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After forever, p.10
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       After Forever, p.10

           Krystal George
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  It took half the night, but Bottles rearranged the attic into a comfortable room; quite spacious, in fact. It was hot, of course, but by opening both the front and back windows, there was a pleasant breeze.

  Around two in the morning, Bottles had to go to the bathroom. It took a few seconds to get his bearings. He tiptoed down the steps, not wanting to wake up anyone. He turned the door knob and pushed. The door didn’t open. He pushed again. Still the door didn’t budge.

  He scratched his head, then he knew.

  “Jimmy,” he hissed, “unlock the door. Jimmy? Can you hear me?”

  On the other side, he heard the brothers’ stifled laughter.

  “Biff? I know you’re there too. Unlock the damn door.”

  Neither boy made an effort to let their cousin out.

  With clenched fists, he pounded on the door, screaming, “Unlock this door! Jimmy, I’m gonna kill you. Let me out! Let me out!”

  Louise, wearing a frumpy cotton robe over her nightgown, stumbled into the hallway. Her hair was in rollers and she had green beauty mud smeared on her face.

  “Let me out! Jimmy, unlock the door.” Bottles kept pounding.

  “What is going on around here?” she screeched in her soprano voice.

  The boys spun around, swallowing their laughter. “Uh, nothing, ma. Nothing is going on.”

  Biff slipped behind his brother and unlocked the door.

  “Aunt Louise? Make them unlock the door! I can’t get out. I have to pee.”

  She marched to the door and opened it. Bottles fell forward onto the floor, striking his head on the baseboard. She examined the doorknob.

  “There’s nothing wrong with this.”

  “It was locked. I heard the bar slide out.” He turned to his cousins. “Someone locked me in.”

  “I’m beginning to think you moving to the attic was a bad idea. We’ll talk in the morning.”

  Needless to say, Bottles didn’t sleep at all. He spent the rest of the night repacking his belongings to move into the cellar. He didn’t even bother waiting for morning. Once he was finished packing, he went down to the cellar to look around.

  It wasn’t as bad as it sounded. The cellar wasn’t like a dungeon with dripping water, barred gates and thick, stone walls. It was rather clean. The previous owners had started building a secure room in case a tornado touched down. Bottles helped his dad finish it. The walls separating it from the rest of the cellar were solid. The door locked both from the inside and outside. It had plenty of shelving, a chaise lounge he could use as a bed, and it had a private outside entrance. There was even an old refrigerator.

  On the other side of the cellar was the laundry area. There was also a toilet, the laundry sink and a hose rigged up as a shower. He had his own private bathroom.

  Bottles moved some boxes from the secure room into the other side of the cellar, opening space for his stuff.

  He stood, hands on his hips, and admired his handiwork. Nodding appreciatively, he was satisfied with his new bedroom. His only dilemma was to keep his cousins out of the cellar.

  He looked around and spotted the big rat traps his dad had hanging on the wall by his tools.

  Yep. Those will do, he thought, taking the three traps down. He set them around the cellar floor on the outside of his room. If nothing else, Bottles was excited about his move and his plan to keep his hoodlum cousins out of the way.

  On his way upstairs, he glanced at the washer and dryer and sobered. By prefabricating the story about rats to keep them out of the cellar, he probably would be stuck doing their laundry.

  Bottles went straight to the attic and moved his boxes. It took him eight trips to move everything. Afterwards, he took a shower and dressed in clean clothes.

  He slid into his chair at the dining room table for breakfast. Aunt Louise made bacon and eggs, but divided the bulk of the food among her and the boys. She slid an egg and two pieces of bacon on the plate for him.

  With only a peanut butter and banana sandwich since breakfast yesterday, Bottles was hungry. He ate every crumb of food, washing it down with a glass of cold milk.

  “Ralphie. About last night,” his aunt began.

  “Yeah,” he mumbled, feeling the food drop into his stomach like an iron tire rim in the lake. “It was all my imagination.”

  She looked at her two sons. “It seems the boys played a practical joke on you. They confessed they locked the door from the outside so you couldn’t open it.” She looked at her sons. “Tell Ralphie you’re sorry.”

  “We’re sorry, Ralphie.” The boys mimicked.

  “Yeah,” Bottles mumbled.

  “But you did make a lot of noise…”

  “Don’t worry, Aunt Louise. I already moved into the cellar.”

  She looked surprised. “When? I didn’t hear anything.”

  “Maybe that’s because the noise you heard wasn’t made by me.” He pushed away from the table. “May I be excused?”

  She nodded.

  He ran out to the kitchen, but poked his head around the corner. “Do we have anymore peanut butter?”


  “I need to bait the traps. They’ve been triggered.”

  “What traps?” she asked slowly.

  He shrugged. “Just the rat traps in the cellar. If there’s no peanut butter, I can use cheese. They’ll go after either one.” He turned and ran outside, before she could comment.

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