He’s Coming To Get Me
By Bernie Suttle
I know who he is and how he’s coming. I don’t know what to do ‘til then. My bedroom, an afterthought add-on, is separated from the real house by a closed door. I sleep alone in my youth bed with my stories, hopes and fears my only comforters. It’s swell, even though a little scary, but I am seven-years-old and brave. I hear the Pacific Electric Red Cars go by on the tracks in front of our house, twenty miles northeast of L.A. That’s how he’ll come for me, on the Red Car.
Once a year Mom takes me and my older sister, Margaret, over this route to LA to get school clothes. We end our ride at Second and Spring Streets, the area known as, “Skid Row” because of its tattoo parlors, rescue missions, novelty shops and bums. It scares me.
I’ve seen him at this Pacific Electric station, seated on a bench, tall, thin, in grey work clothes, smoking, staring without seeing, drumming his boney fingers on his knee crossed over his other leg. He caught me staring at him and stared back with a slight, evil smile. I grabbed Mom’s hand tighter and wondered when he would come, to get me.
My room is small but all I want. A pull-string hangs from the center light bulb. When Mom says, “Good night,” she pulls the string and the room falls into darkness leaving the eerie moonlit shadow dances on my window.
And then there is the outside door.
“Dad, that’s neat. I can use it to go in and out of my room. Where is the skeleton key for the lock?”
“Never mind a key. You are never to open that door,” Dad commanded.
In bed I hear a Red Car stop with screeching breaks at Rosemead about a quarter mile to the west of our house. He is on that train. He is coming to get me. He’ll step off and start the walk to our house, my room, and me. No one will take notice.
I freeze. What to do? The door to my folks’ room will be closed, not to be knocked on. My ten-year old sister, Meg, will only whine, “Why wake me up? Don’t be silly. Why would anyone want to get you? Go away.”
I lie still under the covers and figure how long before he will be outside my room. What’s that? I hear scratching. I peep out of the covers and see the shadow of a hand on the edge of the window, sliding down the side searching for an opening. Now he’s doing it on the other side. Then nothing. He is going around to the other side of my room to the forbidden door. Does he have the skeleton key? I curl my toes.
The wind cries and the shadows dance on the window. I hear his footfalls on Mom’s Irises outside the back of my room. What will he do to me after he gets me? Run away with me? Where? Will he “nab” me?
I don’t know what “nab” is but it must be bad. When I wanted us to move down to the right side of the Monrovia Theater at the Saturday Matinee my sister said, “No.” I said, “Why?” She said I’d be nabbed over there. I said, “What’s that?” Meg’s firm response was, “You don’t need to know. We’re staying here.”
Now I might find out what nabbed means.
The door that opens with a skeleton key rattles. This is it. I’m done for. I slide under the covers to the foot of the bed, eyes tightly closed, and await my end.
Next thing I know the sun pierces the room and I hear Mom say, “Time to get up, Son, your oatmeal is on the table. C’mon dear don’t let it get cold.”