Thursday, October 25, 2012

The joys of being terrified

Being the youngest of four I have had my share of standard childhood teasing. My two older brothers tortured me regularly while growing up, as older siblings are apt to do. My parents would leave them in charge when going out, because what father could resist free babysitting? My pleads went unanswered. Once the sound of tires on the Ford were heard leaving the driveway the lights were suddenly shut off. The only illumination emanating from our house came from our black and white television set. With only six channels to choose from my brothers had an uncanny knack of finding horror movies. With no remote to end my misery I was stuck to that blue glow like a flannel-laden moth too afraid to venture into the dark and what was hidden there. Lying in wait, for what seemed like hours, they would bide their time until the pressure was too much for me to take. Then like a couple of teenage jack-in-the-boxes leap out from a closet screaming in unison as I screamed in terror.

I did my own share of boyhood adrenaline induced yells. My first girlfriend at age four was Doreen. She lived just two houses down from me. Doreen was pretty and sweet and kind and I can’t count the number times I scared the crap out of her pretending I was holding a frog behind my back. She screamed and ran home every time. It’s little wonder that relationship didn’t work out.

When I was about ten I dressed up as the Wolfman for Halloween. With my rubbery hairy hands, lumberjack shirt, and latex mask I was a zaftig Lon Chaney. Unfortunately, it was also the hottest Halloween on record and rubber is not exactly a breathing fabric. The costume lasted about three houses. Without the mask I looked, and probably smelled, more like my Uncle Joey coming home from the docks. But I loved that mask and looked forward to the opportunity to wearing it again. To a ten year old that made sense.

It turns out it didn’t take long. The following summer our neighbors who were about five and four came over to see if they could play. My older brother, same fun loving guy previously mentioned, had the idea to scare these kids by having me pretend to be the real Wolfman. So I got my mask on and waited for my cue to come out. After a few minutes the two kids were on the edge of their seats listening to my brother spin his yarn. How he convinces them the Wolfman moved from Europe to Levittown I don’t quite remember. At the right moment I came running out onto our patio. The four-year-old girl screamed and immediately ran off. Her brother, determine to protect his little sister, stayed behind to fight off this monster. He was firing his toy gun at me at point blank range with no affect. To this day I can still see the terror on his little face through the eyeholes of my rubber mask. Tears streaming down his checks. I felt so sorry for him. That sympathy soon changed to fear.

Superman with George Reeves was a popular TV show back then. In almost every episode a crook fires his gun at the Man of Steel. When that doesn’t work he throws the gun at him in a desperate attempt to escape. It was a weak premise that seemed utterly ridiculous even to a ten year old. It turns out it’s not as unlikely as it sounds. For realizing the bullets were useless against this Wolfman wearing PF Flyers and an ice cream stained striped polo shirt, the little five-year-old boy made a last ditch effort of taking me down. Grabbing the gun by its barrel, he began swinging at me connecting with my knuckles over and over again. Now it was my turn to scream. At this point I stopped growling and started pleading with him to stop, but he kept on swinging away determine to destroy the beast. He threw the gun hitting me in the shins in which case I let out one more howl and he ran off never to be seen again.

My bruises lasted longer than the fight, even longer than my brother’s laughter as he rolled around the back lawn. Did I learn my lesson? I think the women in my life would have something to say about that.

Enjoy this Halloween and be safe.

After a year of plein air painting my work looks no different from when I started. Well, Christmas is coming so I'll have plenty of packaging material.