23 Jul

“Oh God, oh God, don’t say it’s ghosts!”

“It’s not ghosts, shut up!”

“What is it, okay? Okay, Nicky? What is it?”

“I said shut up!”

Sam was standing in the middle of the attic with his hands clamped over his eyes and his knees pressed together like he had to pee.

“Sammy,” Abby said, “You know there’s no such thing as ghosts.”

“Right,” he said, and relaxed his knees. “I know.”

“It’s right back here, I think,” said Nicky. He pushed aside the squat chest of drawers and there it was. He picked up the box and turned to show it to Abby. “I knew it was up here!”

“Let’s take it back downstairs,” she said. Nicky scowled. She put her arm across Sam’s shoulders and raised her eyebrows. “It is kind of creepy up here, Nicky.”

“Fine. Don’t call me that.”

Buck was waiting for them at the bottom of the stairs. His hair was still wet from his bath, and his pajama top was on inside out.

“What’d you get?” he asked. Sam pushed by him and the back of Buck’s head knocked against the wall. “Dammit!” Buck hollered.

“Say that in front of Dad and you’ll get spanked,” Abby said. She ushered Buck back to his bedroom at the front of the house. “And you’re supposed to be in bed, camper.”

“I’m not sleepy.”

“If Dad finds you up when he gets back, you’ll get spanked.”

“You always say that.”

Abby laughed. “Well, it’s true. Now, get in bed. We’ll be right downstairs if you need anything.” She tucked her brother in and turned out the bedside lamp.

Buck whispered, “Don’t say ‘don’t let the bedbugs bite.’ ”

“I won’t. But you just did.” She left the door cracked and the hall light on.

Sam and Nicky were in the kitchen. The box from the attic was on the table.

“Well?” Abby asked. She sat down and looked at Nicky. He put his hands on the box but did not lift the lid. The ball cap he wore hid his eyes from her. He was shirtless and tan.

“Okay, are you sure you want to see this?”

The question was addressed to Sam, who was pale, but Abby answered.

“If you don’t show us what’s in that stupid box, Nicky—”

“What, your dad is gonna spank me?”

That made Sam laugh, and color flooded back into his cheeks.

“Really, Sam, if you’re gonna cry or something,” Nicky said.

“I’m not gonna cry, jerk. Just open it.”

Abby leaned forward. Sam swallowed. Nicky took the lid off the box.


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