Words Hurt

•December 28, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Letters spelling out "Words Hurt" with "Hurt" on fire and crumbling

Words Hurt. Like Hell.

Tell Time: 7 minutes
Scare Rating:  4 Ghosts

Detective Samuels walked Kyle to the squad car parked in front of the boy’s home. He opened the back door and pushed the young man, gently but firmly, on to the hard vinyl-covered back seat.

Walking around the vehicle, he waved off the social worker perched, like a vulture, on the sidewalk.  She hovered anxiously, ready to intervene.  She’d have a chance to talk to the boy later, but first, the investigator needed some information about the horrific crime scene inside the boy’s house.

Detective Samuels took a deep breath and let it out in a harsh sigh. He was well versed in working hardened thugs over, but across the seat from him sat a small, scared young man. Maybe he should have opened with an easier question — the way the social worker might have.  Maybe he should have tried to get to know him first; sought to earn the boy’s trust.  But he didn’t.

“What the heck happened in there?” he asked.

Kyle took in a deep breath and released it in hard shudders. With the palms of both hands, he wiped dirty tears from his cheek, sniffled hard, then looked up for just a moment to find the detective’s stern, inquisitive face, before looking back down at his hands, which wrung each other nervously in his lap.

“It all started a week ago.  My friends and I were just hanging out in the neighborhood,” the boy said, barely louder than a whisper.  “We were bored, and we wound up at Old Lady Griffey’s house.

“One of us had the idea to grab a bunch of the rotten apples that had fallen to the ground in front of the place and fling them at it.  They made a real neat thud sound, and some pretty cool patterns, too.  So we took turns chucking them at her house, to see who could make the biggest splat against the clapboards.”  The boy paused and looked up again to find the same stern — and thus far, non-judgmental — face looking back at him, attentively.  So he continued with his story.

“Anyways, she came out quick and told us to get off her property and go home.  Honestly, I don’t think any of us thought she’d care, the way she doesn’t keep the place up and all.  ”You can’t tell us what to do, you old witch!’ I shouted at her,” Kyle’s gaze fell to his folded hands in his lap. “I shouldn’t have said it. I shouldn’t have said anything. But my buddies were with me and I guess I wanted to look tough.”

“So she says to us, ‘old witch, eh? You have no idea, and you have no respect! Words hurt, little one. They hurt like Hell … as you’ll soon find out.’ Then she did a little dance; she stamped her shriveled little feet twice, one after the other, making loud knocking sounds on the boards.  Then she spun around, and waved at me, as if to dismiss me.”

“What’s that got to do with what happened in here?” the detective asked.  He hadn’t lost patience yet, but he was clearly only interested in solving a crime.  So far, the story didn’t seem to be getting him there.

“Well, so then I was at school a few days ago, and my buddy James started teasing me about my haircut,” Kyle continued.  “I tried to ignore him, but people started laughing at me. So I got mad and I told him off. I told him he was ugly and pathetic.”

“And?” asked the detective, trying to stifle evidence of his growing impatience of all the side stories.

“Well, and then he did get ugly and pathetic,” said Kyle. “I mean, it happened kinda slowly, but as class went on, his face got really ugly. It kinda just pinched in on his nose, like it’d look if his face was made out of dough and someone punched it in and it just stayed like that. He got this mole on his chin. His face broke out in huge pus-pilled pimples. And his eyebrows got thick and bushy and grew together. It got worse and worse through the afternoon, and everyone started to make fun of him, until he could get away to the nurse’s office. Now his family’s got him going to see all sorts of specialists to see what’s the matter with him, and they’re scared that it’ll spread to his sister — she’s real pretty — and no one can figure out what happened to him. But I know.”

“I see,” said Detective Samuels. He couldn’t keep a nervous tone out of his voice. What he was hearing was impossible; ridiculous, really. But hearing it, straight from the mouth of the boy who said he’d done it, somehow creeped him out

“So what does this have to do with what happened to your mom in your home tonight?” he asked, trying to regain composure and control.

The boy’s eyes got big and filled with tears as he remembered the events of only an hour before.  He tucked his face into his folded arms and sobbed hard. The detective awkwardly put his hand on the boy’s shoulder to try to offer comfort.

“Son, you’ve got to tell us what happened. We can help. Who killed your mom?” Detective Samuels asked.  “You were there, you’ve got to know.  Just tell us.”

“I DID!” the boy shouted into his chest.  “I killed her!” he yelled out, before being consumed yet again by a new fit of sobs. Almost incoherently through the violent tears and  gasps, his story continued to spill out.

“Mom and I were arguing. I don’t even know what we were fighting about.  She wanted to ground me for sassing her. I told her I wasn’t grounded. She told me I was, and that I couldn’t tell her that I wasn’t.

