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Tree House Memory

Charlotte LeBlanc


The smell of damp wood assaulted her senses and cruel shadows played tricks on her seven-year-old imagination. The monsters in the dark corners took turns swooping down after her with each little movement in the eerie dusk. She shivered and snuggled down further into her pile of worn blankets and pillows, keenly aware that the rags that she encased herself in were not the crisp bright Barbie and Carebear sleeping bags that her friends were zipped in up to their noses. She loved them for not noticing or not caring that she had less. Kimmy’s much older brother, T.J., hissed a twisted story into his blinding flashlight. Looking back, she can see that he took a perverse pleasure in frightening all of them, almost delighting in their unchecked squeals and small bodies pressing close to him and each other for protection. She remembered how she jumped and started with every creak and moan, sure that murders go to the trouble of climbing trees to get terrified little girls. Clammy and clumsy hands pulled her closer into the blanketed group, and she went willingly, the gusts of wind howling through the cracks of rickety wood scraps to seep into her bones. The neighborhood dogs barked intermittently at unknown, unseen dangers, and country music blared from speeding trucks and cars filled with Saturday night bar crowds. Tires peeled the pavement from teenagers racing down sleepy residential streets. She was strangely comforted by the cacophony of the night even as the itchy material from her cheap, footed pajamas began to chafe her nervous limbs. Slowly, she started to doze and slip into that unwanted darkness that plagues children, sure that she would miss something. She fell into her little girl dreams to the sounds of tree limbs scraping against walls of a precariously perched tree house, and T. J. whispering something more, “Wanna touch it?”