All the Cool Kids Are Doing It

It’s Angie’s fault.  Or Darla’s.  Maybe it’s Peg’s.  Or all three.  Mostly, I blame Angie for pulling this memory out of my subconscious when she entered this post, An Epic Adventure in Babysitting in Darla’s Psst! Hey…Wanna Hear Something Really Embarrassing? contest.  Then Peg threw her story in too, with The Substitute Babysitter.

Since all the cool kids are doing it, well, here is mine.  Don’t hate me.

 *     *     *     *     *

Unlike my cooler blogger sisters, I loved to babysit.  I was born to babysit.  And I had the best job on the planet.

Mr. and Mrs. F went out every single Saturday night, from 7 to 11 or so.  They had two really nice kids, a huge colonial house and a swimming pool.  At about 12 I started supervising kids in that pool, in spite of the fact that I bear no resemblance at all to Michael Phelps.

These folks were rich, but incredibly nice.  And they loved me.

Their house was huge, and quite old, which meant it squeaked and made all kinds of noises at night.  My much smaller house was old, too, so I was pretty much used to the noises.

But it was 9th Grade that year.  I was reading In Cold Blood by Truman Capote for English class.  Yup.  Reading about the slaughter of an entire family in their home.

To make matters worse the F’s house was being renovated.  So after the kids went to bed, I hung out with the terrifying book in a part of the house I was unfamiliar with.

There were noises.  Of course there were noises.

There were footsteps.  Upstairs.

Was it in Hadley’s room, at the top of the stairs?

Or was it in Scotty’s room, a few footsteps down the hall?

I knew it was in one of the two.  I could hear it.  Clear as a bell, on the hardwood floor upstairs.

So I did what any dedicated babysitter sitting next to a fireplace would do.  I picked up the poker.

I don’t want to kill anybody, I thought.  So I put it back.

I picked up the little shovel.  The spade.  I was ready to protect those kids no matter what.  And I crept up the carpeted steps.

I looked down the long, hallway.  I didn’t want to alert the killer to my presence, so I didn’t turn on the light.  The carpeted hallway was lit only with one measly nightlight.  But the thick white carpeting helped me see that there was no burglar/murder there.

But there was plenty of space for the burglar/murder to hide.

I walked into Hadley’s room.  She was sleeping soundly, still alive, because I could hear her calm breathing.

I had just walked into Scotty’s room when I heard true, distinct footsteps downstairs.

This time I knew it wasn’t my imagination.  Because I realized that I wouldn’t actually have heard footsteps upstairs because the carpeting was thick and luxurious and the kids were always getting out of bed and sneaking up on me.  (It would have been helpful had I remembered that earlier.)

But the footsteps downstairs were on hard wood.  They were real.

“Elyse?  We’re home!”  Mr. and Mrs. F had come home.

And there I stood in their son’s bedroom, with a shovel in my hand.

Trust me, it’s scary at night. Alone. While reading In Cold Blood. (Google Image)

104 Comments

Filed under Childhood Traumas, Family, History, Humor, Stupidity, Writing

104 responses to “All the Cool Kids Are Doing It

  1. Pingback: In Cold Blood | lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown

  2. I have a story to tell about reading In Cold Blood and having a very overactive imagination as well…I’ll write about it later as I’m busy updating my ACER to Microsoft Window 10…Taking forever…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Le Clown

    Elyse,
    Where have you been all my life?
    Le Clown

    Like

  4. Hiya! I’ve nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award! 🙂
    http://uponatlas.wordpress.com/2012/07/30/one-lovely-blog-award/

    Like

  5. What a fun story to read. Excellent writing

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  6. Thank you for sharing this fun, funny, mystery, thriller, post, Elyse! I greatly enjoyed it!
    Russ

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  7. lftsr1

    “I had to read that book. I would never have chosen it. But I am not among those who like to scare themselves. I don’t scare easily and have always tried to keep it that way by not terrorizing myself with scary books and movies!”

    I’ve rarely found books or films scary as I know its all fantasy, all someones imagination or heaping someones imagination on top of basically true account of an event. I think REAL LIFE can be much more scary at times. I think it comes from being exposed to horror stories at a young age…..I remember the babysitter explaining to me that the film is just a story, all make-believe and under all the clothes and make up that the person playing Dracula or Freddie (from Nightmare on Elm Street) was just a person like me or my friends. I think that should be explained to everyone when they are young….

