TALES CHILDREN TELL

I remember when my sister and I were young pre-teens and we'd hang out every day after school and all day in the summer with a bunch of kids who lived on our steep little street (one block long with a corner store at one end and an ivy-shrouded haunted house at the other) and ride our banana seat bicycles down this really steep driveway- I think three or four of us had the same identical half moon scar on our chins from crashing at the bottom of it- or race through backyards jumping the fences, or play baseball in the middle of the street or elastics or hopscotch, or try and spook each other out with stories about the apartment building at the top of the hill. I don't think we ever really knew anyone who lived there. I remember one little girl and her dad who was big and strong and used to carry us on his shoulders and we called him 'Cereal' although now I know it was really 'Cyril', and they lived there perhaps. But they were gone back to Jamaica in just a few months. We'd trick or treat there on Halloween, lugging our pillowcases and shunning those plastic pumpkin carriers which held a tenth the amount of candy, sticking to a four-block square circuit because otherwise we were outside our turf and liable to get egged or have our treats stolen from us by rival gangs, but even though there were at least thirty apartments on three or four floors, most of the doors would stay stubbornly closed, lights out although we were always sure the residents were standing just on the other side in the dark trying not to breathe until we went away.
Maybe that's why we started the rumors- years of trudging up all those stairs in the echoing stairwells that smelled equally of pee and chlorine bleach, without much to show for it. When it should have been the site of The Supreme Candy Haul; a veritable Shangri-La of squishy peanut-ty nougat jack o lanterns, and chocolate raisins and the golden grail- Oh Henry bars.
Some kid, I don't remember who- maybe it was Andre or Pierre who had a white streak in his hair that looked like a bird had pooped on his head, or one of Guzzy's tough older brothers (Sonny, Donny or Lonny) or poor Brenda who had warts- swore that in the parking garage which was sub- street level, there was a corpse in a chair completely covered in cooked spaghetti. I don't remember if there was red sauce too but I grew up with an Italian father so we just assumed there was. And that made it all the more ghastly because it would be red and dripping mingling with the blood although no one ever mentioned how he died- and sometimes we imagined a single gunshot wound fired by a Mafioso, and sometimes a broken neck and sometimes there'd be no sign of violence at all except for the horrid mess of spaghetti like a tangle of worms and tomato sauce. It was all speculative because we were too scared to ever get closer than the outside door.
Looking back the two things that I remember are that the door was painted green but the paint hung off it in long strips, and that the corpse was always there, sitting in its chair in the dark, and only the tiny details changed from year to year.
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