I dare you. I dare you to go up there, Peewee."
Those were the two things that I hated to hear most of all because I always took a dare--no matter how stupid the dare was--but more than that, I hated being called Peewee. You see, I was only 4-feet-3 and weighed a measly 58 pounds.
It was Halloween night when I heard those words and I shook with terror at the thought at what I knew I had to do. My big brother and some of his friends had invited me to go out with them. I was so excited to be able to go out with them.
I thought it was going to be my best Halloween ever, but it was a trick. My brother had dared me to go up to Ole Man Hook's house and knock on the door. Not only that but I had to get proof that I did.
Every kid in Platteville knew about Ole Man Hook. He was an evil man. It was said that he practiced black magic and was a sorcerer. He was never seen during daylight and was only seen after the sun set. He lived in the biggest, darkest house on the highest hill in all Platteville.
Not only that, but he had the longest driveway in the whole county. It was at least half a mile long. Even on the sunniest days that house had a dark cloud over it. The shades were always drawn and rarely would you see a light on. But the worst thing about Ole Man Hook was that he wore one black glove on one hand and the other hand was a silver hook. Surely the man was evil.
Now I'll tell you the truth. I was scared. But that didn't matter. I looked my brother right in the eye and said, "I'll take that dare. Ole Man Hook don't scare me." And with that I turned around and started up the drive.
It was an overcast, dark night--not a star in the sky and even though there was a full moon, I could barely see two feet in front of me because the moon was covered by the clouds. It seemed I was walking forever with cold drizzle hitting me in my face. When I got about halfway up the drive, I stopped and turned around. I mean, this was crazy! Me. The kid known as Peewee. The smallest kid in the whole school was going up to Ole Man Hook's house on Halloween night. But something had come over me at that moment. I was sick of being teased about being small and hated being called Peewee. I knew that if I didn't go up there, I would be called chicken. And I wasn't going to be called "Peewee the Chicken." So I turned back around and started walking toward the house.
By the time I got to the front door, I was shaking. At first I tried to convince myself that it was because I was cold and wet. But I knew that wasn't it. It was because I was terrified! My heart was pounding harder than it had ever pounded before. With shaky hands I reached up and rang the doorbell. I could hear footsteps coming toward the door. At that moment my body lost all control. I wet myself.
A few seconds later the door opened. The moment I feared most of all was finally here. There was Ole Man Hook right in front of me. He wasn't wearing his black glove and I could see his hand. All his fingers had been cut off at the first knuckle, except for his thumb. That was complete. And then I seen it: "The Hook" where his right hand used to be. It was silver and shiny-looking. I was in a daze. The hook seemed to hypnotize me. I couldn't quit staring at it. Then Ole Man Hook said something I will never forget. He said, "What can I do for you, Big Fella?"
Big Fella, Big Fella! Nobody ever called me Big Fella before! It's always been Shorty, Shrimp, Tiny, Small Fry and especially Peewee, but never, not ever had someone ever called me Big Fella.
So I said the only thing I could think of. I blurted out, "Trick or treat."
Ole Man looked at me with a great big smile and said, "I've been waiting for years for someone to come up here and say those words. Every Halloween I would go out and buy tons of chocolate and candy to give away to some lucky kid, but no one ever came, until now."
And with that he turned around and grabbed two huge shopping bags filled with all the best candy and he handed them to me. There was Reese's peanut butter cups, Hershey bars, Twix, Kit Kats, hard candies, gum and licorice.
I couldn't believe it. I hit the Halloween jackpot! I looked at Ole Man Hook and asked, "What happened to your hands?"
He looked at me for a second and with a heavy sigh replied, "Many years ago, I had been drinking alcohol. I got into my car, started it up and drove away. Because I was drunk, I got into a terrible accident that resulted in losing my hands. I wear the one glove on my left hand because I can't stand the way it looks. It greatly troubles me to have to look down every day and look at what's left of me, so I cover it up."
Then he looked me right square in the eye and said, "Listen here, Big Fella. Don't ever drink and drive because it can change your entire life in the blink of an eye." He then placed his only hand on my head and said, "I know it took you a lot of courage to come up here tonight, and courage cannot be measured in feet and inches or in pounds. Some day you'll be a very big man."
He took his hand off my head then continued, "Now take your two bags of candy and go back down the drive and give those cowards each one piece of candy as proof that you were here. Take the rest home, and put it in your room and keep it for yourself because you earned it, Big Fella, and always remember this: Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see because there are always two sides to every story. God bless you." And with that he turned around and then he shut the door.
As I walked back down the hill, my arms got tired from carrying the candy, so I stopped halfway to rest. I turned around to look at the house and saw something I will never forget: Every single light was on in the house and the moon came out from behind the clouds and shined brighter than I had ever seen before. But the strange thing was, it seemed to shine directly on Ole Man Hook's house. In fact, Ole Man Hook's house shined more brighter than any other house in all of Platteville that night.
Something strange happened that Halloween night after I got back down the hill. I got hungry, real hungry. I started eating nonstop. For years I ate everything I could get my hands on. I was an eating machine.
It's been 10 years since that Halloween night. I am now 6-feet-6 and 265 pounds of solid muscle. And nobody, I mean nobody, ever calls me Peewee.
* Mack, 27, lives in Sun Valley. He is a ramp agent for Southwest Airlines.