Through Any Given Door

1.31 Heathens and Hellions

1947 • Sonora, California ~ They ran through the house like heathens and hellions, my parents’ children before me. Dad left their guidance to the church, Mom left it to the winds. The kids not only had the run of the house, they also had the run of the town. Most summer days the three older ones spent their time exploring and swimming, roller skating the cracked sidewalks, and riding their bikes up and down the steep hills. Claudia tried to keep up, but she was too little. The rest of the time they spent terrorizing each other. Across the creek, Kelley’s Central Motors sold new and used cars, mostly Chevrolets, and the mechanics working in the back witnessed the kids’ shenanigans. While Mom and Dad were at work, it was free rein for the pack of wild animals who passed themselves off as children.

Larry, Carleen, Betty, Claudia

When twelve and thirteen, things changed between Carleen and Larry. It became the three girls, Carleen, with Betty (who was seven) and Claudia (who was five), against Larry. He was now a young boy with too many sisters whose sole purpose in their life was to torment him. They were constantly sneaking into his room, so Larry talked Mom and Dad into letting him put a padlock on his door. However, no lock would stop Carleen and her little minions. The next time Larry was off working she pulled a chair into her closet, balanced a stack of books on the seat and then herself on the stack, removed the wallboard between the two bedrooms, hauled herself up, pulled up Claudia first so Betty could help push her, then wormed on through the crawlspace. Dropping one-by-one down into Larry’s adjoining closet, they were now locked in his room. They whiled away the afternoon on his bed, listening to his new radio, reading his diary and comics, rifling through his coin and stamp collections, and stealing all his his gum.

When they heard him coming down the hall, his key in the padlock, they realized there wasn’t enough time to climb back through the closet. At first they laughed, but Larry was mad, madder than they had ever seen him.

The door swung open. “Run!” Carleen hollered. She and her two shadows, their four bony legs scrambling after her, terrified they’d be left behind, escaped through his door while he stood surveying his crumpled gum wrappers, spilled coins, and scattered magazines. He hated that he had no control, resented that he had no privacy, and furious that he had no peace. Squealing and howling, the girls raced to the bathroom, the only room in the house with a real lock. Panting behind the bolted door, Betty and Claudia cowered in the corner as Carleen lay in wait.

“Shhh, be quiet” she whispered, filling a glass with water. When she heard Larry coming full speed down the hall she sloshed the glassful under the door. As his soles hit the wet linoleum he slid right past the door, crashing feet first through the white balusters of the banister.

He was determined. Silently climbing through the double window in our parent’s bedroom onto the sloped ledge of the porch roof, Larry crept toward the bathroom. Carleen heard the scrape of the double hung window opening. She was ready, and threw another glassful of water onto the roof, making the moss shingles slick as snot. When Larry hit the wet moss he slid right off the second story roof, sailed passed the first story, and landed on the grass below. Because of the overhang they couldn’t see or hear a thing; no splat, curse, nor cry. Less concerned that Larry was dead and more terrified of what Dad would do to them if he were, they raced screeching through the hall, down the stairs and through the front door, their dirty bare feet pounding over the painted front porch, the pockets on their cotton jumpers catching the wind.

“C’mon,” Carleen commanded her corps.

Skidding to a halt in front of the old tree, they examined the earth and spied only lazy sowbugs. A lizard skittered away. The ants continued their maneuvers as if nothing had happened. The scrub jays took wing to the phone wires away from the disturbance.

Carleen, Betty, and Claudia shrieked bloody murder when Larry, resurrected, leapt from his hiding place. He was going to wring their necks before Dad had a chance, but he couldn’t catch them, each headed in a different direction.

The mechanics at Kelley’s, raising their heads from under car hoods, smoking and drinking coffee, looked on. “Little hellions,” they’d mutter through their cigarettes. They were used to the comings and goings of these kids with no parents at home, accustomed to the banging windows and slamming doors from the old wood house across the creek. They thought nothing about kids falling off the roof. Lowering their heads, they disappeared back under their hoods.

to be continued …

© 2017. Catherine Sevenau.
All rights reserved.

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  1. Good one! This explains so much.

  2. Jim Chatfield says:

    I feel sorry for your brother, he really had a time with them.

  3. Oh the mean things we did to our siblings when we were kids. I still feel guilty… Thanks for the memories.

  4. Susan Lee Price-Jang says:

    Wow. this exciting! And the next installation….

  5. Jean E. McQuady says:

    Your poor brother – it’s a miracle your sisters survived the retribution. This was good training for his volunteering with the exchange students throughout the years.

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