I was nine, by brother eight, when we discovered that our sister, Karen, age two, was terrified of the hassock. One of us had rolled it toward her accidentally and she freaked out. Screaming, she just sat there on the floor, too petrified to move. We boys just stared and thought, “Oh, this is interesting, just rolling the hassock can really get her scared!"
What is it in little boys that makes them want to see what happens when you stamp on a spider? What makes them taunt the littlest kid on the block? Maybe they were picked on when they were smaller and they want to get even. Or it might be that they like to exercise the natural mean streak they inherited from the cave men.
A few years later we moved to the country. Now my little sister found new terrors to whet her fear appetite. There were black bears in the woods, we told her, one swipe of razor claws could rip out your stomach! Just this much information would send her in the house for the rest of the afternoon. We added to the list wildcats up on the mountain fiercely protecting their wild litter and three-foot-long pike with needle teeth lurking in the shallows of the lake where she played. It was too much of a temptation not to silently creep up to her underwater and brush her legs with a piece of sea weed, erupting in laughter and spray at her panicky exit.
Our crowning touch was later after dark when we waited, hearts pounding, outside her talcum-powder-smelling room for her to fall asleep. One of us would watch for curious parents while the other would crawl inch by inch into the room. Slithering under her bed, I would mimic the growl of a lion - starting low in our throats, turning into a gravelly choking cry. A few bumps on the bottom of the mattress added to the realism as our easy prey woke up screaming. We would scatter to our room, diving for our beds. The air would have hardly settled out of the covers when our all-knowing parents would charge in demanding to know what was going on. Our guilty looks and simultaneous denials did not save us. We were grounded the next day. Of course, if anything or anyone real would threaten our little sister, we would fight them to the death to protect her. Rotten kids.
Family always meant a lot to me.