The closet smelled of dirty laundry, but it had a door and that was important, what it didn't have was a light so the only thing the closet was good for was solitude. Or hiding.
It wasn't that Alice and Bill Warren were bad people. The neighbors would have told you that they were kind, that they kept a tidy house and that their yard was immaculate.
And perhaps that was part of the problem. It takes a lot of effort to keep things in perfect order.
The boy in the closet knew differently. He knew the signs of a coming storm. And so on the day it broke he sat in the closet clutching his toy soldiers with the door open just a crack.
Just enough to let the light in.
He set the troops up in neat rows. Blue on one side, red on the other. The little figures had tiny rifles with bayonets held at the ready, poised for battle. He waited for the order to fire.
"Ready," he whispered. "Set."
The front door slammed. "Fire." Bang went the rifle, down went the first soldier.
"Where were you?" came the shriek from the kitchen. Footsteps fell heavily on the hardwood floors in the hall.
"I was with a friend. Aren't I allowed to have friends?"
Bang went the shot of a soldier in blue, down went the soldier in red. Alfie re-arranged the troops and moved in a cannon.
"You're drunk," said his mother's voice dripping with disgust. Silence. Alfie imagined his father shrugging his shoulders. A characteristic move that implied not giving a fuck.
Alfie waited, the soldiers held their breath. A glass smashed against the wall, the cannon fired, four soldiers on the red side were hit. The blue front was gaining an advantage.
"What the fuck?" came his dad's drunken surprise halting the action. Another smash, another blast then three more in rapid succession. 5 blue soldiers were lost. Each side was hurting now.
The air smelled of smoke. Smoking in the house was strictly forbidden and against the rules of engagement. "What are you doing?!" Crack, like the sound of a bat.
His mother's rolling pin.
"Jesus Christ Alice, I'm bleeding for fuck's sake!"
"Get out! Get out! Get your shit and get out you worthless piece of garbage.
Get out and don't come back!" The slam of the bedroom door triggered a barrage of machine gun fire in the closet war. Little soldiers littered the ground.
The bedroom door opened again and footsteps stomped. The blue side retreated. The front door was yanked open and bounced off the wall in the hall, right beside Alfie's ear on the other side.
He pulled the closet door closed.
"There, there is all of your shit. Take it. I called a cab. Get out."
"Where am I supposed to go?"
Alfie's hand hovered over the tank.
"Do you think I care? I don't care. Walk in front of a train for all I care! Just don't come back!"
Alfie heard his dad stumble down the front steps. The door slammed, the locks cracked shut and the tank boomed. The war was over. Casualties on both sides.
Alfie got up and snuck out of the closet and peered out his bedroom window. His father's clothes were strewn all over the ground where his mother had thrown them.
And in the dark they looked like bodies.