What About Her

There was talk of home invasions again. Another family was taken from Akron, Ohio. I stood and tried to listen to the report as best as I could with all the noise: little Suzy yelling at the dog, the loud squeak of Mama’s rocking chair, and Rhonda’s ridiculous phone chatter.

The family that was abducted had five members. It was always five, like we had. The report ended with the image of five circles left in the family’s backyard, and the promise that the proper authorities were on the case. I stepped lightly over to Mama’s rocking chair and waited for the cigarette smoke to curl from her mouth. Her head was tilted back and her eyes closed.

“Mama?” She didn’t answer, but I knew she wasn’t asleep because her hand still came up to puff on her cigarette. I waited a long time to call her again because I didn’t want to be backhanded. Before the word came from my mouth, little Suzy popped up from the floor.

“Look, Mama,” Suzy said, pointing to the TV. With no hesitation, Mama opened her eyes and looked. “I want that kind of dog.”

“What’s wrong with this dog?” Mama asked, pointing to the old Lab. It was my dad’s dog, abandoned like me and Grandpa. Dad left shortly after moving his dad in.

Suzy crossed her arms. “He’s boring.”

Mama agreed. “Old things are boring,” she said, then Grandpa rang his bell. Mama huffed and put her cigarette out. “Good thing about old is that they’ll be dead soon.” The bell rang again and Mama stomped out of the living room and I followed. 

Grandpa was trying to lift himself up from his bed when we got to his door, but his arms were too weak. The smell hit us only seconds after standing there.

“Shit!” Mama said, and that’s exactly what it was. She pulled the collar of her shirt up over her nose. “Oh no you don’t. You’re not gonna just make this mess and call on me to clean it up. You’re gonna sit your old, useless behind right in it and think about what you’ve done.”

Mama was upset at him, but it was probably her fault. He had a diet to stick to but when she didn’t feel like making two dinners she forced him to eat what everyone else ate. Grandpa rarely spoke because he had a really bad stutter and they all laughed when he attempted. At that moment he was mad, though. I could see he was pursing his lips, ready to say something.

“I can do it,” I said.

She looked reluctant first and I was hoping she’d say no, but then she thought about it. “Okay, but if you make more work for me I’ll tan your hide.”

I nodded, determined to prove that all three things Daddy left her with weren’t all useless. “Oh, and Mama, do you think they’ll come after us?”

She looked annoyed. “Who is they?”

The rumor at school was that the abductors were aliens, but I didn’t wanna say that to her. “The home invaders. They take families of five. We’re a family of five.”

“No,” she said looking in at pitiful Grandpa, still trying to push himself up. “We’re a family of four and a half.”

Grandpa was not as heavy as I thought. My ten-year-old self got him to his chair in the shower, changed his sheets, and got him dressed. The dressing part was probably the hardest (besides not making faces), so I just helped him put a robe on. It was the first time I’d ever interacted with him; he always looked so mean.

Suzy and Rhonda made fun and said I ate all the boo boo. Mama told me from then on I was fully responsible for Grandpa. She did not say thank you, or even smile at me. Dad could’ve at least left me at Aunt Bea’s house. She was nice.

Grandpa shook my hand and managed to get out a thank you. I felt a little better.

**

It was 2:19 a.m. when I heard the humming. I was under my covers with a flashlight, looking at a Batman comic book that I’d checked out of the library. I peeked out of the covers first, but I knew. I could feel it in my gut what was happening. I needed to see the backyard. The only windows with that view were in Grandpa’s and Mama’s rooms.

I tiptoed on bare feet, stopping to look in at Rhonda. Her bed was empty. My throat went dry. Mama’s room was further down the hallway. The hallway was dark and scary, so I ducked into Grandpa’s room. His bed was also empty.

I was breathing heavy. Terror was sitting right on my chest and I thought I might be so scared that my heart would stop. I went over to the window and peeked out. Rhonda was being dragged across the lawn, her eyes closed. I couldn’t see by what, it was invisible. Someone whispered from behind me and I jumped. It was Grandpa, in his bed, but I could’ve sworn that he wasn’t there before.

“They’ll be b-b-back,” he whispered, and motioned for me to come. The door creaked open right as I made it to his bedside. I told my body to drop and hide under the bed, but I couldn’t move. I was frozen! This thing before me was flesh-colored and tall as the top of the door frame. Its eyes were big and black, and sharp fangs lapped over his bottom lip. I screamed on the inside, and wished that my heart would stop. Grandpa’s laughter did not help.

“Look at the big, bad monster,” he said. “Touch it,” he told me.

I didn’t move, and I couldn’t believe that Grandpa was taunting me—

The alien’s eyes searched the room. Maybe he couldn’t see what didn’t move, like the T-Rex.

“Go on,” Grandpa said. “Stick your hand out.”  He laughed again. That’s when I noticed he was speaking without stuttering. I reached a hand out. Before my arm fully expected this my fingertips jammed up against something and made streaks of red and blue, like lightning. The streaks ran across what looked like a glass dome. It surrounded Grandpa and I. The alien backed out of the room and stalked down the hallway.

I was confused. “They can’t see us?”

“Nope,” Grandpa answered.

The alien walked past the room, this time dragging Mama behind him. She looked like she was still sleeping.

“What about Mama?”

“What about her?”

Yeah, I thought. What about her. 

***

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