The Back Forty, Ch. 2.4

Mary Anne's house

Cain put the last Legos in place to complete the cab on the monster truck. All he had to do now was build the wheel wells and put in the four wheels in the box and he’d be done. Not exactly a difficult set, but Cain knew it was more about giving him something to do while he watched his sister. His mother had been gone for a while now and the sun had completed its descent behind the trees. Going behind the yard arm, as Mr. Pickens down at the diner in town would say. Cain liked Mr. Pickens. The old man always wore a filthy apron as he made eggs, bacon and sausage for his regulars at the griddle. In between flipping sausage patties, he would come out and chew the fat with the locals, filling their coffee and grabbing empty plates. Nobody seemed to mind that he was breaking at least two or three laws in the health code as he did because he was so friendly and knew everybody by name. Every now and then, he would sneak Cain a Fun Size Snickers or Mr. Goodbar he produced from a box underneath the cash register. He would look at Cain knowingly and the boy would stow it away in his pocket for later consumption.

“Come on Tanny,” Cain said. “You can finish that tomorrow. It’s time to go inside.”

“O-kaay,” his little sister said and stood up from the Lego set. Cain slid open the plate glass door and they went into the kitchen.

“Let’s play Memory until Mom comes back,” he suggested. He got the box from a closet on the landing that went downstairs and they sat down on the floor of the kitchen. As Cain set up the cards, Tanny took off her shoes and set them neatly in the row of footwear under the coat rack on the landing. After playing two rounds of the game, Cain looked up to the window. It was completely dark outside. As he set up the cards for another game, Cain heard what sounded like someone throwing rocks around the fire pit in the backyard. Another minute went by. Then he heard a loud metallic BANG!

The cast-iron cabinets under the grill, he thought. Tanny, focused intently on the game, had heard nothing.

Cain stood up and walked to the sliding door. He locked it, then pulled forward the floor-to-ceiling vertical blinds to cover the door. Cain took a step back from the door, then stood, listening.

“Come on Cain,” Tanny said. “Let’s get moving turkey,” and giggled.

The boy waited for what seemed like another 10 minutes before her heard the sound of boots crushing the Legos on the porch. He immediately turned and pulled his sister off the floor.

“Nooo,” Tanny protested. “I wanna play the game.”

Cain said nothing as he pulled Tanny behind him out into the hallway and into the bathroom. He locked the door, then pulled his sister into the bathtub and closed the shower curtain.

“You have to be really quiet, okay?” Cain whispered to his sister. “We’re hiding.”

“Like in Bloody Murder?”

“Yes,” Cain whispered. “Just like Bloody Murder.”

“Who are we hiding from?” his sister asked.

“Shush.” Cain held his finger over his mouth.

For another minute, there was no sound from the back yard at all. Then, faintly, he heard a rattling coming from the basement. Someone was trying to open the cellar doors. Cain heard the doors rattle once more, then silence. For a moment, Cain, putting all his strength into not shaking, breathed shallow breaths, his sister tucked under his right arm. Then he stood up from his position sitting Indian-style in the bathtub. He wasn’t tall enough to see out the small sliding window in the shower that opened on the back yard. He crouched back down and huddled with his sister, listening intently. For what he wasn’t sure.

After an indeterminate amount of time, Cain stood up on his tip toes and tried to look out the window again but couldn’t. He stood with his back to the tile wall. He had used up all of his self-control and was now shaking. Tanny had buried her face in his chest.

“Can we go out now?” she whined.

He waited another minute and was almost ready to get out of the tub. Then he heard feet on the back porch again. This time, the footsteps were fast and deliberate. Cain heard the Legos being kicked aside as whoever it was approached the door, then paused.

Then, the doorbell rang.

Cain heard quick steps on the back porch, then down the stairs. He and his sister cowered in the bathtub when the doorbell rang again. A moment went by, then he heard someone on the porch again. This time, he heard the heavy sound of one of the big stone pots on the back porch being moved. Then, a key opened the back door and he heard the sliding door open.

“Cain! Tanny!” his mother yelled from the kitchen.

Cain and his sister got out of the tub and Cain unlocked the door. His sister ran out of the bathroom as his mother came into the hallway. Tanny hugged her mother’s legs and Madeline picked her up.

“Cain! Why didn’t you open the door when I rang the bell?!”


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