Some people are born shrewd and some have shrewdness thrust upon them. My father was a disciplinarian but my brother was a free spirit. Dad’s rules were indissoluble commandments to me but little more than a strategic challenge to Jay.
When I was nine, my favourite show was Horror Theatre on Friday nights. There was always a double feature. The first film was a classic sci-fi favourite like Frankenstein or The Invisible Man. The second feature was a bloodcurdling B movie like The Screaming Skull or The Brain Eaters. Jay and I desperately wanted to watch both but dad was adamant that we go to bed after the first film.
We soon fell into a pattern, dad would turn on the set at 11:30 p.m. and by 11:45 p.m. he’d be snoring loud enough to wake the dead, so to speak. When the first movie ended, he invariably woke up and sent us to bed. After a few weeks, Jay cleverly deduced that the blaring music over the final credits was waking dad up.
The next Friday, as we neared the end of The Time Machine, Jay crept up to the TV and slowly turned down the sound. He waited until the second feature began and then gradually turned it up again. About halfway through The Creature Walks Among Us, dad woke up. “Movie not over yet?”
Since dad didn’t specify which movie, Jay felt no guilt about saying, “No, sir.”
“Make sure you go to bed when it’s over,” he muttered and then fell asleep again.
It took months before dad uncovered Jay’s little ruse, but not before I’d become terrified of zombies, ghouls and especially 50-foot women. To this day, I’m sure it’s the primary reason I never got married.
About a year later, dad bought our first colour TV and Jay inherited the ancient black and white set. He soon stopped joining us for Horror Theatre. In fact, on Friday nights Jay’s room was unusually dark. Dad smelled a rat. One night he flung open Jay’ door and there was a big white dot on the middle of the TV. That’s because older sets emitted rays that remained on the screen for several seconds after they were turned off. Dad had caught Jay red-handed.
When it came time for Jay’s 15th birthday, he made a strange request. He asked for a 3×4 black accent rug for his room. It wasn’t until years later that I knew why: Every Friday night when dad checked Jay’s room, it was pitch black. Naturally, dad was immensely pleased that he’d won their war of wills. But one night, when Jay was 18, he invited me into his room for a demonstration. He turned off the old TV and pointed to the familiar incriminating white dot. Then, suddenly, he flung the black rug over the top of the set and all was dark. For three years he’d never missed a double feature. And dad was none the wiser.
Like I said, some are born shrewd and others have shrewdness thrust upon them. Jay just happened to have a double portion.
Ray Smit is a regular NEWS columnist.