8. The Grown Ups and What They Did
Louis and I had succeeded with Part One of our plan to rid ourselves of Ig. Arthur, who lived most of his life in his head nursing a creative dream, had chosen us. Tomorrow he would confront Ig and Enid and send Uncle Big Bad packing.
Louis believed that the moment Ig was gone, we would be a happy family. Like the family on the Life board game or eating together in Pillsbury crescent roll commercials. That we would start calling Enid “mom” and she would suddenly be a devoted mother. That immediately Arthur would stop sleeping in the shed and play with his human children rather than his wooden family.
I secretly hoped in my child’s heart that this miracle might happen too. If only to get Louis to let go of my hand a bit and stop being afraid. And yet in this world my parents created of avaricious, covetous adults, I was already a cynic. With Ig gone, there would be a hole in the stretched fabric of Enid’s life. She would not be filling it with maternal care. She would be looking for another source of adoration. And not from us, because she would know we knew about her betrayal.
That night, I left Louis with Dad. I came back to the house and cleaned up the spaghetti mess. I helped Enid to couch to lie down. Ig was nowhere to be seen. There was a small spot of blood on the floor where he had whacked his head. Nothing more.
I had wanted to slip into the basement to hide the hammer I stole from Arthur, but I didn’t trust that Ig wasn’t watching me and waiting. I hid everything – hammer, clothes, water canteen, snacks, allowance cash – in a duffel in Louis’s closet. I showered quickly, put on my pajamas and locked myself in Louis’s room. I sat on the end of his bed looking out the window toward Dad’s workshop. Waiting for any sign of Louis or the coming dawn.
I fell into a fitful doze, still sitting up, dreaming about Heinrich capturing Dad and locking him away. I shook myself awake squinting at the orange dawn.
But it was not the sun coming up. Enid was pounding on Louis’s door. “Oh my God, let me in! Let me in! Louis, for GODSAKES!”
I opened the door. “Louis isn’t here.”
“What? What do you mean?! What?” She slapped me.
“He’s with Dad! Jesus!”
Then I knew.
The orange, the ambient glow was coming from Arthur’s workshop. The blaze rose high and caught in the dry pines near the clearing. I smashed the bedroom window and tried to crawl out, jagged glass cutting my legs. I had to save them! I had to get them out! Enid caught the end of my pajama pants and dragged me partially back in, driving one on the shards into my calf.
“NO ENID! NO!” I kicked her in the chest and crawled out. I ran, pain searing through my leg and slipping on the wet grass.
As I fell, a weight crushed me. It was Ig throwing his whole body on top of me to stop me.
“You’re not going anywhere. You’ll burn. You’ll die.”
“LOUIS!” I pointed. I screamed. I couldn’t get air in my lungs with his weight on me. I wailed, “Louis! LOUIS!” My eyes burned and the dam burst in my heart and brain. I could not see clearly. Black smoke, orange and yellow flames, and darkness. Life stopped.
I heard the sirens wailing and Enid sobbing. I heard Ig answering questions. I heard firemen talking about an adult male and male juvenile age five.
I lay there in the night, silent, hoping no one found me. I gazed through the deluge of tears toward the dying fires in the distance. Maybe I was in shock. Maybe I was hallucinating. But I swore that I saw two figures. Two figures, a man with glasses and a small boy, silhouetted against the flames. They were holding hands and climbing away from the workshop. The shapes melted into the night. And everything fell away.
When I awoke, I was in restraints in the children’s hospital ward. The nurse, with iron grey hair and brown cat glasses, was checking my pulse.
“They said you broke a window.”
“I was trying to save my brother.”
“Well, you lost a lot of blood.” She snapped.
“I also lost my brother, you stupid twat.”
She tightened the restraint. I don’t know why I said it. I think whatever medication I was on was talking.
“That hurts! You know you have a big ass. Your ass looks like this overstuffed ottoman that Enid has. Boy. They’re lying. They burnt up my dad. Giant ass!”
She gave me a shot and all went quiet.
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