out straightaway. Willful and
overindulged, Daisy refused, though the water had turned cold and the
porpoise had swallowed all the bubbles.
Nanny Rita, who didn't particularly like children, gave the pull-chain a
jowl-jarring tug. The white rubber stopper popped out with a loud, sucking
Shooowack! Glug! Slurp!
Not only was Daisy's adventure shattered, the pull-chaina fine string of
gold beads, compliments of the Fairy Princesswas receiving rather shabby
treatment at the hands of the spiteful nanny. Daisy reacted as any spoiled
four-year-old might in such a moment of overbearing adult interference by
throwing a tantrum and refusing to be removed from the draining tub.
In her own fit of rage (brought on in partby Mr. Nanny having run off
three weeks earlier with a woman half her age), Nanny Rita refrained from
braining the ill-mannered, rotten child but left her to take chill in the
drafty bath. At the same moment Nanny Rita slammed the door behind her,
Doofus swam past, headed for the drain. He looked terribly alarmed, and
Daisy was sure she could hear him quacking for help.
Her eyes darted to the privythe Bad Thing had moved.
She fixed her gaze on the plughole.
Vaguely she recalled having looked down the plughole once before and
feeling afraid. It was dark and bottomless; she imagined it was actually
the opened jaws of a sinister eel monster, like the one Nanny Rita showed
her in the London Aquariumthe one that gobbled up naughty, unruly
The slight tug on her toes caused her to whimper and
pull her foot away from the plughole, except she couldn't get away at
allher foot slipped back. The monster was sucking her into his mouth. As
the plughole jaws were about to close around his tail feathers, Doofus
squawked in rubber ducky distress. Catching him at the last second, she
threw him overboard. The duck hit the doorknob and landed with a squawk of
gratitude somewhere near the privy.
The milky water swirled faster as the thirsty beast greedily sucked it
down. All the stories Nanny Rita read from Grimm's Fairy Tales were true!
How could she have forgotten that after monsters had their fill of water,
they wanted meat? Little girl meattender and pink.
Now she wished she had listened to Nanny Rita and not eaten the second
helping of pudding after supper. The monster on the other side of the
plughole would smell it inside her and there was nothing monsters liked
better than a creamy pudding center inside their little girls. It would
tear her open and rip out her tummy with rows of sharp, pointed teeth.
As terror paralyzed her, the bottomless, sucking gullet got hold of her
toes. How could Nanny do this to her? Had she really been such a naughty
girl? She felt the first pricks of teeth as her foot slipped between its
jaws. Freeing herself
of the terror that had found her throat, she loosed a blood-
curdling scream that brought Nanny Rita running. Her round face pushed
close to Daisy's own.