1970 Practical Jokers  

This chapter essay is from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Scroll down in the blog to read in the chapters in order beginning March 13. XO M

Speaking of streetlight rules, my older siblings were allowed to trick or treat on their own. I am not sure what age they reached when they were allowed to do so, but they did their own thing. Five children of varying ages never, EVER, want to do anything in sync. This includes not wanting to eat the same things, or hang out with a particular group of people, namely, younger siblings. They definitely have their own ideas about how they want to spend their Halloween.

This is the first Halloween on record that I remember. I was probably 4. In descending order, my siblings were: Ok, I really have no idea where Dave was, but he was definitely with Brian, see previously mentioned scissor hold. Also, no idea of the whereabouts of my oldest sister Linda either. Scott was with my cousin John and another friend Mike. I was to be partnered up with my older sister Anne who was about 9 and two of her friends. We trounced around a few streets near our home saying the magic “Trick or Treat” words and collecting candy in pillowcases on what was proving to be a dark and magical night.

This was my shaping up to be my favorite day (night) ever. I was beside myself with growing excitement as I came to know what is what on the neighborhood Halloween circuit. What is not to love? It is a holiday that revolves around candy. I got to stay up later than usual. I got to dress up, albeit in a cheaply made store-bought witch costume.

Most children in America wore costumes that showed up on drugstore shelves in October, the kind that came in a box with a clear plastic window.  The hard plastic mask peered out through the window. The costume was made of some wretched synthetic material that was terribly unfriendly to my skin. The mask was held in place by a piece of elastic that pulled at my hair and made my face hot and sweaty from breathing. I would have worn that awful getup the next day and every day thereafter if I could continue the momentum of collecting candy from strangers by simply shouting “Trick or Treat!” Halloween remains my favorite holiday to this day! Again, candy.

The only rule of Halloween other than saying the magic words was that we were not allowed to eat any candy until we got home (period). No exceptions (period). Easy enough. There may have been another rule I was unaware of like you can only go X far or be home by X time, but that was not for me to know at that point in time. Just don’t eat anything until we get home.

My cousin John (belonging to my aunt Francie who was passing out candy with my mom), my other brother Scott and their friend Michael from their class at our neighborhood Catholic school were roughly middle school age. Boys that age do not want anything to do with being slowed down with the boat anchor that is a pre-school age “baby” wearing a witch costume or nine-year-old children wearing whatever they were wearing either. They had serious business to conduct. They had many miles to cover in our greater neighborhood, casting a much wider net dredging up the serious candy.

When our little group returned home, I learned about the standard Halloween protocol. We dumped our cache of candy on the living room carpet so that our mom and aunt could inspect our candy for; 1) anything suspicious that may harm us which was never the case and 2) their specific favorite chocolate bars that were picked out of our haul and eaten by the two of them simply because it was…tradition. Who was I to question? When I read this essay out loud to my mom, she laughed and laughed at her strategic, self-sweet-tooth-serving rule.

There we were sprawled out on the 70s avacado green carpet of the living room floor adding far too much sugar to my existent buzz from the magical thrill of my first big girl’s Halloween when suddenly… the house went dark! “Oh!!” We all shouted in reflex at being startled.

A moment later, Dave and Brian loudly entered the house from the garage, attempting to scare us further. I definitely was scared. It was dark after all. Our fuse box was in the garage, and Dave and Brian thought it would be HILARIOUS to try to scare us by shutting off the power to the house for a moment on this Halloween night.

My mom and aunt squealed with relief and giggled at the boys with very little annoyance. Knowing my mom as I do now, I am pretty sure she quickly weighed the moment of surprise against having to figure out how to make the lights come back on and decided she was fine with a little prank rather than having to go into the garage and figure that mess out with the fuse box in the dark and all. My first Halloween and my first big kid prank, not hers, though.

Having five children will teach you to prepare for the unexpected and remain calm when such mischiefs are carried out. Pranks were just an ordinary day-in-the-life occurrence for my mom, especially with these two knuckle-heads. Our kitchen window was close to the street. When the kitchen lights were on at night, it was hard to see outside much past a few feet. It was not uncommon for either Dave or Brian to come up close to the window, and quietly wait in an attempt to startle her while she was doing dishes. Every time she would initially scream, then one second later shout out the name of whichever boy whose face was closest to the window either, “BRIAAAAN!!” or “DAVIIIID!!”

It was also not uncommon to be startled by either one of these two in the dark, where they would wait to startle innocent passersby anywhere in the house with a “BOO!!” followed by a scream from the innocent passerby and then usually a pathetic swipe of an air-slug at the lying-in-wait offender. Why do boys, in particular, think this is funny?

