Dark Shadow


“The washer is broke down again,” Mom said over the phone to Dad.

He was at Requa Air Force Station.  Earlier that year he had been able to get permission from the Base Commander to use the station’s laundry facilities.

A few minutes later Dad called back.  Mom lifted the receiver from its cradled and answered.

“Sorry,” Dad started off, “the laundry facilities are out-of-order up here as well.”

After a few more minutes of conversation, they hung up one from the other.

“Tommy, Adam,” Mom yelled out.

Both of us were in our bedroom when she called.  We rushed to her immediately.

“I’m going to need your help with the laundry,” she said as she picked up the telephone and called Camp Marigold to see if they could use their washing machines.

Camp Marigold was just over the fence in the back yard.  It was an RV park during the summer and not much of anything else during the winter.

It was long past summer and using their laundry room would prove to be no problem.

The plans were to take the laundry over, wash it, haul it back over the fence then dry it since our dryer was still working.  And after a weeks time with four children and two adults, there were fourteen piles of dirty clothes laid out in masses on the floor.

Adam looked at me and said, “There goes our day.”

We both sighed because I knew my brother was right.

There were only two washers available in the campground’s laundry room.  And it each took nearly twice the time to wash as our washer did at home.

The going was slow and the coins in our pockets, Mom had given us to pay for the washings, burned even slower yet.  However, we continued to climb back and forth over the fence, each with a load of laundry in tow.

We were down to our last three loads of laundry by sunset.  The back porch light had to finally be turned on.  The yellow glow from the single bulb cast long shadows towards the fence.

There were actually two fences.  Ours was set higher by two feet with a foot and a half gap to the lower fence built by the owner of Camp Marigold.

All day long, Adam and I climbed over our fence and down to the camp’s fence and finally to the ground.  Then we climbed up the camp’s fence and to our higher fence then down into our backyard.

After dark there was very little lighting on the Camp’s side of the fence.  And from behind the top of the higher fence to about ten feet out on the Camp’s side, there was no light at all.

In fact it was pitch-black.

Having noticed this, I set up a devious plan.  I would wait for Adam to start climbing the fence, and then I would scare him.

The very thought caused me to chuckle as an image of the event formed in my brain.  I could see myself reaching out into the pitch-blackness and touching my younger brother on the shoulder.

And even though I knew I wouldn’t be able to see Adam’s face, I imagined the fright in his eyes.  I could also see him as he ran in place from being so scared.

I crouched down in the darkness, between the light of the porch and the shadow of the fence, where I sat and waited.

Adam appeared and approached the fence.  He set the basket full of wet, clean laundry on the top rail of the Camp’s fence and proceeded to climb up it.

That’s when I reached out and grabbed his shoulder and in my scariest voice, a half-whisper and a half-growl, said, “Little boy!”

I felt Adam’s body stiffened at my touch.

The darkness blanketed everything, including the lightning swift right fist Adam hurled at the sound of my voice.  He was on target and I never saw the punch that hit me squarely in my nose.

I fell backwards as Adam clamored over the fence.

The basket of wet, clean clothes toppled from the fence rail and landed in my mid-section.  I gasped for air and could only breathe through my mouth.

Next thing I knew, I was awakened by a stabbing pain from a beam of light shining in my eyes.  I tried to lift myself up, however I could only raise up on elbows elbow as my head was heavy and swimming with confusion.

It was Dad and he had a flashlight.  He was looking down at me from a top the fence.

He quickly climbed over and down next to me as I lay on the ground.  I leaned back, hoping that Dad would have pity on me and the sorrowful state I was in.

“Crap! I think you broke his nose, Adam!” Dad yelled up towards the fence.

I could vaguely see Adam’s silhouette rise up slowly from beyond the fence at that moment.

“Well, he shouldn’t have scared me like that,” he said in his defense, adding, “I didn’t know it was Tommy.”

Dad helped me sit up and then eventually stand-up.  I felt sick to his stomach and my legs were weak.

“The only reason I don’t give you a whipping is because your brother’s already done it for me,” Dad said.

I remember thinking, “I wish I could have taken a trip to the wood shed.”

Mom was even less sympathetic.  After cleaning me up, she sent me back out to finish the wash.

That included re-washing the wet, clean load of laundry that had fallen on top of me and on which I had bled all over.

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