Exorcising a Memory
Just because I was a teenage girl, adults assumed I would be a good babysitter. They assumed wrongly. I’ll spare you the horror stories that children endured at my inexperienced hands lest many years after the fact the Child Protective Services attempt to arrest me. But one haunts my memory and I must attempt to exorcise it by confessing the truth.
Our neighbors, the V….ks, were young, good looking and fun. But they were foolish enough to trust me with their sons so I don’t suppose they were very bright or maybe they just weren’t fond of their children.
I don’t know where they went but I know it was a clear night probably in the late summer. The moon was full and the boys were a little restless. Rightly, they felt since I was being paid, my time should be theirs to command. I disagreed. They wanted to play games. I wanted them to leave me in peace.
Bedtime was 9:30 and I had them bathed, p-jayed and prayed by quarter after. I told them a story or two. Then I went out, raided the frig, and found a book. I’m a fast reader; I took speed reading once and frequently flew through a couple books a day. So I was soon deeply into The Exorist, a book my mother wouldn’t let me read— for reasons that soon became apparent.
The house, while not exactly alone, was set two large fields from a neighbors’ on one side and two large fields from my parents’ on the other. From one small window in the kitchen, if I stood on tiptoe, I could see the light from our house. After a couple of chapters in the book, I huddled under the window as if the light from my parents’ living room could save me.
I didn’t stop reading though.
Every creak, every mutter of that strange house made me motionless with fear. My breath came in little gasps through dry lips and my heart pounded in my ears so loudly that I often thought it was someone walking around outside. In a moment of abject panic, I decided that, if my parents’ house was lit and the house I was in was dark, whatever lurked outside looking for warm blood would decide to go over there where someone was home. (Not only was I a coward but I wasn’t exactly clear on the concept of where breaking and entering was likely to occur). Being a teenager, I was more than willing to sacrifice my parents to the monsters. Not only would I be alive but with them out of the way maybe I could finally go on a date.
Careful to stay away from windows, I turned out every light in the house. Simultaneously with the last light being extinguished, a howling started, but not the howling of one anguished dog, rather it was a snarling, snapping howling that rose like cold evil from the throats of a whole hell’s spawn of throats. I scrambled backwards and knocked over a chair– every werewolf story I had ever heard fluttering against my heart like moths to the light.
The harsh clatter of the falling chair woke one of the boys and, in a misguided belief in my kindness, he called to me. At first I was reluctant to move, I feared the pack that sounded nearly outside the window would hear the noise and break through the glass to savage my throat with their fangs. But then, an idea came to me.
Within seconds, I was between the two boys’ beds. “Hush, go back to sleep. I’m here, “ I murmured between panting breaths. Making myself as small as possible, I lay on the floor flanked by two sweet morsels offered temptingly up–their beds serving as altars to the sacrifice I was willing to make. With one of them on either side, one next to the window, one next to the door, the creatures outside would surely devour the children first…allowing me just enough lead time to escape out the other exit.
I lay for hours trembling, listening to the howls of the hungry pack. At last the V…k’s returned. They found me still huddled between the beds. “Did the boys get scared and need you?” They asked in embarrassment. “You didn’t have to be so sweet and sacrifice your back to this floor. You must have not slept a wink especially with the kennel being full of a bunch real barkers tonight.”
In dazed agreement I nodded my head; I was still processing the fact that I had forgotten the other neighbors sometimes boarded dogs and, tonight, apparently, they had boarded a rather lonesome quartet of bassett hounds.
The V…ks gave me a bonus for my miserable night and when the pretty wife noticed I had been reading her paperback, she offered to loan it to me.
Somehow, the moment has never seemed right to finish that book.