Don´t Try This on Your Mother
Our brains are not fully developed until the age of 25. The prefrontal cortex kicks in last, and this is when we start understanding cause and effect. I blame our underdeveloped prefrontal cortex for what my older brother, Ronnie, and I decided to do one hot, boring summer day in 1956. I was seven years old, and Ronnie was eleven.
While our chronically depressed, anxiety disordered mother took a nap, Ronnie and I hung out in the garage having snail races on the large work table daddy had constructed out of plywood. When we were tired of the snail races, we stood leaning over the table, just shooting the breeze. If that sounds like a strange activity for two kids, know that this was long before computers appeared on the scene.
There was a shelf on the wall next to us containing various objects. One of the objects was a jar of red shoe polish. In the 1950s, long before we became a throw-a-way society, people polished their shoes to make them look presentable when they got scuffed up and dirty. After the soles wore off, they took them to the repair shop and had them resoled. The whole family got a lot of mileage out of their shoes before buying new ones.
Ronnie took the jar of red shoe polish off the shelf and unscrewed the top. Back then, shoe polish had a wire wand with a round applicator on the end of it that looked like a cotton ball. He started pumping the applicator in and out of the bottle. A lightning bolt of an idea struck us both at the same time! Wouldn’t it be funny if he painted his hand red and ran screaming in the house saying he got cut?
After slathering his hand completely until it was blood red, Ronnie flung open the screen door leading from the garage into the house. He ran down the hallway, screaming and yelling, “I cut my hand!” He jumped high off the floor for added effect. The scene that followed could have come out of a horror movie. Mama came running out of her bedroom, screaming with her hair standing straight on end and her eyes bulging out of the sockets. She realized what was happening when they met midway in the hall and began whooping on Ronnie with a vengeance.
When it was all over, Mama went back to bed and left Ronnie in the hallway crying. He walked into the kitchen. I felt terrible that he got a whipping over the joke.
“Are you alright, Ronnie,” I asked through the screen door.
“Leave me alone, he yelled!”
Many years later, Mama told me the first thing that came to her mind when waking up to the screaming was that I had been hit by a car on the two-lane road in front of our house. By then, she appreciated the humor in what we had done, and so we laughed till we cried. We would bring that story up repeatedly and have a good laugh together throughout the years.