The Cast: Myself (fed-up), Rawlin (an older brother).
If you have an older sibling, then you might know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, well then… You get to learn about them second hand.
Once, my older brother told the family (years after we were all adults) that he enjoyed—and was fascinated by—our (the three younger children) reactions to what he would do to us. At the time of this divulgence we all just kind of chalked it up to a ‘kids will be kids’ sort of thing. Years later, when other actions of his adult life bore bad fruit, missing pieces of his mental puzzle fell into place—for those paying attention. I love him, because he is my brother, but he’s delusional—and some other things. And I no longer think of his youthful hijinks as ‘child-like’ or ‘innocent’.
And so, let us take a journey down memory lane wherein Rawlin got some comeuppance (literally).
Rawlin used to ‘playfully’ torment myself and my two older sisters. He would do all sorts of little things here and there. Mostly mental games. The biggest mental game was what I have come to call—for lack of a better term—Mental Messing. In this game Rawlin would arbitrarily do something nice for one of us and then pull a prank of some kind at another arbitrary time. Often he would try to convince us that all was well and that we could trust him because he was our older brother (his words, “Why would I [insert mischief here] to you?”). We fell for it over and over because Mental Messing was never consistent. Niceties would repeat often and then, when your guard was down (or sometimes even up)… Wham! Something bad/mean/whatever.
Late one night (maybe around 9:00 pm) I crawled into bed, ready for my much needed sleep. I had been playing all day and was ready for Dreamy-Dream Town (don’t judge, I was six). Yeah, sleep… Shortly after I had become all snuggled into my pillow and sheets I heard from overhead, “You comfortable?”
At first I was nervous. Not because of where the voice was coming from. I knew why it was above me, and who’s it was. My brother and I shared a room and bunkbeds. So, obviously the voice—being Rawlin’s—would be above me. No, what made me nervous was the why. Why was he talking to me? Rawlin didn’t talk to me normally during the day, let alone right before falling asleep. And to ask if I was comfortable? He was up to something. My gut became tight, I became nervous.
“Yes. Why?” Came my response. I hoped he wouldn’t detect the suspicion in my voice.
“Did you notice anything when you got into bed?”
“Anything. I don’t know. Like down by your feet.”
Yeah, he was up to something, “Why down by my feet? What’s down there?”
“Just move your feet around.”
“Why?” Now I was getting really nervous.
“Just do it.”
Now, I knew he was trying to ensure my falling into one of his traps and I didn’t want to get suckered into his plan. Also, I no longer wanted to fall asleep. Mostly because I didn’t know what the scheme was, so I didn’t know if he was going to spring it on me while I was asleep or if I was meant to set it off right before I fell asleep. Or, maybe right after I fell asleep. Or, maybe one of a million possibilities. Oh this was going to be a very long night.
“Fine.” Maybe if I just got it over with I would finally be able to go to sleep. Reluctantly, I began to move my feet back and forth (completely unsure of what they were supposed to encounter I wasn’t just going to kick blind). “There, I did it.”
After a short moment of silence for the death of his failed event, Rawlin replied with, “Did you feel anything?”
“No. Was I supposed to?”
“Yes.” Another moment of silence, “Wait. Where are your feet?”
Where are my feet? What kind of stupid question is that? “What kind of stupid question is that?”
“Watch it!” Came the quiet threat. He must have realized he had set me further on guard because his next statement was gentler, “I mean, are your legs stretched out or curled up?”
“Curled? Why? What’s at the foot of my bed?” I had curled up into the fetal position upon entering my bed, not out of fear, but just to be all snuggled in my sheets. Now I was in a tighter fetal position—out of fear.
“Well that’s why you didn’t feel it. You need to stretch your legs out and feel it.”
“Why what’s down there?”
“Just feel it.”
“What’s down there?”
“Just do it.”
“Why?” I was nervous, a little perturbed (yeah, I said “perturbed”—Google it if you don’t know what it means).
“You better find it before it wakes up from your body heat.”
Wakes up!?! What is it?!? “Wakes up! What is it?”
I was out of my sheets before he could finish the silent ‘e’ at the end of ‘snake’. Why is there a snake in my bed?!?! “Get it out!”
“No. You want it out. You get it.”
For many people this would not have been an issue. That’s great for those people. I WAS SIX AND THERE WAS A SNAKE AT THE FOOT! OF! MY! BED! AT 9:00! AT NIGHT!!!
“I’m not touching it. You put it there, you get it out!” Why was he trying so hard for me to touch it?!?
“Don’t yell. You’ll wake mom and dad.” This was one of my brothers Mental Messing games. Making us think we would get in trouble with mom and/or dad, especially if the reality was that he, himself, would get in trouble. Rawlin played me and my sisters well for years.
