Grace Union, Kentucky
“The cubbyhole” was to be avoided no matter what. That’s what older brothers, Bobby and Tommy kept repeating to their little sister, Veronica, over and over again.
The catch-all space they’d all dubbed, “the cubbyhole” upon moving in the past winter, took up the entire end of the garage. It hadn’t taken long before her brothers had seized it for their own and declared it off-limits to Veronica. Since that first day, the boys had used the long, narrow room as a place to meet with their friends after school, especially when it was cold or rainy. From day one, they’d warned her away.
In her six-year-old head it made sense. The one time she’d ventured close, her brothers had described the cubbyhole in detail, leaving nothing to chance. Her brothers had assured her about the rat-infested vermin that had made a den of the place. It was so scary that next Halloween they planned to use it for their own haunted house. It had spooky cobwebs with ugly-looking spiders, black and hairy and icky, that had taken up residence behind everything stored there. Knowing all that, why would Veronica want to willingly wander through the door?
Her brothers reminded her that she had no use for anything inside. The garden tools kept there were for grownups. Her father usually retrieved his own shovel or spade. The stacked boxes deposited there by the movers didn’t interest her much unless her missing doll might be in one, or maybe her missing tea set she hadn’t seen since they’d moved into the house. They’d told her one shelf held their father’s old college textbooks and since she couldn’t read yet, she remembered from the old place that the books didn’t even have interesting pictures in them. There was an old Victrola that had once belonged to her grandmother. The thing was taller than she was, which didn’t do her any good if she couldn’t reach the top. There was an old rickety table that the boys used for eating their snacks and playing Battleship and Risk. It was too wobbly to be trusted with a dainty tea set. No, there was nothing inside that Veronica needed to see.
Curious as she was to spy on her older brothers, it wouldn’t do her much good anyway. They often closed the door, used flashlights to brighten the dark space and turned on the transistor radio full blast to listen to the rock station out of Louisville. Even if she had wanted to bang on the door, she knew they would never let her in. So what was the point?
That’s why when she found herself alone after breakfast one Saturday morning—after Bobby and Tommy headed off to baseball practice—she mulled over the idea of ignoring the fact she’d been barred and decided to check out the cubbyhole for herself. Maybe the space would make a better playhouse than a clubhouse. It was for her to decide, wasn’t it? At the very least, it would be a way to get a good look inside to see what all the fuss was about. It was time for courage, not fear. She’d turned six in February and was no longer a baby. Today she would stop acting like one. She would stop letting Bobby and Tommy boss her around and tell her what to do.
With her mind made up and a newfound bravery her six-year-old soul hadn’t known before, Veronica marched into the garage, past her father’s 1962 Buick LeSabre and dug out the flashlight from his toolbox. Thumbing the button to on, she crept closer to that door in the rear, the one she’d been warned about opening. With every step, she remembered the vermin and spiders and what would surely be a nasty sight. Dread stuck in her throat like a wad of cotton as she crept closer. She prepared herself for a mess. With the door within reach, Veronica mustered up her spunk, turned the knob. It squeaked open to let out a dank, musty smell. Shining the beam around the four walls and the excess clutter within, she expected to see beady eyes staring back at her, rats scurrying past her feet, or maybe giant spiders dropping down from the ceiling still clinging to their webs. Instead, Veronica found a well-kept hidey-hole that seemed cleaner than the bedroom Bobby and Tommy shared. There were no rats or bugs. She huffed out an angry breath as she caught sight of her missing tea set and her blonde, bubble-haired Barbie.
With a fury that only a little sister could feel at knowing she’d been tricked for so many months, Veronica’s shrill scream pierced the calm, serene Saturday morning.
“Ma! Dad!” she shouted. “Bobby and Tommy stole my stuff!”