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Your Friday Hoodoo Thread

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It's back...and after the events at the end of last season, all I can say is Football Loki is one disloyal sumbitch.

This is what you get without a sweetheart...just sayin'
This is what you get without a sweetheart...just sayin'

Harken, yon Hoodoo acolytes...for you know the time has come to layeth thine Hoodoo down in strong fashion across the pages of this here Bama-centric conglomeration of ne'er-do-wels and scalawags. For it is the dawn of the college football season, that glorious time of the years celebrated from coast to coast, especially in these southern confines many of us ultimately call home.

For the Crimson Tide, the struggle begins anew: the weekly battle against nefarious foes from the SEC and beyond, the clashing of gridiron sabres, the quest for what will be the Tide's 16th National Championship. And for those of us brave enough to undertake this endeavor, it is the time for we faithful to admit to our former debaucheries and undertake horrendous forms of self-flagellation in appeasement of the Football Gods.

Make no mistake...Football Loki is a kind and benevolent ruler, as he has shine the might light of favor on our beloved Crimson Tide since 2008. He gave to us a leader, and what a leader he has been. He has fortified, rectified and electrified the boys in crimson, powering them to feats superhuman and spectacular.

For the newcomers to these her pages, I feel some sort of preamble to my foolishness is probably well overdue. So attune thine ear, noobs, and understand the significance of that in which we are about to engage.

It is a long-running tradition in these parts that to win the eternal favor of the Football Gods, we, the RBR faithful, must submit a sacrifice. The sacrifice must come in one of two forms (or both, if you're into the whole thoroughness thing): we the faithful must admit some horror or shame from our collective past, or the individual must propose and execute an act of horror or embarrassment to satiate the unquenchable thirst of Football Loki. For example, in the next three or four thousand words, I'm going to tell you about an act of deception and depraivity from my past, lay bare my chest to your barbs and arrows. If I had not lived such an, um, illustrious and interesting life, finding myself bereft of  embarrassing tales, I would simply propose to streak nekkid across my former college campus (or some similar tomfoolery). One could propose to eat a sriracha popsicle, or chug a car bomb for every Bama score. It's up to you people...but this much is clear. It's time to put up or shut up, as the Tide needs our best.

So now that everyone has some understanding of the concept, let me do the honor of kicking off the quest for 16 with a story of youthful mischievousness and pine-thicket intrigue and the dark arts of the occult.

This story, faithful hoodoo-ites, is a tale of horror and the black magic. This is a tale that many would rather choose to believe is untrue, a figment of ya boy OWB's more than fertile imagination. But I attest to you, upon yon Holy Bible, upon the Capstone itself, on the back of my dear mother...that every word of it is true. Wait, let me hedge that a little...almost every word of it is true. Hmmm, just to be safe, let's go with every other word of it is true. Maybe a full tenth of it is true...yes. I think I'm comfortable with that now, we can proceed.

So this is a tale that harkens back to the days before famous Casanova OWB developed, eh-hem, feelings for the fairer sex. This was a time when the weekends were not the domain of prodigious amounts of rust-brown liquor and plumes of silver-blue hooka smoke. No, this was a time when being a boy reigned supreme. At that age, roughly round about 10, I was all boy. Never was a Boy Scout, but my field-craft matched evenly against the best of the geekily-clad understudies of Robert Baden-Powell. I was a camper, fisherman, hunter, trapper and general scout about any stand of woods that I came close enough to penetrate. I just loved being outdoors: sometimes even bedding down for a night on a nest of cool slick longleaf straw, golden-red prickles strewn over the sandy loam of the coastal plain.

I'd observe wildlife, track the locations of the minnow schools from pool to pool in nearby Optimist Creek by my father's house. At some point, we'd figured out a way to catch the crawfish nymphs that populated the sandy creek bed, fashioning a plastic cola bottle and some duct tape into a foolproof snare baited with dog kibble. Sometimes, we'd even haul in the adults ones...if we found a good piece of cut-bait we could let dry long enough in the sun to kick up that fetid aroma which seems to call crustaceans of all sorts like a resonating dinner bell.

We'd heard tales of quicksand in those parts, but were undaunted. There was an adjacent marsh, and we'd slog through it routinely, coming home plastered in black mud that smelled of manure and methane.

