When we were kids, which was a very long time ago, my brother and I were taken to Nightcliff Drive-In on Friday nights in the back of the Holden stationwagon. The back seats were folded down and we had blankets and pillows in case we wanted to sleep – and we’d be treated, over our parents’ shoulders, to such classics as The Magnificent Seven, A Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Idiot who forgot to put the speaker back on the pole and drove off with it still attached to the car window. We would have liked horror flicks if they’d had any then – but it seemed to be either westerns or James Bond. Nevertheless, it was great fun altogether and I wish the Hunter Gatherer and I could have taken our own children to a drive-in when they were little. Unlike Dad and the Warrior Queen, we have four children, so the thrills of being hit in the back of the head by soggy chips and errant Maltesers would have been excitingly doubled.
To make up for the fact we didn’t have Freddy Krueger in those days, Dad happily obliged when we got home, staging his very own version of Creepshow for our entertainment and edification.
There were three favourites you might reasonably expect to encounter. Mopknocker, Underbed Fred, or the silent and deadly Curtain Zombie. There was no clue as to what you’d be getting, so complacency was not an option. Lying in bed minding your own business, you’d have just about forgotten there was any imminent danger. Then you’d hear it. A faint tap, tap, tap on the window and there, etched on the other side of the flyscreen, would be a gruesome and frightful visage, leering from beneath its tattered grey, crypt-cobwebbed hair. Okay, I’m well aware mopheads can’t leer. But you would have had to have been there.
After you’d practically crapped yourself with fear and the Warrior Queen had confiscated the mop from our hilarious and evil pater and told him he was going to bed without any gruel, you could finally go to sleep in the happy knowledge the postman never knocked twice.
Naturally, we’d always be on the alert to Dad’s whereabouts when we returned home from the drive-in – but he got the better of us every time. And just as you were dozing, thinking maybe this time he’d forgotten, there’d be the hideous creak of bedsprings and you’d feel something horrible pushing the mattress up underneath you. Underbed Fred. Or the heavy curtains covering the built-in wardrobe would start to ripple and bulge. The Curtain Zombie was behind them … and ready to emerge and hurl you into the depths of the River Styx.
Years later, the Hunter Gatherer and I were visiting Dad and the WQ. The WQ and I were chatting happily in the kitchen, stuffing ourselves indiscriminately with one sort of foodstuff or another, when we suddenly became aware of faint music. Dad had a large organ (of the Wurlitzer variety), but he and the HG were safely in the living room and there was nobody else in the house but us chickens. An organ was definitely being played, so the WQ and I crept down the darkened hallway to the accompanying strains of a Bach fugue. From the organ’s lair, a pale, ghostly light leaked under the door over the hall carpet.
It was the WQ who pushed open the door. And there it was. Its grey, tattered, crypt-cobwebbed hair fell over its leering face, the arms of its putrid shroud were draped artistically on the keyboard. Undoubtedly, it was readying itself to turn its head and stultify us with its evil, shiteating grin. Mopknocker, in all his glory, was playing Bach.
The WQ says she didn’t pee herself, and I’m not admitting anything myself at this stage. The reason Dad thought it would be funny to drape the mop in his dressing gown and set the Wurlitzer to autoplay was never explained. There was actually not much chance of him giving an explanation, because some of us are still not speaking to him. But the incident has left its legacy. To this day, I can’t walk past the mop section of Food-o-rama without hearing a Bach fugue faintly in the back of my mind and overriding the Barry Manilow musak track. And we don’t have mops in our house. They were banned long ago.
Any relative of Mopknocker is not a friend of mine …