By Cindy Wiggins Tapia

I’ve seen and heard things that would scare the fur off Chewbacca, but nothing–and I do mean not one dang thang, ghost or the Incredible Hulk come to call — ever scared me as bad as the Shadburn Shadow…

We were living in the company house across Moreno St. from the car wash and Couch’s Holiday Supermarket when Daddy lost his job at Tandy and went to work reading meters for the Gwinnett Co. Water Dept. We were eventually evicted and fetched up in the little bungalow on the corner of E Shadburn Ave. and N. Alexander St.

It was the nicest house we’d ever rented — hardwood floors, salmon-colored paneling, and two working fireplaces, which Mama refused to use, because she could not tolerate ashes in the fire bed and soot on the floor. The previous tenant failed Mama’s white-glove test, so Vickie and I spent a week of evenings on our hands and knees scrubbing the area around the hearth.

“I like to keep a clean house, because it makes me feel better about the way I treat ya’ll.” Don’t that make you wanna roll your eyes, though?

The chimneys lacked covers, and some afternoons, Vickie and I would come in from school to swifts flying around inside. We’d throw up our arms and run screaming bloody murder back out the front door. One night a little pink hatchling fell onto Mama’s immaculate fire bed. No worries. She drowned it in her immaculate toilet bowl. (She also drowned rats. A friend advised me to stay on her good side.)

I was supposed to start university September 1974, but something about my scholarship went blooey, and it was rescheduled for June 1975. In the meantime, I decided to baby-sit varmints. One stinker liked to rub his booger nose back and forth across my shirt. One ate dry dog food. Another peed the rug in front of the counter in Tom’s Shoe Store. I didn’t enjoy keeping rag rats, but it kept me in Dairy Queen cheeseburger baskets and Coca-Colers.

One morning, while Mama was at work at Loveable, Renay was asleep, Vickie was keeping Harry, Larry, and Sherry Lynn at their big house down on Bell St., me and my crew of diapers and training drawers were sacked out in front of the TV, watching cartoons, when somebody thundered a fist against the front door.

I hopped off that recliner and dropped to the floor as if ducking cannonballs, crawled over to the little windows beside the door, looked up and saw a huge shadow falling against the white sheer. It was gathering a rope in its hands. I crawled to the bureau in the next room to call the cavalry.

The Buford City Police dispatcher asked the usual questions.

“There’s a man on my front porch fixing to strangle me!”

Renay woke up and took off running through the woods at the edge of the yard to Mrs. Sudderth’s house. Renay was back in a few minutes with the lowdown.

“Never mind,” I said to the dispatcher and hung up.

I opened the front door and there, with an orange drop cord wrapped around one hand, stood Tillman Bell needing to plug the cord in so he could fix our front porch.

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