Shadow Boxing

Sunset dipped into their domain; the room with its single bed had threatened, then achieved, to conjoin them. Cynthia let out a breath that balanced between a laugh and a sigh. “And it’s not even a bunk bed.”

Rosette stepped inside and spun. “Well…” She stopped and looked around, first at the size of the room (too small for anything but sleep), then at the window (they couldn’t even see the lake through the forest), then finally at the mirror that sat next to the door, facing the bed. “…at least it has a mirror that we can look at in our sleep. Er, you can. I call wall.”

“Fuck that. You aren’t calling shit. It was your brilliant dad who picked such a tiny place. With one room for us, so easily forgotten.”

“Yeah, well. The family that sleeps together, um, creeps together?”

“That’s good, Rosette. I see you’ve been working on your freestyle rapping. You should sleep on the outside anyway, since you’re so obsessed with your reflection.”

“Not at night though, ugh. Even the light of dusk adds pores to my skin.” She marveled at her reflection. “But for reals, Cynthesizer. Can I sleep on the inside? I get kinda freaked out by windows at night. I had an incident.”

Cynthia’s calm waters rippled. “Really? Do tell.” They both stood in the middle of the room, treading, while the darkness deepened in their breadth of wine that had been allotted at dinner.

“Nothing that crazy. I just woke up one night at my friend Sarah’s house and there was some guy watching me through the window. Never figured out who he was but it scared the shit out of me. I never let myself look out windows at night again.”

“Hm. Bor-ring, but I see how that could be freaky. Fine, I’ll sleep on the outside. At least if some man is jacking off in the window or whatever, I’ll know what to do.”

“Oh yeah, Cynth? And what’s that?”

“You didn’t know?” Cynthia assumed a fighting stance. “I played a shitload of Street Fighter when I was a kid. Heyrookin!” She jumped and spun and sent Rosette glancing onto the bed.

“You’re fucking stupid. I’m going to bed. Where’s my toothbrush?”

“Wherever you put it.”

They lay in the dark, clothes spread like the debris of a tantrum. The nightly fog was running its course by their window and Cynthia’s eye would be drawn to the occasional movement of what felt like tiny gusts of life. They talked, but mostly because neither knew how to let the other’s last sentence drift. At one point, Cynthia turned and let out a gasp before realizing it was her own reflection. “Why would they put a mirror right there? Facing the fucking bed?”

“To keep out the demons.”

Cynthia thought for a moment before saying, “Really?”


“Well, it’s not working,” Cynthia said, jabbing Rosette in the ribs.

“Don’t. I’m ticklish.”

Finally the weightless words faded and they both just watched the darkness gain depth. Cynthia rolled over and watched the window before her eye wandered to the mirror. She whispered, “Hey Rosette?”


Cynthia was quiet for a few seconds, then she said, “Let’s go for—I have a sudden craving. For a Snapple. I saw a vending machine by the front. Wanna go for a walk?”

“You’re joking, right?”

“C’mon, it’ll be fun. We’ll just go for a midnight stroll. Seriously. I want a Snapple. Peach. Are you down?”

Rosette was quiet for a breath and Cynthia almost wondered if she was still there. Finally Rosette said, “Okay, psycho. Let’s do it. But only because I don’t want to be in here alone.”

Cynthia got out of bed and Rosette followed, noticing as Cynthia grabbed her phone off the nightstand. As soon as they were outside, Cynthia gave an urgent and undecipherable whisper and started running, her phone out as she frantically dialed it. Rosette jogged after her out of instinct. Cynthia ran down the property line and was crouched next to a tree on her phone. She stole a glance over Rosette’s shoulder when she caught up.

“…yes,” Cynthia was saying. “Down at the end of Speedboat Road. We’re in those cabin-things by the lake… I don’t know the address but they’re the vacation houses… We’re the Staffords, yeah… Okay. No, but I have to go…I have to tell my dad—and mom… Thank you.” She hung up her phone and turned, stepping up to the next house and pounding on the door. “Dad,” rang her raspy whisper.

Rosette stood behind her, her heart throbbing to the mystery’s weight.

“What the fuck are we running from?” she whispered to Cynthia, who turned and was about to speak when her dad opened the door like an owl in the daytime—even the hair on his chest looked alarmed.

“Cynthia, this better be good,” he said.

