24 February 2009


When choosing between a conspiracy of lies or one of silence, it's better you should choose silence.

Two months before Dad went to Nam, Dwayne ran a table leg through my bedroom door.

He was chasing me down the hall, and I managed to get my door closed before he could make contact. The leg drove right through the wood like a spear.

The story was that Dwayne was simply walking down the hall carrying a table leg, and tripped over something on the floor right in front of my bedroom door, which caused him to twist around just I happen to be closing my door.

Well, we all got the belt for lying, and just two days before we moved to Sacramento, Dad repaired my bedroom door. The inspectors from Base Housing never knew.

We lived in Sacramento for a year waiting for Dad to come home from Nam.

And he wasn't back 2 weeks when my youngest brother, Hugh, kicked in the bottom panel of our bathroom door.

Patrick had done something to piss Hugh off, and when he ducked into the bathroom to escape harm, it pissed off Hugh even more.

After we got over how cosmically spooky it was that we should be dealing with another door, we went into action. We knew that no story whatsoever would convince Dad this was an accident. So, taking a page out of Dad's book, we decided to keep our mouths shut, and repair the door.

Mom and Dad were spending the day house-hunting back up near where we lived before, and they weren't due back for another 8 or 9 hours.

We didn't have any wood, and quite frankly, no one had exactly stood around to watch Dad repairing the first door, though he did tell us more than once the particulars of his brilliance in hiding Dwayne's crime from the inspectors. Something about making diamond-shaped biscuits, one for each side of the door...fitting them in, and sanding it all even...then re-painting. We had no idea how to duplicate his process, so we decided that tape might do the same trick...give us something to paint over.

There was plenty of matching paint. The entire interior, including all the doors, had been painted just before we moved in, and there were still 2 gallons in the garage. And there was never a shortage of masking tape in our house. Mom used it for everything. Mom was always refinishing or painting something.

So we carefully removed the splinters and sanded the panel and wiped it clean. Then, strip by strip, we taped from one end of the panel to the other, overlapping the tape by the just an eighth of an inch. It was a group effort. Hugh pulled the tape, and Patrick measured 24 inch sections, and then Hugh cut the tape, and handed it to me.

The panel was 20 inches tall, and the masking tape was a little more than an inch wide. It took me over an hour just to apply it. There were many fuck ups that could not just be undone...I couldn't remove just one strip of tape. Each time a mistake was made, I had to remove everything, and start over again. And every noise outside convinced me that Mom and Dad were about to burst in and catch us.

Dwayne had a delicate hand so he painted a fine coat over the taped panel, and we took turns holding the hose from Mom's hairdryer to blow heat on it. And still Dwayne waited an extra hour before he would risk painting another coat...and with that coat, he also painted the entire door.

While I'd been taping, Dwayne vacuumed the living room and the hallway. While Dwayne painted I cleaned and rewaxed the kitchen floor. Hugh and Patrick spent most of the time arguing while they cleaned their bedroom, putting away all toys, and re-making their beds.

The house reeked of paint. So we got the idea to repaint the other 3 doors in the hall, and what the hell, why not the one to the garage? We had the perfect cover. After all, we'd be moving soon...weren't we gonna hafta paint those doors, anyway? Such helpful children no two parents should be so lucky to have.

5 hours after we finished painting and cleaning, Mom and Dad came home.

As soon as they smelled paint Mom went looking in the kitchen cupboards for missing dishes, and Dad made a quick inspection of our rooms looking closely at all the windows. (oops. that reminds me of another story for another time.) They both checked for broken furniture and carpet stains.

Obviously they were suspicious. Obviously, we were obvious. I mean, everyone knows rule number one: if you know you're in trouble, clean your room, do the dishes, and paint the house.

We moved back to Beale 3 months later, and on that last day in the-house-we-lived-in-while-dad-was-in-nam, each of us kids must have looked at that panel a half a dozen times.

Dad never knew.


Kevin McGinty said...

Sure could have used your help way back when catnapping.

I'm the oldest of four brothers. We were living in Hollyrood, Ks. at the time and I was probably in about the fifth grade.