We built forts, and we had pitched battles with other forted children in the sprawling neighborhood. That was great fun, until my "death squad" went all search-and-destroy on an opposing club's installation. It was a dangerous, three-man raid: your faithful narrator, B-Rad and Al the Pal, a neighborhood kid with a wall-eye who just fell into our camp by default because no one else would have him. A volley of bottle rockets, a half-gallon of gas and a bad idea later, the enemy fort was reduced to charred remains, nearly taking the woods down to cinders along with it. I went all three flavors of ape-shit on that damn encampment, even stole away with my daddy's double-bit axe with which to maul the enemy's abode. Ragnar Landgerson would have been proud, by God, we left that place a heap of splinters and ash.

We never fessed up to that one, and in fact, destroyed our own fort (well, at least superficially) to allay suspicions that we were involved. (Yeah, OWB wasn't born a fool, you people. I just play one on teevee, so to speak.)

Alas, however, that is not the thrust of this particular hoodoo. No, rather, it is just another portrait of the childhood of your narrator, which should, rightfully, give you some glimpse into the author's mind. (Or some shit. Did that sound smart? I was trying to make it sound smart. Okay, cool.)

Now these woods in which we spent our time (mostly to escape the oppression inherent in being the step-children in my father's new home) represented a large tract in what, at the time, was a rather sparsely populated area on Mobile's western outskirts, just past Cody Road. Locals now refer to the area as "WeMo" for "West Mobile." (You get it? We Mobilians are a clever lot, no?)

These woods were the closest thing to the wilderness we had at our disposal, and we used them every chance we got, which amounted to the every other weekend we were obligated (by court decree) to spend at my father's house. Therefore, when given the chance to spend our time in those woods, we made those junkets count.

During one such weekend stay, we awoke Saturday morning to the sound of what certainly appeared to be large equipment...earth-movers, even. Panicked, I darted out the back door, down the familiar trail that penetrated deeply into the biggest stand of trees on the tract, and to my horror, discovered my worst nightmare: the land was being cleared!

I immediately knew something had to be done. We couldn't just allow these people to squat on our Grand Canyon, our Yosemite! No, we had to take action...guerilla warfare was the only option of resistance. I quickly organized a posse of neighborhood troops, a SEAL Team 6 of Quail Run, if you will. We were salty, pissed, ready to slake our thirst on the blood of our invaders. (Wait, that may have gone a little too far. We ranged in age from 8-12, so that, in retrospect, was probably a little too jihad for this particular combat arena. Pardon me.)

Moving on. I commandeered my small band of brothers (well, really only the one brother, the rest of our team was strictly composed of WeMo riff-raff) to posse up, and to fill their hands with whatever tools of war they could muster (read: steal) from their big-brother's closets and daddy's tool sheds. The array of armaments was fearsome to say the least: a couple machetes, three bb/ pellet rifles and one pistol, various Swiss Army knives, a homemade bow and arrow that was marginally functional, the aforementioned two-bit axe and an aluminum tee-ball bat.

Oh, and then there was the "Spear of Destiny." Many young men have lusted after these truck-stop/ Stuckey's/ Moundville souvenirs, only to be disappointed at their total lack of potency when administered in the manner of a hand-held projectile. This one kid, God bless him, he was just white-bread as the day is long. Now he had a mean streak, especially when it came to his little brother, a stocky little fella who wore those metallic orthopedic robo-legs so many children had to sport as children in my era, to straighten the legs or some shit. All I know is, mffkr sounded like the Terminator stomping through the woods, his ass couldn't sneak up on a deaf Stevie Wonder.

But I digress. So J-Nathan (Mr. Wonderbread), he came to the table with the aforementioned souvenir spear, which consisted of a bamboo shaft with a rubber arrowhead tip. Couple dyed feathers tied on for good measure. (I bet they sell a lot of these at the Tallahassee Stuckey's...to grown men, most likely.)

"What are you gonna do with that?" I queried. After all, a military commander must know the level of weaponry with which he's dealing.

"I thought it would scare them."

Jesus criminy. It was clear that J-Nathan was the Gomer Pyle of our little operation. Shazam, indeed.

Not overly concerned that his armament was paltry, we allowed him to take the rear guard, the watcher, the eyes behind our eyes. I figured even though his attack was worthless, he could at least alert us if these ne'er-do-wells were attempting to flank us.

We belly-crawled, armed to the teeth, to the edge of the area where the equipment was clearing the land. We observed, the way I had read they did it in the real military. (I was a weird ass kid, y'all, spent way too much time reading books. There is such a thing as reading too many books...do not lie to your children.)

