The Weirdest Kid That I Ever Knew
Author: Will Berry


What rhymes with 'strange bird?'
I can think of only one,
Thomas O. Krappenhoff III,
And even as he grew,
He was still,
The weirdest kid that I ever knew.

     There walked the halls during my years at Truman Capote High School, one Thomas O. Krappenhoff III, and he was so weird that even the toughest guys in school avoided him. If they saw him coming down the hall they just pressed themselves against the wall. The girls usually just dived into a rest room, either boys or girls, it didn't matter. Teachers were known to carry all matter of religious icons, usually Oriental, to ward off the evil spirits that were sure to be emanating from Thomas O. Krappenhoff III.

     One can only say so much about someone like that. I, of course, did not make the effort to get to know him as I probably should have. But how can you get to know someone who distained a rabbit's foot for good luck and instead carried a rat's tail? Thomas was a believer in bad luck because he once said, actually he shouted it out in the school lunchroom, that most people did not know the difference between good luck and bad luck. He continued to expound, before the teachers reluctantly dived on him, which meant full body contact with someone who was sure to give them, at best, a Mesopotamian curse. He managed to blurt out before being completely subdued that bad luck is actually good luck because one can avoid all the pit-falls of a regulated life such as marriage, children, divorce, remarriage, stepchildren, dead-end careers, and the never-ending harassment of mutual funds.

     Still, with all of that, I think that it was a mistake not to include his graduation picture in the school year book. In fact, even his name was omitted. They mailed him his high school diploma. But he did get to attend the Senior Prom, with a date yet, one Annabelle Sorz by name. They got in because the football players who were supposed to be guarding the door were drunk, and the quick appearance of Thomas and Annabelle created a sensation that is still whispered about today wherever particular people congregate.

     I lost track of Thomas O. Krappenhoff III after graduation. I did the usual things. A fast courtship, a heavy mortgage, three children, and a miserable Pomeranian. Amazingly enough, Thomas had been doing the same things and, in fact, later moved into my neighborhood. He had married Annabelle and they had 14 children. They did not go out much. Thomas had bought a huge house as one might expect with 14 children that was located almost a half a mile from the street. The house was surrounded by dense brush and foliage of every conceivable strain of plant and tree, some of it probably imported. "The Addams House" was its neighborhood name and it was assumed that they had the same family values. With all of this, Thomas had hit it big in the Halloween supply business founding a company he named "River Styx Supplies."

     I am happy to say that I finally got to know Thomas O. Krappenhoff III and even though you would not want to invite him to a family reunion, I found him to be a rather agreeable chap. No one really got acquainted with Annabelle, busy as she was with her domestic duties no doubt, but the 14 children came out to the neighborhood, a new one every year, and they seemed to be very pleasant children indeed.

     My own children found the Krappenhoff children, or in the neighborh ood lingo, "Krapp's Kids," to be great companions and they associated with each other continously. Now, on one dark and stormy night recently, Thomas and Annabelle had been invited to a rather formal affair, a national convention of prominent Halloween suppliers, to be held in the basement of the Motor Oil Cafe. Thomas asked me to baby sit with his children, and since baby sitters were not easy to come by for Thomas and Annabelle, I of course responded in the affirmative.

     I took my youngest son Benchley with me to sleep over. Benchley was especially fond of the youngest Krapp Kids, who were named Clausewitz, or Klaus, and Elvira. When I arrived I found Thomas and Annabelle dressed in the same attire that they had both worn on Senior Prom night at Truman Capote High so many years ago. I was astonished at how well the costumes still fit both of them. Thomas was a little nervous inasmuch as he was to be the keynote speaker at the convention and also he was to introduce the new Halloween lines for the coming year, which was to be the cutting edge of high-tech horror. I told both of them not to be nervous, just go out and have a good time and not drink too much blood.

     I went up the creaky stairs with Benchley to the bedrooms on the third floor and was immediately beseeched by all the children, even the older ones, to read them all a bedtime story. I thought that a reading from Machiavelli's "The Prince" might be in order but they all were intrigued by their father and mother's costumes and wanted to know all about them and of course I acquiesced.

     "Well, children," I started, "your father and mother and their costumes were the hit of Senior Prom night at Truman Capote High." I had to lie a little bit. Everyone was settling in for a good story about their parents as they knew any story about their parents was bound to be good. Benchley, however, seemed a little uneasy. "You see, children, although Senior Prom night was a formal affair, your father and mother decided to go just as you saw them tonight."

     "Vas ist loust?" asked Klaus. Yes, I said, it was true. Your father went as the quintessential Dracula right down to fangs and blood and I remarked that his tuxedo, ala Bela Lugosi, was very correct. And your mother, not to be outdone, went as Lizzie Borden, and again, was quite correct in her 19th century dress, something that Mary Todd Lincoln might have worn to a diplomatic reception. Then I told them who Dracula and Lizzie Borden were and what they had done with their lives and before long the children were falling asleep with little smiles on their faces.

     I went downstairs to watch TV hoping to catch the latest Emmanuelle movie on Showtime 6, "Emmanuelle in Walla-Walla." Then I heard the patter of little feet behind me and turned to find Benchley.

     "Benchley," I asked, "can't you sleep?"


     "Would you like me to read you another bedtime story?"

     "No, that's why I can't sleep."

     Benchley climbed up on my lap and I flipped the remote to Animal Planet just as Steve Irwin was getting nipped in the face by a grumpy little green snake and wife Terri was running towards him with a first aid kit.

     Now the hour was late, and I began to fall asleep when Benchley said, "Daddy, would you look at that?" I awoke and expected to see Steve Irwin with his arm in a grumpy alligator's mouth that he called 'Mean Monte.' What I saw was a white apparition moving around outside the patio door. I grabbed Benchley and told him not to look. The figure was ghostly, a white luminous specter. I watched it move around and it appeared that it was, as I feared, trying to get into the h ouse. I told Benchley to run back upstairs while I decided what to do with this ghost of Mrs. Muir.

     Then the ghost knocked. I was becoming stiff with fright. I could not move. But then, I reasoned, do ghosts knock at patio doors? I got up on unsteady legs and wishing I had some sort of ghost weapon, I went to the patio door. "Who's...there?" Thinking better of the question, I rephrased it. "What's...there?"

     "It's me...Thomas. Would you please let me in?"


     "I said it's me, Thomas O. Krappenhoff III. Would you please let me in? It's cold out here."

     I admitted Thomas. "Thomas," I said, "just what are you attempting to do in that costume? You looked so nice in your Dracula tux."

     "Well, it's our new Halloween line. This is supposed to be a real ghost outfit. I mean, a REAL ghost outfit. It is supposed to get you through any physical matter like walls, doors, anything. Only 189.95 retail, batteries not included. The prototype worked at the convention well enough, but now it won't work here at all. I was able to float up through three floors at the Motor Oil Cafe getting right up to a dice game on the third floor. You can imagine the start I gave those people. Well, Annabelle said it wouldn't work at home. 'Salesmen's samples only work in demonstartions on the sales floor,' she said, 'and if you think I'm going to stand out here on the patio while you try to get it to work, well...I'm going in through the front door like normal people,' she said.

     "She has a point there, Thomas," I said.

     "And me placing an order for 85 of these things that they call 'Ghost Host.' And Annabelle expecting our 15th child."

     "Thomas, I just have to say it. You are, man and boy, the weirdest kid that I ever knew."


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DON FRASER ( -- Sunday, October 13 2002, 12:16 am


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