Halloween was winding down, all the tricks or treats, pranks or other mayhem window was coming to its expected close. On the heels of the prank, as the crescendo of laughter tapered off, my brother Scott and cousin John rushed into the house like a mini running of two bulls in Pamplona. An entirely different kind of energy entered with them. They were wound up. Something had happened, something scary. I noticed I was holding my breath.

We had to wait as they caught their breath for the dramatic details to unfold. Scott explained between breaths that the three of them, he, my cousin John and Mike, were making a killing with their Trick or Treating enterprise, not business, an enterprise. They had strategically covered many, many blocks, rung many doorbells, fulfilled their side of the “Trick-or-Treat” contract by saying those magic words, and collected their earned salary of candy.

They were not far from home when some older boys jumped out from behind some bushes and surrounded them. The older boys snatched their pillowcases of candy before the boys really knew what was happening. The three boys stood there surrounded by, for lack of better words, these older teen thugs. The interrogation began, starting with my brother Scott.

The guy holding Scott’s bag of candy sneered; “What’s your name?”

Frightened, he answered; “Scott.”

“Scott, what?”

“What?”

“What is your last name?”

“Linane.”

“What’d you say?” Sounding a little surprised.

“Scott Linane.”

A momentary pause in the Halloween candy grift occurs…

“Are you Dave Linane’s brother?”

“Y-Yesss.”

To that information, the older boys looked nervously at each other, without discussion between them, they quickly shoved the pillowcases of candy back at the younger trick or treater boys and split.

Shaken by their almost near-death candy theft experience, the young boys bolted the short distance directly home. It took a breath for the discomfort of the scary encounter to leave them as the realization hit them that they were lucky to fall under the safety umbrella of a gentle giant, whose reputation for being feared was far greater than needed. Until that moment no one knew the existence or extent of the shadow of Dave’s protection.

My mom, well, all of us were horrified as one might imagine a little kid being “jumped” for Halloween candy. We all were relieved that the boys escaped unscathed, that mere mention of Dave’s name had saved the day for Scott, John and their friend.  We all ended up laughing at Scott acting out how the thug reacted and shoved the candy back at him, practically patting him on the head with a “no harm, no foul” sort of behavior.

Dave had played every sport in Junion High and citywide baseball. As mention by Brian in his eulogy, he was a Freshman in High School playing on the Varsity Football team at that point. This was also back in time when sporting events filled the newspaper more than bad news, so he had had a bit of press by that time. He obviously already had a reputation that proceeded him. Dave stood there taking in the story without revealing much more than a mild grin of interest.

I recall very few occasions that Dave was home that Brian was not right there beside him, either at the dinner table, on his Schwinn bike with the crazy tall handlebars, or when he was the first to get his driver license in the entire group of friends and had a car, a Chevelle. He was always ready for another prank, defend the universe with a ride or die verve with Dave, whatever, he was all in. This was just the first big prank I was on the receiving end of. There were plenty more.

Thank you for reading the stories of this blog that are the life of my late brother Dave Linane. I so appreciate your comments and stories of your lost loved ones. Please consider sharing with anyone who might benefit from this story of triumph over life and grief! XO M

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Brian Spoke Next

Chapter essay from the upcoming book Viking Funeral. Scroll down to March 13 for the first post to read in order. XO M

Brian stood comfortably at the podium. The bonfire was roaring at this point. He started by outlining Dave’s many accomplishments much like a coach would give a motivational speech. “Dave was an amazing athlete. He wrestled, played water polo, participated in track, and he played the position of center on the football team. Not very many freshmen are starting players on the Varsity Football team at a big high school, and San Bernardino High School probably had 3000 students at that time. It was a big deal that he started as a Freshman. He was chosen as an All-City, All-Star Player every year of high school. Do you know what that means? He was a very good player.”

I thought giving this eulogy would be hard on Brian. He is a lovely tender-hearted man. I knew he was hurting and I was worried about him, nervous for him. I am certain most people attending knew without a doubt the loss of his best friend was hurting him. They were the shadow of each other forever. Where would one be without the shadow of the other?

Brian is a great storyteller. This talent transferred seamlessly to public speaking…even thankfully, at a funeral. He had so much composure and warmth in his presence that the fear of the crowd, the fear of watching him struggle in this potentially emotional moment was calmed as he proceeded to crack us up conveying one of my very favorite stories in my life, the day he and Dave met.

“We both arrived at Arrowview Junior High School, 12 yeas old. Dave and I had independently joined a group of familiar guys that had gathered before school. The blend of several feeder elementary schools created a student body where many people knew someone but no one knew everyone the first morning of the school year. We stood around looking at each other and making very small talk before the bell rang when we headed to class.”

It was officially dark at this point. I wasn’t really looking at Brian but at the wild patterns the bonfire light was casting on the dark wall of hedges behind him. I was listening, enjoying his voice, knowing where his story was going from here. I could listen to him tell this story a dozen more times and still love it.

