Home > A Head Full of Ghosts(7)

A Head Full of Ghosts(7)
Paul Tremblay

Marjorie sat cross-legged on her bed, in front of the window so that she was silhouetted by the graying light. She wore a white T-shirt and her new, soccer-team-issued sweatpants. They were Halloween-orange with the word Panthers stenciled in black along the side of one leg. Her dark brown hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail.

She had a large book open on her lap. By large, I don’t mean thick like a dictionary. The book spanned the width of her crossed legs. The pages were splashed with color, and they were tall and wide, about the size of the pages in my Scarry book that I still held against my chest like a shield.

I said, “Where’d you get that?”

I didn’t really have to ask. It was obvious that Marjorie had a kid’s book in her lap, which meant that it was one of mine.

Marjorie sensed the twitching and grinding in my head and started talking thirteen thousand miles per hour. “Please, please, please, don’t be mad at me, Merry. I had this amazing story just suddenly come to me, and I knew it wouldn’t quite fit in your book. I mean, we already have a molasses story in your book, right? So, okay, I just gave part of the story away, that it’s another molasses story, but this one is so different, Merry. You’ll see. And, anyway, I figured maybe the Scarry book was full and it was time to start a new book so I went into your room, and, Merry! I found the perfect book! I know it was not fair of me to go into your room without asking when I know that if you did the same to me I’d be so mad. I’m sorry-sorry, little Merry, but wait until you hear it and see what I drew.” Marjorie’s face was a giant smile; all white teeth and all wide eyes.

“When did you go into my room?” I didn’t want to start a fight, but I had to know how she did it. Knowing where Marjorie was at all times in our house was my business, and if her door was shut, I always had one satellite-dish ear aimed toward her room, listening for the door to creak open.

“I snuck in while you were playing in your house.”

“No you didn’t. I would’ve heard you.”

Her smile avalanched into a smirk. “Merry. It was easy.”

I gasped with my then usual hammy over-actor exuberance, dropped my book, and balled my hands into fists. “That’s not true!”

“I heard you talking to yourself and to your stuffed animals, and so I tiptoed in, holding my breath to make me lighter, of course, and I walked my fingers through your bookcase, and after, I even stood over your house and looked down the chimney. You were still talking to yourself and I was a big, horrible giant considering whether or not to crush the peasants’ house. But I was a good giant. Rawr!”

Marjorie leapt off her bed and stomped around the room saying, “Fee fi fo ferry, I smell the stinky feet of a girl named Merry.”

I yelled, “Your feet are stinky!” and I laughed, roared my own righteous roar, and scampered around and through her too-slow giant arms and poked her in the sides and slapped her butt. She eventually scooped me up in her arms and fell backward onto her bed. I scuttled behind her and wrapped my arms around her neck.

She reached behind but couldn’t get hold of me. “You’re too squirmy! Okay, okay, enough. Come on, Merry. It’s story time.”

I shouted, “Yay,” even though I felt played. She was getting off way too easy for sneaking into my room and stealing a book, and worse, listening to me talk to myself.

Marjorie pulled the book back onto her lap. It was All Around the World. Each page featured a busy cartoon version of a real city or foreign country. I hadn’t read or thought about that book in a long time. It was never a favorite of mine.

I grabbed at the book but Marjorie roughly pushed my hands away. “Before you see what I drew, you have to hear the story first.”

“Fine. Tell me!” I was all revved up, twitching in my skin.

“Do you remember when we went down to the aquarium and the North End in Boston this summer?”

Of course I remembered: First we went to the aquarium where Marjorie and I pressed our faces against the glass of the three-story-tall, tube-shaped tank, waiting for one of the snaggletoothed sharks to swim by and scare us. Later, when Mom and Dad wouldn’t get me a rubber octopus, I pouted and jellyfished around the gift shop, my arms and legs all slippy-sloppy. Then we walked to the North End and ate dinner at some fancy place with black tablecloths and white linen napkins. On the way back to the parking garage we found this dessert place that was supposed to be the best in the city. Mom ordered us cannolis, but I didn’t want one. I told her they looked like squished caterpillars.

Marjorie said, “Well, this story happened like almost one hundred years ago in the North End. Back in the old days, they kept all their molasses in giant metal storage tanks that were fifty feet tall and ninety feet wide, as big as buildings. The molasses was brought in by trains, and not trucks like in your book.” Marjorie paused to see if I was paying attention. I was, though I wanted to ask why they needed all that molasses given that the only time I’d seen the stuff was in the Scarry book. I didn’t ask. “It was the middle of winter, and for more than a week before the accident, it was really, really, super cold, so cold people’s breath-clouds would freeze and then fall out of the air and smash to bits on the ground.”

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