Samuel James Witwicky – Sam, he always insisted (Samuel was a sissy’s name, he would argue indignantly) - loved baths. Showers were okay, but baths were better. Being surrounded by the wet heat, almost like a cocoon, was wonderful, and the deep water in the tub gave him ample opportunity to play deep sea adventure games and naval battles with his vast collection of action figures and model ships. He would be entertained for hours if his mom – Judy, as his dad called her - would let him stay in that long. He could cause tsunamis and great tidal waves by squeezing his fingers together and swishing the flat of his hand under the water as though it was the tail of a fish. During naval battles, especially the ones with pirates involved, Sam would make a fist and cause great splashes as he punched the water pretending that his hand was a cannonball. Sometimes, he’d get so caught up in the epic battles being waged in his bath tub that he’d actually forget to clean himself - much to his mom’s annoyance.
“Oh, Sam,” she would say to him through the door, banned from coming in since Sam (Sammy at that time) had turned six and declared himself ‘old enough to wash his own pee-pee now, thank you, Mommy.’
“Another twenty minutes and then it’s time to get out,” she would call. “And for goodness sakes, don’t forget to wash your hair!”
Sam would grin from in the tub where his mom couldn’t see him, cross his fingers and sometimes even his toes, and call back “Yes, Mommy!” even though he knew that he wouldn’t.
This particular Sunday evening, a few days shy of the Fourth of July and five months after his eighth birthday, Sam was overseer of a grand battle between the fearless Justice League and the evil Doctor Deadbeat (Sam hated doctors. By his reckoning anyone who had a name starting with ‘Doctor’ was evil, hence why it was poor Doctor Quest who was filling in the role of Deadbeat.) Batman was unfortunately knocked out of the battle early on by a telekinetically thrown shampoo bottle that Johnny Quest sent flying, and Sam splashed and made exploding sounds as Thunderbird 4 zipped through the water shooting at Superman with its kryptonite-laced laser beams.
Sure enough, just as the battle was becoming the fiercest and what was left of the good guys were getting ready to trounce on Doctor Deadbeat and his evil henchmen, there came a fierce knocking on the bathroom door. BAM! BAM! BAM!
“Oh no!” Sam wailed for the mute Michelangelo, who balanced precariously on the slippery surface of a bar of soap. “It’s the evil Mommy-monster!”
“Sam!” It called through the door. “Sam, have you washed your hair yet?”
“No, Mommy!” he yelled back, then made Superman stage whisper that he wasn’t scared of evil Mommy-monsters.
“What was that?”
Through the door Sam could hear his mom tapping her foot against the hard, shiny floor of the hall.
“You have fifteen minutes, Sam. Start washing your hair now, please.”
Sam was about ready to cross his fingers and lie again when the Mommy-monster said the magic words that could make even the amazing Superman do what he was told.
“Don’t make me come in there and do it for you!”
“No! No, I’ll do it now, Mommy!” he shouted back earnestly, worried that if she thought he was lying that she’d open the bathroom door then and there. He watched the door handle with fierce attention, waiting to see the slightest hint that it was being turned, but it did nothing. He breathed out a sigh of relief as he heard her walking away.
“Mommy-monsters are scary,” Sam said for Michelangelo. “I think we should pos-purse-post… pursephone this fight until tomorrow.”
“Okay,” all of the other characters Sam was voicing agreed, and Sam started putting them all up on the small shelf that lined the edge of the bath.
He didn’t like washing his hair; he always got suds in his eyes and water in his ears and it wasn’t as much fun as playing with his action figures. Nevertheless, his mom would get angry if he didn’t wash it at least once a week, and though his mom was funny when she was annoyed, when she was really angry Sam didn’t like her very much, and in Sam’s opinion his mom being angry was much worse than getting shampoo in his eyes.
He reached for the blue and red bottle, like the colours of Spiderman, and flipped open the lid. Instantly he could smell its contents. The shampoo that his mom bought specially for ‘little boys hair’, as she put it, smelt like gooseberries. Sam didn’t know what gooseberries looked like, let alone if they actually smelt like how the shampoo did, but that was what the bottle said. Goose berries, only one word instead of two. Sam was not very good at spelling, but he was getting better. No matter how good he became at spelling, though, Sam doubted that he would ever be able to make sense of some of the words on the back of the shampoo bottles. There were words there that were as long as the finger he used to point at things with. He thought that really smart people must have come up with those words.
Scooting along on his backside down to one end of the bathtub, he sucked in a deep breath like they taught him to do in swimming, and pinched his nose. He leaned back carefully into the water, squeezing his eyes shut as it came up over his ears and made everything sound funny. As quickly as he could he scrubbed at his hair with his left hand so that his head was back up out of the water within a few seconds, wet enough that the shampoo could get bubbly.
He made short work of that part, too. Though making the bubbles was fun, when they dribbled down into his eyes they stung, and that wasn’t an enjoyable thing at all. Once again he pinched his nose, squeezed his eyes shut, and leaned back into the water. He scrubbed more vigorously with his left hand this time to make sure all of the bubbles were out of his hair. If he didn’t do it properly the first time his mom would make him do it again. It was better to get it right the first time. Having his hair washed in the sink by his own mom was not cool.
THUB! THUB! THUB!
Sam lurched up out of the water as the banging on the bathroom door through the water made his ears feel like they were going to explode.
“What?!” he shouted, spitting out suds and scrubbing at his stinging eyes. “I’m washing my hair, Mommy, honest!”
