After a while, I heard the sound of the truck coming to life again. It had been a couple hours now since our confrontation, and I had taken to confining myself to my playroom, reading and trying to forget what was outside. It was all I could think to do. Several times the boggart had rattled the door handle. I had heard him at the garage, and backdoor too, and saw the bobbing shadow of his head hover outside the window.
I went out to the living room, and peeked through the blinds. The green truck was backing out of our driveway, and then on down the lane. The growling cough of the engine grew fainter, until it faded out, mingling with the other city sounds in the distance. I let out a sigh of relief. He was gone, for now, at least.
I went to the front door and raised my hand to unlock the deadbolt, then stopped. It seemed almost too good to be true, that he would just leave, and not have some sneaky trick planned, instead. I looked at the clock on the wall. It was just past eleven-thirty. Was he going to get food? I wondered if my uncle still got hungry now, with that thing inside of him. At any rate, I knew that I was, and kept the door locked, went to the kitchen to make a sandwich for my lunch.
There was peanut butter in the cupboard, and grape jam in the fridge. I spread the peanut butter on both slices of bread, and scooped dollops of jam to fill the middle. I ate it with an apple from the fruit basket on the counter, and a bag of pretzels from the cupboard. Having the boggart just disappear like that made me anxious in a way. When he was here I at least knew where he was, and what he was up to. It still felt like I was trapped in the house, and the moment I tried to leave, he would jump out and nab me.
I washed my dishes in the sink when I was done, and set them to dry in the dish rack next to it. Then I went back into the living room and turned on the television. I was just going to wait, I had decided. I wasn’t going to let him trick me.
Halfway through an episode of the old Batman show, the one with Adam West, I heard the familiar rumble of the green truck coming back. I turned the volume down, and went again to the window, and again peeked through the blinds.
He was parked at the curb, had gotten out already, and was leaning against the side of the truck with a cheeseburger in one hand. I watched him take a bite out of it, and chew with his mouth open while he watched the house. In his other hand, he held what looked to be a can of soda, it was can-shaped, at least, and wrapped in a brown paper sack that was crinkled and folded over at the top. He took a long drink from this to wash down the burger, tipping his head back, and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand when he was done drinking.
I turned back to my show, and ignored him. We were at a stalemate. A stand still. He knew I would never let him in on my own, and I knew he would not leave. Eventually though, he would win. My mother would come home, and open the door, and invite him inside. There wasn’t anything that I could do to stop that from happening.
I stayed inside for the rest of the day, periodically getting up to check and see if he was still there. He always was, and nearly always had that paper-wrapped can, though I was sure he must have been done with it around the same time that he had finished his burger. He would hold onto it, and take casual sips. His other hand had replaced the burger with a cigarette that he smoked, and when he was finished with one, he would flick it on to the ground, stamp it out, and light another. While all of this was happening, while he waited, I did the same things I usually did when I was stuck inside. I watched television, and played my game, and read books by myself.
I was reading in my room when I heard a car door shut, and then voices outside, and I knew then that my mother had finally come home.
The lock of the front door clicked open. My mother was talking.
“Sure, of course you can come inside,” she said. “I didn’t know you smoked.”
“Oh, I have one or two here and there, occasionally,” said my uncle’s voice. “But I don’t make a habit of it.”
He was inside now. There was no more running. No more hiding safe in my room. I poked my head out from my doorway, saw my mother standing just outside the hall.
“That’s good,” she said. “Are you just getting here? I thought you two were spending the day together.”
The imposter let out his grating laugh. “Well, that’s what I thought too, but when I got here the door was locked. I wasn’t sure if he had left, or…”
My mother was moving then. She turned fast and marched toward my room, and I ducked my head back inside, but she was too late. She had seen me. I retreated to my bed, with my book. My mother stopped in the doorway, and crossed her arms.
“So,” she said, and just let the word hang there. “So.”
I just looked at her. She knew what I had done.
“You don’t have anything to say for yourself?” she said. “I thought we talked about this last night, and then you go and lock your uncle outside? You sir, are grounded.”
My uncle came up behind her and looked in at me, and smiled a triumphant smile. He put a hand on my mother’s shoulder. “Oh, don’t give him such a hard time about it. Kids are kids. I’m sure he didn’t mean it.”
“Oh yes he did,” she said. “And he’s going to be punished for it too.” She walked over to my nightstand and plucked my Gameboy from it. “No more games,” she said. “And no more television. And I’ve got a mind to tell you no more treehouse either.”
“That’s fine,” I said. “I don’t want one anyway. Not if he’s building it.”
My mother gave me an icy glare, and I knew that I was in for it. I had seen her use that look only once before, when I had brought a water balloon inside the house, and threatened to hit her with it unless she let me have cookies and milk for dinner. That was when I had gotten my first and only spanking, and after that, I hadn’t made the mistake of irritating my mother, and grew wary of that look.
Then the thing that was pretending to be my uncle spoke. “I think maybe it would be best if we had a chat together,” he said. He turned to my mother. “Mind if we have a minute alone?”
My mother nodded, giving me one last look before leaving, probably headed to the kitchen, to begin preparing supper.
The boggart stepped inside my room, and closed the door behind him. He spread his hands out in front of him, and smiled again. “Well,” he said. “Here we are. I told you that I would get in. And now you’re in trouble, and I can get you in even more at any time I want.”
I swallowed. There was a hard lump in my throat.
The boggart walked over, and sat next to me on the edge of my bed. I backed away, so that I was sitting up against the walls in the corner, next to my pillows.
“Let me just lay out what’s going to happen from here on,” he said. “So we’re on the same page. I, am going to stay here now. This is my new home. Tonight during dinner, I will ask your mother if I can spend the night, and she will say yes. Then later, when you are asleep, she will invite me into her bed, and I’ll sleep with her. After that, she won’t ever ask me to leave, and everyday I will be here, soaking up the pleasures of this life, and destroying this body one act at a time. Does that sound good to you?” His smile was wide, and terrible.
“No,” I said.
“Oh, well that’s just too bad then,” he told me. “Because you don’t really have a choice here, and you never will. By the time you are old enough to choose things for yourself, your body will belong to me. Then I’ll still be the one choosing, and you won’t at all like what I will do. Your uncle doesn’t. Oh yes,” he said, seeing my widening eyes. “He’s still in here, deep down. I wish you could hear his screams, so pitiful, so human. So weak.”
I grasped at the silver coin around my neck, wishing that it could do more to protect me, but taking comfort in the fact that I at least could not be touched, or so I thought.
The boggart inclined my uncle’s head, and reached at me. I pulled the coin out from under my shirt, and held it out in front of me so that the leather string that held it was taut.
He chuckled rocks in his throat. “Ah yes,” he said. “I was wondering what stopped me before.” And, without any hesitation, he grabbed hold of the coin, and tugged hard. The leather cord broke, and snapped off my neck. He held the coin up to his eye, and inspected it.
Then, he took it in both of his hands, and snapped it in half, as if it were as thin and fragile as glass.