Friday, October 23, 2015

Halloween Blog Hop

Halloween Story Hop

                   White Curtains

          I was five years old. My stepfather was out of town on business so Mama let me sleep with her in their big bed. It was nothing new; working in the oilfield, Bull was gone a lot. Before he and Mama married, she and I had always slept together. We’d only had one bed.
            Until I heard the noise, I wasn’t sure if I’d awakened or not.
            For long seconds I just lay there listening, straining my eyes, afraid to turn my head for fear that whatever had made the noise might be crouched beside the bed watching me. I turned to stone, as still as a rabbit in the path of a thresher. Through the window opposite the bed, a huge scarecrow moon painted the humped-up shapes of our quilt-covered feet with pale, icy light.
            After a while I realized the only sounds I could hear were the familiar hum of the old refrigerator and the solemn tick of the Regulator clock. I relaxed. I must have been dreaming. Then I heard the distinct rasp of the glass patio door gliding along its narrow metal track. I couldn’t tell if it was being opened, or closed.
            My breath died. Fear clasped me in its paralyzing grip even as hopeful images of Bull, greasy steel-toed boots left outside on the porch, flooded my mind. I seemed to be all ears. My heartbeats were deafening in the darkness. Eons passed. In my head, a faceless stranger stood inside the open patio door, letting his eyes adjust to the midnight room. I knew it wasn’t Bull. He would’ve called to say he was on his way home.
            Sudden steps on hardwood.
            I jabbed Mama with my elbow. “Someone’s coming down the hall and it’s not Bull!”
            She was instantly awake. I wonder now if she’d been asleep at all. She rose from the bed and floated toward the bedroom door, a ghost story come to life in her glowing cotton gown.
            A stray beam of moonlight snagged on the silver claw of the hammer she hoisted above her head. Seeing her there, flattened against the wall beside the door, I finally understood why she’d always kept it beneath the bed.
            Then he was there, in our bedroom, framed in the narrow patch of light. Gangly, unkempt, listing like a battered ship in a high wind, I could smell his sour, barroom stench from across the room.
            Mama’s arm came down, hard, and the drunken man grunted and crumpled to his knees. Her arm came down again and again until the hammer no longer caught the moonlight.
            When it was over, she came toward me and I cringed at the stickiness spattering her gown.
            “S’okay, baby.” She folded me in her arms and led me toward the door.
            His crumpled form lay blocking it.
           We had to step over.
            I screamed when the hem of my nightie brushed my calf.
            We ran down the graveled road to the neighbor’s house a quarter mile away. I never felt the sharp stones beneath my feet, but I did stumble when I glanced back and saw the long white curtains waving from the open glass door.

The end

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