Cynthia slipped past him and Rosette followed, listening with a deepening clout of daze as Cynthia said, “Dad, there’s a man in our room.” Robert was about to speak when she continued. “I looked at the mirror that faces our bed and saw him. He was under the bed, just staring at me. He only had one eye.”

Robert sat on the bed where Rosette’s aunt Barb was emerging from beneath her tranquility. “He’s under there now?” he asked.

“I imagine so,” Cynthia said. “He was there when we left. I called the cops. They’re on their way.”

Robert put on some deck shoes. “Stay here.” He slipped into the night. Cynthia looked at her mom and seemed to have run out of words. Rosette’s mind swam, watching the scenery that was swimming too fast to make any sense of. She wondered if her uncle Robert was just humoring Cynthia.

“You seriously saw a man? Under the bed?” Rosette asked her cousin, trying to gauge the weight of this night’s sudden turn.

Cynthia looked at her with a glaze over her eyes that Rosette had never seen. “Yeah, dude,” she said. “There was this crazy-looking guy under the bed. He had an eyepatch and his other eye was staring right at me.”

“Eye patch? Like a pirate?”

“Um, kinda. More like a carnie.”

“Oh fuck—“

Robert came back.

“He’s gone,” he said. “You said he only had one eye. Did he have an eye patch?”


“Did you see his hand? Was there a disfigurement on one of his pointer fingers?”

“I’m not sure, Dad. I don’t think I saw his hand.”

“That’s okay. Did he have kinda weird, stupid hair? I mean, was it pretty disheveled? Like he just got out of bed?”

“Yes. Totally.”

Cynthia’s mom looked at Robert with her brow furrowed. “Honey, what the fuck?”

“There was this guy who used to fuck with me when we were kids. His name’s Eyler. He was the only guy who could beat me in a fight, and we fought a lot. All the time. It sucked. Goddamn, he would beat my ass. He apparently found out I’m back in town for the reunion, the asshole.”

Rosette looked over at him. “But—sorry, uncle Robert, but when was this?”

“Grade school. And high school. Pretty much until I moved away.”

“What happened to his eye?” Cynthia asked.

“He was wasted with some of his bros and got in a motorcycle wreck when we were in high school. It took an eye and a pointer finger. He could still kick my ass though.”


“Here, I’m gonna find that fucker’s number and call him.”

“But, Dad, the cops are on their way.”

“All the better to know that it was him.” He looked at the alarm clock next to his bed. “It’s only ten—er, almost eleven, I guess. Anyway. I’ll rat that shit-wad out. I just wanna make sure it’s him. I don’t really wanna fight him again. I mean, I will, but…” Cynthia, Rosette and Barb watched as he drunkenly wandered around, searching after his cell phone for a while. Finally, he whispered, “Found it,” and held the phone to his ear. “Hi, is this the Jargle residence? Yeah, Eyler Jargle. Is that fucking asshole home? He’s been creeping around my… oh, he is? How’d it happen? …Oh, I’m sorry to hear that. All right. Bye.” He hung up his phone, then looked at Cynthia. “Okay Cynth, so you saw him for sure?”

“Yeah, Dad. I’m not on drugs. I totally saw him. Eye patch, stupid-ass hair. He looked mean. And he was just under there, staring at me. It was horrible. What’s up? What did they say?”

Robert was quiet for a few moments. “So, Eyler was killed a week ago.”

The breath vanished from the room and Rosette again saw the fog rushing by outside like a parade of ghosts.

“He was doing contract work, I assume, and he was unloading one of those trucks with the hydraulic bed that lifts up. It jammed, so the genius went beneath it to see what was going on and it, well, got un-jammed. Smashed him.”

They all quietly processed this in the dim illumination of the bedside lamp. Cynthia felt like they were inside a forest of shadows. Finally, she asked, “So, who did I see beneath the bed just now?”

Robert looked over at her. “I think you saw his ghost, Cynthia. Even from beyond the grave he tries to get at me, the asshole.”

“But he appeared to me, Dad.”

“Well, the idiot probably thought you were me. I kinda had your hairdo in high school. I mean, those were my Nirvana years.”

After a few moments, Rosette looked at Robert and asked, “Can we have our reunion in a different town next year? One with less ghosts?”

Just then, they saw the approaching cruiser lights bounding off the trees. It pulled up and two cops got out, then opened the back door and let out two young men. One had a video camera.

