Fiction — 08 January 2013

by

Kristine Ong Muslim

 

 

I insisted to the bald man that there was no Lauren, but he won’t stop asking me about her. It looked as if he only wanted to hear me say her name, like it was very important that I admit to him that the girl the police found in the empty closet under the stairs was real.

I said, “No, you can’t make me. There is no Lauren. There is no Lauren. That closet has nothing in it, because Mommy said that there are rats. We can’t put anything in a room with rats. The rats eat everything.”

The fat woman kept on stroking the small of my back. She wore a blue ID with a logo, Social Services something. She was the only person I liked. She gave me a doughnut earlier. It was the special one in the box. It was the doughnut sprinkled with confetti. Blue and red confetti.
The bald man got excited when someone peeked in to say that “we have the neighbor.”

I was happy to see him out of the room.

The fat woman asked me about “Lauren.” She is kind, so I have to, at least, give her something back.

“I didn’t know she was supposed to be called Lauren,” I said. That was the truth. “When the police led her out of the closet — that’s the first time I’ve seen her. I have no sister. And she doesn’t look too good so she cannot be my sister.”

She smiled. “Well, have you ever seen Marcus open the closet door under the stairs?”

“Uhm, no. I’m sure Mom will ask Marcus to move out of the house soon. She gets tired of all her boyfriends.”

“So, there were other boyfriends before Marcus?” I notice her eyes lit up. I know she’s probably onto something because she hid her look of interest immediately.

“Yep.”

“Can you tell me about them?”

“Jack has a tattoo of an owl. He says it’s magic.”

She scribbled something. “Oh, that’s amazing. When did you last see Jack?”

We talked for what seemed like hours. She probably loved kids because she made a funny expression, sort of like anger held back, when I told her how Marcus once went inside my room while I was changing into my pajamas. She did not write it down.

I expected her to ask me if Marcus “touched” me, but she didn’t. Perhaps, that would come later. That’s how they did it in the cop shows that Gramps used to watch. I miss Gramps. He used to read me Tom Sawyer.

That afternoon, a gloved woman in the hospital prodded and inspected me down there. Hated it. I got the cramps spreading my legs so she could go about her business, telling me over and over to “relax, Jenny. This’ll be over soon.”

She let me rest in my hospital bed. It’s all white here, and it looks so clean. They let me watch cartoons, too. I was getting sleepy when I noticed that the nurse forgot the remote control on the chair near the bedside table. I took it, flicked the TV on, watched a toothpaste commercial. Then I saw our house! On television! A guy is saying something about a girl locked in a closet for ten years. I can’t understand the rest of what he’s saying. He is talking about the girl, Lauren, who was supposed to be my sister. There isn’t any Lauren. Why don’t they get it? There is no girl in the closet. Maybe, the police simply put the girl in there.

I changed the channel.

The chipmunks can sing!

Kristine Ong Muslim is the author of We Bury the Landscape (Queen’s Ferry Press, 2012) and Grim Series (Popcorn Press, 2012). Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in numerous publications, including Hobart, Southword, and Sou’wester. Her online home is http://kristinemuslim.weebly.com/.

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