Home Sweet Hell
By T.R. Kisgen
Do we choose our demons or do they choose us?
Charlie is raking his hands through his hair. His brow creases and he demands to know, “How did the wolf get there?”
It would have been heavy to lift. Mom found the wolf statue a couple of weeks ago. The sculpture is a hefty bronze metal casting that sits on a marble base. Mom said it would make a good doorstop for our new entrance.
“I don’t know how it got there. If not you, then I guess Mom moved it.”
Charlie’s hand is shaking, which is a nice touch.
I play along. “Your fingers are trembling.”
His eyes grow wide and he speaks slowly. “It looked at me.”
I’m expecting to be the butt of a joke any second now.
“Sara, I was watching TV when it turned its head and looked at me. I got scared and locked myself in the bathroom and didn’t come out till I heard you drive up. And now it’s on top of the fridge.”
We both stare at it. The copper wolf is crouching on all fours and looks like it is howling. It’s jagged fur is textured metal. I’m almost positive Charlie is messing with me.
The phone rings and we both jump.
I race Charlie to the wall phone and pick up on the second ring.
We must be the last family in the world to own a landline telephone. Mom says we need it because people should not rely on battery operated cell phones for complete communication. She calls every night before leaving work to check on us and let us know she is on her way home.
The sound of Mom’s voice is comforting.
I put my hand over the mouthpiece and whisper to Charlie, “You got the laundry done, right?” Charlie shrugs and I look at the clock. He might have enough time to get a load going and transfer yesterday’s clothes to the dryer before she gets home.
I tell her “He’s working on it. We’ll order a pizza. Thanks… okay… see you soon. Love you, too.”
I hang up the phone and Charlie scrambles to the basement.
He is whistling. The washer begins filling with water and pipes rattle.
I pick up the phone again and dial for dinner and after four rings, a guy’s voice says “Frankie’s Pizza”.
Under my feet, Charlie screams. I drop the phone and bolt to the basement.
He is pointing at another wolf statue. Same look, same large size, also posed on a marble base.
“It moved again!”
“Charlie, it’s a second statue. It cannot be the same one that’s upstairs. Unless you brought it down here, it is a different wolf.”
“I am not joking around Sarah. I promise.”
“Come here.” I motion him over and he runs to me. This thing is too big for him to carry past me, unless he planted it earlier.
This seems likely. I look for a playful gleam in his eye but Charlie is clenching his teeth and grips my arm.
He seems genuinely afraid, which is new. Nothing rattles my twin brother.
We hit the stairs. There’s no wall separating the steps from the unfinished laundry area so we will see if the statue suddenly shows life.
At the top step we are relieved to see the first statue is where we left it. Charlie puts his hand to his chest and breathes deep. “Okay, so there’s two. But. I still saw that one move and then it somehow gets in the kitchen. Just because there’s two doesn’t mean -”
“You are scaring me. Just stop.”
Charlie is staring at the bronze creature while I redirect my attention to the dangling phone receiver.
Dialing again, I smack my brother on the back and ask, “Hey, how does pepperoni pizza sound?”
“Okay, sure. I’m going back down.”
Thinking about food helps the night seem almost normal.
As promised, Mom’s car pulls into the driveway promptly at seven o’clock.
“Where’s your brother?” Mom must have noticed our old jeep is not in the driveway.
“Charlie said he forgot he had plans and left in a hurry. He didn’t say where he was going. I figured you knew.”
“How was your day, Babe?” She opens the icebox and pulls out a soda. She plops her purse on the table and sits in the chair across from me.
“Something odd is going on, Mom.”
She takes a sip of her cola. “So what’s the latest drama?”
“Your wolf statues are scaring Charlie.”
“He doesn’t like the doorstop?”
Mom is smiling at me. She is probably happy to have me home on a Friday night. She hits the table and says, “Oh, that’s right. Charlie is fishing this weekend with Jordan and his uncle.”
Mom has been working two jobs and her memory shows it. Money is tight and we have not heard from Dad since they went to court. Mom refuses to talk bad about him but we all know he has a girlfriend. We just don’t know how long he’s had another woman in his life. He’s hurt all of us but we are starting over, just the three of us.
I look above Mom’s head at the statue.
“Hey Mom”, I tried to sound casual. “How many wolves did you buy at that garage sale?”
“Just the one.”
“Are you sure?” She follows my eyes to the top of the fridge.
She stands to see what is happening.
“Why did you put my wolf up there? I splurged on that art piece. Put it back by the front door. And be careful, don’t drop it.”
“Mom. I didn’t put it there. We thought you did.”
She notices me biting my nails. “What’s wrong?”
“Well, what if it got there by itself? Also, there is another statue in the basement. If you seriously only bought one wolf you are freaking me out right now.”
“By itself? How would it get there by itself? And what other statue?”
We are standing an inch apart and I’m looking into Mom’s concerned eyes. Still chewing on my fingers, I point with my pinky.
“Charlie thinks the wolf moved. He was watching TV and it looked at him. He ran from it and now it’s up there. Mom. There are two of these things in the house right now.” I could hear my voice become high pitched.
“Okay, let’s go see what this is about. You are getting emotional but I want you to entertain the possibility that your brother is playing a trick on you.”
On the steps, Mom is ahead of me and assures me that she bought a single lovely statue. She says if Charlie is trying to scare his sister, he is succeeding.
Together we face the front loading dryer. My voice is shrieking as I grip my mother’s middle. “There it is.”
“You kids drive me crazy, you know that?”
Mom drags me along as she studies the metal sculpture. She strokes the rough surface. She touches the marble base.
“What if it’s the same wolf, Mom? What if it keeps moving around the house? You didn’t see how terrified Charlie was. I don’t think it’s one of his pranks.”
“Listen. Of course it’s a prank. I only bought one of these. At a garage sale down the street. Your brother could have easily gone there and found a second wolf. Also, pay attention. Though very similar this is not the same sculpture. The posture is different. This fellow is standing and the one upstairs is hunched. I do think it’s the same artist, though, because they are the same size and have the same look. The set might be valuable.”
I don’t know what to think. Charlie seemed spooked. He can’t be fooling around this time. He’s not that good of an actor. I mention this to Mom. She sets the sculpture back on the dryer. “This must belong to Charlie.”
Shaking her head, we go back to the kitchen. My mouth drops. The wolf is gone. All that sits on the fridge is a dusty fake plant. Oh, no. Not wanting to be right, I make excuses. “Maybe it fell off…”
I’m molded to Mom’s backside as we take in the scene. We see a pair of glistening eyes peering at us from the corner of the stove. We hear a low growl and Mom freezes. She whispers, “What in the world? Take off your boot.”
HEY READER — Come back next week to find out what happens next!