The Evening I Didn’t Kill Aunt Clara With Light-ling

I was 12 when I found out what it was like to kill a person you love, and my  best friend Doug can’t help but laugh till he cries whenever he hears the story. So here’s the confession of how I got into this mess: I loved to scare my mother.

In fact scaring my mom was on my agenda, like going to a movie, for a good time. Dad? Nahhhh, there was never a time I could do it. I’d jump out and yell “BOO!” and he’d look calmly up at the expectant me, looking like he’d heard an interesting bird call, and say something like, “There you are Bobby.” I’d feel unaccomplished, perhaps a bit embarrassed. Ahhhhh, but mom! She was so easy to get a scream out of. By her own admission, she could know I was laying in wait, and I’d still get the desired reaction. Life was good.

A few days after Independence day the sunlight was turning golden after super. The windows were open so the slight breeze could cool and freshen the house. And my new plan was to step up my scare game with technology. I had some Booby Traps left from the 4th. These were some of my favorite fireworks: unique, versatile, and not very expensive. They were small firecrackers with a string out each end. You’d tie the strings to two things that when pulled apart would cause the fire cracker to explode. It occurred to me how fun it would be to scare mom by cleverly tying one to the door knob and strike plate of her bedroom so when she walked in it’d pop and she’d do her usual scream. What fun!

One night a month during the lawn mowing season dad stayed in the trailer house we had at Harlan County Reservoir, an hour and a half drive away. One of the income streams for his auto shop was being a small engines parts supplier to shops in towns and villages in the area. This was the night he was away, so after supper it was just my aunt Clara, mom, and I in the living room. The light breeze was just enough to cause the door to click a couple times a minute against the latch. It wasn’t enough to latch it, or enough to cause the booby trap to explode but it was noticeable. If the breeze was just a tiny bit more forceful the whole plan would be ruined, so I was tense with excitement. Suddenly Clara stood up, “Oh for pity sake! What is wrong with that door!” and she walked quickly off to the bedroom, turning right at the end of the hallway and disappeared from my view in the living room chair. I thought, “This could be good!”, barely able to keep my excitement hidden, and smirk off my face, waiting for the exciting next moment! Suddenly the expected pop. Then everything started to unravel to disaster. I can still see it like it’s happening now.

Clara suddenly in view, staggering backyards.

Her back now against the corner slipping down the wall and slumping into a heap on the floor.

Mom rising up out of her chair and rushing down the hallway. She kneels next to her older sister, then her voice, imploring, “Clara!? Please don’t go! Don’t go!”

“OH NO!,”, I thought, “I’ve killed aunt Clara!” Continue reading