I'm 14 and it is summer vacation. I am the most in-demand babysitter in the neighborhood. Parents fight for me with what would amount to, in an adult world, benefits packages. The public school teacher with 3 boys will give me the answers to this year's standardized tests, single mom will make me her #2 on swank hotel beach membership, even advanced levels of refrigerator access were used to seduce my time. I'm a master with boys. For some reason beyond my understanding, they do whatever I tell them to. (CLARIFICATION: They did then.) I control them with food. Impeccable grilled cheese sandwiches and measured ice-pop distributions. They love that I love cartoons and swimming as much as them. They love that I'm an in-road to the older boys of the hood, and that with additional bodies they can make whole sports teams.
This summer I pick up a new gig sitting for a single father with summer custody of his kids. With him, a brand new challenge: identical twin boys (positive nightmares). The father is very odd, which is not necessarily bad, but in this instance allow it to carry a hefty air of creepiness. Withheld and distant and overwhelmed to a vibrating anxiety that transfers in feeling myself uneasy most the time. He has two Siamese cats which he keeps locked in his bedroom all day while he is at work. I am told this is because the children are cruel to the cats. They howl for freedom, a backing track to the clashing symphony of each day with the devious twins. It is a strict rule: do not go into the bedroom. As a 14 year old girl with a bit of smarts, I figure if he does't want me in there, that probably foretells I will not like whatever is to be found in that room.
As the weeks of summer pass, he warms to me. He keeps me after he returns from work to tell me things about him self. I do not solicit this information. He asks one afternoon, "Do you get high?"
"No," I lie.
"Good," he replies. Then he tells me a story of nabbing his first joint in school in the 70s, smoking it alone and discovering it laced with PCP. He tells me that a vicious dog came running at him right down the middle of his hallway, only to dissipate upon contact because it was a hallucination. This event, he explains, put him off drugs for life. Probably dogs too,
One afternoon, he asks if I want to hear about his passion, with one hand on a glass cabinet, the contents of which I barely allow myself to explore by sight. I find myself right inside his weird world, and it is a world made of bones. He has all kinds of them. Ancient ones. Human, animal, fossil, miscellaneous evolutionary links... He shows me albums of all his trips abroad - all to catacombs and religious monuments made out of bones. Now I'm fucking overwhelmed. I really don't know what to do about this adult. About this kind of adult. What is this kind of adult, I think all the walk home. What will my parents think about this shit? That's for me to ponder and them to never to find out.
I return to my daily babysitting grind. In the last days of the gig, and the kids whip around like twin tornadoes, smashing straight into the forbidden bedroom door with a wham. I see a piece of paper float down from the corner of the top of the door, and realize it has been booby-trapped. I carefully put it back in place. Shuddering. But why?
Of course, the lock on the door wasn't enough. He wants to know if I ever even try to get in or get curious. The howl of the cats. The last summer I ever saw him or the twins or the bones.