Old age didn’t slow down the pranks

My granduncle was the oldest man I had ever seen. His name was Father William Cashman, and I guessed his age at 500 or 600 years, but that was just a guess. He may have been older.

My granduncle was the oldest man I had ever seen. His name was Father William Cashman, and I guessed his age at 500 or 600 years, but that was just a guess. He may have been older.

He was a retired Catholic priest. Being a retired priest is sort like being a retired baseball player, except that there’s no infield fly rule.

Father Will lived all by himself in a huge, deserted hospital in my hometown. A big new medical facility had been built years earlier, so the former hospital was merely used for storage - and for housing its sole occupant.

My superannuated granduncle made a tortoise seem like a gazelle. He walked in short, shuffling steps and would have easily lost a foot race with a banana slug. (I know, I know, bananas and slugs don’t have feet.)

My brothers and I used to imitate Father Will’s inch-by-inch gait - one guaranteed to create vast amounts of static electricity. The 30-foot excursion that Father Will made to the bathroom from his small bedroom took longer than a pony ride from Kirkland to Auburn, by way of Everett.

He was also a delightful human – kind and gentle - and a first-class storyteller. My dad visited him every chance he got, and if my brothers and I were lucky, we got to go along, too. Then, while dad and Father Will sat in his room having a glass or two of whiskey and telling jokes, my brothers and I would wander around the halls of the old hospital. It was spooky enough during the day, but at night it became a place where even Stephen King would have gotten the willies. We walked warily through the darkened corridors, peering into rooms filled with old beds and medical equipment, expecting a crazed doctor to jump out at us brandishing a bloody scalpel at any moment.

Since I was the older brother, it was my unofficial job to heighten the nervousness by occasionally whispering things like “What was that?” Or, “Do you guys hear a growling noise?” And sometimes, “I’m not really your brother. I escaped from a mental hospital several years ago.”

We could be sure our dad would bring us to visit Father Will each and every Christmas Eve night. That’s so our mom could remain behind at home to greet Santa and help him put presents under the tree. It was the perfect cover.

I remember one Christmas Eve particularly well. I was 12 years old. On our drive over to the old hospital, dad lectured my four brothers and me very solemnly. “Boys,” he said, “I want you to be very careful tonight. There have been some strange things going on in the old hospital.” We looked at him hard to see if there was any sign that he was kidding. He looked very serious, but didn’t say another thing.

When we arrived, Father Will greeted us all warmly, and as we handed him a Christmas present, he underscored what dad had said. “I wouldn’t go wandering around the halls tonight if I were you,” the old priest said. Then he and dad settled in for an hour of old jokes fueled by “Old Grand Dad.”

At first, my brothers and I hovered around the hall just outside of Father Will’s room. But before long, we began creeping farther away. We walked up a darkened stairway to the hospital’s second floor. The old halls creaked with our every step. The rooms were dark as tar, except for the slight light of the moon sneaking in through the filmy windows. The rooms with old hospital beds in them were otherwise empty and chillingly stark.

Then we noticed one room at the far end of the long hallway that seemed to have a bit more light coming from it. We inched toward it, our knees shaking like castanets. Then, with the five of us attached so closely that we looked like Siamese quintuplets, we peered warily into the room.

The shock of what we saw was so immense that if our eyes had bulged any bigger, they would have popped right out of their sockets and fallen onto the floor. For there, in the dim light from a single bare fixture, was an operating table. On it lay a naked human cadaver!

Our five simultaneous screams could have shattered bulletproof glass, and our terrified stampede back down the corridor was much like the running of the bulls in Pamplona. Minus the horns.

But when we arrived breathlessly back at Father Will’s room, he and dad were howling with laughter, proud of how well the dummy they had set up had done the trick. They were a bit disappointed that in our hasty retreat, we hadn’t also noticed the big glass jar they had placed there, too – with a large cauliflower floating in water – labeled Human Brain.

Good thing I hadn’t seen that. I have always been terrified by cauliflower.

Pat Cashman is a writer, actor and public speaker. He can be reached at pat@patcashman.com


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@kentnews.us.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://kentnews.us/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Opinion

Robert Whale can be reached at robert.whale@auburn-reporter.com.
If you're right, and you know it, then read this | Whale's Tales

As the poet Theodore Roethke once wrote: “In a dark time the eye begins to see…”

Robert Whale can be reached at robert.whale@albmedia.app.
Grappling with the finality of an oncologist's statement | Whale's Tales

Perhaps my brain injected a bit of humor to cover the shock. But I felt the gut punch.

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Legislature back in session next week | Cartoon

State lawmakers return Jan. 8 to Olympia.

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Santa doesn't drive a Kia | Cartoon

Cartoon by Frank Shiers.

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Salute to veterans | Cartoon by Frank Shiers

On Veterans Day, honor those who served your country.

File photo
Why you should vote in the upcoming election | Guest column

When I ask my students when the next election is, frequently they will say “November 2024” or whichever presidential year is coming up next.

Robert Whale can be reached at rwhale@albmedia.app.
Here's a column for anyone who loves their dog | Whale's Tales

It is plain to me in looking at dogs small and large that a decent share of them are exemplars of love on Earth, innocents who love unconditionally and love their chow.

Robert Whale can be reached at rwhale@albmedia.app.
Please protect your children from BS spreaders | Whale's Tales

Among the most useful things I studied in college were debate, and… Continue reading

Email editor@kentnews.us.
It's time to change Kent's City Council elections to districts | Guest column

If you were asked who your city councilmembers are, would you have an answer?

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He is a former president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. Contact thebrunells@msn.com.
Dear government: Hold your horses when regulating trucks | Brunell

Next to gasoline and diesel, natural gas also has the greatest number of refueling stations.

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Mariners get red hot | Cartoon

Cartoon by Frank Shiers