Whenever a Friday the 13th rolls around it always reminds me that there were some things my mom got right raising me. One of those things was not allowing me to watch horror films because I had an over active imagination. On that list of horror films was anything R rated and any Disney film where they’d kill off the parents like Dumbo and Bambi. Which I still haven’t seen and probably won’t now. But Mom always took me to Hitchcock films, I think I was probably too young and fell asleep a lot. Rear Window, To Catch a Thief, Pyscho.
Yes, she took me to Psycho. It was part of a double feature and I think she was hoping I’d fall asleep after The Man Who Knew Too Much. But just in case I didn’t, she explained the movie to me before hand. “It’s about a man whose mom dies and he goes crazy and dresses up in her clothes and kills people.”
“I guess because he was so lonely and turned mean and he pretended to hear her talking to him. There is a part of the film where the actress takes a shower and he stabs her while she’s in the shower and it’s really scary.” Then she made her pretend ‘scary face’ and screamed.
I could see ‘the scary’ was part was of the fun.
“Janet Lee plays the woman who pretends to get stabbed and she’s really good at it.” Again with the ‘scary face’ and she screamed. Hey, ‘fun’ was my middle name! I was excited.
“Her daughter is the woman who’s in that scary film ‘Halloween’. Jamie Curtis. Jamie Lee Curtis.”
…I still can’t shower without a see through shower curtain. Thanks Mom.
Fast-forward a few years. Now I’m able to stay home without a baby sitter. It’s a typical Friday night. Parents out, sister on a date, and at home - just me and the Great Dane. But it’s a Friday the 13th and cable was all of the scary movies. Halloween to be exact, the original with Jamie Lee Curtis. Now, I know the rule. No horror movies. But there was nothing else on, remember these were the early days of cable. Mtv was barely poking on with weird techno videos I didn’t understand and dam’it I was too old for Hee Haw. So, Halloween it was.
…What the hell is wrong with these Lee Curtis women!
I couldn’t finish the movie. I just shut off the TV and sat there. Absolutely, shaken to the wick, scared out of my wits. Alone. Grateful to have the Dane – family pet, best friend, protector. But the Dane was pawing at the door. She had to go out. And when a Great Dane has to go. They HAVE to go OUT. There are no wee wee pads for Great Danes. But I was scared.
Now, just one caveat here - we lived on a farm and as any person from a rural upbringing will tell you there are TWO things you DO NOT mess with and one of those things is the opossum. They have teeth like razors and I’ve seen them tear off legs and rip gaping holes in the throats of some beloved pets. They are not to be messed with nor cornered. And we had an opossum problem, which was one of the reason’s the Dane was in the house with me in the first place.
Anyway, I was scared and the Dane had to take a dump. I let her out the front porch, turned on all the porch lights and watched. But, sure enough, she goes over to the side of the house, out of my view. So I slip on my boots (it must have been summer, I wore boots in the summer’s because of all the snakes. Yeah- that rural.) and went over to the side. The Dane started to growl. Holy Crap. I saw two glowing beady eyes shining at me from out of the dark. The Dane poised to attack.
“Dane. NO! Come here. Heel! Dane NO!”
She lowered her head to attack.
I ran back inside, I could hear the Dane’s echoing bark as leapt up the stairs. I ran to my father’s closet, grabbed his shotgun, threw open his dresser drawer and pawed through his unmentionables. Ew. ew. ew. Grabbed two shells, stuffed them into the chamber while running back through the house to the front door, and stopped. It was silent, no barking. I carefully made my way over to the side of the house. The Dane and the opossum were circling. I could see the opossum open it’s mouth and bare its razor’s at my dog. The Dane made a jab toward the opossum and barked. I could see the opossum rise up. I don’t remember aiming or pulling the trigger. I don’t remember landing on my back. But there I was. My ears ringing and there was a sharp pain in my shoulder. It took me a second to shake it off and my marbles to reassemble in my brain. The gun lay next to me. What have I done?
