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  • Texas | Columns | "True Confessions and Mild Obsessions"

    Absence Meant I Got No Fondant

    by Frances Giles
    Remember horror films made back in the dark ages, films such as “Frankenstein”, “The Mummy”, “Dracula”, and 'The Invisible Man”? I didn't like watching them growing up and still don't care for the genre in the least. My older brother, on the other hand, was a big fan as well as an early television addict. There were a couple of weekly shows in the late 1950's that featured creepy, scary films, mostly made in the mid 1930's to early 1950's, which he absolutely loved. One was Shock Theater and the other was Theater Fear. One, or maybe both, weekly shows featured people dressed up as monsters, ghouls, zombies, mummies, even witches, who introduced the different stages of the production and who added extra drama and pumped up the fear factor in viewers by playing eerie music and making spooky sounds.

    Now, although Butch loved these movies, he would absolutely not stay up and watch them alone after everyone else had gone to bed at a so-called reasonable hour. The shows must have aired during the weekend because when school was in session we had to be in bed by 9 o'clock. He spent a lot of time wheedling, cajoling, begging, even resorting to bribery, though this last is such an ugly term, to get me to stay up with him. I had absolutely no interest in watching the movies, as I have said, nor did I like the idea of being up in the wee hours when the grownups were down for the count. That factor scared me as much as the monsters and ghouls, quite frankly. The one thing that I was most likely to respond to was the promise of some sort of payment, larcenous little beast that I was. Over time I acquired every pocketknife that Butch ever owned, a large part of his marble collection, some of his most desirable baseball cards, use of his pitcher's glove for specific time periods, even the use of his beloved Army canteen, that is, until he put orange juice in it for a whole hot day spent outside playing. Thereafter, water in the bottle tasted nasty and metallic. The best payment from my viewpoint, though, was in the form of his leftover candy.

    Butch was fond of both red hots and candy corn. Anytime he was able to scrape together some change, he usually bribed me to walk three blocks over to the Stadium Shopping Center to the Morgan & Lindsey's dime store and buy his pick of the day. The store had one of those candy counters with four sides, located close to the front part of the store, with the cases being made of heavy tempered slanted glass fronts, glass dividers separating the different candies. I can't recall how much the red hots cost, but the candy corn sold for 29 cents a pound for what seemed like forever. Back then sales tax was only 2 cents on the dollar. For 30 cents Butch could have enough candy to make himself royally sick with lots left over. Even a half pound was guaranteed to be more than enough to turn him green around the gills so that he pushed the leftovers toward me, his face pasty and clammy, headache moving in for the kill. I banked on this happening every time so that not only was I given my bribe, a pocketknife, a pen, marbles, whatever the price happened to be, but I also got all of his leftover candy. Three ounces in one sitting was usually about his limit, maybe four a couple of times, until nausea eventually blindsided him.

    When it came to staying up with him so that he could watch his hair raising, terrifying movies, I generally always capitulated if candy corn was involved. I loved that stuff, sickeningly sweet though it was. Red hots were okay, but I didn't always accept that currency. Negotiations took place on a plane equal to diplomatic exchanges between countries of the world. The deal we struck was this: I had to sit up on the couch while Butch sat on the floor in front of me, coffee table in front of him, his pillow clutched to his chest in a death grip. My bare feet had to maintain occasional contact with his upper back or shoulders so that he knew I was still in the room. He always wanted the living room totally dark except for the TV flickering its blue light, but I always insisted on one lamp being kept on. I was just as scared as he was, but the lure of candy coinage was more than I could usually resist. In order to ignore the movie I always read a book, so I needed a light source. Periodically Butch would say “Are you awake?” If I dozed, he had the right to dissolve our agreement. I wasn't allowed to go to the bathroom, either. This was the ultimate kiss of death to the arrangement. Mellowcreme was the standard on which our economy was based, corn of the realm, if you will, and I was something of a wheeler dealer when it came to making contracts. Occasionally I took pity on him and allowed him to keep a few ounces of candy for later, though not often. When the show ended we both raced to our rooms in a dead heat, hearts pounding, mine was, at least, as we dived under the covers and sought refuge from terror in sleep.

    © Frances Giles
    "True Confessions and Mild Obsessions" December 19, 2012 Column
    Related Topics: Beaumont |
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