“I got even more mad, so I started yelling at her.  I called her a wretched excuse for a mom. Right when I said that, I could see her form start to change.  She started to shrivel up.  But I didn’t care. She warned me to watch it or I’d be in big trouble. She told me that I was in a hole and that I should stop digging myself deeper.  But even though she was trying to control me, to control my anger and to control the situation, I could tell that she was getting confused, and scared, by what was happening to her body.  And I could tell that she knew somehow that I was doing it to her.

“But I couldn’t control myself. Something came over me. I could see her desperation and her fear, and it made me even angrier,” Kyle said.  “I told her I hated her, and that I wished she was dead. I said, ‘Blast you Mom, you’re the worst! I hate you and I wish you were dead!'”

Her face just went blank; I saw the horror in her eyes, the full realization. And then I saw the compassion and love, like on Christmas morning when she watches me open my presents. Why’d she have to look at me like that? At that, Kyle burst into tears again.  “I think her heart must have busted first.  And then she just … ripped … apart. The parts of her body, her limbs, just blasted off of her and fell around her falling body.

“She was dead.  Just like I wanted her to be,” he said, almost as if to himself.

For a full minute, the detective couldn’t speak.  He was processing what he’d heard; trying to reconcile it to the scene inside of the house.  Eerily, it fit — more than any other theory he might have come up with himself.  Finally, he managed to form a sentence around the sole thought in his mind.

“If you did that …” he started.  “If you were cursed, and if you were able to do that … that horrific crime in there, then clearly there’s no way we can help.  Why, then, did you call the police?”

“I didn’t call you to have you help Mom!” the boy cried out desperately.  “I called you to try to help me!”

Copyright 2014

Is Silence Golden?

•August 17, 2014 • Leave a Comment
Man wih mouth gagged by order of the arrow sash

Silent Ordeal

This past weekend I took part in a Scouting Ordeal that had me,and the many dozens of others who were with me, remain in silence — no talking — for 24 hours. Here’s how it was golden:

– I didn’t have to hear the guy in front of me in line complain anymore — about what he forgot, about how he had to wait to attend, about how he had to carry his stuff around with him;
– I didn’t get to hear myself talk about banal topics like the weather, my boots or the weather;
– I missed overhearing any further riveting stories about Adult Swim, Internet memes or back-to-school hi-jinks from the Scouts nearby.

A definite uptake was to realize how much air we fill
with negative, annoying or needless speech.

When we needed to — though it was probably against Da Rules — we got by with a little ad hoc sign language or pantomime:

– like when the guy behind me in line doused up with DEET and then held the bottle out to me, in silent offer;.
– or when we were walking on a dark trail and I noticed a large drop-off ahead and illuminated it with my light so that the folks behind me would be sure to see it, too.

But there were also moments when speech was missed:

– like when I wanted to tell the guy “thank you” for offering the DEET;
– or to say, “bless you!” to the nearby kid who sneezed;
– or to apologize to the guy behind me when my too-big backpack hit him as I turned around.

It was fascinating to experience 24 hours of silence. A definite uptake was to realize how much air we fill with negative, annoying or needless speech. But when it’s sweet — infrequent punctuations amidst the general noise of our normal conversations — the positive, encouraging and polite things that we use words to impart to one another can also be golden — and arguably make the other kinds of speech tolerable, if not worthwhile.

And that’s all I have to say about that …

Copyright 2014

Cool or Scary or Gross or … ?

•July 21, 2014 • Leave a Comment
large white moth in hand

Found this ginormous thing on the ground in a parking lot Sunday morning. Awesome or skeevy? Have you ever seen anything this interesting?

Got Gear? Packing For Summer Camp 2014

•June 25, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Packing for summer camp is different than a weekend Troop trip, and its way different than what’s needed for a week with Grandma and Grandpa.  Assuming that meals — and the supplies needed to prep them — are supplied, the tried-and-true Summer Camp packing list, built for a one-week Boys Scout encampment, outlines all that your little man might need.


Bonus tips:

– This year, include extra bug spray, 40% DEET.  The ticks are bad.  while you’re at it, pick up a Tick Tool.

– Pack 1-2 extra days worth of clothes.  Kids fall into lakes.  Kids fall into mud.  Kids clothes get lost and forgotten.

– Pack 3-4 pairs of shoes and socks.  Blisters will ruin his week.

– Put clothes in gallon zipper bags, one set of clothes per day.  Helps him find what to wear fast — and get it to the shower house safely — and keeps it clean and dry in an otherwise unclean setting.

Other packing suggestions?  Other must-have items to send along?