“Sammy!” Came a pitifully whining voice through the door. “Mommy says don’t pull out the plug ‘cause I still got to have a bath before bed time!”
“Go away, Karen!”
“No! Mummy says you have to leave the plug in so I can have my bath!”
“I don’t care!” Sam shouted back. Little sisters were annoying, but he doubted that anyone’s little sister was as annoying as his was. Karen shouted all the time. His parents thought that she might have been deaf and took her to the doctors and everything, but it turned out that Karen just liked to yell. A lot. She also stole his action figures and made them play Mommies and Daddies with her Barbie dolls. Sometimes he would catch her making them ride her My Little Ponies, too. Sam hated that most of all, because she kept breaking his action figures legs trying to get them to sit on her stupid ponies properly.
“Sammy?” she called again.
“Yeah, I heard you, Karen!” he said. “I’ll leave the plug in.”
“Yeah, yeah,” he muttered. He was just about to duck back down into the water to get at the rest of the bubbles out of his hair when he saw something dark by the window. He stared at it in confusion. It was a large shape, and though he couldn’t see it too well because there were no lights in the backyard, Sam knew it wasn’t supposed to be there. He didn’t remember there being anything at all by the bathroom window when he was out there playing before dinner, so either it was put there after tea, or while he was in the bath.
Abruptly, the something strange moved, and some light from the bathroom shone off of a bit of metal on the thing. Feeling a little scared, and sort of a little silly because maybe the shadowy thing was Mister Lewthwaite’s dog that had gotten out again, Sam wiped his face and slowly got out of the tub. He could feel his heart beating fast in his chest as he reached for a towel on the counter, not taking his eyes from the shadowy thing even though it hadn’t moved again. His fingers were just brushing the soft fluffiness of the terrycloth towel when, startlingly, the shadow outside the window shifted.
Sam screamed. He knew he sounded like a girl, but he did it anyway. And again. He forgot about the towel as he stared at the thing outside of the window, staring in at him and lit yellow and clearly by the light going out from the bathroom.
“Mom!” he screamed. “Mommy! Daddy!”
There were thundering footsteps, and Sam could hear his dad shouting at him. “What is it, Sam, what is it?”
“Daddy! Come quick! There’s a man outside the window!”
But when they crashed into the room, all
white-faced and angry, the man was gone.
One year, seven months and twelve days later, Sam watched from within the arms of his Uncle Martin as the police officers, men he once wanted to be like but now would never wish to have their job again, walked in and out of his house. There were all sorts of people hanging around out the front of their home – doctors, nurses, people in suits that made them look very important, and people with badges that Sam didn’t even recognise hanging from little clips on their shirt pockets.
“Who are they?” Sam whispered to his uncle.
“FBI, Sammy,” Martin replied, and Sam felt his uncles massive arms close around him a little tighter.
Sam watched them as they walked around the outside of his home, to where his little sister’s bedroom window was. He could see them talking to someone who was probably inside. They nodded their heads an awful lot, and one of them even laughed – a harsh barking sound that seemed more like crying than anything someone happy would make. It made Sam angry that someone would even try to laugh.
There was a sudden flash of light, and Sam blinked away the spots in his eyes while above him his uncle let out a frightening growl.
“What the hell?!” he swore in his gruff voice that Sam loved. “Get the fuck away from here! Willis! Get these sons-a-bitches off the property and back behind the tape!”
“And if I see anymore reporters I’m going to arrest them!”
Sam’s uncle turned him on his lap so that he couldn’t look anymore at the FBI guys or at his home that now looked more like a police station than a place someone would live in.
“Sam?” he asked, his gruff voice softer now like it always was when he was talking to Sam. “Sam? You don’t have to say anything about tonight if you don’t want to, but I need to know if you’re hurt.”
“No,” Sam said, looking up into the blue eyes of his giant uncle. “I’m not hurt.”
“Okay then,” Martin said, and leaned back into the seat of his patrol car. Sam leaned in a little closer, pressing his face against his uncle Martin’s chest until the shield on his pocket cut into his cheek. Outside he could still hear the soft sobbing of his mom, and though his dad had stopped yelling now he could still hear him talking to the other police men. He tried not to listen to the rattle of the stretcher as it trundled down the front path, its wheels spinning like it had when it had first come up to the front door. He tried not to think about what would be on it, too, but the tears came because Sam’s imagination wasn’t good enough to make believe that well.
Uncle Martin pulled him closer, and made quiet sounds at him while he sniffled and coughed into his uniform.
“Why, Uncle Martin?” he asked after a few minutes and he felt brave enough to speak. His words were muffled by Martin’s uniform, though, because even while Sam felt bold enough to speak, he wasn’t quite ready to let his awesome uncle see his wet face, yet. “What did Karen ever do?”
Sam sighed as he felt those strong arms close tight around him once more. He hiccupped, and Martin pressed his chin down on the top of Sam’s head. Sam could feel his uncle’s breath in his hair as he finally replied.
“She didn’t do anything, Sammy,” he said, and started to rock a little in the seat. “It was not her fault that this happened. It wasn’t anybody’s fault but the person who did it.”
“Who was it?”
Uncle Martin sighed. “We don’t know, yet, Sammy. But we’ll get him, I promise.”
Sam felt one of his uncles large fingers curl around his own. It was almost swallowed completely up. Sam felt so much trust for his uncle that he never doubted anything he said for a second. Sam knew that his uncle would get the person who hurt his sister. To a ten year old a pinky promise was unbreakable.
“Pinky.” Uncle Martin said.