The Rockwood Files: A Halloween Story

It was a dark and stormy night. Well, actually it wasn’t. I wish it had been because that would’ve been a cool way to begin this Halloween story. But the truth is it was an unusually warm October afternoon, and my brother and his pack of neighborhood buddies were up to no good. I was just a naïve, innocent young girl who got drawn into a Halloween scheme.

As I recall, it was a few days before October 31st when the incident occurred. My big brother, Greg, was about 12-years-old and I was about 6. My brother loved Halloween, nearly as much as Christmas. He looked forward to it and planned for it. He was particularly gifted at combining Halloween mischief with a well-executed joke on some poor, unsuspecting target. Looking back, I should have known better than to listen to him. But I was 6 at the time and he was my older, cooler brother. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Here’s how it happened: Greg and his buddies had this little clubhouse of sorts behind our house. It wasn’t actually a house but rather a huge box hedge that had grown tall and thick and lined an alley behind our backyard. The boys had tunneled into the hedge and carved out a small meeting space where they would huddle together and talk about – well, I have no idea what they talked about because the hedge was strictly off limits to all little sisters. But on that warm October afternoon, I – the youngest little sister on the block – was invited into the boys’ super secret wooded cave.

I crept through the scratchy branches until I came to the clearing where the boys were sitting around a flashlight and a box of Halloween supplies like fake eyeballs, Pop Rocks candy and green face paint. My brother pulled a tube of “Vampire Blood” out of the box and said he had an idea for a joke that would be really funny. Vampire Blood was basically a thick, red gooey substance that looked alarmingly real. As he smeared it on my forehead, temple and into my hairline, he gave me these instructions:

“Here’s what you do, Gwen. We’ll put this Vampire Blood on your head. Then you run into the house and scream really loud like something is wrong or you’re hurt or something. Mom will think it’s really funny when she finds out it’s just fake Vampire Blood.”

“She’ll think it’s funny? Are you sure?” I asked.

“Yeah, don’t you think it’s funny? C’mon. We’ll be right outside waiting for you,” he said.

“Yeah, it’s funny! I can do it,” I said.

With fresh fake blood dripping from my head, I prepared for my starring role in what was supposed to be the very funny Halloween joke. Screaming my bloody head off, I sprinted in through the back door and into the kitchen where my mom was washing dishes. She spun around, saw my head and grabbed me by the shoulders to stop all the flailing about. She said “What happened? What happened to you?”

But my brother had failed to give me any lines to say during the “joke,” so I had no idea what to tell her. I opted to just continue the screaming for dramatic effect. Nobody anticipated what happened next. She picked me up, turned me sideways and stuck my head under the kitchen faucet. She frantically ran her fingers through my wet hair, searching for the source of all that bleeding. Well that Vampire Blood washed away clean as a whistle leaving behind nothing but the evidence of a prank gone wrong.

By the time she finally realized I wasn’t dying of a traumatic head wound, I was completely drenched, flustered and mystified as to why my brother hadn’t come in to explain that this was supposed to be the really funny part. But she was not laughing, and the mastermind and his cronies had disappeared – probably back to the hedge to plot their next practical joke.

The next several minutes were filled with some very angry finger pointing in my direction and some loud lecturing about how I should never do something that would scare my mother half to death. I tried to explain that the boys had all said it would be funny, but – having just had at least three good years shaved off her life – she was in no mood for excuses. My brother wisely remained invisible until things cooled off.

As for me, I learned some valuable lessons that day at an early age: 1) Plans hatched inside a box hedge are probably not on the up-and-up. 2) Vampire Blood is water soluble and won’t cover up a lie. 3) Mamas never think bloody head wounds are funny – ever.

From my family to yours, have a safe, happy Halloween.

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