The last thing I remember as my eight-year-old head hit the pillow was that we had to move. The landlord sold the building and the new owner wanted our apartment.
I opened my eyes to a bright morning. How could this be? The sun usually waited until late afternoon to shine in my bedroom. Puzzled, I peeked out the window. I don’t know how it happened, but our house was now situated at the edge of Twinny Joe’s football field-sized lawn. I spotted the familiar broken-down shed and bike with its wire basket leaning against it.
I saw Twinny Joe hugging my mother. They were talking too quietly for me to make out what they were saying, but I could tell by the look on Ma’s face that something was up. Was she upset? Nervous? Looking for me?
I scrambled to get dressed and joined them in the yard.
Aunt Josephine earned the name Twinny Joe when she absorbed her twin sister in utero. She was stick-thin and allergic to the sun. It gave her boils. She never married, yelled loudly at everyone, and cursed like a sailor. She wore a waxcap hat to shade her face and carried a broom that she swung like an ax at anything that dared to cross her path. When we visited, she screeched at me to go outside, and her gnarly nose seemed to grow as she bellowed. But now she was hugging Ma and smiling at me.
Twinny Joe, Grandma’s only living child, inherited the 18th-century Hamilton property. The dilapidated house stood next door to the town firehouse. We were allowed only in the kitchen, den, and bathroom. I asked my mother why we weren’t allowed in the locked rooms. Ma said she thought it was because they weren’t structurally sound, whatever that meant. But I was curious about the rooms and kept bugging them to let me explore and investigate. Twinny Joe finally had enough and shouted, “Stop nagging me and mind your own business. There’s nothing for children behind those doors. Remember, curiosity killed the cat.”
As I stood in the yard, I had lots of questions rolling around my head. Does this mean we can stay here in our apartment? Will we be allowed in the house? Will Twinny Joe be friendly? What about school? What about my friends?
I was too numb to ask. I just took Ma’s hand and listened. I had a feeling I’d have my answers soon. I heard sirens in the distance. The fire trucks were going out on a call. I hope they’re safe. I hope we’re safe. I hope I’m safe.
As I roused myself from a sleepy fog, I saw that it was gray and dreary in my room. It wasn’t a fire siren, it was my alarm clock waking me up for school.
I guess we’re not moving to Twinny Joe’s after all. Now, I’ll never find out what’s behind those locked doors.