Then I visited Grandmother, delivering hot rolls and tea for two on a tray in place of a footman who helped me by opening the door. “Oh! Delightful!” Mother Hogg replied. That was her official title in Hogg Heaven. She ate as I drank tea. “Grandmother. I gather the day before all of this started Mary got her new clothes. Her girly clothes. She wore pinafores and short frocks before. Black stockings. Busted shoes. Hair in a braid. When and why did she move into girly girl stuff?”
“Why John. You are a boy. Don’t you know the difference between girly girl stuff and boy stuff. Sugar and spice and everything nice for girls and”
“Worms and bugs and lizard tails for boys” I said. “Or something like that.”
“Do you still wear short pants?”
“No. Not since I was nine and the new funeral clothes came. I am not being especially dense but I don’t think Mary is happy in her new clothes. Corset. Long dress. Tight. Not comfortable. How can she run and play and fight and bicker with us boys now? I mean how can we torment her if she cannot fight back?”
“Well she is thirteen about to go on fourteen John. You are about to be a teenager too in two months. 13 is the pivotal year. Teenager. Adolescent. Almost an adult yet still with one foot in childhood. Betwixt and between. Like twilight. A nebulous moment in time when magic is it’s most potent.” Grandmother drank her tea as she rocked in her wicker rocker. She watched me quietly.
“Charlie is taking it well. The poltergeist I mean.”
Rarely targets him or even Alex or Willie.” She drank her tea calmly.
“Nor Downstairs. Just the silver pantry. Three times. Started after you gave a fancy tea party for Mary in her new clothes, to meet some fine young girls her own age. Didn’t go well I gather.”
“Mary was nervous. She has been very tense” Grandmother said as she rocked and drank tea.
“As in menstrual blood?”
“Oh dear. Well. Yes. But officially everyone is not suppose to talk about such un-genteel things. She hid her kickers under the bed. It is a very scary time for young girls who are Mary’s age. Her mother did not talk to her and she had no idea. Thought she was bleeding to death. I had to explain the ‘biological facts of life’ to her. I will let your Uncle Hogg deliver that lesson to you John. There are some things only a man can tell another young man or a woman a young woman.”
We drank tea. “I read up on poltergeists in your library. It is described as a pesky little devil. An imp of a demon. A noisy ghost. A rude ghost might be a better description. The behavior seems to be rather that of a peevish adolescent. A rude teenager. Spiteful. Vindictive. Mean. Petty. A nasty kid. Being the target of such behavior at Gallstone School I recognize the adolescent malevolence of the attacks. The obscenities on the wall are nasty teenager stuff like you see scribbled in latrines. Even at my new school that is what adores latrines. Nasty kid stuff. And the clothes that were shredded in my armoire last night were my new clothes. Adult clothes. Charlie is still in short pants and Charlie has not been targeted other than the occasional tug of the blankets off the bed and the imp peeking at Charlie from over the footboard and tickling his toes. It bite my foot on the other hand. And I hear from your maid that your bedroom has been trashed repeatedly. Time and again. You in fact have been the chief target. All starting the day after Mary got her expensive new adult clothes. Corset. Long dresses. Girly girl stuff.”
We drank tea as Grandmother smiled but she did not volunteer. She wanted me to solve it and then handle it. “The atmosphere is peevish. Very peevish Petulant. Peckish. Bitchy. Not brooding like Mother is. Not childishly bad like Charlie or Willie would be. It is occurring when Alex is at school and it started after I left. Now I admit I am not exactly happy at school but I am not profoundly unhappy. I am reconciled that I am growing up into a not particularly loveable lump of sullen, brooding , raw boned meanness. But here in Hogg Heaven I have actually been as close to being happy as I have ever been. Mother is defanged and declawed and she can only torment her maid with her excessive religiosity. And at least away from that evil house were lived in before she has settled down into a sort of fatalistic resignation. She can’t hurt anyone now.
So who does that leave? Mary. Mary is the one who is very unhappy at this time of her life. Bitchy. Resentful. Angry. It started the day we came. I came to Hogg Heaven. She came to Hogg Hell. She was actually tough howbeit sour in the other place. Here is when she really cut me off. Everyone really. Like Mother. Separate rooms. Locked doors. At least before we kids were united in surviving. And for a while Weasel brought us together. And we fought together. Faced danger together. Now we boys are being sent off to public schools for future careers. Mary just has what? What exactly?
She has to grow up and snare a husband and marry and have children and be like Mother. That is enough to scare anyone! Hell’s Bells. After watching Father and Mother, I can’t imagine marrying! Not anyone! And is that all Mary has? It is not as if she is especially beautiful. I am not but then I don’t have to be. But boys don’t like girls who look like Mary. Mary is all bony and too tall and dark haired and dark eyes like me. Boys like girls who are short, and pretty, and blond, and giggly wiggly and silly. Not raw boned and brooding like Mary and me. We are too much alike which is why we have always fought! Brooding. Morose. Sour. Too much time spent inside our own heads. We carry our heads held up high, daring the world to hate us! And if Mary can’t marry then what? She will still be like Mother! Mother here! Mary will be doomed to stay here as the spinster companion ie servant to whoever runs this place. The figure of authority. You. Then who?
And finally of course Mary cannot stand the idea of the Hogg Second Sight. She knew I had it before we came here. But the idea that it is inherited. It is not just me the deviant Spawn of the Devil but the whole Scion of Hogg. It means her children could have it. Perhaps even one of the others. Willie perhaps. His strange nightmares he experiences. Possibly Charlie. Probably not Alex. Most definitely of course —- Mary. It has to be Mary. Mary is doing this —-to herself.”