When I was boy, there were few things more delightful than terrifying my little brother. Torturing the younger sibling is one of nature’s unattractive conventions like balding or dying while you still have money left in the bank.

Anyone who has either had or been a younger sibling knows the gamut of abuse runs from name calling to actual physical wounds. But in my tenure as the MC of Mayhem in my brother’s early life, the Cave of Blood ranks as the most well-imagined and executed. It was the high point of my low behavior.

The Cave of Blood was situated beneath our ranch style house in Odessa, an overgrown oil town that clung like a like a wart on the chin of the Texas panhandle. It was a region completely devoid of trees and so flat that you could stand in the middle of the highway and see fifty miles in either direction—a hundred if you stood on a Tuna fish can.

There was no wandering in the woods or exploring nature because—as you could clearly see—there was nothing out there. So we, as a people, were constantly thrown back on our imaginations and the liberal use of alcohol.

I conjured up The Cave of Blood to amuse us (I make my brother a party to this invention because I never would have done it if he hadn’t been there, his gullibility gleaming like a new coin begging to be spent even though past experience had shown him time and time again that following my agenda often led to some kind of pain.

It was a winter night in West Texas. A cold wave had dropped down from the panhandle. Mom and dad were out at the Golden Rooster wearing lobster bibs and getting hammered. The babysitter, a mature woman with a fondness for “resting” her eyes,  was snoring on the sofa by 8:30.

I was considering giving beer a try when my brother appeared and asked if we might be going to the Cave of Blood tonight. It had been an ongoing fiction for some time and I had promised that one night I would take him, but only when he was old enough and wouldn’t be scared and run away because “they” always caught you when you ran. He assured me he was not scared and would never run.

But you will tell Mother.

No, I won’t’ tell mother.

You’ll tell dad.

No, I won’t tell dad.

Ok. Basically, my brother was calling me out—he wanted to see this Cave of Blood or tell me I was a big fat liar. You see the position he put me?

There was a special door that led to the Cave of Blood. It was located in the bathroom—the same bathroom that separated our two bedrooms. I instructed him to prepare himself by spending the next ten minutes praying. That gave me time to get busy art directing the Cave of Blood.

I made sure the door that entered the bathroom from his room was closed and locked from the bathroom side. Then I turned on the hot water full blast in the shower. Clouds of steams begin to rise. There was a long, tiled counter top that stretched for about five feet and just above it a mirror that ran the length of the counter top and rose up to the ceiling. It reflected everything in the room.

From my closet I dug-up a cheesy old Halloween skeleton mask with the black one piece, tie-around the neck pajamas of painted bones. These I  hung from the shower curtain rod where they moved slightly in the billowing clouds of steam. With mom’s lipstick, I made bloody red finger prints across the counter. I took from a bottle Vitalis, dad’s hair tonic, and poured puddles on the ceramic tile of the counter top, struck a match and lit them.  With the lights off, the flames from the burning puddles were reflected in the mirror doubling the effect as was the skeleton costume wavering in the clouds of steam that filled the room like an eerie fog.

I switched off the lights in the hallway and closed the door to the bathroom behind me.  I called out to my little brother, “Are you done praying?”

He appeared wide-eyed at his bedroom door nodding his head.

“Are you sure?” I asked. Again he nodded. “No mom, no dad—pinky promise?” He nodded. “Then follow me,” I said and slowly opened the bathroom door. The puddles of flames flickered as if suspended in the fog and were reflected again in the hazy mirror, seeming far away, as if the room had expanded. The skeleton costume rippled in the clouds of steam that swirled around us …

My brother looked as if he’d just been stabbed in the neck with an ice-pick—his face a      rictus of horror frozen around this gaping mouth. It was worth a thousand beatings.

“Don’t let them catch me,” he cried as he turned on his heel and ran.

I retired to my room where, God, help me, I laughed and laughed and laughed.

Then mom and dad came home and things got very quiet. I figured he would rat on me and began constructing an elaborate lie involving a science fair project.

When my mother opened the door, I pretended to be asleep. When she switched on the light, I didn’t move. She ignored all that and got to the point.

“What have you done to your brother?”

“Whaa … “I said rubbing my eyes.

“He won’t use the bathroom. He won’t even go in there. What have you done to him?”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“Why is he scared of the bathroom? What did you do to your brother in that bathroom? It’s your fault if he wets the bed, mister.”

My brother wouldn’t even use my parent’s bathroom. I guess he figured all bathrooms led to the Cave of Blood and was probably lying in bed, his bladder bursting trying to delay the humiliation of wetting the bed. Or worse …

I was up and out of my bed. Moving quietly, I crept into my brother’s room.

“Hey, it’s just me. Are you awake?”


“How you doing?”

He didn’t answer.

“Hey, the whole Cave of Blood thing was joke. I just did it to scare you a little.”

“I saw the fire.”

“That was dad’s hair tonic. I poured it on the tiles and lit it. It burns like a candle. The skeleton was an old Halloween costume. There’s nothing in the bathroom now. Honest, I can show you. Come on get up …”


It hit me then what a bully I had been to my brother. Even if I’d never laid a hand on him, I had traumatized him mentally which would probably take longer to get over. I felt terrible and swore then and there that I would never do it again.

I walked over to the door that opened from his room into the bathroom, “Come on, I’ll show you …”

“Don’t …” He buried his head under his pillow.

I opened the door and flipped the bathroom light on.

“Look. It’s just the bathroom. That’s all. Come on. I’ll stand right here while until you’re done. I promise.”

He eased his head out from under the pillow and squinted into the glare of the lit-up bathroom.

“Now, come on and use the bathroom so you don’t wet the bed and mom gets mad at both of us.”

My brother got out of his bed and shuffled to over where I stood. First, he stuck his head in and peered around just to be sure.

“There is no Cave of Blood, there never was. It was just a story I made up. Now go ahead and go will you?”

He stepped into the bathroom and lifted the toilet lid. A stream of pee came blasting out of him.  The relief was visible on his face; I remember the expression of contentment. My little brother actually seemed happy just to be peeing.

That’s when I reached over and turned off the light.

“Don’t let them get me!” he cried, peeing on my foot as he fled back to his bed.

I could hear Dad say, “Awww hell.” As he rose from his bed and began to move my way. It became clear to me that though suffering was hard, changing was even harder.

The End

  1. Way to go, Mel….a very good and well written story. It reminded me of being a little brother to an older brother and his cadre of special friends who used my special friends and me as various and sundry forms of cannon fodder. I am not sure how much anger I suppressed from all of that, but I’ll think about it now that I have benn reminded. Good description of Odessa too. See you, Johnny D.

    • Mel Green says:

      Glad you liked it, Johnny D. Not a pretty thing to know about oneself–when you bullied someone. I bullied a kid at SMA, Greenlee was his name or something like that. He was always out of his room–as you know, I was no stickler for the rules, but this kid was a new guy and really fucking off. I sat on him pretty hard one night: push-ups, shoved him against the wall–I made him cry. That really bothered me. I hope he forgives me … I hope my brother forgives me too, I’ve apologized to him as an adult for all the horrors I committed …


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