Copyright 2014

My Top 10 Real-World Frights

•June 16, 2014 • Leave a Comment

My top 10 real-world frights, in no particular order. What are yours? We need at least three more to get to 13!


1) This woman, who’s trying to take over the world. She’s Jack’s wife.  She’s a bouncer. She’s Mrs. Dracula. She’s a bodysnatcher who’s taken over Flo. And now, she’s taking over the world. One commercial at a time.

2) Bee colony collapse disorder. No bees, no food, no life. Game over.



3) Incredible shrinking products. Less product is fine. Raising prices is fine. But a big concave scoop on the bottom of the peanut butter jar, or a half-empty box of crackers for less product and higher prices. Do you really think you’re tricking us into thinking it’s the same amount of product? Not fine. #NabiscoFail

4) Texting drivers. Dee Stracted, Lane Lever and Al Thoms. They scare the mess out of me.


5). The dark. Scaring mankind for millennia. Still so very good at it. Don’t believe me? Just try this experiment in your basement. Walk down in the light. Turn off the light. Walk up the stairs. You’ll be running by the top step. Guaranteed.

6). Ebola. It’s back. Want to understand the terror of Ebola? Just read “The Hot Zone.” More frightening than any of Stpehen King’s writings. Don’t believe me? Ask him yourself: when he reviewed the book, he described it as, “one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever read.”

7) Opossums. Most would say sloths, but you’ll never meet a sloth on a dark night in your back yard. I did as a boy, and I will never forget it. Picture a giant-rabid-mutant-zombie-ghost-rat. That’s a possum.


8) Bug, snake or spider. Every person on the planet’s scared of at least one of these. I’m cool with snakes and even spiders, unless they sneak up on me. And most bugs are ok, although cockroaches kinda skeeve me out. But the monster amongst them? Ticks. Shudder!


9) Slender Man. My son downloaded a Slender Man game, based on the meme, and before I knew it, I was stumbling in the same dark woods that the Blair Witch wasnt filmed in. Creeped me out, and it was a sunny spring afternoon when we did it. We ended up exorcising the computer to fully get rid of that demon. I wish the two 12-year-old girls had, too.

10) Sleep deprivation.  Makes you a whole ‘nother, scary person!

What doesn’t scare me? The Devil. Imagine that pathetic, blustering kid on the playground, insisting he’s still playing a ball game – to win – long after the other team has already won – and gone home in celebration! Sorry dude – just go home. Game’s over – and you lost!


Copyright 2014

‘How to’ Make This Ham Dog / Hot Burger Monstrosity!

•June 4, 2014 • 1 Comment

Ham dog or hot burger


So is it a ham dog?  A hot burger?  Or just a monstrosity?  How ’bout all of the above?

The how to?  Slice a grilled hot dog in half lengthwise and lay it across a grilled hamburger, resting on a bun.  Dress to taste.  Done.

Redeeming value?  Umm, well … it’s low carb!  And it’s delicious — kinda resembles a bacon burger.

But don’t take my word for it — tell us how you liked it, or how you changed up the “recipe!”


Copyright 2014

‘How to’ Annoy Your Scout Master … and Maybe Save Your Life!

•May 31, 2014 • 1 Comment

Hard to believe I got to the ripe old age of AHEM without learning this, but a belated thanks to a fellow Scout leader who taught me how to make a field whistle out of the detritus of the forest.  I’d guess it’s so apocryphal because, if widely known, a patrol of boys on a hike would drive their Scout leaders bonkers scavenging the trail for materials and blasting flora and fauna with a symphony of ear-splitting tweets.

I share the how-to with some hesitation, but do so in the belief that the trade off is that a boy lost in the woods might be able to alert a distant passer-by of his presence with a loud blast — or if he’s really good, with a Morse code message.

STEP 1: GATHER MATERIALS: ACORN CAPS (OR A SODA BOTTLE CAP): Acorn and soda caps useful for a whistle

STEP 2:  PUSH THUMBS TOGETHER AND PINCH THE CAP INTO THE GAP BETWEEN THEM AS SHOWN: Modeling how to hold the acorn cap to make it into a whistle

The key is alignment; the part of the acorn cap showing behind the thumbs should look like a slice of pie.  You can adjust up or down, and with a wide slice or a narrow slice, for effect.


Lips should be part-way open, with top lip over the knuckle and bottom lip under the knuckle.  Adjust how hard you blow for tone and volume.

Will you teach your Scouts this skill that could possibly save their lives (if you don’t strangle them first)?  What other found objects can be used to make a “field” whistle?  Does the “instrument” have any musical qualities, or is it just useful for making noise?


Copyright 2014

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