Movie night in my family has been a Friday night tradition for as long as I can remember. All five of us would gather in the Woodroom with a boatload of snacks, our favorite throw blankets, pillows and sleeping bags. What was best wasn’t the junk food or staying up ’til midnight; it was that we got to spend the whole night with our mom. Working two jobs meant she often wasn’t home until after we were already in bed, but on Friday movie nights she was there and we were all together. There was laughter and jumpscare pranks, happy memories, and an unbreakable family bond. But in the Big Blue House, even in the Woodroom surrounded by family, you never wanted to be the last to fall asleep.
All of my kids are together.
I could read Mom’s thoughts from a mile away as she took her time smiling down at me then over to Sara, Ari, Brandy, even Jeff and Anna who were Brandy’s friends, and finally at Sal furthest from us. Mom loved us all, but loved it more when all of us got together like this.
“Which one are we watching first?” Brandy said from the TV.
“Scary one!” almost all of us agreed on.
“Always the scary one first so you can follow up with the funny one,” Mom said.
Brandy put the Blockbuster movie in.
“All right, here we go,” Mom said.
“I’m just saying,” Mom said with a chuckle. “If you gotta pee, now is the time.”
No one budged.
The previews of the movie rolled.
Something tapped me on the shoulder, and I looked back at Mom who was laying across the couch with her head near me and her feet near Sara. Mom mouthed, “Watch this” then pulled her finger from her mouth and pointed at Sara. I tried hard not to laugh with anticipation. Sara busted out screaming and startled everyone in the room.
“What the heck, Mom? You gave me a wet willy!”
Mom was rolling. She had that laugh going that wrinkled her face up and made her eyes squint until she was practically crying. All of us were cracking up now, too. Well, except for the older kids. They were too grown up to remember how to have fun.
“Mom!” Sara said when my mom tried to do it again. “I’m warning you.”
Mom was cracking up all the way to the title menu of the movie. “Okay, kids, quiet down,” she said then.
“Oh, really?” We all turned to look at her since she was the only one making noise.
“Sara, go push play,” Mom said.
“Ari, go push play,” Sara said.
“She’s not your slave,” Brandy said.
“I’ll do it.” I uncovered and crawled to the DVD player and pressed the button.
“You guys don’t have a remote?” Jeff said from the side of the Woodroom closest to the bathroom.
“No. It didn’t come with one at the pawn store. But I got it for fifteen bucks because it didn’t.” Mom was grooving on the couch remembering the deal she had gotten. I couldn’t help but crack up at her.
The movie started and the Woodroom grew still. Everyone was finishing their pizza, sipping their soda, munching on snacks while Sal narrated the credits in a Sean Connery accent.
“Brandon E. Ferre,” he was reading. “Lee James, Brian Coax.”
Sara folded up the pizza box that was stretched between us. We pushed it off to the end table and snuggled under the covers.
“Would you stop hogging the blanket?” I said as I yanked it closer to me.
“I’m not hogging it!” Sara said.
“Scoot over here.”
Sara scooted closer to me. “There.”
The movie played through its opening credits. We learned that the main character was a woman who just bought a house in the middle of nowhere basically, with her boyfriend. They keep hearing stuff outside their house at night, and every time they check it out, it ends up being nothing. Until now. The climax.
“Aren’t you coming with me?” the blonde in the movie said.
“Uh..no. YOU go die. I wanna survive,” Sal replied. We all cracked up. “Why’s she going out there if she knows she’s gonna die? Clearly he knows the smarter thing to do is stay inside and wait the fucker out.”
“Hey, hey. Language.” Brandy smacked him on the arm.
“Sorry, Ari,” Sal said.
Suddenly, the movie paused. We all glanced around to see why. Then Mom swung her legs off the couch to stretch. We all knew then: smoke break.
“Wait, so you do have a remote?” Jeff said.
Mom picked it up and marveled at it. “Huh. Guess so.”
“MOM!” Sara said. “You tried to make me get up and turn the movie on when you had it the whole time.”
“You know what, Sara…I’m first to the bathroom!” Mom shoved me and Sara’s heads apart, skipping through us to get to the Woodroom bathroom.
“I call the bathroom next!” Sal said as he shot up. “And you won’t wanna go in there when I’m done.” He hiked his leg up and farted over Ari’s head.
“Oh, Sal!” Ari plugged her nose and rolled away.
“Oh, man. Come on, Sal!” Sara said, wafting the stench back to him.
Sal laughed and went into the kitchen for water.
“I gotta go pee, too,” Ari said.
“Danny, can you take Ari upstairs to pee?” Brandy said.
Me? Why me? Why did I have to go all the way upstairs where it was dark and loud with the party of invisible people?
“Yeah,” I said.
“I’m coming too,” Sara said, throwing the covers off her legs.
I led the way. We went up the Woodroom step into the kitchen. The nightlight in the Blueroom was on, so I could see where I was going to turn left to get to the stairs. Then the hall was pitch black and I froze. I couldn’t help the gripping fear I felt knowing they were waiting up there. The last two nights I heard them walking around and whispering to me at bedtime like it was a lullaby.
“What is it?” Sara whispered.
“What do you see?” Ari said.
“Nothing,” I said, trying to be brave.
We ran upstairs and hurried into the bathroom, all three of us. We closed the door as fast as we could and one at a time relieved ourselves.
“I can’t believe Mom’s still awake,” I said.
“Yeah, usually she’s asleep before the first movie is over,” Sara said.
“All right, we all ready?” I said before opening the door.
“Yeah,” Sara and Ari said.
I cracked open the bathroom door and peeked out. I was the only one who knew where the ghosts were. By the feel of it, they were still at the end of the hall and in my room. We waited until the last person was out to shut off the light, and we buzzed straight down the stairs without looking back.
Ari and Sara screamed because I screamed.
We all darted past Sal in the kitchen and crashed in our spots in the Woodroom.
“Girls, girls! What’s all the screaming?” Mom said.
Sara, Ari and I snuggled under the covers.
“Sal banged the cabinet shut in the kitchen,” I said.
“Yeah, scared the crap out of me,” Sara said.
“The movie just has us jumpy,” I said.
But honestly, it’s the house that makes you keep your guard up.
“AHHH! AH! AHH!”
It wasn’t Brandy. That’s the first thing I thought when my eyes flew open. I sat up quick to make sure Anna wasn’t screaming because Brandy was having a seizure, though. It is really scary to watch someone have a seizure for the first time. Watching their bodies jerk around…you’ll never forget it.
“What? What’s wrong?” Jeff said.
“Something grabbed my foot!” Anna was crying.
Oh man. And the whole house was dark around us. All I could think about was something hiding in the back hall or in the kitchen just watching and waiting for us to go back to sleep so it could do more than grab our feet. I shivered, hugging myself. Get those thoughts out of your head, Danny. You’ll never be able to go back to sleep that way!
Everyone else was awake now. We had all camped out in the Woodroom. Anna was sitting up in Jeff’s arms, her body shaking like she had just gotten out of a shower.
“What happened?” Mom said.
Jeff shrugged. “Anna, what do you mean? Something gr—”
“Something grabbed my foot, Jeff. It grabbed my foot and pulled.”
Jeff cuddled her close and everyone settled back down, falling back asleep. I lie awake a while longer than I wanted to. It was about to get real hard to fall asleep here. In the dark of night, I wasn’t sure I wanted to know what was coming next.
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