6 Years Old –
When Martin and Caroline Clayton gave birth to their first child Henry 3 years ago, they proudly made arrangements for the family to see him. “This year we’ll bring him to the reunion at my grandfather’s house,” Caroline said. Her study of ancient Egyptian spirits in Cairo caused her to miss the last one.
“He’s old enough to remember this” Martin said, happily to friends and family at the gathering. Without warning, Henry grabbed his little plastic bowl filled with pork and beans cut small to prevent choking. He poured it into the hair of Lucy, a 5-year-old, daughter of Caroline’s best friend. “Oh, so sorry…. Gladys. My Henry didn’t mean it,” was all Caroline could muster up to say. Her face turned beet red as trembling hands helped clean up the mess. ‘What a disaster,’ she thought.
9 Years Old –
The reunion was in the park. Henry was now old enough to play by the swings with children his age. At first opportunity, Henry pushed his cousin Loretta off the swing. She flew face first into the concrete. Her screams alerted the adults that came running only to view the aftermath. She had a missing front tooth and her beautiful yellow dress was marred with blood.
“Good God! Martin exclaimed. I saw the whole thing! It was an accident!” he lied. “Our homeowner’s insurance will pay for her dental, and any medical bills,” he bellowed to the family members attending to Loretta.
“I’ll get her a new dress too,” Caroline said, the only thing she could think of while watching Henry rocking slowly on the swing he pushed Loretta off of. Caroline grew hot with anger as he loudly chewed gum. Its sweet smell filled her nose as she thought ‘something’s got to be done.’
12 Years Old –
Martin and Caroline were invited but had been asked to leave Henry home for the reunion, as the word was getting around that Henry could not be trusted alone, or around other children. They regretted not fighting to get him invited but was also relieved. Henry was old enough to fend for himself while they had a peaceful night out.
Two hours after they left, Henry dashed out of his bedroom. He ran two blocks to the light rail that ran every 10 minutes. He used his school pass to take a short ride to the hotel where the reunion was taking place. Near the hotel, Henry slashed every parked car tire that had a Clayton family reunion sticker in the window. On his way back to the light rail, he set one car on fire by lighting papers left in the unlocked vehicle. As everyone danced to Reggae music and ate Barbecue, Henry ran back home as fast as he could to answer the wired house phone he knew his parents would call to check on him.
Lights and sounds of emergency vehicles overpowered the festivities in the spacious room. Air horns blasting at ear-splitting volume and police directing traffic caused enough curiosity for everyone to go see what the commotion was.
“My car is on fire!” Yelled Sheila, Martins sister. “Somebody set it on fire!” Hysterical, she ran from the hotel trying to get past the yellow tape blocking entrance to the street. She watched firemen battling a blaze in her new car. A few eyes set upon Martin, accusing silently. He decided to call home.
After three rings Henry picked up the phone. “He’s at home everybody, just as we told you,” Martin told his angry family. “You can’t blame my Henry this time,” Caroline chimed in defensively. She looked in her husband’s eye’s as she doubted her own words.“He’s not responsible.”
15 Years Old –
Martin, Caroline, and Henry were not invited to the reunion so they decided to go to a sweet sixteen party. After doing some research, Caroline felt taking Henry to an unfamiliar place would work in her favor. It would be all girls there. The party was for Patty, a coming of age brunette that Henry knew well. He had some classes with her before his behavior required him to repeat a grade. Martin was close to Patty’s father Jim so the whole thing would work out somehow. Caroline brought a large leather bag to the party filled with things suggested from divination websites she surfed on the dark web. Before she settled in among the adults, she took a mild sedative with alcohol, while clutching her possessions tightly.
“What do you want to do when you graduate school?” Martin asked Patty, to divert attention from Caroline.
“I want to be a politician, and be a Republican like my dad,” she said with a smile.
“Very nice, very nice indeed,” Martin said, returning the smile but losing track of his wife’s whereabouts. Henry, in the guest bathroom, deliberately stopped up the toilet and was about to cause an overflow when a note was slipped under the door. Reading what he thought was from Patty, Henry followed the instructions to meet in the basement. Patty would turn off the lights and let Henry feel her up as he had once done in school, but was sent home to his parents.
“Hey Patty, come out before they start looking for me,” he whispered in the dark, his hormones raging with anticipation. In one swift movement, Caroline covered Henry’s mouth and nose with a cloth saturated with homemade chloroform. As Henry started to struggle, the chemical wafting through the cloth had more effect on Caroline than him. I’m not really good at this she thought. Henry bucked and stomped at her feet, laughing at his mother’s effort to hold him. Determined to keep control, Caroline replaced the cloth with her fingers over his mouth, then placed a silver dagger tightly against Henry’s throat.
Through her fingers, Caroline felt his mouth relax into what felt like a smile. The sound of a giggle came from Henry as he stood motionless now, hands dropping down to his waist.
She remembered the web room discussion about Egyptian adolescent spirits that stalk parents until they can possess their children, to be in a family again. This poltergeist must have followed her from Cairo. If it really was a bratty kid spirit, she had to trick it out of her son. Exorcism’s only worked in movies.
“Release him now or die in his adolescent form.” Caroline’s stern voice gave her the strength to face whatever the outcome would be if something went wrong. She knew she crossed the line in caring for and disciplining her disruptive son. There was no turning back now.
Martin, sipping on a martini with Barbara, the host of the party, continued small talk until he spotted his wife, with their son coming from an off-limits part of the house. “Go have fun with the other kids,” Caroline told Henry, who was already making his way over to Patty and her friend Susan.
“Did it work?” Martin asked when his son and Barbara were out of earshot.
“Yes. It thought I would really hurt my son. It left his body to go into this unfamiliar house, to save itself. It tried to read my mind, but the pills I took clouded my thoughts. The chloroform confused it a little,” she said, knowing the fumes almost caused her to pass out instead. “It thought best to get out of a live host than be trapped in a dead teen.” Caroline continued, “The dagger was sharp, but it was only a prop. I pretended to stab him in the back and it fled scared, thank god.”
“God had nothing to do with that thing from what you told me,” Martin said, holding his wife’s hand. Are you hungry?
“Starved,” she said, relieved the 9-year ordeal was over. They watched Henry as he socialized with the teen girls without incident.
The house was filled with the smell of southern cooking, which made the Claytons feel as if they were at another family reunion. After eating, Caroline tossed the contents of her bag out with the piles of paper plates, plastic cups, and half-eaten desserts.
Henry sat next to Patty and thanked her for inviting him to her party. He was the only boy there, but he liked Patty enough, in an appropriate way, not to feel out of place.
“I’m going to ask my dad if we can have a pool party when it gets a little warmer,” he said, smiling at her.
Just then Susan, Patty’s best friend, poured juice on her new laptop. Susan then tried to scratch Patty’s face too, but Henry made her stop. Through tears, Patty tried to get the computer working again, but the damage was done. All adult eyes focused on Henry as the culprit, until a tearful Patty told everyone that Susan was the one that caused the damage.
“What brought that on?” Martin asked his wife, hoping she wouldn’t say what he thought.
“It’s too early to tell,” Caroline answered. But I’ll be ready to have the talk with her mother if need be,” she said to Martin.
“Yes,” Martin agreed. “If need be.”
Copyright © 2018 Darnell Cureton. All Rights Reserved