By Cindy Wiggins Tapia
The only thing standing between me and It was the screen door…
The house is gone now; it’s lawns a jungle, but many years ago, it was a grassy corner where a dilapidated clapboard Allen-company owned two-story stood on brick pillars. Mama and Papa Dorsey lived upstairs. Lucille Thrasher and her cat-eating Boston Terrier Bossy lived across the hedge. Mama Cain and the Pirkles lived up the road. The front yard rolled down a bank from Hill Street. Billy Burge’s Standard Station squatted across the way. A field stretched from our back door past Dover and Cheek’s Garage to the housing projects on E Park Street.
A new Buford Elementary School friend stopped dead in her tracks in front of Dover’s when she spied the dump.
“You live here?”
The little witch pinched Dover’s shop broom and flew off toward her government apartment on Power Avenue. She would’ve had to change her drawers when she got home had she known how close she’d come to entering our bottom apartment where—in the words of Aunt Pam—some thing lurked…
Every Thursday that came, Mama and Daddy and my baby sisters bought groceries at Burel’s on Moreno and Garnett Streets, while I stayed at home. Supper those nights was a toss-up between chili con carne and a hurl of canned roast beef, potatoes, and onions fried in Mama‘s cast-iron skillet. If it was the hurl, I pretended I was a cowgirl sitting cross-legged around a Texas longhorn trail-drive campfire, forcing down chuck wagon slop.
It was no different one summer afternoon in 1966 when I was ten years old. While the familia was gone, Susan Dollar and I sat on the green couch, listening to the Beatles. I glanced toward the bedroom. And there it stood near the bunk beds, the lurker. It wore a dark blue jersey dress with a cabbage-rose print—now, I ask you, would you be caught alive in that? Its hair was a cap of white curls. It wore John Lennon glasses. It had no feet, a fact that haunts me to this day.
My jaw dropped. I looked over at Susan. Her jaw was in her lap. I looked back into the bedroom. It was standing right there in the doorway. I blinked. It vanished. Susan and I jumped up and went digging it out onto the front porch. Fortunately, we opened the screen door first. We stood out there, safe. We hoped. But I couldn’t let it be. As any gal in a horror film would’ve done for the story’s sake, I marched over to the screen door and hooked my fingers around the handle, and it was standing right there on the other side a mere inch from me. I screamed bloody murder. It vanished.
We were so terrified that we made a pact never to tell anyone. Eventually, we did tell Susan’s sister Patricia. And I told my parents after we moved to Moreno Street. Mama believed me without question. Daddy was the kind of country boy who couldn’t see past black and white, and I expected him to ridicule me. Instead, he stared at me with haunted brown eyes and began the story of his own It.