Recently I called my brother to ask, “Did we go trick-or-treating when we were little?”
“Surely we did. Didn’t we?”
“The only thing I remember is one time Daddy drove us to the ‘rich’ neighborhood so we could get good candy.”
“Oh yeah, but our paper sacks were a dead giveaway that we weren’t from their hood.”
I’ve never been one for spooky stories or movies. I don’t like spiders, ghosts, or demons. I don’t listen to scary sounds or scary music, and I like the lights on. No pitch black for me.
I’m not afraid to be a scaredy cat.
Right before the sixth grade, we moved across town, in Amarillo, to a newer neighborhood and a new school. That year I was eleven years old, and sixth grade was a conundrum of emotions and hormones. I was already 5’6” and filling out, shall we say, so there was no hiding the fact that I was the ‘new girl.’ I was the tallest kid in my class and had just gotten braces on my teeth.
In spite of my newness, I was invited to a Halloween party at Tim Parker’s house, one of the cutest boys in 6th grade. I may not have known everyone invited, but I knew they were the IN crowd and that I should be happy I was included. The invitation was a little loose on details: Meet at Tim’s house at 7:00 p.m. to play games and go Trick or Treating! Conveniently, Tim Parker lived right down the street, so I planned to walk over at 7:00 p.m. and join the fun. There was just one catch. I knew my daddy, J.C. Claughton, Jr., would not let me go to a boy/girl party IF he knew about it. So, I told him I was going trick or treating with my best friend and her brothers. He would never understand that this party was a matter of life and death as far as my popularity was concerned.
For some unknown reason, my daddy didn’t check out my story, and at 7:00 p.m. that Halloween night, I walked over to Tim’s house ready to bob for apples, eat candy and laugh with my new friends. I pushed down the guilt over not telling the truth and promised myself that next time I would do better.
I rang the doorbell and could already hear laughter coming from inside Tim Parker’s house, then everything got quiet. The front door opened slowly but no one was there, and after waiting a couple of minutes, I took two steps inside calling, “Hello? Hello? Tim?”
“BOO!” screamed voices from inside, and I jumped three feet off the floor.
Everyone was laughing and after I gathered myself, I pretended to laugh, too.
“Come on, we’re all in the basement,” Tim said.
In Amarillo, as other West Texas towns, a lot of homes have basements in case of tornadoes or excessive hail. Most basements are finished out with carpet, ping pong tables, and other activities for the kids, as well as blankets, flashlights, and safety equipment. As I followed the others back down the stairs to the basement, I was already starting to feel that I might have made a poor decision. The room was dark, except for a candle lit in the middle of a circle of kids, and the stereo was playing House of the Rising Sun, by the Animals.
Two couples were slow dancing in the corner and everyone else was sitting in a circle with a candle and an empty bottle of Coke.
I walked over to the circle and Lisa Claythorn patted the floor, “Sit by me,” she said, and just as I did, the music switched to The Beatles, She Loves You. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!
“Let’s start the game,” I heard one boy say. “Spin it!”
As unworldly and immature as I was, I still knew what Spin the Bottle meant. A bottle is placed on the floor in the center of the circle. A player spins the bottle and must kiss the person to whom the bottle points when it stops spinning. The problem was I had never kissed anyone before.
A girl with long, red hair took the bottle and twirled it so hard, the bottle literally slid across the floor. It landed pointing at a boy named Steve, who was in my class. They both laughed and the circle of kids howled. “Oooooo! Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!” This red-headed girl, whose name I did not know, shook her head, flicking her red, glistening hair away from her face, and rose up on her knees. She leaned forward and as she did, Steve leaned in for the kiss. Oh, my goodness, how I wished I was dressed in a silly costume yelling “trick or treat!”
After the first spin, I was relieved yet nervous that I might be next. I started to sweat and tried to calculate the odds of not having to spin versus who I would have to kiss.
“If you don’t kiss, you have to go through the spider webs in the closet and stick your hand in a bowl full of brains,” Tim said.
As I sat calm on the outside, heart pounding on the inside, I thought about the whole kissing thing. Lick my lips or stay dry? Did the red-headed girl lick her lips? Mouth open or closed? Quick or slow? Eyes closed or open? What about my braces?
“Where’s the restroom?” I whispered to Lisa.
“Upstairs,” she said, and I jumped up saying, “I’ll be right back.”
I lingered as long as I could without seeming strange and made my way back to the circle. In a haze of slow motion and fearful dread, I sat down in the first empty place. Pat Fite, the absolutely cutest boy in the world, spun the bottle looking right at me. As soon as my eyes locked with his, I diverted my gaze to the bottle which was beginning to slow down. What am I going to do if it lands on me? Why did I even come here? My throat is dry and probably my lips. What if the bottle doesn’t land on me?
My mind was racing, my heart was pounding, and my stomach felt as if it was ready to regurgitate everything I had ever eaten. The bottle was creeping to a standstill. I could see it pointing directly at the girl next to me, yet it continued to move in half-inch increments. It stopped right in front of me and when it did, the lights started to flicker, and we heard loud steps bounding down the stairway.
Tim’s big brother and two of his friends landed in the basement yelling, “Come on you guys! It’s time to do some tricks!” Everyone jumped up and our kiss was quickly forgotten.
“Let’s go, come on!” Tim’s brother said. “Everyone has to steal a pumpkin and smash it!”
Still sweating, but trying to play it cool, I said I had to be home by 8:15, and started moving toward the door. Pat Fite touched my hand and said, “Maybe next time,” and the turntable played Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying by Gerry and The Pacemakers.
Once outside, the group went one way, and I went the other. Pat Fite called, “See you in Homeroom!” And I waved goodbye. Waiting until the group was at the corner, I ran the rest of the way home and as I breathlessly closed the front door, I heard Daddy call, “Did you get any good candy?”
7 thoughts on “I’m Not Afraid To Be A Scaredy Cat”
Great suspense! Loved the ending.
Thank you, Gary!!!
Spin the bottle. What a great game! So, did you ever get that kiss from “the cutest boy in the world”, Pat Fite? HA! And how did you explain no ‘good candy’ to your daddy?
The kiss didn’t come until the very end of sixth grade and it wasn’t Pat!!!!!! and I told my daddy I gave the candy to my friend’s brothers. Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.
Teenagery, (a new word) is perhaps the scariest time of life. It’s full of horror stories! Our imagination during those years is out of control.
This a good story Nancy. You write well. I felt like I was at that party and ill at ease with the hubbub of everyone else’s perceptions of me.
Thank you so much, John! I would never want to relive those years! ” Teenagery” says it all!
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I love the term “teenagery”! Nancy, you recreate that horrible nervousness of the first boy/girl party!! And you were also the “new girl”! That takes your bravery up a notch.