I surmised that even our most powerful bb gun wouldn't penetrate the mighty fuel tank of the Caterpillar. And the fellers working on the crew were all bigger than us. Deflated, I did the only thing a guerilla army commander can do when ovematched...I melted back into the woods, willing to wait to fight another day.

We never could muster a resistance against the builders, as it simply wasn't feasible. We watched over the course of a few months as they cleared the land, added drainage culverts, redirected a part of the creek and began building these modern, glassy-glossy buildings. I was sickened. How had I allowed my beloved thicket to become overrun by these heathens? Once the buildings opened, I found that the three were all inhabited, but by organizations that were under related ownership. At the hub was a church, or at least we will refer to it as a church for now (Contestants...for $300, what literary device did OWB just employ?)

The neighborhood intel network was hot, as news about the new neighbors in the woods began to leak in the form of gossip. Being away for two weeks had its advantages, namely by providing the clarity of distance to help plan our revenge. However, it wouldn't have been possible without the help of my web of espionage agents, some of whom provided their intel unbeknownst to them. They'd overhear a parents' conversation, and pass the info on to me or one of my inner circle. Bit by bit, a picture of the enemy took shape. And with every tidbit of information, I became more aware of the type of war we'd have to fight to win.

For example, J-nathan overheard his mom talking to the busy-body neighbor over the fence line about the new development. Wedged in amongst their usual nonsense was this tidbit of info. J-nathan's mother Char was heard saying, "Rhonda up at the top of the hill said one of her coworkers goes to that church, and they make attendants swear their incomes over to the pastor for him to administer to them as he sees fit!"

Though I wasn't sure what all of those words meant at the time, what it sounded like Mrs. Char was describing was something my mama had called a "cult." By the age of 10, I had been told by my paranormal-intrigued mother about Charlie Manson and Helter Skelter, so I knew all about these Jim Jones-types and their cotdang Kool-Aid of Death. This church in the woods sounded like one of those gigs...would explain why they are tucked back in those there woods, I thought.

Figuring I wasn't just at war with developers but with unadulterated cultists and practitioners of the Dark Arts as well, I shuddered. "This is like some Temple of Doom type stuff," I thought. But I had no choice but to "Indiana Jones-up."

We initiated a psychological warfare campaign that involved tormenting the new tenants of the woods we once called our makeshift home. A group of "Bible Scouts" affiliated with the church had built a "nature trail" back in a portion of the still-wooded acreage of the tract...but this wasn't just any nature trail. There was a trail, alright, but in a central location, beneath the Druidic aura of a squatty but sprawling live oak, was a fire pit surrounded by benches. The benches were shaped in a familiar array which, being a fan of Slayer at an early age, I recognized as a pentagram. Further probing of the fire pit uncovered bones...animal bones...among the ashes.

"What we are dealin' with here is devil worshippers," said my Sargeant at Arms, Jacko, a native Louisianian who had previously dealt with purveyors of the Dark Arts in the aforementioned bayou. I trusted his assessment, as if a feller from Monroe, LA didn't know about devil worship, who would? "These people here are cat-killers, I reckon."

I tended to agree. I'd heard enough about "devil worship" from my Missionary Baptist church lectures on the evils of Motley Crue, AC/DC and Iron Maiden ("You play them recards back'ards, boy, they say "I love the devil!' And ‘Eat babies!'") I had seen enough of this current outfit to make me wonder what kind of church this was, carrying on in such unholy ways. Makes a feller wonder.

Well, this discovery just escalated things, as I was more determined now than ever to rid the land of these infidels. After all, not only were they anti-tree, but they were anti-Jesus. I was fightin' for both God and country, after all!

I sent Jacko on a recon mission. Now for this particular endeavor, I didn't want him armed, no. However, he decided it would be only prudent to take along his snub-nosed .38 cap pistol...you know, just in case. He slinked along the outer rims of the building, which had tremendously oversized windows that were tinted to the point of being reflective.

We watched from an overhang as Jacko conducted his surveillance, leaning close to get a glimpse through the mirrored glass of the windows. Suddenly, abruptly, he broke from his mission and broke off in a run, trusty cap pistol in his hand. Just as he disappeared into the fringe of the underbrush, the rear door of the building opened, remaining ajar for a moment before slamming.

We reunited with Jacko, who, wide-eyed, began blabbering.

"Man, inside there, they...just...they got weird stuff up in there. There was something furry stuffed on a shelf in there...man, I don't know what they doin' but it's pure-dee evil."

