The steps were worn in the middle, narrow and steep, with treads so shallow that even his small eleven year old feet hung uncomfortably off the edges as he ascended. Nearing the top, James found himself at eye level with the bottom of the room above. It was an odd perspective, one usually not observed unless lying on the floor. James felt small from this angle, small and slightly hidden, as if he had come to spy on someone. Taking the last few steps up, James found himself standing in what he supposed was the attic. But it wasn’t like any attic he had seen before. It seemed to extend out over the entire house and was in essence a floor all its own. It even had windows….three of them, each jutting out from the walls that followed the angle of the roof. And there was another, a skylight, directly above the spot he now stood. Through it he could see the faint outline of the moon as the sun slowly receded over the treetops.
This was nothing like the cramped crawl space above his parent’s room in their last house, or the eves with the tiny little door from the house before. Those spaces were barely big enough to hold the family’s Christmas decorations and out of season clothes. This space, here at the tip-top of the house, with its own set of stairs and its very own view of the sky would be wasted on those things. James wanted this room for himself. He wanted to watch for shooting stars through that skylight from his bed each night and he wanted that staircase to be his alone. It would need a good cleaning up; he knew his mother would insist on that. But with the rest of the house needing so much of their attention he was sure they would let him have the attic if he offered to fix it up himself.
That’s what he had thought, back then, and he was right; it took almost no convincing at all. He had cleared out all the cobwebs, swept the floor clear of old dust and dirt, and even scrubbed the windows for good measure. It didn’t take his father long to start making new friends and he called on Joe, the man he had met when they returned the rented trailer, to help move James’ bed and dresser up the difficult staircase. Joe offered to fix the leak in the skylight, too, and with that done, James slid his bed below and began his nightly watch.
As excited as James had been to have this room for himself, the first few nights proved to be more lonely than he had expected and he appreciated having Keeper for company. They eventually settled into a routine and while James brushed his teeth and readied for bed, Keeper would climb the stairs and crawl under the covers. By the time James finished, Keeper would have warmed the bed nicely for them both. But now, with the windows in the attic open to the warmer night air of spring, Keeper was less inclined to settle in so quickly. He spent a good deal of time considering the smells brought in on the breeze and listening intently to the sounds of night.
On this particular night he seemed troubled, pacing the attic floor and going from window to window. James watched him stare out into the darkness and wondered what it was he saw. He tried to listen harder, to hear what Keeper heard, but his ears were only boy’s ears and not as well equipped as those of a dog. He heard nothing more than spring peepers. Growing tired, James drifted off to sleep and dreamed of the trees at the edge of the yard. Keeper settled in for a long night and sniffed again at the air. He growled long and low…sending his warning out into the night. But James slept on, dreaming of the trees.
© Kelly Rainey and 500wordsandcounting.wordpress.com, 2015.
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