“Then come down here and get the snake.” I was either going to cry from anger or from total freak-out. Panic was setting in. Deep. I may have been crying already. A little bit.
I think that at this point it’s important to note that previously to this night I had been on a Cub Scout Day Camp where I was able to encounter a medium sized snake and pet it (under the supervision of adults). Even more important to note is that I did not enjoy the experience. Not one single bit. No sir. Nope.
“Just get it yourself.” Rawlin was trying too hard now.
“You get it! You put it there. And if you don’t, I’m telling mom and dad you put a snake in my bed and you’ll be the one in trouble.”
“Just reach down and grab it. It’s just a belt.”
Wait, a belt? “Is it really? Or, is this just a trick to get me to touch the snake?” Honestly, it could have been either one.
“You’ll have to find out.”
I had to figure this out and settle it, or he wouldn’t leave it be, and it would get worse the next time. And so, saturated in panic (sweat. It was sweat, alright), I carefully grabbed my sheets and ripped them off my bed to uncover the serpent beneath. Well, that’s what I meant to do. But, it didn’t work. My sheets were tucked in too tight. My mother taught me well. Too well.
I ended up just yanking up the whole mattress. Now, I was in a whole new panic because I had now just woke the snake up and it was about to launch itself at me. But then it didn’t. Maybe it really was a belt? With a mighty payload of panic and fear I crawled under my bed sheets, felt around… My hand touched a leathery surface! And it should have. It was a leather belt. “You put a belt in my bed and then lied to me and tricked me into thinking it was a snake!” I was enraged.
“Calm down. I’m trying to sleep.” Came the groggy response. “Plus, it wasn’t even a real snake. It was just a belt.”
That was it! I had had it! I was tired, Mental Messing-ed with, now my bed was a mess, and Rawlin was getting away with it again. He had to pay! Now.
At my age—and size—my revenge options were limited. Fortunately for me I had developed a great tactic for my bedtime anger. Mess with his bed. To do this I would, with the flat of the bottom of my feet, kick up at the bedboard under his mattress in order to lift it up and bounce him about. Oh, how Rawlin hated that.
“Knock it off! I’m trying to sleep.”
“Shut-up! You keep doing mean things and I’m sick of it.” I punctuated each word with a solid, upward kick.
“You better stop it or else I’m coming down there and you’ll be sorry.”
He usually doesn’t punch me. But he might. But he won’t be able to if he can’t get out of his bed.
Over the years I had practised lifting Rawlin’s bed up and out of the metal side tracks that kept it from falling on top of me. This had helped me to learn about where the fulcrum should be (before I even knew what a fulcrum was). Sadly, I had never been strong enough before to lift it all the way up and out of the tracks. But that night… That night I had rage-strength. I set my feet and tested to find the perfectly balanced center. Once found, I lifted. The bed came out of the tracks, slowly at first because I wanted to be sure I wouldn’t collapse and have the bed fall down on top of me. But, once I had done it, I locked my legs and just held the bed aloft. I did it! I lifted Rawlin’s bed! He was now floating at my whimsy.
“Knock it off! Put me down!” Quiet, seething anger, mixed with confusion, topped with a sprinkling of concern laced the commands.
“No. I’m mad at you for what you did.” Tears ran down my cheeks. While a small smile sprouted upon my lips as I toyed with my 12 year old brother. His bed swung back and forth. I carefully tilted it side to side. Then I began to twist it this way and that. Rawlin was in full panic mode. He had gripped the sides of his mattress and couldn’t move from it (he had attempted to grab the metal braces to pull the bed back down, but in doing so while the bed was moving he got his fingers slightly smashed—he wasn’t happy).
We both quickly learned Rawlin couldn’t jump free of this low-budget carnival ride because when he tried to jump off I almost dropped the whole kit-n-kaboodle. And Rawlin knew that if that happened I would probably get hurt and he would get in trouble for it, so he tried to make me think that I would get in trouble when the bed fell, but I just rebutteled with, “No, you will because this is all your fault! You put the snake in my bed! You freaked me out! You made me angry! This is ALL your fault!” And he knew I was right. “Do you promise to never do anything like this again?”
“Knock it off!” I heard the fear sinking into his voice for what might occur.
“Promise me!” The bed swayed back and forth all whilst twisting this away and that, performing a wonderful weeble-wobble dance.
“Fine. Just put me down.” All of this fighting had been done quietly, so that our parents wouldn’t hear, wake up, and punish us both.
Eventually, I did put him down. I had won (that night). Because, the way to beat my brother has always been to not give in. Or to sucker him into your own counter trap (that last one has always been more fun, especially when he thinks he’s winning, and then doesn’t—he mentally explodes). After that night I think Rawlin realized I wasn’t as stupid, or gullible, as he would have liked me to have remained. I was a fighter.