Interesting. The mystery deepened. I, however, had no idea what dark forces were moving behind those remaining pines with hidden hands.

Fast forward two weeks. It was June, and we were out of school. As we did most summers, we spent an entire week at my father's house, and in this particular year, he opted out of a vacation at the beach, which was usually the norm.

With little else to do, B-Rad, J-Nathan and I decided to stake out the facility in the woods, taking turns peering through our one pair of binoculars. Most of what we saw was run of the mill: deliveries of office supplies, landscapers coming and going to spread chicken manure on the burgeoning lawn, HVAC repairmen working on the outdoor units.

The weekend, Saturday to be precise, fell on the day of the Summer Solstice, June 21. Prior to this encounter, I didn't know a Summer Solstice from a Vernal Equinox, though this experience helped me understand the pagan significance of such dates on the calendar.

On this Saturday, we camped out on the fringe of the woods, trusty binoculars and bologna sandwiches tucked in my knapsack, machete hanging from my hip like a broadsword. We crouched low, carved out a pocket in the underbrush with a Swiss Army knife, and began watching our surroundings after cracking open a Shasta.

We heard an unplaced sound, something I hadn't heard in the woods before. It wasn't mechanical...no, it sounded organic but unfamiliar. A rapping sound, a deep humming. I couldn't place it.

"Y'all hear that?" I asked my compadres.

"Yeah, what is it?" asked B-Rad.

"Don't know, let's go see."

We left our spot, leaving our backpacks behind, tucked in the bushes. B-Rad had the trusty shared Red Ryder bb gun with him (with which he later did indeed nearly put his eye out, but that's Hoodoo for another time), and I told him to bring it along...you know, in case we needed some firepower.

We sneaked between the pines, tracking the sound by ear. It seemed to be moving, but it wasn't hard to draw a bead on it in the usual stillness of the trees. It seemed to be coming from the "nature trail" area.

We made for the concealment of a yaupon thicket near the opening of the nature trail. Because it was the height of the summer growing season, it was difficult to see through the heavy foliage of the underbrush.

"Whoa, what's that?" said J-nathan. He pointed towards the trailhead, where shadows could be seen moving through the slits in the thicket's cover. There was the smell of burnt wood hanging in the air, followed shortly thereafter by a thickening blanket of blackish smoke. Obviously, there was a fire, and before long it had grown to the point that we could see its orange tongues licking the lower limbs of the overhanging oak tree. We continued to hear the droning hum, louder now that we had closed the distance. Interspersed with the hum was the metered "rap-rap-rap" sound, like wood versus stone.

"Man, wonder what they doin'?" said B-Rad.

"Dude, I don't know, but this is weird. It's too hot for a fire, and in broad daylight."

Confused by what we were seeing, we backed out of our hiding place on our bellies. Deciding to return to our previous spot to collect our stashed gear, we slipped through the woods hurriedly. I had decided the time had come to share our intelligence with our elders, as something was amiss in our beloved woods.

We made our way back to our previous hiding spot, and grabbed up our backpacks. Before we could evacuate, however, we heard the eerie sound again, this time drawing closer rather than moving into the distance. Something dark moved at the far side of the parking lot below the bluff upon which we were lodged. We hunkered down...all of us but J-Nathan.

Like a bolt of lightning squeezing free from Zeus' clutched fist, Jo-Nathan was gone...a dash of dust in his wake as he crashed through the underbrush, never minding the trail. He powered into the thicket like a startled wildebeest, and was gone before we could laugh or cast aspersions.

B-Rad and I stayed put, still intrigued by what was coming across the parking lot.

The mystery was unshrouded. Walking in a block formation four rows wide was a group of men (and possibly women, I guess) in long black Jedi-ish robes, complete with hoods. They held shoulder-high sticks, which they pounded on the ground in three-rap bursts as they spoke what sounded like a chant. We couldn't see their faces at all, but the scene was something reminiscent of an 80's era occult horror flick. B-Rad and I stared at each other wide-eyed, stared at the cultists, stared at each other...we shared total disbelief at what we were seeing.

"Holy shit, B-Rad, they really ARE some devil-worshippers!" I whispered. "Just look at that!" The look of terror in his eyes told me that I was right to be scared, as he was too. I put all my energy temporarily into bowel/ bladder control, then, once securing that front, began to plan our avenue of stealthy escape.

Stealthy escape, however, was not in the cards, as is often the case in any endeavor involving my brother.