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    • Well, Ben, I think you’ve had enough scary stuff in real life that if watching scary stuff works for you, I say go for it. I’m still keeping away from it (both fiction/film and real life) to the greatest extent possible!

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  8. Seriously? In Cold Blood? I couldn’t read that NOW much less as a 9th grader.

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    • Isn’t that a horrible book to make kids read? I remember we read it because it was the only “non-fiction novel” and we dissected the story to pull out the parts of the book. Or maybe the teacher just wanted us to remember the parts of the book. Or maybe he was a sadist.

      I don’t sit around worrying about somebody coming to murder me; probably because I don’t read scary stuff. Except, of course, political news.

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      • I stay far, far away from movies, TV and books that are violent. As I’ve aged, I lost my tolerance for that gunk.

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        • I agree. The news serves that function now. Alas.

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        • Ditto. I could never shake-off those scary images. My Mom used to say that stuff leaves a residue in your mind and, as I get older, I find she was right. (she was right on a LOT of stuff, but don’t tell her I said so.)

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          • Let me guess…your mom sent you an article about this that she clipped from a newspaper? That’s how much my mom loves me.

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          • I remember watching the first Halloween movie with a guy I was dating. It was horrible. Slashing, murders, the works. I stayed up to watch the end so I could know that they got the bad guy who was killing the babysitters (of course it was babysitters. Duh.). But HE GETS AWAY IN THE END SO THEY CAN DO SEQUELS. I never watched another scary movie. Never will.

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  9. Fantastic ending. I love it! I actually wondered as you told it if one of the kids would wake up with you standing over him with a shovel. But the real story is much better — I’d be much better off with the kids thinking I’m an ax murderer than the parents.

    So glad I could serve as an inspiration for this post. I’ll be quite fine with it if you want to now serenade me with Wind Beneath My Wings.

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  10. Fun and funny story Elyse. I did a fair amount of babysitting during my teens until I was around 16 and then I was more interested in spending my free time with the “babes” instead of babies and little kids. Parents liked me because I was dependable, didn’t mess with their medicine chests or liquor cabinets, and I was good at keeping their kids amused, and out of trouble.

    But I don’t have any cool or even interesting stories about my babysitting experiences.

    However, there ARE some interesting stories about the nights that I “helped” my girlfriend babysit… but I sense that I’m in the wrong venue here, for these particular stories to be appreciated. I’ll only add that it was on one of these nights, after the kiddies were asleep, when I learned that a waterbed with a LOT of motion wasn’t nearly as fun as I thought it would be, since all that motion from the bed plays hell with maintaining a good mutual rhythm together. Enough said, or probably too much said already… Lol

    My very best babysitting story of all, which I will NOT tell here, because it’s blogging material all the way, was the friday night when my 16 year old best friend was humiliated, because his parents felt the need for him to have a babysitter while they were away for the weekend. And I didn’t blame him for feeling so embarrassed about it… His parents really were both kinda soft in the head, because why on earth they thought it was a good idea to get a rather naive 19 year old female babysitter, for their very precocious 16 year old son, is beyond me.

    And things only got much worse for that poor girl, when I came over to spend that friday night with my friend, and then she had to deal with both of us together. We never saw her again after that night… and I can only hope that we didn’t leave any lasting damage on her psyche, after her reputation was left in ruins… It was all just very wrong, and to this day, I really do regret it.

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    • Please warn me before you post that one Chris. I have a weak heart.

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      • Well, thanks for warning me too, Elyse, and I promise that this post, if I ever do write it, will absolutely come with a health warning. Because I sure don’t want something like that involving you, on my conscience.

        But… here’s the real deal and with God as my witness, this is the truth. Everything about my preview here is absolutely true, except… the 19 year old babysitter’s reputation was never ruined, and only because I did some very quick thinking on my feet, when my friend’s mother called later that night to check in, and the babysitter was in no condition to come to the phone, or capable of having anything remotely resembling a coherent conversation with my friend’s mother.