I got up and looked around. I could see the Dane, she was back in the front now, taking a big dump. I picked up the gun, careful to keep my balance, the ringing in my ears was so intense. The gun was hot and my arms felt like Jell-O with its weight. I looked around for the opossum, but I didn’t see anything. The Dane did her galloping ‘after poop’ dance toward me. She halted, looking at the gun and admonished me with a heavy bark and whine. I put the gun back down, grabbed her collar and ushered her back into the house. I hadn’t shot the dog. But maybe I hadn’t shot the opossum either. I walked back out carefully lifting the gun back up and looking around.
I finished wiping the gun down and put it back. Hiding the spent shell in the rags, I stuffed them way down into the garbage outside. Everything smelled like sulfur. I brought the Dane into the bathroom with me and took a shower. I stuffed my pajamas deep into the hamper in the basement, covering them with my father’s dirty underwear. Ew. ew. ew.
Even on holidays the Dane was not allowed in the upstairs with the bedrooms, kitchen, and dining room. I brought the Dane into my bedroom, where she fell asleep on the floor next to my bed. So far tonight, I thought, I have broken every possible law. I’ve watched a horror movie, shot my father’s gun, walked in the house with my boots on, and used the stove. (I left out the popcorn part – for brevities sake.) What’s one more desecrated law? I could have killed our beloved Dane!
I awoke to the smell of bacon and eggs. My door had been shut and there was no Dane in the room.
I walked into the kitchen where the other thing that you DO NOT mess with was making pancakes.
“What happened last night?” Mom asked me.
I shrugged and yawned. “Nothin’.”
“Well, Dad is out burying a dead opossum. We drove up last night and it was laying there on the front porch.” She shuddered. “It was bloody, oh, it was awful, I was worried that the Dane had killed it and left it there. Did she go outside?”
“Yeah, she had to poop. I’ll clean it up later. I didn’t want to go out at night.”
“Well, why would an opossum crawl up to a front porch like that. Your Dad thinks someone shot it, but didn’t kill it and it just crawled up there to die.”
I nodded. “Probably.”
“Did you hear any shots last night?”
Uh oh. “Maybe, I don’t know, I was in the basement with the TV on. It wasn’t there when I let her out to poop.”
“What did you watch?”
Just then my hormone crazed teen-aged older sister came thundering in, “She was in my room again, MOM!”
“No, I wasn’t.” It was the only honest thing I had said in the last twenty-four hours. But then I thought about it. Had I? I mean, it’s completely possible.
“Did you see a dead opossum when you came in last night?”
“NO.” She said truculently. Such a stupid question.
“Did you hear any gun shots?”
“NO. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
She looks guilty, I thought.
“Did you shoot an opossum last night?” I cross-examined her.
“Shut up!” She snapped at me and spooned eggs onto her plate.
Just then the Dane came to the back sliding glass door and stared in at me, her eyes so innocent and trusting. My hands began to shake a little, last nights events washed over me in a hot fear wave. I could have killed her. And how would I explain that exactly? Jamie Lee Curtis made me do it? This is why I'm not allowed to watch horror films. These weren’t little fibs or sneaking into my sister’s room to listen to Elton John records. These were big, hairy, bad rules that I had –
“Stay out of my room or I’m going to kill you.” My sister hissed at me through her eggs.
Pfft! I spit out some of my pancake and started laughing at her.
Mom sat down and started dishing food onto her plate. “Okay, enough. I guess it’s just a mystery then.”
I nodded in agreement. “It is. It’s a mystery. Mystery of the dead opossum.”
My sister stopped eating and looked hard at me, her eyes narrowing. I got up from my seat and cuddled up to my mom. I really needed a hug and as always, she complied.
To protect the innocent bystander, the name of The Dane was changed. Not that she ever told anyone what I almost did on Friday the 13th.