At that moment, B-Rad did what B-Rad always does when startled or otherwise confounded...he began shooting. He took a bead on the devil-worshippin' group with that Daisy bb gun and let fly with the steel, getting off about five rounds from the lever-action before I could stifle him. But the damage was done, we had been made, and we were deep behind enemy lines.

I pulled out my machete as we bounded through the bush like started bucks (I know, you're never supposed to run with something sharp...extenuating circumstances though...the addendum is never run with anything sharp unless being pursued by devil worshippers.)  I couldn't help but glance over my shoulder, and couldn't help but notice we were being chased, though I couldn't make out who was doing the chasing. I knew the shortest route to the house was a direct line through the woods, but I also feared that that route would leave us exposed if we were indeed being flanked by these nefarious cultists.

However, I couldn't risk the capture by said occultists, not just for my own skin, but for the sake of my little brother. For if I did indeed survive their demonic clutches, surely, the clutches of my angry mother wouldn't have been much more forgiving.

I felt the forest closing in on us...we had to get out into the clear of the neighborhood or surely risk being part of some nefarious human sacrifice.

"B-Rad, take the short route to the house and get the strong pellet rifle. Lay low and wait for my signal." I had a plan to get him home, and it involved me running a ruse. I knew I was faster and better in the brush, so I figured I could jack-rabbit these demoniacs by running them in a circle and doubling back on them the way I'd seen many a hopper do in autumn hunts with Jack Cannon.

I didn't have to tell him twice, as he broke onto the open trail straight towards the house. I ran the other way, penetrating deeper into the woods with the hope of drawing off my pursuers before pulling the switch-back.

My trick seemed to work. I ran like lightning, keeping low to reduce visibility. I could hear what sounded like a dozen people chasing from all around, crushing and crunching as they ran, they lacking my familiarity with these woods. Hearing they were knotted up behind me, I decided to double-back on them then, splitting between the two groups I heard tangled in the brush.

It worked, as I think they ended up chasing each other rather than me, confused by my sudden change of direction. I made for the same trail down which I had sent B-Rad, and when I emerged into the filtered sunlight of the opening, I stopped dead in my tracks.

There stood a group of people whom I did not recognize. An older man, portly, with a balding head of white hair and glasses. He was surrounded by what appeared to be seven teenagers, some were possibly in their 20s, all male. He immediately turned, as if awaiting the arrival of a long due party guest.

"Ah, there you are," he said to me. "We've been looking for you."

By this point, I was petrified. This seemed to fit in right well with the plots of the horror movies I stayed up late to watch on the USA Network in my father's living room on Saturday nights. I was frozen with terror.

"What's wrong, are you mute?" the man asked. The chorus of teenagers laughed. I shook my head. "What's your name son?"

"Roscoe." I damned sure wasn't giving them my real name, and the first name that popped into mind after a week of watching Dukes of Hazzard reruns was Roscoe P. Coltrane.

"Roscoe, come with me." The man gestured without asking, his pack of burly teens advancing as if to indicate I had little choice in the matter.

Convinced I was to soon die at the hands of these vile Jesus-haters, I went to the Lord in prayer. "Dear sweet little baby Jesus in the manger in swaddling clothes, please forgive me for my sins. I confess, I did eat the last popsicle even though I told B-Rad it was my obese step-mother Big Evie...I did break out Paul Jr's truck window with that softball, even though I blamed Jeffro Bodeen...Lord, I confess I did sneak a glimpse of Big Evie's nekkid body through the half open door of the bathroom Tuesday night (though admittedly, in retrospect, the act itself was punishment enough)...."

I wondered how these infidels would kill me? Burning at the stake? By flaying me open after tying me spread-eagle to some kind of pentagram-shaped torture device? Those were examples fresh in my brain thanks to Hollywood. I was scared shitless, to say the least. Didn't even get a chance to tell B-Rad goodbye.

"Roscoe, I know your name, now you should know mine." The ringleader said. "My name is Rev. Michael Towney, and I'm the pastor of the church you see over there." He pointed in the direction of one of the glass-encased buildings.

"Lot of nerve calling themselves a ‘church,'" I thought. "Jesus wouldn't like that at all."

"We built back here because we wanted some privacy for the things that we do as part of our ministry," continued the reverend.

"I bet you do," I thought. At this point, I was hoping they'd just go ahead and kill me soon and forgo the show-and-tell world tour.

