Link to part 3
Clubhouse, Part 4
Within a week, the clubhouse shaped up nicely. By the time I was scheduled to leave for Camp Carlisle, two weeks later, we had to padlock the doors when we left at night to keep out the demented dunces who would have gladly moved in after we had done all the work.
Camp Carlisle, doesn’t that sound just bitchin?
One of my folks’ not-so-bright ideas. A sissy girl’s camp, and I’d been groaning about it since they first broached the subject after school let out.
They said I was a tomboy—Lord how I hated that term.
"You should be playing with dolls, not dead bats and marbles,” Mom brought up. “You’re a girl, Denise. Time you started acting like a young lady. Be sure you pack that new dress that I bought you for camp. You’ll need at least one nice dress.”
Bullshit, I thought. Hey, it was 1962, I didn’t dare say it aloud!
Four weeks, man: a real jail sentence!
Camp turned out to be not so bad. Seemed lots of parents sent their tomboys there so I was in good company. Learned some raunchy, dirty jokes, how to smoke and blow smoke rings, even a couple new terms of endearment like dipshit and dickwad.
Couldn’t wait to try them out on the guys, I thought as I headed for the clubhouse.
From the road, the clubhouse looked pretty much the same as it had when I left. By the time I got right up to it, however, I was as mad as a hornet in a jar of frogs. Seems a slight addition had been added in my absence. A big old painted sign, complete with skull and crossbones clearly announced:
RANGER RAYMER’S CLUBHOUSE
NO GIRLS ALLOWED!
KEEP OUT had been hastily scrawled with blue paint on one side of the sign, and THIS MEANS YOU! on the other side.
Ranger Raymer, my ass, I seethed, pulling out my key to the padlock. Apparently, since I was out of sight I was also out of mind for those two simpletons because my key still worked just fine.
Inside, the clubhouse looked about the same except for a few scratched up girly posters and a new deck of cards with naked ladies on them. The smell though. The smell was something else. Bad enough to make my eyes water, it smelled like King Kong had been cutting farts in there for a few days.
“Jeeze,” I choked fanning the door for a little relief.
Then I saw the most foul-looking pile of turds I’d ever seen anywhere outside a toilet. Smack in the middle of the dirt floor, that pile stunk so much you could almost see the stink radiating out from it on brown waves of pollution.
Gagging, I backed out of the clubhouse just as Wayne and Tommy came sneaking around the back corner. Tommy carried a burlap sack tied up at the top. He dropped the sack like a hot potato when he saw me standing there. I thought the bag was moving, but didn’t pay much attention at the time.
“Uh, hi Deeze, what’s cookin?” Tommy said, his face a picture of mock innocence.
“What’s up with the sign, dipshit?” I asked pointing to the new addition.
Wayne smiled, but Tommy—facing me—didn’t see it. Ranger Raymer’s face was turning that neat shade of red and he looked about like a bull getting ready to charge.
“Can’t you read? It’s my clubhouse; I found it—so I guess I can put up any old sign I want. Right Wayne?”
‘R-right,” Wayne said, his smile gone now that Tommy and I were both looking at him. “Get out of here you little retard. Can’t you read? No s-smelly girls allowed.”
“You idiots,” I screamed. “Mary was a girl and this was her clubhouse first.”
“Yeah she was a girl all right,” Tommy said smugly. “A stupid UGLY girl, just like you.”
“Well you can both go screw my dead grandmother.” I said pocketing the key. “You can keep your smelly old sewer of a clubhouse because I wouldn’t be caught dead hanging out in there with two dickfaces like you!”
While they were standing there with their mouths open, I stalked off toward the cemetery and ducked behind a headstone. My plan was to wait for them to leave, let myself in with the key and then tear the place apart. Rip down their stupid posters and trash the whole clubhouse.
Crouched snugly behind the cool marble, I watched Tommy pick up the sack, mumble something to his sidekick, and they went inside. The door slammed shut behind them.
Tears stung my eyelids, but I’d be damned if either of those two dipshits would see me cry. Girls were skipping rope at the playground. I couldn’t see them from this side of the church, but I could hear their silly little skipping songs.
“Not last night,”
“but the night before . . .”
What happened next would play in reruns across my nightmares for the rest of my life.
I may have dozed off for a few seconds—my face leaning comfortably against the cool marble with the rhythmic skipping jingles playing softly among the soft summer noises. Maybe I was even dreaming about Mary Kempbell with the big ears and no nose to hold up her heavy glasses.
But I don’t think so.
Wayne told me what happened inside the clubhouse, many days later.
In the hospital.
It seems that while I was away at camp, my sister Molly had given Tommy the old heave-ho. Told him she wouldn’t be caught dead going anywhere with a snot like him. The worse of it was, Wayne said. She did it right there in the cemetery and she did it after church when the grounds were full of people who heard it all. Tommy was mortified. Got laughed at all the way home and most of the next day.
That’s when he got the bright idea about the sign. Tommy only put the stupid sign up to get back at me for being Molly’s sister. Wayne said so.
