Thursday, June 18, 2009

Are You Afraid of the Dark?: The Tale of Old Man Corcoran

[Apologies in advance for the poor quality of the screenshots. When it's dark, it's hard to see what's going down.]

Kiki's telling the story tonight. "Hide and seek is not like any other game. You start off in a group but when you're out there in the dark, you're all alone. You've gotta hide and be real quiet because you never know when somebody might jump out and catch you." That kind of sounds like what life was like at the Keaton residence when drunk old Uncle Ned came for a visit, but okay, whatever.

Open up on two kids. Kenny and his older brother Jack have moved on up to the suburbs from the 'hood.

Here, they're free to squirt each other with supersoakers on Astroturf to their heart's content. Remember the early 90s? When life was a gigantic supersoaker commercial? All they need is a Slip n Slide, and the American Dream is achieved. No more yearning for that green light, yo.

Some kids pull up on bikes. Lead kid walks over to them and asks to know where they're from. They reply with a measure of pride, "East side."

"Nice neighborhood," cracks Whitey. Oh, Kiki, leave it to you to inject some racial tension into a story.

Jack thinks the new town is a loser neighborhood. Whitey invites the kids to come play hide and go seek with them at midnight. How deliciously unwholesome, like flying a kite at night. "We've been looking for a couple of tokens, and well, we think you'd be perfect way to fulfill our community outreach program at the same time."

The kids are reluctant. I mean, this isn't nearly as cool as the time they dared their Oreo cousin to spend a weekend in Compton. But they're eager to make friends. Whitey gives them directions and at midnight, they show a graveyard.

They wander through the graveyard till Whitey pops up with a "Boo!" and requisite "Oh, you should have seen your faces!" Yeah, but you should see YOUR face next week when you walk into your office and the rest of the gang has put a Chinaman there. Whitey calls "Ollie Ollie Oxen free!" and the others come out.

Whitey rattles off a long list of names, ending with Sissy Vernon, a pale butch Kiki wannabe. She asks the new kids if they aren't scared and they aren't, because everyone's dead here. Sissy replies, "Kind of," and then launches into an explanation of the ghost of Old Man Corcoran.

So, Creepy Old Man Corcoran used to be the groundskeeper, and he used to dig all the graves by hand, no machines. He also patrolled the grounds to make sure no one was there. He had a harmonica and was supposedly crazy. The legend goes that he caught a kid stealing and cut his hand off with an axe. (Apologies to Boo Radley there. C'mon, you know Harper Lee is spending her days monitoring stuff like this so she can go, "Thought of it first! Pass me my scones.")

Anyway, one day when Old Man C was digging a grave, it caved in, burying him alive. But his ghost still walks and you can hear him playing his old mouth organ and considering that when this episode aired, tickets to see Alanis playing harmonica on One Hand in My Pocket in concert were probably $100 a pop, I'd go with sneaking into the graveyard myself.

Jack and Kenny opine that the story blows. Jack says his grandma's scarier, and Kenny pipes in with, "Yeah, you should try living in our old neighborhood." If Kenny and Jack's grandma bears any resemblance to Madea, I'm with them.

Jack wants to know long how Sissy could last in the 'hood. And I say well, that depends, are we battling Samuel L. Jackson's homeless psycho from Coming to America or is this more of a cerebral I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings/The Bluest Eye type situation, and I feel the glares of all the kids on me.

The game starts. Jack and Kenny go to hide but then they start to hear a harmonica. They figure it's someone pranking on them and they decide to prank the prankers. They see what they think is Old Man Corcoran's shack. They hide behind a stump. We hear someone hacking away with an ax. Kenny says, "You think they brought an ax out here just to play a joke on us?" "That's what I would do," his brother responds. Um, well, yeah and the town's probation officer really wants to have a little talk with you about that. No, but if Ashton Kutcher ever tries to prank me, I really want Jack with me.

They see a harmonica on top of the stump and then hear someone coming. We see a hand grabbing the harmonica.

Kenny and Jack leave. They hear someone scream "Ollie Ollie Oxen Free" and they run straight into...

They run to the fence. Kenny almost doesn't make it over.

Hurry, Timmy, they're going to turn the power on! Well, he makes it in time, ripping his pants.

Next scene. The garage. The boys are sweeping up because they got into trouble for Kenny ripping his pants the night before. (Just tell Mom Jack got a little exuberant, okay?) Kenny says he wishes they never moved here and Jack tells him not to say that because, "Mom would do a lot to get us out of the old neighborhood." Kenny starts to protest and I'm with him--c'mon, he got in one little fight and his mom got scared...oh, er, the whitest kids you know are back and want them to play again.

Sissy Vernon accuses them of being chickens.