The pastor opened the door of the church after we crossed the parking lot. Looked like any other church, to my surprise. The cross on the altar was right side up, didn't see any blood or evidence of human sacrifice, no daggers or dragons or such as I'd seen in the movies.

"We'd love to have your family here anytime, please tell your parents you are all welcome to visit."

Hmm, these devil-worshippers must have been from some real cordial sect of Satanism or something, maybe like "The Courteous Friends of Old Scratch" or some such organization. We continued on, heading for the next building.

"Ahh, this is where they must keep all their human sacrificing equipment," I thought. "Maybe this is where they drink the babies' blood and all of that. This is where they are going to kill me."

The pastor opened another set of doors, which opened into a hallway that looked ominous enough to assure me my previous supposition I was correct. We walked down the hallway towards a lone door, the pastor leading, followed by me, followed by the teens. My escape was sealed off, my death was surely impending. The leader reached for the doorknob.

"And this..." he opened the door with a flourish, "This is where we make the magic." I closed my eyes, expecting to feel a skull-pommeled dagger plunged into me old belly.

No such thing occurred. Rather, when I opened my eyes, I found an equally shocking scene. Standing around, sipping coffee and soda, snacking on cake and the little butter cookies they serve at Vacation Bible School, was a pack of black-robed miscreants....though now, they were unhooded and smiling, enjoying finger foods and laughing.

I was dumbfounded. Flummoxed. Rendered inert.

Seeing my puzzlement, the pastor illuminated. "You see, this is our production building, where we produce videos for churches and Christian television stations. Earlier today, these folks were part of a cast for a short movie about the dangers of Satanism. Do you know what Satanism is, Roscoe?"

I nodded my head. "You mean, what was...I mean, earlier today y'all were...making a movie?"

"Yep, that's what we do here. We make movies about Christ and dangers that we as modern Christians face. Some of them are period pieces about the events in the Bible, you know, like the story Noah's Ark or Job's trials."

The pastor pointed to a "little person" (to use the politically correct nomenclature of this era) standing near a punch bowl, talking with the supposed cast members, offering some testimony or another in gregarious fashion.

"See that fellow over there...for example, he played Zacchaeus in the movie we made last week. Now, this is a cast wrap party, as we just finished a film title ‘Beware the Dark One' about the rise of Satanism in America. Scary stuff to be sure, but fear not, Lord Jehovah is victorious! Would you like some punch?"

Never one to turn down punch, even though I had been warned off of accepting Kool-Aid from cult leaders, I accepted, along with a corner piece of heavily frosted cake with red and black icing. A man in a black robe with black make-up on his eye lids to make his sockets look sunken in struck up a conversation, asked me where I attended church and whether I had given my life over to Christ yet. Answering in the affirmative, he patted me on the back and invited me to join the folks at the church one Sunday for service.

After a few minutes, I sought out the pastor and told him I needed to go, that surely my parents would be looking for me after such prolonged absence (even though I knew that my dad really didn't give two shits about where I was or what I was doing.)

"Oh yes, agreed. I'll walk you out."

We walked back down the long hallway, which seemed exponentially less ominous now. He let me out the back door, saying he trusted I knew the way back home from there. As I took a few steps towards the woods, the pastor called out.

"Oh and Roscoe..." he said. "Remain vigilant, for evil abounds and the Devil stalks around like a roaring lion...RAORRR!" He laughed and closed the door abruptly.

I ran back through the woods, eager to tell B-Rad and the neighborhood posse of the developments. It had been 45 minutes since my brother and I had parted ways, and I thought surely he had probably alerted grown-ups as to the events of the day and dispatched a rescue party to free me from the grip of yon pseudo-Satanists.

I emerged from the line at the edge of the woods into the free air of the neighborhood. I didn't see B-rad or any other the other kids. Maybe he was inside.

Then I heard a sharp crack and felt the sting of pain in my belly. I looked down to find a pellet hanging out of ragged hole in my stomach skin.

"OOOOUUUUUUCCCHH!"

"Oh, my bad," said B-Rad, rising from a nearby stand of underbrush, gold-receivered pellet rifle in hand. "I thought you were one of those devil-worshippers....I mean, you said go home and get the pellet gun."

Dammit B-Rad. I had survived a trip into the heart of (supposed) darkness, only to be capped by my own damn brother in the light of day. Such is life.

Moral of the Story: Not everyone who wears black is evil. And, never get within eye-shot of B-Rad when he's packin'...sumbitch is trigger happy.

Roll Tide Roll, y'all.