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The Black Mask-part 1
(Meave simons)

The Black Mask
It?s June 21, the kids are out of school. We?re packing for our yearly trip to the Mountains for the summer. It?s hard to pack for the mountains - s
sometimes it?s like winter up there, other times it can reach over 100 degrees. The van is fully loaded - bikes, toys, playpens, practically our whole wardrobe!
We?ll be leaving as soon as eighteen-month old Christopher eats his cereal. The ride up to the lake takes about 7 hours so we hope he?ll take a good long nap! His big sister, Erin, is 11 and his brother Brendan is 8. They are such big helpers - we never thought we would have a third child, I always said - we can?t have a third - then there?s more of them than us! It turned out to be the best thing that happened to the whole family, he?s a happy little guy!
Well were on our way - big Chris is starting out the trip - I?ll finish the last 3 hours or so. I can smell the campfire right now! "Hey mom did you hear Brendan is going to be an astronaut? Yeah, he?s always in space anyway!" "Shut up Erin go braless!" "Erin, Brendan stop that fighting - you?ll wake the baby - then I?ll be mad as a wet hen". I?m not too sure what that means but my mother used to always say that to us. She was born and raised in Ireland and she lived on a farm. I imagine when the hens were wet they could get pretty mad!!!!!! We?ve got 5 more hours to go and I would like him to sleep at least another hour. "But he started it, Mom - his foot touched mine" - Brendan said "I couldn?t help it mom - this van is so packed there?s no where to move - and my foot feels numb!" "When daddy pulls over - you can sit in the front, Erin". We have airbags in the car - so Brendan isn?t big enough - but Erin is as tall as me - so I think she?s safe.
Two hours later the baby wakes up screaming - it?s time to pull over anyway - there?s no McDonald?s in site up here - so we settle on pulling over to a little pond and set up a picnic. The kids are running around playing ball. This is really nice. Every since Chris quit his job and started his own consulting business, life has been good. Being home with the kids all day is stressful - now there?s two of us to deal with the carpooling, soccer practice, dance, piano, etc. Chasing Christopher around is a full time job itself! This is the second year we?ve been able to spend the whole summer up in the mountains. The house itself must be over 100 years old. The family before us left all their jewelry, clothes, furniture, even medicine and stuff in the refrigerator. Chris? parents own it now and have updated and added rooms - making it really enjoyable for everyone. Chris just leaves for a two-week stretch to attend meetings back home.
Time to go. The baby is screaming he doesn?t want to be back in his car seat. I shove a lollipop at him and he?s happy - (so is his dentist) I swear Erin never saw a lollipop until she was 6 years old - and off we go.
It?s my turn to drive - I daydream when I drive - which I know is dangerous - but there?s really not many other cars on the road. Several years ago, I had a panic attack crossing the Tapenzee Bridge in New York. My hands just literally froze - I just stared the whole way over the bridge I don?t know how I made it - it hasn?t happened since thank God.
Here we are - I pull in the two-mile driveway of dust. The kids are so anxious to jump in the lake It?s just starting to get dark out - but that won?t stop them. Frankly, I get nervous up here especially when I?m alone. Last year a huge black bear walked by the house at about 6:30 in the morning - luckily I didn?t see it - but Chris and his parents did. I don?t know what I would do if I was approached by one - they say not to look them in the eye and to back up. Some people say they wave their hands and scream - I hope I never have to worry about that. I can?t even stand a spider - never mind a 400 pound bear!
The two worst days of the summer are the day we arrive and the day we leave. We have to unload the whole van, chase the baby, unpack everything, put everything away, chase the baby, put the sheets on the bed - chase the baby, put away the food we brought with us, chase the baby!
When we first walk in the smell of must is really strong - Chris? parents leave charcoal in pans all around the house to help. We open all the windows and smell that fresh pine air! Erin and Brendan are already on the dock! The ducks are happy we?re here - they?re quacking away out there. I don?t want them feeding those ducks - last year there was an article in the paper about duck itch - where the ducks would be fed - do their business in the lake and you would get an itchy rash when you went swimming. The baby doesn?t need any more rashes - he?s already been to the hospital for croup. Brendan has been to the hospital twice already for staples in his head - Boys are so much different than girls - Erin is 11 an has never even had Novocain. We?re so much more careful and fearful I guess than boys - The first time I got stitches I was 26!!!
What a day - the lake is simply gorgeous - the house is all shaped up - the sheets are on and the baby is sleeping. Now, it?s really summer! Now, I can relax! OOOUUUUCH I hear Erin screaming! Mom I cut my foot (what was I just saying-never mind!!!) I can?t walk - I think I stepped on wood or something - Sit down be calm - I tell myself - but I hear myself actually saying "What the hell did you do - where are you shoes - we?re here not even one day and this is what happens!" " I?m sorry Mom" more crying - more guilt - "Okay - let daddy look at it - He?s the doctor around here" - I feel sick to my stomach when the kids get hurt - I actually feel pain - I can?t bear the site - I see all the blood and I?m ready to pass out. I don?t see any wood in it though - what could she have stepped on - glass? It was probably those workers -they must have used glass soda bottles or something - we all know better - we only use plastic.
Chris says - "looks like we have to get her stitched up". Up here there?s not many places to go - there?s is a doctor 20 minutes away - so Chris wraps her foot in a towel - why he chose white is beyond me -and heads out the door. Brendan wants to go too - he likes guts and goo!
I sweep the front porch -what?s that moving around under there - I think I?ll go in and clean out the refrigerator. Hopefully nothing is lurking under there. Although last year I was down on the ground playing with the baby near the refrigerator and I looked over and there was a dead mouse - ugh, his mouth was all bloody ? I think he electrocuted himself by biting into the plug. That?s one way to lose your appetite!
It?s too quiet without a television or radio. Maybe Chris? parents will bring them up.
There goes the baby. I?m kind of glad - it?s too quiet. I go up to check on him and he?s sound asleep! It?s creepy being here alone. Every noise I hear I panic. There?s that crying again - but it?s not coming from upstairs. I won?t dare go outside it?s pitch black outside. I tell myself it?s the raccoons. Yes, that?s it - sometimes they sound like pigs when they eat - they actually grunt! They?re pretty scary too! Was that scratching on the window? - Eventually I snooze off??..
Bang!!! Clamp! Oh my God what is it - I waken with a startle. "Honey, we?re home" - "Thank Goodness - how are you Erin" - "Mom, I got 12 stitches - it hurts so much". "Oh honey, I?m so sorry - I?m sorry I yelled at you! I love you!" "Me too mom" - Poor Erin is hobbling around on crutches. I?m so ashamed at myself for yelling.
"Brendan, what are you wearing" He is wearing this really ugly black animal mask. "I found it on the front porch". I just swept the front porch - I didn?t see anything like that there. I guess he found it under the deck.
It?s after midnight - Erin and Brendan go upstairs to fight over which bed they get to sleep in. Oh no, there?s the baby - I?ll kill them!!!! I go upstairs to get Christopher - but he is sound asleep.

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