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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I Still Can’t Listen to That Piece of Music

My book "The Second Book of Pearl:  The Cats" becomes available today.  Why not buy a couple?!  Tales of mystery, of cats with dental problems and gambling addictions, tales of love, hope, and gin and tonics.  And cheap?!  So cheap!  Eight American dollars buys you a bit of real estate just inside my head.  Join me in my head, won't you?  Where it's all warm and comfy?  See the PayPal link to the right, there, or send me an e-mail and we'll get you a book. 


My mother was against us kids watching things that would cause us nightmares; and while I was truly terrified by the concept of the walking dead -- and even the faces one sometimes saw in wood paneling -- I continued to clamor to be frightened.

“For cryin’ out loud, Paul, don’t let the kids watch that crap!”

Our viewing of “crap”, more often than not, was the result of one or more of us slinking into the living room, down the flight of hardwood stairs around midnight on a Saturday, where we sat quietly on the floor until our dad noticed us.  “Horror Incorporated” ran from midnight to 2:00, a show hosted by a vampire that crept out of a creeking coffin and hosted movies like “The Werewolf” and “The Blob” and other shows that made us hide under blankets.

“Nothing wrong with a good flick, Mumma,” he’d say, shooing us back upstairs.

I was the only one in elementary school who used the word “flick”.

It was the early 70s, as I recall, and my parents were having a cocktail party.  Deviled eggs, pretty purees piped onto Ritz crackers, liquor that flowed like wine.  From my room upstairs, I can hear them tell stories, hooting with laughter, the music sliding up the steps and into my room.

I creep down, sit on the first floor landing, and listen in. 

“… so I says to him ‘wrecked him?  Damn near killed him!'”  The dining room and the kitchen, just out of view, roars. 

“Paul?  Paul!”

My mother has spotted me. 

My mother, dressed in early 70s finery, looks hip and ever-so-slightly blurry. 

“Pearl, you need – hic! – you need to – hic!”  She gives up, turns toward the kitchen. 

My father materializes.  “I got it, I got it,” he says. 

He looks at me sideways.

“I don’t want to go to bed,” I say. 

My father looks around, puts a hand on my shoulder.  “If I let you stay down here, do you promise to be quiet and not bother anyone?  Do you promise to go back up when I tell you to?”

I nod vigorously. 

I am guided to the sofa, its high, curved back to the swinging doors that lead into the kitchen.  I lay down, and he drapes a crocheted afghan over me, an orange and brown creation of my mother’s. 

“Don’t make any noise,” he says on his way back to the party. 

And the dining room double-doors swing open, swing closed with a whump-whump-whump.

In the dark, the glow of the stereo – a piece of furniture roughly the size of a twin bed – casts a flickering light on the walls.  The picture window in front of the couch looks out onto a good three feet of snow; and the naked shadow of trees in the front yard scratch at the sky with hard, gaunt limbs.

I wiggle down under the blanket, pull the blanket up around my ears – and the radio plays something that sends chills up my spine.


It is the theme song for The Exorcist. 

Two a.m. is not the time for me to be thinking about this movie.  Just released, it's been the topic of much school discussion.

A ridiculously superstitious child, I start chanting Hail Marys in my head, a prayer guaranteed by a friend in the last town we lived in to ward off all manner of fright.  

The mix of music and the drunken laughter spill, coldly, from the back of the house.  Vampires, werewolves, the devil...  The trees bend and reach, the snow swirls against the window pane as the wind whistles through the tiny gap at the bottom of the front door. Hail Mary, full of grace – 

“Hey.” My dad sits down at the foot of the sofa. 

My heart leaps into my throat.

“Hey,” I say.

He sets his beer can on the end table. “You know what this is?  This song?”

“Sure,” I say. 

“It’s the theme to the Exorcist.  You know about that movie?”

“Yeah. Hey, Dad, you hear about that cat that found its way back from Montana?“

“Supposed to be a really scary movie, based on a true story.”  He pulls a cigarette from his breast pocket, flips open his Zippo.  His face glows as he inhales.  “Demonic possession,” he says, blowing smoke toward the ceiling.  “Can you beat that?”

“The cat lost a lot of weight but it’s going to be okay.”

“It’s perfectly normal to have questions,” he says. 

The theme song to my next nightmare slides up my back, bites the back of my neck.  “Sure,” I say.  “I just don’t feel like asking any questions right now.”

He claps a hand on my knee, squeezes.  Outside of the music, the room goes quiet.

“’Cause if you wanted to talk about possession—“

“Dad!  No!  I don’t want to talk about the devil!”

Laughter spills out of the kitchen. 

“I’m just saying,” he laughs, “that if you ever wanted to talk about demons or anything—“

I sit up.  “Dad,” I say, “I think I should go to bed now.”

My father stands, smiling.  “Let me get your mother,” he says. 

40 comments:

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

Sneaky man.

haphazardlife said...

Oh, he's good.

Scarlet Blue said...

I bet it still took you ages to get to sleep!
Sx

Chantel said...

Haha--I'm SO going to try this the next time I find a lurker!

Shelly said...

I wish I could say all I want about this hilarious piece, but since I am tapping this out on my phone, I will just say, "Superb".

Perpetua said...

