Late last night, my young nephew apparently mistook passing headlights flickering over his bedroom wall for a giant bug intent on eating him. His resulting screams woke up the entire Gambino household, frightening everyone half to death. I couldn’t help but laugh when I heard, since the incident calls to mind a similar situation from my youth.
At the age of eight, I became a rabid admirer of the original “Frankenstein” movie. I loved it so much I talked my father into purchasing a life-sized, glow-in-the-dark poster of the Monster. I hung it on the closet door in my bedroom, directly across from the foot of the bed. During each of the three nights it remained, I awoke at some point, opened my eyes, spied a seven-foot-tall glowing Frankenstein Monster looming over me … and screamed. Those screams prompted an eruption of barking from our German Shepherd, and rudely awakened everyone in the house. All roused in terror the family was under attack, and poor Louse added the indignity of an uncorked bladder to the mix.
On each of the three occasions, dad took immediate action. Wearing nothing but the tee shirt he slept in, the WW2 veteran leapt up, grabbed his anti-intruder baseball bat in easy reach beside his nightstand, and ran down the hallway looking for masked burglars to whack. Mom meanwhile vaulted off the bed, grabbed the phone from her nightstand and, from her huddled position on the floor, dialed 911.
Chaos reigned long enough the first night that mom forgot to call off the police. When the doorbell suddenly rang, dad — distracted by the continuing commotion — forgot to don his underwear before answering. He opened the door naked from the waist down and baseball bat in hand. Understandably though regrettably, the two officers called to the scene mistook him for a violent peeping tom who’d broken into our home, and they tackled him. Despite his protests they also refused to take the cuffs off, until mom ran downstairs (clutching his boxers) and vouched for him.
God only knows how I talked the folks out of ripping down the poster two nights running, and actually made it to a third consecutive evening of screams, barking and general panic. The police visited just once, yet each successive event proved nearly as turbulent as the first. By the time naked dad – armed with his trusty bat – gave the “all clear” signal, mom had to apologize to the emergency operator for the false alarm (again), and my traumatized sister’s soaked bed sheets needed to be changed (again).
Those first two nights, I confidently assured my parents I’d get used to the poster so the screaming would stop. But once they switched off the lights, I looked up at Frankenstein’s ghoulish glowing head towering more than seven feet off the floor, stared at the garish bolts protruding from his neck (as well as the jagged scar traversing his oversized forehead) and thought to myself: Who am I kidding? I’m never gonna get used to this. Consequently, when dad stomped directly over to the poster on the third night – bat still in hand, and boxers still in the bedroom – and mutely shredded Frankenstein beyond recognition, I silently applauded: Finally, I can sleep again.