        I took the call from my friend’s Mom, and came up with an entirely believable excuse for why the babysitter couldn’t come to the phone, while calmly reassuring my friend’s mother that everything was just fine, and enough so that she wasn’t concerned – to the point that she ended the call without even asking to speak with her son. The full and complete story? Maybe I’ll post it and maybe I never will… But if I do, I’ll be sure that you are forewarned, Elyse. Lol 🙂

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  11. What an awesome babysitter! You are totally cool. I could tell you stories of babysitters I had as a child, they were not cool. Well that isn’t entirely true, I had one that was very very cool.

    I never babysat anyone but my brother and my entire goal was to terrorize him as much as possible.

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    • Awwww, Shucks, Val. I don’t know about awesome or cool. I do think I needed my head examined. Perhaps a call to 911 would have been more effective without endangering anyone (by which, of course, I mean ME).

      I was the youngest of a big family, so I babysat for nieces and nephews. And then there were non-family members I got paid for watching. But I loved/love kids. They are fun, creative. They don’t make me read/watch scary stuff….

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  12. What did you bring for reading material when you babysat after that incident? So funny!

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    • Thanks, PW.

      Actually, the Fs were/are wonderfully educated folks with an enormous library (well everything in that house was enormous). They both took the time to recommend books, loaned them to me and discuss them with me. I hadn’t thought of the coincidence — maybe they didn’t want me reading scary stuff at their house any more!

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  13. Big bad babysitter with a spade. I totally get it. The movie, Amityville Horror did it for me. I wasn’t babysitting though. What in the world makes teens want to be scared? Are we drawn to traumatizing ourselves?

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    • I had to read that book. I would never have chosen it. But I am not among those who like to scare themselves. I don’t scare easily and have always tried to keep it that way by not terrorizing myself with scary books and movies!

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  14. Hey! I’ve gone through all the comments and there is only one reference to the parents.
    What did you tell them? How did they react?

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    • They reacted in the worst possible way. They were nice about it and never mentioned it again. Which of course was far more humiliating than if they had laughed with me about it.

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  15. Scary stories always make me hear footsteps and doors opening. I try to avoid them. Like so many others, I can’t believe you were assigned to read “In Cold Blood” when you were in 9th grade.

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    • Yes, I avoid scary stuff whenever possible. There is no up side! I can’t believe that book was ever assigned reading at any age. It is horrible. Thanks YS!

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  16. lftsr1

    I should also note, it was after spending time in hospital when I was 6 that the usual babysitter, introduced me to Dracula and other figures from Horror films when I was hooked up to a nebuliser late at night before bed….

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  17. lftsr1

    I don’t have any babysitting stories, but I do have one from being cared for BY a babysitter.
    In my younger years my health wasn’t the best, I suffered from asthma, and used to regularly get chest infections and pneumonia when it was cold, and then allergies during the summer….anyways I would be about 8 years old and my brother would have been about 4. I was just getting over a nasty chest infection which caused my asthma to flare quite badly and having spent two weeks in hospital being hooked up to various machines I was happily home, but whenever I spent time in hospital for a couple of weeks after I had a habit of sleeping rather curiously.
    For some reason our usual babysitter was unavailable which was disappointing to me and my brother as they allowed us to stay up later than our usual bedtimes and watch scary films, or TV programmes we normally weren’t allowed to watch,….this particular night my brother had been put to bed early, I stayed up a little later for my usual round of medication (I was used to being hooked up to a nebuliser before bed, and from a young age could operate this piece of noisy kit on my own) and then went up to bed, usually my parents would be home between 11pm and midnight, but because I’d been in hospital this particular night they came home early around 1030 only to find the babysitter crying with the phone in her shaking hands phoning for an ambulance, thinking she had killed me as she had found me 5 minutes before they came home in bed, with my eyes open and it looking like I wasn’t breathing and she couldn’t wake me up…..after eventually being calmed down by my parents who had managed to keep fits of laughter at bay…..they had forgotten to warn her that I did that occasionally…..to assure her that I wasn’t ‘dead’ she came around the next day and saw me playing with our dog happily in the front garden.

    I heard later through my parents the next time they went out that she wasn’t going to be babysitting again, in fact she’d stopped babysitting altogether and was doing a paper round instead….all because sometimes I sleep with my eyes open…….

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    • OH that poor girl. Are we going to get a comment from the poor grown up version of her about how she once thought her charge DIED??? Oh Lord. That would be terrifying.

      It does show, doesn’t it, that stuff we folks with health issues get used to can be quite disconcerting to the uninitiated!

      Great comment. Comments!