“The end of the school day arrived, and a similar group of guys had gathered after school like kids everywhere gather for the after school social scene. There was some discussion among the group of tryouts for the wrestling team.”

The crowd was rapt with Brian’s storytelling manner and felt the growing anticipation of certain drama headed our way fast…

“I was sizing up Dave, the biggest guy in the group and said, ‘So, I hear you’re tough?’

Dave coolly reacted, ‘What? I don’t know, I guess so.’ He was always modest, more of a put up or shut up kind of person.

‘Ya? Well, prove it!’

‘WhaT?’ (emphasis on hard ending with that T)

‘PROOOOVE IT! Right here. Right now, tough guy!’

Dave, as you can imagine, could not and would not turn away from a challenge to fight on the first day of school. That would be social suicide, a Junior High School career-ending move and on the first day.”

Heads were nodding, smiles were on faces, people were cracking up envisioning these two. I was so happy he was telling this story, the tears were rolling down my face as I was cracking up.

“We both threw down our stuff dramatically and grabbed each other in a wrestling clinch. The kids standing around us were surprised at how fast things were moving and went wild as kids do when a fight breaks out with chants of ‘FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!’ Other kids on campus heard the call of the wild, instinctively gathered in a growing circle around us, to witness us Duke it out.”

I loved looking around at the more than a hundred faces glowing in the bonfire light, their eyes as excited as those kids waiting for the two seventh-graders… “duking it out” so to speak.

Brian continued with the right amount of breathing space where people would laugh, and nod, he created comedic tension perfectly. “It wasn’t a bloody fight. I mean, we weren’t throwing blows, we were wrestling. It wasn’t long before we were both on the ground. We went and rolled around in circles on the grass one way, then the other, basically running in circles on our sides back and forth. We were pretty well matched.”

The surprising thing about these “kids” is that they were, in fact, full-grown by the age of 12. Brian was 6’2” 185 pounds and Dave was 5’11”more than 200 pounds of solid bulky muscle.

“We went around in circles for so long on that hot afternoon on the playfields of Arrowhead View Junior High that due to the lack of any blood, or clear progress between us, the crowd grew bored and slowly shrank to a smaller and smaller group until it was just me and Dave left. We both tried to gain advantage over the other unsuccessfully yet neither of us would give in. We had managed to work our way into a mutual Scissor Hold with each having our legs wrapped around the other with our feet crossed at the ankles, locked in place.”

I was uncontrollably, joyfully, bawling at this point, picturing those two wearing out a circle in the grass. I was taking in the magic of the moment in the looks of engagement on the faces of everyone in the flickering red-orange glow…feeling everyone enjoy this funny account of THE day these two met, shifting between complete silence waiting for the next detail from Brian and cracking up as he delivered each visual detail of the two of them as 12-year-olds.

“While being inextricably locked together in our mutual scissor hold, we managed to hold a conversation that de-escalated from jabs like ‘What are you going to do tough guy?’ ‘Oh, you’re going down!’ to periods of silence that turned into ice breaker type of questions and answers. ‘So, where do you live?’ We would attempt to overthrow the other briefly between breaths. ‘I live on Arrowhead. Where do you live?’ A couple more moves to attempt freedom or a pin. ‘I live on 17th Street.’ In between these attempted unsuccessful wrestling moves that extended for hours we exchanged the details of an entire personal history of the world in the life of two 12-year-olds, on that itchy grassy playfield that afternoon.”

I didn’t know for sure I was going to be writing a book about this night, this particular moment years later but everything about it was and is burned into the deepest places in my memory. I didn’t watch Brian, I watched the beautiful movie of firelight play over the crowd of faces with Brian narrating, relieving all of us from our grief for a time as the story I am sure became one of their favorites too. It was perfect.

“We wrestled so long that the street lights started to come on. As soon as they did Dave immediately shifted gears and exclaimed in a voice that conveyed something almost like panic, ‘I have to get home because my mom will get mad if I’m not there by the time the street lights come on!’ At this I busted out laughing at the tough guy whose mommy was going to get mad at him because he was home after the street lights came on. We agreed to a stalemate and let each other go.”

In early September in Southern California, the street lights, the silent detached curfew notification of our era would not have come on until dusk around 7:00 p.m. They wrestled from roughly the time school got out until the street lights came on. Talk about an ice breaker.

The time Brian spoke was short compared to their decades of time spent together, but it was the best story of the day their life together started. “Dave was a good listener. We could talk about anything. He helped me through some difficult times. People always say I am such a good friend to Dave, but they don’t realize that HE was such a good friend to me.” He finished by saying he was “gladly entangled from that day forward with that knuckle-head Dave.”

***

Thank you for reading this blog post. I have found it so very helpful in my grieving process to write and share about my brother. If you have a story of your loved one you would like to share with me, I would love to hear every word! Together we can move through the fire of grief. XO M