Gerard's student card from back in the day.

WordSmith: My three counts of horror bother

An odd child I was; I loved horror films. My love of scary films was indulged by mam. Her Monday night off coincided with the BBC’s Hammer Horror film-feature. She allowed me stay up to watch it with her. Dad implored, “You shouldn’t be watching these films.”

Mam allayed his concern, “Shur he never watches them.” She was right, when the music signalled a scary bit coming into ‘The Curse of the Werewolf’, I’d close my eyes, dive into mam’s lap and stick my fingers in my ears.

As I entered my teens, my fondness for horror films began getting me into bother. Aged fourteen I successfully snuck into a screening of 'The Exorcist' in Manchester. However, I wasn’t so deft in my sneaking out; I got caught by an eagle eyed-usherette. As she called for the manager, I seized my chance and scarpered.

Aged sixteen, I clung to the back of my friend’s Honda 50 as we trundled from Cavan to Dublin to re-visit Camp Crystal lake in 'Friday the 13th' in 3D. I arrived home from our sojourn to find Dad waiting up, “Where were you, I’ve been worried?” When I told him, he hit the roof with a potent anger towards my friend and I for surreptitiously embarking on such a hazardous trip.

However, three years later, horror pulled me further afield. My fandom for the Friday the 13th franchise made me yearn for the American Summer Camp experience. I applied to be a Crew-Guy at Camp Squam Lake in New Hampshire, USA. I got the job; which enabled my visa and bank loan to fund flights, etc. As my second college term ended, I readied for Camp. little did I know my camp experience would land me in bother with the law in Cavan.

On arrival at camp, it was all I imagined and more. But, two weeks in, a bombshell arrived – a letter from mam. My heart plunged when I read… “Gerard, your Dad got such a shock (you just going). He thought something had happened to you when he saw the guard at the door…”

Why did a Guard call to my parent’s in Cavan when I was in America?

Herewith, my confession. The night before my departure, my Honda 50 friend and I went for a few farewell pints in The White Star. On our way home we were full of beery-blokey-banter; I cheerfully challenged my friend, “Let’s see who’s strongest?” My job as a ‘Crew-Guy’ required strength, this was training. I squatted, grabbed a car bumper and lifted it a few inches upwards. My friend’s lift matched mine. I sought out a heavier car, grabbed the bumper, lifted – and the bumper came off in my hands, much to our merriment. That’s when the guard (who’d been watching our beer-fuelled-competition), intervened. Our laughter quelled as he asked my friend, “What’s your name?” Friend correctly complied with the requested information.

My head spun with a beery-seeped self-interest to protect my summer trip from a law-enforced stay. So, when he asked me my name I stalled. He repeated, “What’s your name?” Then, I stupidly slurred the name of a person I’d often been likened to because of our curly heads, “Kevin Keegan,” I said. He wrote down my pseudonym with a lawful knowing I drunkenly confused for his belief I was the footballer.

The following morning my head throbbed. Yet, I waved dad off and got going. My flight to New York was fraught with worry and shame. On the Greyhound Bus to Boston I silently berated myself. In the town of Plymouth I was picked up by the camp manager, an ebullient young woman. En route to camp she warned me of the mega-slide in the adventure playground, “Be careful sliding that beast, I landed on my fanny with a bang, it’s still bruised.”

My mind boggled; but my head was too bothered by my beery Cavan misdemeanour to ask how she’d received such an injury on a slide.

My summer camp experience was sullied by my stupidity. And more so by the guilt I felt at putting dad through the shock of seeing a guard at the door.

I returned to Cavan with my tail between my legs; and was punished accordingly. Nowadays, I don’t bother with horror.


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