The chilling wind blew straight through the cracks in the door and flimsy walls of the tiny cabin in the mountains. The four children huddled inside were waiting for the eldest to come in from his expedition. Fear gripped them, because they had heard someone gallop by, again and again.
OK, it wasn’t a cabin, it was a travel trailer. And it wasn’t cold, it was a warm summer night in Central Texas. But there were four of us waiting for my oldest cousin to come back in from the house. Only one was afraid, though. And this is his story.
We were visiting our cousins in Copperas Cove, a small community a short distance from Fort Hood in the heart of Texas. My uncle was a major in the U.S. Army, and they lived in the suburbs. The back yard held their travel trailer, in which we kids hung out to escape the adults. Mike, Shaun and Kevin, along with their then baby sister were the ones that were in and out of Germany over the course of several years. We were the homebodies from good ol’ Texas City. They usually came down to the coast, but something precluded the trek; perhaps their inherent disgust of Texas City water or the brutal humidity. Or possibly it was just that we all needed a change of venue. I don’t know. I was only about eleven or twelve. My sister is nearly three years older than I, Shaun, a year older than her and Mike was two years older than anyone. Kevin would have been eight or so at the time, and while I didn’t mind so much his being there (it kept ME from being the youngest), his brothers quickly became weary of his constant questions and remarks.
Mike had gone into the house to procure some of the Tunnel of Fudge cake that my mother had baked for this reunion. It was her signature baked good. And boy, was it good! Chocolate cake with a melty, gooey core of fudge running through the center of each slice, since it was baked in a bundt pan.
The other four of us waited in the trailer, listening to Shaun’s stories of their adventures in Germany. It was getting late, and as the stories waned, Kevin’s observations seemed to increase. We had the lights out, to preserve the mysterious and semi-private air of our adult-free zone. Shaun began drumming his fingers impatiently on the pillowcase on the front bed. Kevin was on the top bunk, and he became aware of the rhythmic drumming. He asked what it was. Shaun’s voice dropped to a hoarse whisper, and he said, with great drama, “It’s the Headless Horseman”.
That silenced the flow of inquiry and comment from the top bunk. Shaun varied the volume and speed of the “hoofbeats”, softening them to simulate the passing of a great steed. After a time, he would begin again, very softly. “Do you hear that?” “Yeah, I think it’s him...”, all the while, building quickly and to an astonishing volume (for fingers thumping on a pillow). Then they would slow and stop. Right next to the trailer. Shaun’s low voice intoned urgent instructions for the young boy to remain still and perfectly quiet. It worked. Like a spell.
As Kevin lay there petrified and barely breathing, my sister and I stifled laughter till we thought we would explode. I am not sure how we didn’t give away the prank, since the process went on for probably fifteen minutes.
At the height of suspense, Mike appeared at the door, ripping it open with a thunderous “RAAAAAARR!”. To underscore the effect, he had a mouthful of Tunnel of Fudge cake, blotting out most of his teeth, leaving only the impression of fangs or broken, scary daggers.
Immediately following Michael’s bellow, Kevin shrieked, then dove out of the top bunk and grabbed Mike by the neck and clung to him for dear life. “MIKE, YOU SCARED ME!” the normally fearless lad growled at his brother. Mike, on the receiving end of such an outburst, was bewildered and a little shocked himself.
Meanwhile, Shaun, my sister and I were blowing gales of pent up laughter, intoxicated by the serendipity of the cake-mouthed punchline to the headless horseman’s patrol outside.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Posted by aA at 8:02 PM