Pig Face Hangs Up His Mask

Grandpa prankster shifts strategies in scaring another generation

Pig face is retired. The man behind the mask is not. His grandchildren might breathe easier.

The man behind the mask is Duff, and Halloween is known as Duff Day. As a scare persona that he often kept balled in his pocket like antacids, Duff’s Pig Face is relatively new but effective. Pig Face appeared behind closet doors, on back porches, in basement recesses. Two grandsons will not come to the door unless they see their grandfather standing in full sight, waving him in. They’ve been scarred by a knock-off Texas Chainsaw Massacre pig mask and a grandfather that knows no limits. Cruel and unusual? Not in our family.

Our instinct to protect our children led to a soft rebuke, at best, because our dad was born on Halloween and, in the mornings of his youth, Duff would often find his toe tied to his big brother’s toe, their grandfather snickering silently in the corner. It’s in the family DNA and, as his children, we were used to it.

Corners weren’t safe in our house. Neither was the tub with the curtain drawn. Washing dishes, according to my sister, meant he’d jump up behind from the opening between the kitchen sink and the dining room. Dare to retrieve something from the pantry, which was connected to the crawlspace, which always had mice, and the door would slam: he was able to throw his shoe, from his recliner across the room, over your shoulder against the door. It was practiced like any skill. To this day, it’s easier to sleep on my right side because my left side faced the window that terrified my brother, the window that he glimpsed in the vampire movie Salem’s Lot, that provoked him to hide behind the couch and caused our mother to force our dad to turn it off. Duff promised to climb a ladder up to our window, to give the vampires easier access. This was our normal.

We had a presence in our house, the Ghost of John, who was to blame for any strange noises, and who hung out on the kitchen light fixture, what my sister describes as a “weird gooey guy with green half pants.” I vaguely remember the figure but the Ghost of John—as a presence—lives on in our home, with our kids, who blame silly John for the noises and knocks that might otherwise have scared them.

Our children’s metaphoric skin is thick, like Pig Face. Though we are no longer fun for Duff, his grandkids surprised him this Halloween: Pig Face was as scary as a squirrel. With so much competing for their attention, the grandkids were not scared.  Our son has learned the joys of the scare, and also of the disappointment. His attempts at scaring his aunt—around corners, from behind doors—failed, and her response caused him the most trouble. “I grew up with Duff,” she explained. Attempts at scaring the Grand Pooh-Bah of scare have been met with loving mockery. Inspired by Leonardo the Terrible Monster, who is not good at scaring, the boy has had to seek out new victims. That makes Duff proud, and intent on finding a new mask.



About Robert Duffer

Robert Duffer (www.robertduffer.com) is the editor of the Dads & Families section of The Good Men Project. Winner of the Chicago Public Library's writing contest, his work appears in the Chicago Tribune, MAKE Magazine, Chicago Reader, Curbside Splendor, Time Out Chicago, Chicago Public Radio, Annalemma, New City, and other coffee-table favorites like Canadian Builders Quarterly. He teaches creative writing at Columbia College Chicago and lives in the suburbs with his wife, two kids, and their minivan. Follow @DufferRobert, Google+, facebook.

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