Home > A Head Full of Ghosts(9)

A Head Full of Ghosts(9)
Paul Tremblay

“Hey, look at what I drew.” Marjorie scooted over to where I was sitting and opened All Around the World and rested it on both our laps. The city page was Amsterdam but she’d mangled and re-formed the letters to roughly read Boston. She’d drawn a giant cylindrical tank with a vicious, jagged gash in its front, and out spilled brown marker all over the city. Marjorie had drawn Richard Scarry–esque cats and dogs wearing sport coats and ties, and they were stuck in the molasses, thrashing around. The molasses wave crested above a doomed train, its passengers, made to look like cats and dogs, screaming in horror.

I wanted to punch Marjorie, punch her stupid smiling face. She was making fun of me and my silly book and its silly stories. Still, I couldn’t look away from the page. It was terrible and would give me nightmares, and yet there was something wonderful in its terribleness.

Marjorie said, “Look. There’s Goldbug,” and she pointed at a small yellow figure with X-ed-out eyes and stick-figure arms and hands reaching out of the molasses flood to no one and everyone.

I shut the book without saying anything. Marjorie put the book on my lap and then rubbed my back. “I’m sorry. Maybe I shouldn’t have told you this story.”

I was quick, too quick to say, “No. Tell me anything. Tell me all your stories. But tomorrow, can I get a story like the old ones? A story that you made up?”

“Yes, Merry. I promise.”

I slowly slid off the bed, purposefully looking away from Marjorie and to the wall and the cluster of posters. I hadn’t really noticed when I first came in the room, but they were hung so that they overlapped one another. Only certain pieces of the assorted singers, athletes, and movie stars were visible; disembodied hands, legs, arms, hair, a pair of eyes. In the middle of all those collaged body parts, everything seemed to focus on a mouth that was either laughing or snarling.

“Hey, what do you think of the posters?”

I was done with this. I had both books in my arms and they were impossibly heavy. “Lame,” I said, hoping it would sting her a little.

“You can’t tell Mom or Dad because they’d lose their minds, but when I woke up, my room was like this, I swear, and when you look at the posters in the mirror—”

“Shut up! You’re not funny!” I ran out of her room, not wanting her to see me crying.


MY STUFFED ANIMAL companions became my sentries, strategically placed around the room. I turned my cardboard house so the mail slot faced my bedroom door. I spent the rest of that weekend in the house, looking out through the slot, totally convinced that Marjorie would be back to apologize, or to prove that she could sneak in whenever she wanted, or to steal my books again, or something worse, like her coming into my cardboard house to rearrange my drawings in the awful way she’d done with her own posters. I was good at imagining the somethings worse.

With each passing minute that she didn’t come into my room, I grew more frantic and paranoid and convinced that she was indeed coming. So I rigged my bedroom to try to catch her in the act. Wouldn’t she be in trouble with Mom and Dad then, given how much of a surly-teen stink she put up whenever I went near her room. I took the belt from my fuzzy purple robe that I never used and tied the ends to a bedpost and the doorknob. The belt had just enough slack that my bedroom door opened so only someone my size could wiggle safely through. I also balanced an empty plastic orange juice jug on top of the slightly open door so that it leaned against the door frame. If the door opened beyond the constraints of my robe belt, the jug would crash to the ground, or better yet, on the door opener’s head. No way would Marjorie sneak in without getting stuck or making enough of a ruckus to be heard by me.

I didn’t feel 100 percent safe so I built motion-detecting surveillance cameras and a laptop computer out of cereal boxes. I spent Sunday morning conducting quite a few background checks on one Miss Marjorie Barrett. Oh, the things I found.

Despite Marjorie’s promise to tell me a real, made-up story the following day, I would make her wait this time. I would make her come to me. So I stayed in my room and only ventured out for food and bathroom breaks.

Still not satisfied, I built a tower of books with All Around the World and Cars and Trucks and Things That Go as part of the foundation. To remove either book without everything crashing down would be impossible. I tried it twice and earned a bruise on my thigh from one of the falling books.

When I woke up Monday morning, Marjorie was already in the shower and my parents were loudly stumbling and mumbling about the house. I slowly sat up and a folded piece of paper tumbled off my chest.

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