They retort, "We're not!" (uh, no, the proper answer is, "I'm not a chicken, you're a turkey," gawd). Marshall says, "Vernon just told you that story to scare you off. She doesn't want anyone else joining the group." Yeah, swarthy Ron Jacobson is the only token she'll stand for around here.

The kids convince Jack and Kenny to come. Little bro is reluctant. "Aw, c'mon, Alfie, let's just play with Goo instead." Oops, wrong Nick show. "This isn't about making friends anymore, Kenny," Jack intones solemnly. "This is about proving we can handle it." Yeah, well, Jack, that's what you said the time we had to bake a dozen dozen of cupcakes for the Black Panther Bake Sale back in the old neighborhood and we still got our asses capped because they were vanilla cupcakes.

Later in the graveyard, Sissy doesn't want to invite outsiders into the cabal. Marshall wants new blood. They get a discount for every nonwhite, remember, and Ron here isn't cutting the mustard anymore. No offense, Ron, still doing the group's taxes this year? You're a gem.

They play and Jack and Kenny both have to be IT together. But Jack has a plan of his own: to steal the harmonica so they can prove that Old Man Corcoran does exist. You know, lift from a guy who supposedly cut off a boy's hand for theft. God, I hope your mother does a better job with the driving while black lessons. Somewhere, Bill Cosby's hurling boxes of jigglers and screaming about how Jack's discrediting his people. Kenny wants to use teamwork and invite the others, but Jack's all, "Don't be an Uncle Tom." I kind of was hoping Cinar would sneak in a Booker T. Washington vs. W.E.B. DuBois debate here about the issue of black separatism, but no dice.

The brothers spy on Old Man Corcoran's retreating form. Aw, coveralls that don't quite cover all. They hide behind the stump. Old Man Corcoran comes back and takes his mouth organ. Jack's pissed because he wants that harmonica. (Okay, I agree, white people really shouldn't sing the blues, but we can get you your own mouth organ at the dollar store, c'mon!) Kenny knows he's the main character but he's not taking any chances. (He's a token called Kenny for chrissake!) Despite Jack's anger, Kenny knows he could be red shirted and gets the hell out of dodge.

Our Angry Young Man puts on a flashlight and dramas, "If I die, it's his fault." Shut up, Jack. Old Man C may not be allowed to sing the blues but you aren't allowed to go emo on me. Now get in there, get the harmonica and let's go.

He sneaks into the house, his flashlight now out. He stumbles around the house and accidentally switches on some old timey music. Then when he turns around, he sees Kenny who found the harmonica. The flashlight's now inexplicably on. Jack takes the harmonica and asks for the flashlight, except Kenny's not holding it. "If I'm not holding the flashlight..." "P-p-p-pirate ghosts!" No, more like, "Give me my harmonica!"

It's Old Man Corcoran asserting his property rights! Quote some anti capitalist Malcolm X screed at him and let's hit the dirt.

Shrieking, the boys run into Sissy hiding in a grave. She's not interested in their triumph over the Man(TM) and tells them to git. Uh, aren't they supposed to be IT? Where's the writer? Off smoking a bowl with Corky?

They leave, Kenny telling Sissy he didn't see her name on the grave. Sissy's all, "Well look a little closer next time." You tell 'em, Sissy. Also have you ever looked at a floating plastic bag in the wind? I, really looked?

Then they run into Marshall who's hiding in another grave and try to tell him how they stole from a poor white living impaired night laborer to give to some rich white kids.

Marshall's all, "Yeah, but I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance." He tells them to get into the grave with him (dude! writers! they are IT! they don't need to hide) but just then, Old Man Corcoran comes up behind them.

He wants to know what's up. They say they were playing hide and go seek and he's all, "Alone?" Ooh, I bet you guys would get extra diversity points for adding axe wielding old guy.

They list the names of their friends and he tells them that's not funny, that those kids are all dead and he buried them himself.

"What's the matter? You look like you've just seen a ghost." And I hear the fap fap sounds of a young M. Night Shyamalan coming to an epiphany. "Brilliant! People who seem alive can really be dead! And people who seem to live in the past can live in the present. And scrunks and narfs can make up for a lack of a plot!" Yeah, that's a good twist, M. Night, but a really good twist would be if it turned out that the old neighborhood that Ma so desperately wanted to get Jack and Kenny out of was Darien, Connecticut.

The Midnight Society kids think this story was awesome. They're all up for a game of Hide and Seek and everyone says "Not it" (except Gary, inexplicably absent, who probably wet his pants in fear at the thought of more minorities infiltrating his group and went home). Frank is it and the kids go off to play again.

Hope you enjoyed that. Now taking suggestions for any future episodes you guys want recapped.