Brilliant, Pearl. Your Dad understood kids. Why is it that everything in the 70s was brown and orange, perhaps with a bit of lime-green?

Susan Kane said...

Quick on his feet, I'd say. Were you forever cured of sneaking down to observe any future parents' parties??

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Your dad was a cagey one, and you, my dear, were just a teensy bit spoiled, weren't you? Good for you. Gives you a strong foundation, so you can now be funny as hell. Er... not hell. I didn't mean to say hell. No demons here. No demons at all.

Pearl said...

No, Susan, no! Don't say "hell"!!

Oh, he was a wily one, my father. :-) But it didn't fully cure me of creeping around at night. The strange thing about it, though, is that my father will NOT watch movies having anything to do with the subject of The Exorcist. I'm 100% certain, without verifying it, that he never saw that movie. The man can't even watch Lord of the Rings because of the orcs. :-)

TexWisGirl said...

too funny. the master manipulator. :)

Suldog said...

Just bought the book. If it's at all possible for it to arrive before Christmas, that would be tres cool. It will be a present for a cat lover (either this holiday or for her next birthday if it doesn't arrive in time for this holiday.)

Pearl said...

Any book orders that I receive today will go out in the mail today -- and that will hold true, ad infinitum. If you order a book from me, the turn-around on it will be the next day.

The Six-Fingered Monkey said...

Well done, Pearl. Keep your eyes open for my book order in five, four, three...

troutbirder said...

I wish I could do "tongue in cheek" like I've found in this blog BUT it's not a normal Minnesotian trait and will take some getting used to on my part...:)

The Jules said...

At least he didn't do impressions.

fishducky said...

When I was little, I used to go to Saturday matinees with my brother, who was 2 years older. He convinced me that after the movie was over, the characters would come off the screen & grab people in the audience. I loved the movies, but when I saw the words, "The End" I would run like hell out of the theater!

Just bought your book, funny lady!

Lulu LaBonne said...

I remember getting the jitters about The Exorcist - bad man!

jenny_o said...

"The theme song to my next nightmare slides up my back, bites the back of my neck."

Just reading this line about getting goosebumps gave me goosebumps - you're good!!

Tubular Bells - my most favourite album in college ... because I never went to the movie; in fact, I didn't even know it was connected to The Exorcist until a couple of years ago. True story.

esbboston said...

I look for repeating patterns in paneling. Its a rare but much needed hobby.

Pearl said...

It was wicked of him, wasn't it, but no, at least he didn't do impressions. :-)

Joanne Noragon said...

Oh, adultdom's forbidden fruit.

Douglas said...

Sometimes (just sometimes, mind you) I think I am abnormal... The only movie that ever scared me was "The Haunting" (1963) and you never saw a ghost in it. The Exorcist only made me eye my 7 year old son rather suspiciously.

vanilla said...

certain of your father's characteristics have been passed on to the next generation.

Eva Gallant said...

I read the book and it gave me nightmares! (The Exorcist)

Dawn @Lighten Up! said...

Oh, THANK GOD I am not the only one who sees faces in the paneling!

Linda O'Connell said...

your dad was devilsh :)

Christian at Point Counter-Point Point Point said...

It dawned on me a couple of months ago that I have never seen The Exorcist. I'm a big movie fan so I'm aware that this is a disgrace. Finally seeing it is going to be one of my new year's resolutions, right along with cutting back on diamond thieving.

Kana said...

I think he did it on purpose; the classic scare-you-straight...straight to bed, that is!

Should Fish More said...

Hey, thanks for visiting my 'blog', such as it is. How on earth did you stumble across it?? For months it was just my kids, then I see these other people, makes me think the economy is really screwed.
Also, you remind me a bit of my sister, she was an odd duck too.
Nice writing, btw.
Mike

Roshni AaMom said...

I ordered the books (both of them!) So looking forward to reading them!! :))

savannah said...

now that is skill i could have used with the coconut krewe! kudos to your daddy! xoxox

HermanTurnip said...

Tubular Bells: The music Tyler will now be tortured with for the remainder of the year. ;-)

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

Well, I would imagine you did not sneak down the stairs ever again.

Rose L said...

One smart and sneaky old man!

The Elephant's Child said...

Tubular bells has always freaked me out - and I hadn't even realised it became the theme music for the Exorcist. What a clever father you had...

Jacquelineand.... said...

Your father is now my parenting hero; he was slick! (And knew his daughter very very well.)

Jenny Woolf said...

He clearly has a subtle mind :)

the walking man said...

Mike Oldfield did a follow up album to Tubular Bells. Amazing musician, he played every single instrument on it.

R. Jacob said...

That movie came out a long time ago and I must admit that was the last scary movie I saw.

The Chicken's Consigliere said...

this is one of my favorite blog posts ever in my history of blogging. You are so talented. I go for the "Our Fathers", myself. I like Mary and all, but when I'm scared I go straight to the top. Plus I only ever knew the first line of Hail Mary, and I know all of Our Father, both versions. I love your description of the seventies. I was well into my forties before I gathered up the courage to watch the exorcist. And by then, thankfully, I'd been desensitized by all the modern day special effects, so it didn't seem that bad. Except that scene where she does backwards somersaults down the stairway. That continues to show up in my nightmares. I love your writing, Pearl.