My dad was a rough neck in the oilfields at the time and worked nights. My parents had divorced a couple of years earlier and for reasons that don't seem that important anymore we lived with our dad. For the most part we were on our own night after night. Not a good idea.

We were constantly fighting with each other and sometimes it got pretty ugly. And sometimes things got broke.

One night things really got out of hand and Chris threw Aaron clear through the kitchen wall.

Oh oh. We were in deep shit and we knew it. Luckily we can up with a plan.

It was pretty simple. The hole in the sheetrock was probably 2 ft. wide and maybe 4 ft. tall. I didn't take long to notice the refrigerator would easily cover the hole.

We moved that stupid refrigerator to the other side of the kitchen and covered the stupid hole. We ran into a problem when we tried to plug it in though. We hadn't noticed that there weren't any outlets on that side of the kitchen. It was decided I'd walk over to my grandpa's garage in the morning to get an extension cord. Problem solved.

Well, let's just say masking tape and a little paint might actually have worked better. Have a good day...

Anonymous said...

Great story. My brother put his fist through a wall once and simply hung a picture over the hole. A picture he moved from one spot to the awkward off center spot where his fist met drywall. My mom noticed but he had the advantage of being the only boy, first born, and therefore "anointed one" so he didn't get in trouble;)

Archaeopteryx said...

Hilarious. It reminds me of the time my brother and I knocked a bathroom sink off the wall. You know, except for the happy ending...

Patia said...


Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Excellent philosophy of life. I must say, however, that I am glad that I was not a door in any place you kids lived.

fredwrite said...

Kevin, that was too funny. We, too had those two-by-four FEET holes in drywall usually fitting the impression of one of us younger boys. I was the ninth of ten. But our dad was so mild that we just left the holes there. Eventually, he patched them up, and we all forgot. Trouble is, I never outgrew the violence. I was writing a novel in November of 2007, when the power went out and I lost a couple of paragraphs that were resolving a chapter that I had spent a couple of days on. Oh, man, I back-fisted the wall beside my computer, but I hit a stud. The middle knuckle on the "badfinger" of my right hand swelled up and has never gone down. My karate instructor still shakes his head when he sees it, as if to say, "You'll never learn." I probably won't.

fat B said...

I took off the parking brake in our car and crashed into my Aunt Bit's car in front which pushed it into the garage door.

It sounded like a train hit it. The neighbors came out and there was nowhere to run.

studio lolo said...

I thought for sure all you kids would fix your eyes on the door panel and give yourselves away!
How cool that you pulled one over on the old man!!
And brilliant of you to paint ALL the doors so they wouldn't focus on the one. Smarty pants kids!!

artandsoul said...

love it love it love it!!

Catnapping said...

holy cow. what i'm reading here, is that a lot of us woulda had lucrative careers in demolition!

studio: we were bright sometimes, but boy we were shitty at telling lies. we were waaaaay too creative. we just couldn't make up sumthin simple...nah..there had to be an elephant in it, or flying martians...i don't know how our parents kept a straight face.

i am so glad you liked this anecdote. these are just the sorts of things i love hearing about from folks talking about growing up...the mischief we all got into...some form or another, and how we dealt with it.

Renee said...

Does he know now?

I have a brother named Dwain.

You write like music even when it is heavy metal and it is from you, I love it.

I don't remember any adventure from my childhood.

tsduff said...

Your stories are priceless... - both in the telling and in the past living experience. Having had 4 sisters and 1 brother, I can relate to some. But never such a successful scheme which involved working together as a team did we ever attempt.

Catnapping said...

renee: he knows now. and was none too pleased to realize we'd pulled a fast one. i have another adventure to tell that involves two of brothers...a very large grassland fire they started, and the truth of it did not dawn on my father till almost 20 years later when the two of them were arguing about the event in front of him.

it's a story i'll be telling this spring.

tsduff: we didn't start working as a team until i was almost an adult. my eldest younger brother and i had a mutual friend. just the fact of him liking both of us was enough to make us take another look at each other. we became very close friends, and worked together from then on to protect our youngest brother...we had both been doing so...apart, each in our own way, but once we were able to combine forces, our efforts met with better success. (it's a long story...my family was dysfunctional, and i think the very youngest of our family got the worst of it.)