It all started when Mr. Pike showed up with a fruit basket welcoming us to the neighborhood. He wore thick glasses that made his gray fish eyes swell. His thin brown hair looked greasy and damp. Mom tried to get us to stop staring at him. It wasn't polite.
"I'd like to introduce myself," he'd say. "I have a house warming gift for you." And he held the basket as if he could do magic, like make V-8 juice.
From that day he tried to charm his way into my mother's life, as if he had magic hands. Some days it was candy, sometimes it would be flowers, and sometimes he tried to be Mr. fix-it, but I think he created more leaks by the time he left. Mom knew us kids. We only had a heart for our father. He was our hero. This man was all stage.
My mother: poor broken mom. We had lost our father in the Iraq war, moved off base, back to her hometown of Hobart N.Y., a foggy town near the Hudson River. She wanted a new life, she wanted us to make new friends, but we didn't count on Mr. Pike.
There was four of us, plus mom: Sarah, Sally, Sage, and me William. They were all stair-step girls: ten, eight, and seven. I was the oldest one at twelve. My mother enjoyed shinning my sandy-blonde hair, like maybe it brought her luck, or reminded her of dad. Either way it was our sign. More than once she said, "You remind me of your father, I guess with you, I haven't completely lost him." Tears would hang on her sad face.
Did my father sense he would not return? "He took me aside before leaving on the plane, and said, "I need you to be strong when I'm not here. You're the man of the house, take care of your sister's, and mom." His caramel-dessert uniform glistened in the sun, and the tears in his eyes formed like shiny pearls. It was the last thing he ever said to me.
We had some nice swings, and our own tree to climb. When I climbed it, I saw Mr. Pike mowing his grass in the backyard. He spotted me and quickly turned off the lawnmower.
He stuck his face over the high cedar fence between us. "You wanna check out my tree fort? You can bring your sisters too."
I got my sisters, and we all ran through the back gate. I saw a row of smiles on my sister's faces. When we got there, he greeted us with his leaky smile.
When we climbed up inside everybody was excited, and surprised there was a homemade dollhouse. For my sister's it was a place next to heaven.
About twenty minutes later Mr. Pike asked me, "William, please go and find my hammer at your mother's house so I can make more room in the fort, you can help?"
I shrugged my shoulders. "Okay."
When I started to slide down, I saw between the cracks of the boards. He started to unbutton my sister Sarah's blouse. Shaking inside like a buzz saw, I nearly fell. When I looked up again, I saw him put his finger to her lips and said, "SHHHH!"
I scrapped my legs on the bark getting down. I ran as fast as I could toward home.
I tried to wake mom, and shook her arm. She must have taken some sleeping pills. Instead of a hammer, I found dad's old stun gun, in my mom's nightstand.
I ran so hard it felt my lungs would burst. But when I got there, he was getting ready to start on Sally. I saw the sweat of fear on her forehead, but you should have seen Mr. Pike's mouth drop when he saw me.
I zapped him so hard he tumbled through the loose wall, and fell on his back. "Help! I can't move."
We had no problem getting down from the tree, and each one of my sisters gave him a good swift kick before going home to tell mom.
You don't have to look for evil in this world; sometimes it's where you live. (Romans 2:16)
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