Trouble was, once he and Wayne put up the sign, that old calico cat started digging into the clubhouse every night. Every day, Tommy and Wayne would come across a mighty, smelly heap of turds from that old cat. They’d clean up the mess only to find an even bigger and smellier pile the next day. Cat peed on their playing cards, scratched up their posters and generally made their lives miserable.
Tommy couldn’t take it.
Wayne said that it was Tommy who got the bright idea about killing the cat. Initiation, he had called it.
The cat was in the burlap sack.
Tommy was so mad at this point, that he planned to have Wayne hold the bag while he shoveled the cat poop in with its owner. After that was done, Tommy’s plan was to drop the sack into the Rainbow River—poop, cat, and a heavy rock for good measure.
Fortunately for the cat, but bad news for Tommy: he never got the chance to finish that plan.
From my place outside the clubhouse, the whole commotion seemed to last for at least a half hour, when in truth, it was all over in a few minutes.
The first notion that told me something was happening was the cold. One minute I was warm and snug behind the gravestone, and the next minute a blast of wicked cold wind kicked up and the sun got swallowed by a cloud blacker than a Halloween cat.
The comforting jingles from the rope skippers developed an eerie buzz, like drowning cicadas, just before the pounding started.
The pounding thumps were so loud, at first I thought it was thunder blasting down from above. But the booms were too hollow, too closely tuned to the buzzing chants from across the way. Rhythmic and threatening, the racket rose—sending little clouds of dust from under the leftmost clubhouse door with each subsequent thump.
Blinking and rubbing my eyes raw, I saw a dark shadow staining that clubhouse door. The huge shadow of a bent and twisted form raised its arm in a dark blur of motion: THUMP . . . THUMP . . . THUMP.
The big “No Girls Allowed” sign fell off the clubhouse and landed flat in the dirt raising another brown cloud of dust.
I heard Tommy shout, “Go home, Deezel, you ain’t coming in,” in a hazy, buzzing, faraway drone. That’s when I first realized that he thought it was me banging on that door.
Before I could open my frozen jaws to shout back a warning, the screaming started.
Rendered immobile by the sight of the looming shadow wavering at the clubhouse door, I could feel my heart flutter; struggling to pump strengthening blood into my fear-laden limbs.
Terrified screams issued from the clubhouse making my ears buzz and my hair stiffen.
I still couldn’t move.
The booming-pounding noises faded away, drowned out by the force of the screams. Puffs of dust still issued from the seams of the clubhouse in intermittent surges.
The shadow loomed and wavered before the door. It pulsated in the sporadic dust clouds, like an evil genie recently uncorked from its antique jail.
Background noises of chanting rope skippers suddenly ceased as the screams from within the clubhouse escalated to an ear-piercing staccato of pain and fear.
Engulfed in mindless terror, I suddenly felt the sun spreading warmth across my shoulders; saw its returning rays sparkle against the shiny metal padlock still attached to the right door of the clubhouse. The shadow faded as the unlocked door of the clubhouse belched open.
A blood-streaked old calico cat careened out the door. It disappeared into the woods almost before my eyes registered its movement.
Wayne staggered out into the sun. I perceived bloody hands surrounding the huge black cavern of his open, screaming mouth. He slumped to his knees right there in the cemetery like a grief-stricken mourner.
Reverend Willy had to carry Tommy out of the clubhouse.
Stinking of cat shit and soaked in blood, the two boys were loaded into the ambulance with the help of trembling, white-faced Reverend Willy.
For once in my life, being a girl came in handy. I blended neatly into the little knot of whispering rope skippers and faded quietly away when Reverend Willy, his new summer shirt stained with blood, suggested that we all go home and pray for Tommy and Wayne.
There was no “No Girls Allowed” sign on his hospital room door when I got to visit Wayne about a week later. That’s when he told me what happened after the knocking started on the clubhouse door. The scratches on his face were beginning to heal, but the tracks of stitches on his neck and arms still looked angry and puffy. A blotch of bloody red leered from one of Wayne’s eyeballs like a second pupil. It’s where the cat’s razor-sharp claws had landed when it escaped from the bag and attempted to tear out his and Tommy’s tonsils.
Wayne said that Tommy couldn’t talk to me for a while. His badly torn throat had required surgery to repair his larynx and close the gaping wounds.
Both boys were in the hospital until school started again. Since the cat was never found, it was assumed to have died rabid in the woods somewhere. Jeese, twenty-three shots in the stomach for each of them. I’m really glad now that I went to camp instead!
I never told Wayne and Tommy that it wasn’t me pounding on the door. Heck, Tommy wouldn’t have believed me and I didn’t have the heart to scare Wayne with the truth.
I also never told them that it wasn’t me who chopped the “NO GIRLS ALLOWED” sign into splinters and left the scraps of painted wood scattered with broken mirror fragments in the trash heap behind the clubhouse.
They’d hang me out to dry if they knew I was feeding her cat now.
Mary and I are friends.
Mary needs me to stick up for her against the cruel taunts of her peers?
She knows that I’d have saved her beloved cat from the dreadful ordeal it suffered, had I known of those terrible boys’ plans.
The padlocks are gone from the clubhouse doors, but nobody ever goes there anymore.
Nobody except me and Mary.
And the cats.
There’s still some rope skippers and their annoying jingles to contend with.
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