I pulled out the on/off switch of the black and white television and waited for it to warm up. I turned the knob to change the channel so that we could watch “Dark Shadows.” The creepy theme music began, so Margie, Johnny and I all sat down in front of the television. We watched as Barnabas Collins, a vampire, showed his fangs and bit a woman on her neck and sucked her blood. Afterwards, two fang prints on her neck marked the spot where her blood was taken. When daylight approached, Barnabas went back to his coffin to sleep during the day. Vampires cannot be exposed to the sunlight.
At exactly 5:45, Father’s footsteps were heard by the back door.
“Turn of the television, time for supper,” Mother called from the kitchen.
Father had a smile on his face. That seemed strange enough, and then he opened his hand and exposed a candy bar. “Here, everyone take a square of chocolate and you can eat it right after supper.”
Johnny and Margie jumped in to grab their chocolate. I blinked a few times, and then stepped forward to claim my piece of candy.
“How was school today?”
“Good,” Margie said. “I have a really nice teacher and my friend Sandy is in class with me.”
“I have a nice teacher, too,” Johnny said. “And my friend Michael is in my class with me.”
“How about you, Bridget?”
“I have Mrs. Whitlock. She’s an old lady.” My shoulders slumped.
“Ha!” Father laughed. “She was an old lady when I had her. I went to school at the little one-room schoolhouse at the end of the road, you know, that old building that’s falling down? I went there when we lived up at the farmhouse. We used to walk to school. That was in the 1950s.”
“Yeah, she asked me about Uncle Jim, twice.”
Father straightened his shoulders and the smile left his face. “Will I ever escape him?” Father turned to Mother and shook his head.
“I told her we never see him. I told her that he’s my uncle and we never see him.”
“Okay, good,” Father exhaled. “I don’t want her associating him with you. He always gave her trouble, geez, he gave everyone trouble, and I don’t want her to hate you because of things he did.”
I nodded my head.
“Here, have some green beans,” Mother said, holding out the large bowl.
“He once got arrested because he threw a girl out of his car, while the car was moving,” Father explained. “He’s done a lot of rotten things.”
Mother tried again. “Here’s some mashed potatoes.”
“We were at that little one room schoolhouse and there was a big pot-bellied stove in the middle of the room for heat, that’s how it was done back then. He threw kerosene on the fire, causing an explosion. Then he stood back and laughed. He got kicked out of school after that one,” Father explained. “So what else happened today, Bridget?”
“Well, we said the Our Father, but it had a different ending: ‘For thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever.’”
“Oh, that’s the Protestant version,” he said, “It’s much nicer than the Catholic one that you’re used to. I’m surprised she still does that. School prayer was made illegal a few years ago–1963 I think. Huh.”
“Well there’s nothing wrong with praying in school,” Mother said.
We finished supper. It was time for the chocolate; not just any desert, but chocolate, the sugary sensation that release endorphins. Father was always in a good mood when he was eating chocolate.
When it was time to get ready for bed, Johnny started crying. “I don’t want to go to bed.”
Mother ran over to him. “What’s wrong, honey?”
“You’re always babying him. My mother never treated me like that,” Father said. “I don’t want him to turn out like Jim.”
Mother put her arm around Johnny’s shoulder. “I have bad dreams,” Johnny cried.
“Oh, grow up.” Father walked out of the room.
“Well, there’s nothing to be afraid of, it’s just a dream,” Mother told Johnny. “I’ll go upstairs with you and tuck you in.”
“I dreamt of that Barnabas guy from the TV show,” Johnny said as he walked up the stairs with Mother. He was coming after me to bite me on the neck.”
“Well, that’s just a TV show, Johnny, it isn’t real,” Mother said.
“Yeah, it’s just a TV show,” I added as I followed them up the stairs. “Don’t let it bother you, Johnny.” I didn’t want to confess that I sometimes had bad dreams too.
“What a little baby, scared of a TV show,” Margie added.
Johnny cried louder. “Margie, go to your room,” Mother yelled at her.
“Don’t forget to say your prayers,” Mother said to me, as she brought Johnny into his room.
I curled myself into the fetal position and fell asleep.