“What the fuck is this?” whispered Robert.

They all stepped outside as the four approached the house. Rosette’s dad came wandering from the darkness behind them. She faced him and was about to explain the scenario but he awkwardly spun and returned to the recesses of his cabin. Pussy, Rosette thought.

“Hey officer,” Robert said, looking at the men who had just gotten out of the squad car. “What exactly is this?”

One of the officers stepped up, glancing over his shoulder at the cameraman, who was just raising his equipment and facing it at the front porch. “Officers Vetta and Simone here. Responding to a call about a man. Possibly beneath a bed. Did one of you call?”

“What the fuck?” Rosette heard her uncle whisper.

“I called you guys,” Cynthia said. “But it seems, well—I guess it seems to be a false alarm. I mean, I did see a man—“

“But it was probably just the lighting,” Robert cut her off.

“No,” Rosette said. She looked into the camera, assuming her most flattering angle. “It was a ghost.” It felt like some bizarre-o adult version of make-believe. But she still couldn’t help wondering if it had been a ghost.

A vibrato breezed through the night. Glances were exchanged. “More importantly,” Robert said, “why the hell are you guys filming this?”

“This is my son, Charles,” Officer Vetta explained. “And his friend Jeff. They’re working on their senior project.” He turned to face the cameraman. “A video documenting us at the police force, working hard to keep the community safe.”

“Well I’m sorry, but there’s nothing to see here,” said Robert.

Cynthia stepped forward. “Unless you guys wanna see a ghost.”

This turned out to be the sort of town in which trying to film a ghost seemed to be a viable use of time for the officers: they responded like it was not only common, but something that deserved their utmost attention.

They all paraded back up to Cynthia and Rosette’s room, adrift on tension and smothered whispers, into a den through which the resting malice could be felt. It reminded Rosette of creeping by her parents’ bedroom window at night as they slept.

They stepped inside the room.

“Okay,” Officer Simone said. “Where did you see the perp?”

“You mean the perv?” Cynthia said to a drizzle of teeters. “Uh, sorry. He was right there. Under the bed. I saw him in that mirror.” Jeff bent down to film beneath the bed.

“Mmkay,” Officer Simone continued as he glanced around the room. “Do you guys happen to have a Ouija board?”

“Shut the fuck up,” Rosette breathed.

“A Ouija board? C’mon,” said Cynthia’s mom. “We’ve seen enough horror movies to know that those always bring doom to anyone involved.”

“Psh. Totally,” said Robert.

“Okay,” said Officer Vetta. “That’s fine. I’ll summon him myself.” They all watched as he closed his eyes and breathed deep. Cynthia and Rosette exchanged a glance and a smirk that juggled awe with unease. Town’s finest, Rosette mouthed, though unsure if Cynthia could read it.

“If you are in this room,” Officer Vetta continued, “I want you to show—“

“Ow! Fuck!” Robert yelled, holding his lip. “Fucker just hit me! That was quick.”

“You mean you were just assaulted by the ghost?” asked Charles after affirming he was in the shot.

“I mean I was just clobbered by Eyler, that fuckwad—ow! He just did it again!” Robert assumed his fighting stance. “I recognize that three-fingered hook anywhere. C’mon, Eyler. You invisible bitch!”

Everyone’s eyes circled the room, fists clenched out of instinct.

Finally, after enough time passed for a self-conscious side glance to settle on the room’s demeanor, Robert said, “Well, shit. I guess that’s that. He must have pussed out when he saw how ready I was.” Two lines of blood had meandered down his face’s blanched canvas: one from his left nostril, the other from the center of his lip.

Robert got contact information from the officers and they were able to watch the footage a few days later, asking that it remain off the internet. They watched it again and again but never saw anything that resembled a ghost—until one night, when Cynthia emailed it over to Rosette.

Rosette hadn’t thought much of it at first. She chalked it up to a harmless trace of hysteria. She was mostly concerned about whether she looked good enough to accommodate any of the high school boys’ spank banks. But as she watched, something tremored. She paused it, then moved the clip frame by frame, watching her uncle poised and ready. A drift of fog passed by the window just beyond him, and she could see, one frame at a time, a face with its single eye emerge. Lips spread in the grimace of one last laugh before dissolving again into nighttime’s eternity.