the one to blame pt. 2

an excerpt from a horror story by Inara Pirani, ’19

“Nice jacket by the way. You a big fan of the Bulldogs?” Logan asked, pointing to my varsity jacket. Oh man. Hockey. I always dread the sports-related conversations. I never keep up with this stuff, so I never know what to say. Hockey is boring; all you do is watch a bunch of dudes on steroids kick a puck around with a stick.

“Uh not really,” I said. My face must have been looking like a tomato by now.

“You’re NOT?!” three boys asked at once. Shoot! I’d hit a nerve.

“I’m…not really into sports. The jacket was my brother Ski’s,” I said. I wanted to explain this with the least amount of words.

“Oh. Give us your phone number. We can add you to our class group chat,” Logan said, attempting to be friendly.

“I-I don’t have a phone,” I said quietly. My mom had given Ski a phone when we moved, but she couldn’t afford to give me one. I’d never really cared until this point when my eyes glossed over the shocked expression on Logan’s face.

“Do you have like a tablet or something you could get the app with?” Logan asked.

“No…” My voice trailed off. My face felt like it was on fire. I looked down at my worn sneakers. There was a growing hole in the fabric by the toe.

I didn’t look up, but I knew what all those boys were thinking. This strange new kid has no phone, looks really weird, lives in a creepy house, and doesn’t like sports. Luckily, the teacher saved me.

“Boys, please quiet down. This is a quiet study time.” The teacher furrowed his brow and glared at us over the tops of his glasses. No one talked for the rest of the block. Well, not to me anyway.

When the bell rang, I gathered up my bag and walked to the entrance of the school.  I waited by the front steps and kept a lookout for my older brother Ski. Ski’s basically the polar opposite of me. He loves to talk and meet new people. Back in Toronto, he used to work at the ice cream store. Everyone used to love him because he would always talk the customers into buying more ice cream. My mom used to let Ski keep part of the money he made, which was why he never had to wear clothes from ten years ago. Anyway, my mom made this rule that I have to walk home with Ski and younger sister, Amelie, everyday. Ski and I would meet up outside the Middle School and then pick Amelie up at the elementary school on our way home. A minute later, I heard a familiar laugh from behind me. As I turned around Ski was walking arm in  arm with two other guys. I was out of earshot so I hadn’t heard what Ski had said, but apparently it had been hilarious because all three of them were hysterically laughing. Great. Day one and my brother already made like, fifty friends. And how many had I made? Zero. Unless you count the two boys I ate lunch with. Neither of them talked to me. They were both on their phones.

Anyway, Ski and his friends finally stopped laughing and strolled over to where I was standing.

“Yo Ski! Is this your little bro?” one of the boys asked, glancing at me. Both boys looked me up and down, like I was some specimen under a microscope. Ski rolled his eyes at me.

“Yeah…Hey listen, I’d better go. Catch you guys tomorrow!” Ski grinned and headed off down the steps and onto the sidewalk. I ran to catch up with him. Once we were out of earshot from his friends, Ski turned on me.

“Dude, you are so uncool! All by yourself, just standing and waiting! Now all my friends will think I’m a dork because my brother is a geek!” Ski burst out.  I stayed silent. Why couldn’t he understand that I liked being by myself? I always felt so awkward around other people. I just wasn’t like him. Not to mention, Ski got all the cool clothes and the phone and stuff.  We didn’t talk until we reached the elementary school. I spotted Amelie talking to another girl her age. Amelie saw us and promptly walked over to us, clutching her pink bookbag and a large piece of cardstock. Mom also bought Amelie clothes from the thrift store, but she always took Amelie with her, so she never had to wear strange clothes like me.

“Hi! Look what I made during recess!” Amelie bubbled over with excitement as she showed us a crayon drawing of the Eiffel Tower she had made. On the way home Amelie told us about how many friends she had made. She’s really social like Ski. I’m the only odd one…

After school, Amelie decided that we should look at the shed on the edge of our property. Like the house, the shed was kind of rundown too. We asked Ski to join us, but he said he had too much homework. I was relieved. Ski was starting to get on my nerves.

Amelie and I trekked through the leaves and made our way to the gray concrete shed.

The door to the shed was unlocked and swung open pretty easily when I twisted the door knob. I had expected it to be much harder considering no one had been in here for 15 years. Or at least no one was supposed to have been here.

The floor was covered in food wrappers, leaves, and this funny translucent paper that crunched when we walked over it. It reminded me of the roll of tracing paper Amelie had in her room. On the wall were shelves filled with old cracking cans of paint. Leaning against the wall was an ancient gardening rake. Sitting next to it was a wooden crate with some tools. Resting underneath the shelves was one of those large plastic tubs like you get at a dollar store. I lifted off the lid and saw that it was filled with…clothing? I lifted out a man’s black sweater. Pee yew! Did it reek! I dropped it back in the box and closed the lid before the smell would waft any further.

