“SHHH! Be quiet, they might hear us,” I whispered to Timmy as we huddled in my closet, hiding from our parents.
It was about 6 p.m. Sunday on a fall evening in Old Metairie circa 1961 and I had talked my new friend into pulling a prank on our parents. Mine had put our home up for sale and Timmy’s parents had come by to look at the house. While they were walking around, I had stupidly cooked up this idea it would be fun to hide and then come out after some indeterminate amount of time.
It seemed like a funny idea to an eight-year-old kid at the time and it was years later before I realized how cruel and mean it actually was.
“Jay, I don’t think this is such a good idea,” Timmy said. “I’m gonna get in trouble.”
“Oh, it’ll be okay, we won’t be in here long,” I said.
After what seemed like an eternity, we finally heard voices “Jay, Timmy are you in here?” “Be quiet” I said, “it’s too soon to come out. We need to stay a little longer.”
“Jimmy, I hope they did not go down to the railroad tracks. Jay knows better than that. But maybe we need to walk down there and look for them.” I could hear the fear in my mother’s voice as she and Timmy’s parents continued to walk around the house.
We lived only a block away from the railroad tracks that went through the heart of Old Metairie and there had been myths about little kids kidnapped by the bums riding the rail cars and other such nonsense that parents used to scare their kids to keep them away from the tracks.
So Timmy and I continued to play checkers in my closet. My closet was like my little fort. It was a walk-in with plenty of space, drawers, and cabinets, and I had games, books, and a flashlight so we were all set.
After another 15 minutes or so we heard voices again, “Timmy, Jay, where are you? Are you here?” We could hear footsteps in my room and at one point the closet door almost opened and we were so scared because we KNEW we were really in trouble now and I knew this prank was going to earn me a whipping with the belt.
But suddenly the footsteps turned and retreated and we could hear my father tell my mother that since it was getting dark it was time now to call the Sheriff’s Office.
Well, that was it. As soon as Timmy heard Sheriff’s Office, he said: “I’m scared and I want to get outta here.” He flung open the door and screamed: “Mommy, Daddy, here we are!”
Everyone came running and we met in the den. Timmy’s parents were crying, mine were hopping mad and relieved at the same time.
“Do you know how frightened we were? Whatever possessed you to do such a thing? When I get through with you young man, you won’t be able to sit down for a week!”
And I didn’t!
I never did find out what happened to Timmy, but we didn’t sell the house and I sure hope he did not get in trouble on account of me. After all, it was my fault, my suggestion, and my house.
This incident truly haunted me over the years but it particularly hit home after I was blessed with the birth of my own daughter and realized just how frightened our parents felt that evening.
Most people accuse me now of overthinking things and I would like to believe that stupid choices like this when I was younger influenced me and helped me become wiser as I grew older.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.”—Exodus 20:12 NKJV