Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Write CONTEMPORARY FICTION (10/30/14)
- TITLE: The Boy in the Basement
By Leola Ogle
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I was caught in the middle. The stress gave me headaches and stomachaches. My friend, Ashley, said, “If you want to live with your mom, say this.”
I loved my parents equally, but everyone said I belonged with Mom. I did what Ashley suggested, and lied about Daddy. My life became a nightmare. Questions, probing, police. Daddy’s shocked expression, his denials. His pleading, “Why, Lauren?”
He was told he couldn’t see me while they investigated. When they took Daddy to jail for the night, I threw up.
Mom and I moved to her parents’ farm. My lie ate at me like acid. I was alone most days while Mom spent time with her boyfriend. Grandma and Grandpa were kind, but aloof, and very busy.
I missed Daddy and wanted to take it back – undo the awfulness. One day I was at the creek beyond the cornfields crying when I soft voice asked, “Are you okay?”
I could barely see the boy through my tears. Throughout this ordeal, nobody had asked if I was okay. I cried even harder. A thin arm draped over my shoulder. He let me soak the sleeve of his t-shirt.
“Name’s Paul,” he said when I stopped crying. “I’m twelve.” He pointed at a rundown farmhouse. “I live there.”
I told him my name. We talked while his eyes kept darting to the road. When an old blue truck passed, Paul jumped. “Gotta go. See ya.”
I’ve never seen anyone run so fast.
When I asked Grandma about the boy, she said, “There’re no children around here.”
“Shoo, Lauren. Go play somewhere. I’m busy.”
Paul couldn’t come every day, but we spent time together that summer. “Don’t tell anyone I come here, Lauren. I’ll be in big trouble.”
And he always ran away when the blue truck passed by.
Paul would make up stories to entertain me. I told him the awful lie I’d told on Daddy. Whenever I cried, he’d spout off a nursery rhyme. The one that made me giggle was “Hey Diddle Diddle.” A cat with a fiddle? A cow jumping over the moon?
“I wish I had a Daddy.” Paul mumbled one day. “You should tell the truth, Lauren. Confess you lied.”
It would be a conversation we would replay throughout the summer. Thoughts of confessing made me tremble in fear.
“Where’s your Daddy?” I asked one day.
“Gone. Mama married Dave.”
“He’s your daddy now?”
Was that a tear in his eye?
Before summer ended, Mom announced we’d be moving in with her boyfriend. When I told Paul, we both cried. Then he started with, “Hey Diddle Diddle.” This time I didn’t giggle.
On our last day together Paul made me promise I’d make things right with Daddy. Paul didn’t even run away when the blue truck passed by.
Over the years, Mom had numerous boyfriends. I did confess I’d lied, but the damage had been done. Daddy remarried, had two more children. I had weekend visits. Although Daddy told me he loved me, his eyes were always sad. He never hugged me, kissed me, or played with me like he did his other kids.
He hates me for what I did. I didn’t understand that he was afraid to physically touch me.
I became a troubled, rebellious teen. When I married Adam and had two sons, my life turned around. That’s when I started searching for Paul. I never found him.
Until I saw the news report on television. Man discovered locked in basement for thirty years. When his mother married Dave Shuman, Dave didn’t want kids, so they kept Paul in the basement. Paul doesn’t talk, but communicates by writing. He wrote that he was fed once a day, never beaten, but was caught sneaking out when he was twelve, and the basement was locked after that.
Tears blinded me. Paul! I had to see him. Adam made arrangements with the authorities. “You can visit in an enclosed room while we observe,” they said.
Paul didn’t acknowledge my presence until I said, “Hey diddle, diddle.”
“Lauren,” he whispered. He smiled. I cried. “How’re you and your dad?”
After all he’d endured, Paul’s first concern was about that.
I took his hand, this man who was the boy who had rescued me that summer.
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