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  18. Sounds like a great basis for a movie plot!

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    • These days there would have to be slashing involved. I wouldn’t be able to watch myself get murdered … or even just be terrified. I don’t do scary!

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  19. What the …. you were reading In Cold Blood? Oh my gosh, I don’t think I would read that during the day time out in sunlight. Okay, I’m a scaredy cat. There, I said it. I can’t even watch horror films.

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    • I wouldn’t read it either if I had had the choice. It was terrifying. Just terrifying. This occurred over 40 years ago, and I still remember the book. Not in a good way.

      And I can’t watch horror movies, either. They terrify me and give me nightmares. What is the point?

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  20. I, too, loved babysitting … till “When a stranger calls” came out.

    Have you checked the children?

    ** shudder **

    MJ

    Great story!

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    • Thanks, MJ. I imagine that with that movie the price of babysitters rose dramatically for $.50 to at least $.75.

      At least I was smart about movies. When I was 5, I nearly strangled my sister Judy during a scary movie. A scary part came on and I grabbed Judy’s neck and squeezed until the rest of the family realized what was happening and stopped me. That was the last scary movie I watched intentionally.

      Hope your kids are ok …

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  21. Great story! I love that you put the poker back but were still willing to defend the children with the little shovel. What a brave kid. I got spooked once in high school when I was home alone (my parents were at a party at a neighbor’s). I was reading the Amityville Horror and started hearing noises and seeing red pig eyes outside the windows. I turned all the lights in the house on and huddled on the couch with the dog trying to find something funny on the TV while I waited for my parents to get home.

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    • Thanks, Fork. But I think I was more foolish than brave. I was tiny, weak and cowardly. What was I thinking?

      There really ought to be an age limit on these scary stories. Of course, I haven’t reached the age yet where they are appropriate.

      Glad you survived your fright, too.

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  22. Having an imagination is such a great gift, except when you’re alone in a big house with a scary book. I would be the same way now never mind at 12!

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    • That’s where we differ, Tops. I would never read a book like this now. Never. The purpose of that lesson was to teach us about the “Non-fiction Novel” which Capote had invented. Been there, done that. I am actually reading one now (In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson) but I know how that ends. And my husband and son are here with me tonight!

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      • I don’t do scary at ALL and I certainly can’t do true story scary. For god sakes I barely make it through an episode of Criminal Minds without all the lights on. I know they get those stories from real cases, no one could make that up! Glad you’re safe with your book.

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  23. Hahaha! So funny, I love your story-telling, Elyse!! =P

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  24. Perfectly scary and awesome story. Well told, I might add. (I was on the edge of my seat)

    I babysat plenty. When I was 12, I was in charge of FOUR sisters, all under the age of 8, one was a newborn. They were absolute terrors. Always wanting to play ‘cowboys’ and tie me to a chair or some other torture. After reading your story and Angie’s, I’ll have to do a post on mine now.

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    • Kids today are really short-changed by not experiencing life as a baby-sitter. Because you have to be by yourself and in control and it builds character, right? Actually I loved it.

      One funny thing I didn’t mention in the telling, is that Mr. and Mrs. F were so incredibly nice about it. They never mentioned it!

      Go for it with your story. All the Cool Kids are doing it.

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  25. Jonesingafter40

    Loved it!

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  26. Haha! This was so great!

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  27. And why do I think you the shovel was actually the distraction to hide your real toughness. 🙂 … good story Elyse.

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    • I was truly tough and brave. But a total weakling. I could barely life the kids, let alone grab both of them, knock the bad guy to the floor and flee with them to safety. I have always been glad I wasn’t really been put to the test!

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  28. John Erickson

    Well, I WAS going to cuss you out for not blaming things on me, since that is my raison d’etre in the blogging world.. But since I never babysat, nor was babysat, I’ll let you off light this time.
    And look at it this way. At least you didn’t get downstairs BEFORE they called out, to greet Mr. F with a resounding backhand to the forehead.
    That would’ve made a lasting impression! 😉

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    • Yeah, I’m pretty sure you’re off the hook for this one, John. I’ll blame something on you soon, though. I promise.

      As for flattening Mr. F? He was such a nice guy, I’m glad I didn’t do it. He had a Porsche and let me drive it around their driveway. That was my first manual transmission. Not a bad way to start!

