(Tom Jirik wrote columns in several newspapers in Iowa from the late 1980’s to the mid 1990’s. This column originally appeared in the The Boone Today in October, 1988)
I peered out the window. It was drizzling outside and cold raindrops made tracks in the dust on the opposite side of the window. I huddled thee in the darkness of the haymow, knowing that he would be there soon. I pulled my fingers out of their individual compartments in my gloves and curled them against the palms of my hands to keep them warm.
I was growing impatient. If he didn’t show up soon, my entire plot would be ruined.
Then I saw a shaft of light flash from the door of the house across the yard. Then it was gone. Someone had come out of the house. In the harsh light cast by the yard light, I could see someone trudging toward the barn.
The figure was too small to be Dad and the wrong proportion to be my brother, Jaime. That meant it had to be …. Yes! It was my brother, John! Things were going perfectly!
I scrambled away from the window. I didn’t want him to see me. That would ruin everything.
I could hear the door to the barn downstairs roll open, then closed. Light flashed up through the hay chutes as John turned on the lights downstairs. I could hear him rattling around down there. The, suddenly, he called out for me.
Did that mean he knew I was there? Was my plan spoiled? No! Not now that I was so close.
I didn’t answer. I held my breath. I heard John swear. I took a cautious breath. His curses meant that he thought I should be doing our chores and he couldn’t find me. He was angry, but I was glad. He didn’t know I was there.
I heard the door roll open and closed again. I quietly dashed to the darkest corner of the haymow. I hunched down behind a tumbled pile of bales. The aluminum ladder banged in the darkness as John angrily stomped up to the haymow.
He was framed at the top of the ladder for a moment in the open doorway. He paused, then went to work. I watched silently as he sent four bales tumbling down the front chute. The last one wedged itself in the opening. John was really steaming now. He stomped around, kicking at hay bales, mumbling to himself. Finally, he dislodged the bale.
I sank down behind the bales even farther s he approached. H e tossed two bales down the rear chute. I could hear his angry mumbling clearly now, “I don’t know where the heck that Tom is,” he said to himself. “This is supposed to be his job, I don’t know why I have to do it! Cripes!” He added.
I grinned to myself. This was great. He was so wrapped up in his anger, he wasn’t aware of his surroundings at all.
He moved closer to me. We were both in the darkest shadows of the haymow. He was just on the opposite side of the bales, working to pull one loose from the pile. I could hear his heavy breathing as he mumbles and worked to pull the bale loose.
I had to wait for just the right moment. Not yet. Not yet. Not yet.
I jumped over the top of the bales with my coat held out like a pair of giant bat wings. I screamed at the top of my voice,”AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!”
As I crashed into him, John’s eyes grew to four times their normal size and his face turned white in the darkness. He just kind of gurgled for a moment until a scream of his own erupted form his throat.
I collapsed on the hay, laughing so hard that I couldn’t catch my breath.
John was lying limply across a bale nearby, taking ragged gasps of air as he tried to recover his composure.
I jumped up, yelling,” Happy Halloween! Happy Halloween! Happy Halloween!” As I scrambled for the ladder, I could hear John running after me. I couldn’t quite make out what he was screaming, but I think it was something about how much fun it was to be my brother.
Halloween was so much more fun when I was 15 and had a 12-year-old brother. I haven’t scared anyone like that in ages. Shhhhh. Is that my wife coming? Yes! This is perfect! I’ll just unscrew this lightbulb and get down behind the couch….