You said if I told, the Devil would get me while I was sleeping. Reach right up from under my bed and drag me to hell. I wore socks to bed for two years. My feet sweating under the covers and one morning, a sock was gone. Snatched right off my foot. You said that was a warning. A reminder not to tell who had left the barn door open that day. I believed you.
A few years later, I was walking home from school and saw you and your friends swinging a burlap sack against St. Catherine’s brick wall––something screamed from inside it, screeching like a demon. I ran from you and the gates of hell. That night when we went for groceries you pointed to the door under the wall and said, you tell anyone about me or my friends, the Devil will creep out of that door to get you. He’ll stick to the shadows and when you aren’t looking, he’ll grab you and take you. I was pressed up against the wall when you said it, your big hand forcing my face to look at the door. I should have believed you. I always had. Or maybe I was ready to meet the Devil, I’m not sure.
But later that night, after I told dad about what you’d done, after your beating and your crying had died out, I sat in my room waiting for the red-eyed Devil to come for me. I could hear you sniveling through the thin walls. I smiled, then laughed. At you. At your pain. I slept hard that night and woke up happy.
I never did see the Devil but when I was older, when I had time to think about it, I wondered if he’d visited me anyway––if he was the one who made me laugh.