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      • John Erickson

        Dang! The first car I ever got to drive was my folks’ station wagon – a 1970 Chevy Brookwood (think of a not-as-tall Suburban, plus about half a ton of weight), with a 350 ci V-8 (a Corvette engine), power steering, and NON-ASSISTED BRAKES. Yep – I hit the brakes for the first time, and I swear the car accelerated. I came into a stoplight with BOTH feet on the brake pedal and my butt off the seat. 😯
        After that, I stuck with our 1973 Vega. Gutless, floppy steering, bouncy suspension, and it rusted faster than it went 0-60 mph. And I LOVED that car! 😀

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        • Then you should write about them, John. Write about cars you love (I mean it’s a waste to do it in a comment!)

          This wasn’t the first car I ever drove, but it was the first with a manual transmission. I am not sure I got out of first gear!

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          • John Erickson

            Uh-oh. That means I’m doubly-wasted tonight (or triply-wasted, since … never mind), since I’m carrying on a car conversation with (GASP!) another woman! (Aren’t you supposed to gasp anytime a married guy mentions (GASP!) another woman?)
            Yeah, one of these days. AND my tales of a romantic evening on a fog-shrouded runway with a B-17. But that’s a machine of a different nature…. 😀

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  29. Not a good idea to be reading a horror story in a big creepy house while baby sitting. But if I needed a sitter I would choose the one willing to fight for my kids!

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    • Good point. But I’d pick the one with street-smarts to go with the courage – for goodness sake, next time choose the poker, Elyse, not the sandbox shovel!

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      • Ha ha. Good point!

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      • Actually, it was part of the fireplace tool set. It was pretty big and wide. I thought of it at the time like I’d do a 3-Stooges ka-boing!!!!! on the bad guy’s head. If only he had been there …

        I was kidding myself, though. I was about 4-1/2 feet tall, 100 lbs. I would have added to the carnage!

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    • I was far more likely to actually let one drown in the pool, accidentally. I’m a terrible swimmer. But I would have tried hard to save them ….

      And they were really nice kids — great fun. I really would have protected them. I babysat for them for nearly 5 years (and there were 3 others added to the family over the years).

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    • I’m still available. And the rate is still $.50/hr. That was universal. But I expect an inground pool and no mention of my embarrassing moments.

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  30. bigsheepcommunications

    I think my worst babysitting experience was sitting for two vicious little girls who fought (I mean, physically fought) with each other all night AND even hit me. When their parents got home, they got spanked, paid me next to nothing and asked me to sit again the following weekend. NO thanks!!

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  31. We’re riding an avalanche of babysitter stories – it’s a true blogging movement!

    But yours is bringing back WAY too many scary memories for me. That’s one reason I hated it. I had something very similar happen where I felt I had to protect the kids and investigate the strange noises in the house and thought I was going to have a heart attack – at 12.

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    • We are getting into deep doo-do here with these stories. And perhaps we can take over Word Press this time.

      I loved babysitting though. And I never minded/mind being home alone. I rarely scare myself like that night. Now I live in the woods and write about gun control. Apparently I am either fearless, naive or exceedingly brave!

      Like

    • I feel like I’m in a big bloggy hug of flashbacks! I love it! Maybe we can form our own Babysitters Club? I hear the cool kids today really dig that book series. By the way, this Babysitters Club would have no babies or sitting involved. God no. Just lots of talking and drinking.

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  32. You are absolutely a hero for protecting those kids with your little shovel!

    (and now you’ve reminded me…not of a babysitting story…but of a scary, alone in the house story… we bloggers are giving out writing prompts faster than award!)

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    • The “hero” moniker is a bit exaggerated. I wouldn’t have been able to do anything had there been bad guys about. And had I thought about what I was doing? I doubt I would have climbed those stairs. But actually, the brave part was when I had to walk back down with the shovel.

      Writing prompts are great — go for it! I’ll look forward to your scary story.

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  33. Great story. I think you can totally have a seat at the cool kids’ table. I have to say the most amazing of the story was the fact that book was assigned to 14-year-olds to read.

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    • Finally I get to sit with them? Do they know? Thanks Speaker7, I’ll tell them you sent me.

      As for the book, I still haven’t recovered. I wouldn’t have gotten past the cover if I didn’t have to. And for some reason, I always read every page of every book. I didn’t even know about Cliff Notes. :(.

      Like

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