The dilapidated cabin crouched, lopsided, on the riverbank behind Stoddard Mountain Campground, the rusty swing set outside a crude invitation to a bored eight-year-old.
I met Katy there one warm August night, the sky heavy with stars I rarely saw in the city. She slouched on the seat, her bottom nearly sliding off the edge of the canvas, her too-large sundress hitched at the waist by a plastic belt, hiding the knees of her weedy legs. Her bare feet never stopped moving as she drew circles and squiggles with her toes in the dirt beneath us. When I asked her where she lived, she frowned, looking at me like I was crazy. “Here.”
“All the time?” Camping out in a bare-bones cabin was fun, but I missed my TV and computer.
She shrugged. “For now, anyway”
Katy loved to tell stories–about castles and kings, about princesses wearing diamond-studded slippers. Sometimes the stories turned scary–werewolves and vampires, bird-like creatures that pecked out your eyes, grunting nightmare monsters who stifled your screams with clammy palms.
She collected things. That’s what she called them–”my things.” Not baseball cards or paper dolls. Weird stuff she found in the woods: a broken compass, an armless Barbie, a lighter, a rock–big and dimpled as a cantaloupe. She propped them up on the windowsill above her bed.
One night she begged me to run away with her. Her dark eyes pierced mine, so haunted I almost agreed, but the spell was broken by Ma’s voice rushing through the trees, calling me to bed.
The next evening, Katy wasn’t on the swing waiting for me. I glanced at her window; her things were gone. I peeked through the slats.
Katy’s father lay sprawled on the floor, inches from her bed, his head resting in a pool of blood.
And next to his head, a rock–big and dimpled as a cantaloupe.
Renee Holland Davidson lives in Southern California with her husband, Mark, and their two mutts, Josie and Kinsey. Her fiction has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, flashquake, The VERB, and various other online and print publications. Renee’s flash memoir, Nothing At All, was published in Chicken Soup for the Shopper’s Soul.
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