“Hey, Colton!” Amelie said, crouching by the wooden crate. “Look at this hammer,” She lifted the old fashioned hammer out of the box and began to sneeze. It was only then that I realized that it was covered in dust. I glanced back at the paint cans lining the wall. Those were covered in dust too. In fact, everything was covered in dust except the wrappers on the floor and the box of clothing. Weird. I made a mental note of it and went to join Amelie, who was still looking through the box of tools.

When Mom came home that night, she oohed and aahed over Amelie’s drawing and listened to Ski’s stories about all the friends he made and how he was joining the soccer team. I told her about our exploration in the shed. She wasn’t impressed.

“Colton, I don’t want you going in there anymore. It’s dangerous. Those shelves are so old. They could break and fall on your head. Besides, you don’t know what creatures have been living in there. They could have rabies. If I have time over the weekend, I can clean it out. Until then you are not going back into that shed!” She turned and gave me a look before sighing tiredly. “The hospital might need me to work overtime though.We have to save money so I can send you three to college,” she continued, getting that far away tired look in her eyes.

After dinner, my mom retreated to her bedroom and began her nightly conversations with her two sisters. She had been doing that almost every night since my parents got divorced a year and a half ago. She always talks about the lack of income we have and how Dad never sends her child support money.

I lay awake that night, thinking about what those boys in my study hall thought of me. Suddenly, I felt angry. Angry at my mom. It was all her fault why I couldn’t fit in. She couldn’t buy me proper clothing, a phone or any electronic device! I was stuck being an anti-social kid, who now looked like a loser because his mom couldn’t  pay her bills. Why did this happen to me? Ski was old enough to get a job, which was why he got everything he wanted, but I had to stay at home and watch Amelie. Maybe if I had some normal clothes and a cell phone, those boys would think I was a little more cool. How could I make more money? Enough money to get myself a phone, clothes and possibly a nicer looking house. So, I’m not talking petty cash… I mean the big bucks.

When I finally went to sleep, I dreamed that I was back in the shed, only this time I was alone. All of a sudden, all the boxes in the shed began to fall on top of me. The noise pounded my ears as I screamed for my mom to come. All I could hear was her voice echoing inside of me. ‘I told you not to go in the shed again…’ I woke up sweating. The dream felt so real, I could still hear the echos of the sounds in my ears.  Leaning over, I checked my clock. It was 3:40 AM. I sighed and dozed off again.

When I awoke again, the sun was peeping through my curtains, bathing my room in soft yellow light.  I dressed as quickly as I could. Stuffing my binders into my bag, I grabbed it and raced into the kitchen. An alarming sight met my eyes. On the counter was an open and tipped over jar of honey. The thick syrup had leaked onto the counter and the floor. A box of instant oatmeal lay on its side next to it. The contents of the box were all over the counter. Some of the oatmeal had begun to stick to the dried honey. The full jar of pasta sauce my mom used last night was now empty. At that moment, I remembered my dream again. Maybe this had to do with those noises I heard-

“Colton!” My mom’s shrill voice rang out from behind me. I turned to see my mom, still dressed in her robe, peering at the sight over my shoulder. “Did you make this mess!?” She stormed over to where the oatmeal container lay on its side. Picking it up, she dumped it into the trash.

“Colton! I asked you a question. Did you make this mess?” She looked me straight in the eye with that Mom Look she always had on whenever we did anything wrong.

“No! Why would I?” I said confused.

“You were the last one to go to bed last night. Containers don’t just spill themselves.”

Flushing, I tried to tell my mom that it hadn’t been me. Why would I want to eat oatmeal in the middle of the night?

“Wow! Did you make this mess?” Ski came up behind Mom, dragging his backpack behind him. “I thought I heard footsteps downstairs last night. What were you doing Colton?” Ski glanced at me, rather bemused.

“It WASN’T me.” I repeated for the hundredth time.Why wasn’t anyone believing me? “Maybe it was Amelie.”

“Colton, Amelie slept in my room last night. If she had gotten up, I would have too.” Mom peered at me over her framed glasses. With that, Mom threw me one last suspicious look and headed towards the bathroom. I walked towards the kitchen door and examined the lock. It didn’t look like someone had broken it. Maybe someone had come into our house through the front door. I walked back into the hallway and examined the lock from there. It looked fine too. That must mean that someone had access to our house. The thought caused a shiver down my spine. I retraced my steps back to the kitchen, walked to the refrigerator and pulled out the milk. It looked fine, so I went ahead and poured myself a bowl. Sighing, I poured cereal into the bowl and promptly began to eat. This stupid creepy house would be gone if I we could have more money, I thought, crunching away, then I wouldn’t be blamed for everything!Still, it was kinda creepy. Someone just walked into our house and stole pasta sauce, honey and oatmeal…


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