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FEAR

Older siblings are not only the worst tormenters but also the fiercest protectors, to be used like a club against bigger rivals. My brother Merlyn kept growing after most brothers stopped, so his size was enough to discourage any problem I might encounter. Payment for this service was that he be allowed to frighten me out of my wits from time to time.

Aiding my brother in his goal to give me heart failure was a radio program called "Inner Sanctum". Every Saturday night at 8:00 a new episode would come on with the opening sound of the famous squeaking door. This sound alone would start my heart racing before the story even started. The stories and sound effects were always mind twisters, and at some point, when I was really engrossed in the horror tale, my brother would sneak out the back door and around the house to add a few sound effects of his own. To his delight, this usually resulted in me nearly losing control of my bodily functions. He would then comfort me just to show how brave he was, and our relationship would be back to normal until the following Saturday night. If it is an older brother's duty to teach his younger brother what it like to be frightened, then my brother deserved credit for a job well done.

My Grandmother passed away before I was of school age. My brother was aware that a well-meaning adult had held me up to her casket to kiss her goodbye. This was more than I could comprehend at the time, and it left me with thoughts I could not explain but were uncomfortable whenever I recalled the incident. My brother and I shared a bedroom during our school years, and he decided that our long-dead grandmother had taken up residence under the eaves on either side of the upstairs bedrooms. He reminded me of this whenever he thought I had been sleeping too well.

One night, after every detail was worked out just right in his crafty mind, he spent a great deal of time and ingenuity rigging up a dummy, dressed in what he thought were grandma clothes. The string and pulley system which ran to his side of the bed must have been tested to his satisfaction several times. All that he lacked was a string to open the door and his little brother.

When bedtime arrived, we exchanged our usual bedtime chit-chat, then it was sleepy-bye time. Then, in the dim light, I saw the door leading to under the eaves slowly opening. My brother shouted, "Grandmas coming out!" At first I froze! Then the sweat popped out on my brow and my heart took off like a frog on a freeway with his hopper broken. I was out of the bed and down the stairs, only touching the landing and the bottom. It took me a while to calm down and realize I had once again been given a lesson in terror by my older brother.

Years later I was on a ship giving gunfire support when we started receiving gunfire from the shore. The situation was very dangerous, so we retreated to a safe distance. The Captain of the ship asked, "Were you scared, Chief?" I replied, "No. You didn't know my brother."