W. Bruce Cameron: When my son was 10 years old, he surprised me by announcing that he was operating a house of prostitution.
“Oh, horror house,” I finally realized with relief. He and his entrepreneurial buddies had been running a lemonade stand for a week, but had eventually concluded that accumulating wealth a nickel at a time was no way to get rich, especially since they were selling mainly to each other. Their new venture seemed more promising: charging people 50 cents to crawl around on the floor of my garage with the lights off.
“We’ve got all kinds of terrifying spectaculars,” my son promised me as he eagerly escorted me to the entrance.
“Right, like the Haunted Bike You Never Put Away,” I concurred. I gave him a dollar and agreed that my change could be considered a “tip” if I was truly satisfied. I got down on my hands and knees, the hard concrete cool and unfriendly in the darkness.
My son held a flashlight under his chin. “I a-a-a-am the ghost of the Titanic,” he warbled at me. The light snapped off, and I heard feverish whispering. The flashlight came back on. “The captain of the Titanic,” he corrected. “Who are you?”
“I’m your father.”
“Dad! Come on.”
This satisfied the captain. He extinguished his light and grabbed my hand, thrusting it into a bowl of cold noodles. “The-e-e-se are the guts of Frankenstein,” he quavered.
My hands encountered what felt suspiciously like Frankenstein’s meatballs. “Wait, did you get this out of my refrigerator?” I demanded.
“Follow me to the Wolfman,” my son replied, scrabbling off into the darkness.
“That was supposed to be dinner,” I fumed. I bumped along the floor. “Hey, Captain, where are you?”
“The horror of the Wolfman!” one of his buddies shrieked from over by where I kept the lawnmower, his pre-adolescent voice squeaking.
“Now the Wolfman will su-u-u-ck your blood,” my son promised, thrusting my dog at me from the darkness. What ensued was less like bloodsucking and more like finger-licking, as the Wolfman eagerly cleansed me of Frankenstein’s spaghetti.
More whispering, followed by the rather incongruous scent of a martini. The flashlight popped on. “Th-e-e-e-se are the eyeballs of Dracula,” my son advised, showing me a plate with a handful of green olives. (Apparently Dracula had lots of eyes before the neighborhood kids removed them.) Suddenly something sinister appeared in the flashlight’s circle of light, going straight for the eyeballs: the snout of the Wolfman! “No! Bad dog!” my son yelled, dropping the plate. The flashlight clicked off and I heard what sounded like a wrestling match. I waited patiently.
“He ate all of them,” someone finally muttered in disgust.
“OK, keep coming,” the ghost of the captain of the Titanic commanded me. The flashlight illuminated a boy named Ben, lying on his back and holding a wooden stick to his stomach. “This is the la-a-a-st man who revealed our secret location.”
Ben decided he would look more dead with his tongue hanging out. He turned his head so I could admire this new effect.
They then led me over to a stepladder. “Now for the hot blood of Frankenstein,” my son proclaimed. Warm liquid splattered on my neck: tomato juice.
“That’s enough!” I shouted. The Wolfman blew olive fumes in my face and I pushed him away. “Turn on the lights!”
The boys stood blinking in the sudden brightness, looking embarrassed. I drew a calming breath and explained to them that once you turned a shirt into a Bloody Mary, there was no going back, and they agreed to forgo the tomato juice for future customers.
As it turned out, there were no future customers, but the boys made $5 that day anyway – cleaning up the garage of Frankenstein.
Bruce Cameron will discuss his new book, How to Remodel a Man – Tips and Techniques on Accomplishing Something You Know is Impossible But Want to Try Anyway, at the Denver Press Club at noon Thursday, Sept. 30. For reservations, call 303-571-5260.