Home > A Head Full of Ghosts(6)

A Head Full of Ghosts(6)
Paul Tremblay

The stories in my Scarry book were short and weird and had oddly happy or reassuring endings. Marjorie was the main source of the stories and she named all the animal characters after me, of course.

After finding Goldbug in the last scene, I scooped up the book into my arms, exploded out of my cardboard house and out of my room, and ran down the long hallway to Marjorie’s bedroom. I ran with bare and heavy feet, slapping my soles against the hardwood floor so she could hear me coming. It was only fair to give her a warning.

During that fall, new privacy protocols had been established. Marjorie had begun shutting her bedroom door, which meant “Merry, stay out or else!” The door generally was shut when she did homework and in the morning when she dressed for school. Marjorie was fourteen and a freshman. This new high schooler now took much longer to get ready in the morning than her previous youthful middle schooler had. She monopolized the upstairs bathroom, then cloistered herself in her room until Mom, standing expectantly in the foyer, would yell up the stairs that we were going to be late for school and/or some unnamed appointment because of her and that Marjorie was being very snotty and/or selfish. The selfish bit always made me giggle because Mom invariably would be yelling too fast to keep up with her own words and it would sound like she loudly proclaimed Marjorie was being very shellfish. I was secretly disappointed when Marjorie would storm down the stairs with her normal hands instead of giant pincer claws.

With this being a lazy Saturday afternoon, I was not expecting to find her bedroom door shut. I respected Marjorie’s closed-door policy as much as any little sister could be expected to, but Marjorie surely had to have heard my bounding down the hallway.

I stood nearly panting outside Marjorie’s grand door, which was the only door in the place that was original to the old house. Solid oak, darkly stained to match the floors, it was wall thick, built to withstand barbarous hordes and battering rams and little sisters. So unlike my cheapo, pressed sawdust door that my parents let me decorate and desecrate how I pleased.

Oak, schmoak. Since it was Saturday, I was within my well-delineated and negotiated rights to knock on Marjorie’s door, which is what I did. I then cupped my hand around my mouth and the keyhole and yelled, “Story time! You promised me yesterday!”

Her high-pitched giggle sounded like she couldn’t believe she was getting away with something.

“What’s so funny?” I frowned hard and everything inside me sank into my toes. The door was blockaded because this was a joke and she wasn’t going to make a new story with me. I yelled, “You promised!” again.

Marjorie then said in her normal voice, which wasn’t as helium-high as her laughter, “Okay, okay. You may enter, Miss Merry.”

I did a quick little dance I’d seen on SpongeBob. “Yeah! Woo!” I shifted the book so its top was tucked under my chin and partly pinned against my chest by my elbows. I didn’t want to drop the book to the floor, that was bad luck for the book, but I needed both hands free to turn the doorknob. I finally bullied my way in, grunting and ramming my shoulder against the stubborn, monolithic door.

Because I was convinced that I was going to grow up to be exactly like Marjorie, entering her room was like discovering a living, breathing map of my future, and a map with consistently shifting geography. Marjorie was always rearranging her bed, dresser, desk, assorted bookcases, and milk crates filled with the most current accessories of her life. She even would rotate her posters, calendar, and astronomy decorations on the walls. With each permutation, I’d remodel the interior of my cardboard house to match hers. I never told her that I did that.

On this Saturday her bed was wedged tight into one corner and underneath her only window. The curtains were gone and only a thin, lacy white treatment remained. Her posters hung crookedly, overlapped, and clustered haphazardly on the wall across from her bed. The rest of the walls were bare. Her dresser and mirror were shoved into another corner, with her bookcases, nightstand, and milk crates filling the other two corners so that the middle of the room was wide open. The room’s floor plan was an X without the crossing part.

I slowly tiptoed in, careful not to trigger any unseen trip wires that might set off Marjorie and her increasingly unpredictable mood swings. Any perceived transgression on my part could spark an argument that would end with either my crying and running to my cardboard house or with Dad’s brutish method of mediating (i.e., his yelling the loudest and longest). I stood in the center of her room’s centerless X, and my heart rattled like a quarter loose in a dryer. I loved every second of it.

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