Sunday, October 16, 2005

Brothers in (H)arms

It has been known to scare some people how much one of my brothers and I are alike. The guilty party is my youngest brother, who I have four years on. He and I have for many years loved playing jokes on each other. After I got out of the navy I came home to live for the few months before I started college, and it was in this period that we kicked things up into high gear. One of our favorite things to do to each other was to hide somewhere and jump out snarling and growling in an attempt to scare the other. Points were awarded on the originality of the attempt, the quality of the scare itself and if any little-girl-like shrieks were made.

I think I had the best scare, but he did get me good on several occasions. The best was when I was walking into my room. All I really remember was that it was dark and as I walked in a large bear burst out of the closet roaring as it rushed at me. I don’t think I shrieked, but my brother will probably say that I did as I fainted. I will readily admit to a massive flinch, one that nearly qualifies as a full-out “Flee”. Afterward we were both nearly rolling on the floor laughing.

I managed to top this, but only because I’m sneakier. I go the extra mile by subverting friends and relatives of a victim to help. In this case I convinced my brother’s girlfriend (now his wife) to not mention that I was hiding in the closet. He walked into the room and asked in a nervous voice “Where’s Erasmus?” I have to point out here that many people who know my brother would refuse to believe that I could make him nervous. He will admit to it, though, because I have earned his respect. She told him that she thought I was in the cellar, so he began to relax. And that’s when I struck.

A creature released from the darkest pit of Hell could not have made a better sound. It was so good that not only did my brother shriek, but so did his girlfriend, who knew what was coming. It was truly a scare for the record books.

I have cicadas to thank for another of my best scares. Cicadas molt, leaving a very large exoskeleton behind. It is almost scary to pick up because it looks like it might come to life and rip off a limb. One day I found one of these, and immediately came up with a plan. My brother is scared of spiders, and this was close enough. I found him working on his car. He was sitting in the driver seat and both doors were open, so I said hello as I sat down in the passenger seat. He was bent over trying to see something under the dash and I slyly placed the “bug” on his right leg just above his knee. He sat back up and looked down. He was simultaneously making an involuntary “Aaaaaa!” sound, trying to brush the lobster-like killer insect off his leg and jumping out of the car. He hit his head on the roof on the way out.

It’s a good thing we had conditioned ourselves not to get angry when we were the victim, because I was laughing far too hard to make any kind of escape attempt. He was standing there holding his head and panting. I like to remind him of it every once in a while. Later on we put the bug on his future father-in-law’s leg – in the middle of a picnic style dinner. The scream he let out when he saw it on his leg stopped all conversation and was followed by several seconds of shocked silence. That was quickly followed by all 15 or 20 of us laughing our heads off.

That poor man got me back a couple of years later. My brother, his girlfriend and I were taking a cross-country trip. My brother’s girlfriend’s parents lived in Colorado, and they were one of our stops. One day we all decided to drive down to San Diego and when we arrived there was a light rain. We parked and started to head down to a beach. To get there we had to climb down a path on a somewhat steep hill, which was slippery because of the rain.

My brother and I are considered goats because of the enjoyment we get from running and jumping over various surfaces. We rarely fall, and we always had a lot of fun making people nervous as we ran and jumped our way across a jetty at the beach, up and down stairs etc. This hill was an interesting challenge and of course we had to take it. We took different paths and started bounding down. As I bounced down (picture Tigger) I came close to our father-in-law, who was carefully and slowly climbing down the hill. As I passed him his feet suddenly went out from under him, and he literally rolled the rest of the way down the hill. My brother and I ran over to see if he was ok, and found that he was uninjured, but covered in mud.

At the top of the hill you would expect to find his wife and daughter standing with, at the very least, a concerned look on their faces. They should be calling down worriedly to see if he were hurt, wringing their hands. No. They were both bent over double laughing, sometimes pointing down at him and starting over.

Part of what they found so funny is that they thought I had pushed him as I ran by him on the hill. I denied it, but then heard him claim that he had felt me hit him as I ran by. Then my brother joined in saying that he had seen me bump him. I argued my innocence to no avail. The accusations started out as me bumping him, went to me pushing him, then to me attempting murder. Somewhere in there I realized I was being toyed with.

There were very few limits in terms of what we’d do to scare each other. On one occasion I jumped off the garage roof bellowing behind my brother as he got out of his car. Another time he ran out of the bushes sounding like a water buffalo as I unlocked the front door in the middle of the night. I waited for over 20 minutes, hidden under his bed, so I could grab his ankle as he came into his room. I’m lucky he didn’t stomp my hand into oblivion for that one.

Over the years we’ve mellowed some, but still truly enjoy putting one over on the other. Whether it be a good scare or a well-thought out practical joke we always get as much laughter out of being the victim as we do being the perpetrator. For the time being I have the advantage, because there is nobody in my life he can attempt to enlist to his cause, and his wife is always willing to help me out. This is a woman who said to him when he got uppity “If you think I won’t beat you because Erasmus is here, you’re wrong!” I can hardly wait until his sons are old enough to help out, because I’m already working on training them to accept bribes…