Window, Boy

by MICHELLE WRIGHT

I don’t know how many nights the boy had been gazing into my window while I slept, but after the initial fright of discovering another human being—all the way out on that farm—standing outside my window, I felt there was romance to the thing. After all, he had chosen to watch me, perhaps for days, never doing more than pushing aside the juniper branches and peering in through the glass. No one had noticed any sign of him before, not even the German Shepherds who prowled the place, never let us keep a cat. But there the boy was, perhaps a bit older than I, tossed in shadow and turning to run as Daddy loped around one side of the house, double barrel open and crooked over his elbow, and Mama sprinted around the other, a .45 on safety. The boy was fast, passing my father easily as he made for the cornfield, but he did not anticipate my mother, small, running silently on bare feet, tripping him into the irrigation ditch. She called her warning in a shrill voice. As if to answer, the Shepherds howled from the east and began to rush home to us. My father had to take the boy in his arms to keep the dogs off him, and once out of the water, the boy bit, clawed, kicked, so that my mother grabbed his legs, told him shhhh you’re gonna be fine and then she saw his face and gasped and didn’t say another word. She would tell me when I was older that his brow and jawbone were those of a man, waiting for his child’s flesh to grow into them and into things worse than spying in windows.

I called the sheriff, and we waited near an hour, the boy finally quiet in the barn, roped to a chair, my parents and the German Shepherd sitting guard. Though I had been threatened against leaving the house, I tip-toed to where they all lingered, silent, no one blinking. The boy didn’t look at them, but he raised his head and looked at me, dark eyes filled with such hatred that I felt something in me rattle and break. He pulled back his lips in a grin and his teeth were crooked and yellow, and I felt his laugh like a punch. I knew what they had tied there wasn’t love. It was pure loathing bound up in starved, bruised flesh that had long ago shunned curiosity or anything like it. I felt so sick that I gagged, walked back to the house, and tied the drapes tight at my bedroom window. The next day, my father put up bars.