Doctor Gash’s Tip of the Scalpel to Childish Horrors, Part 1

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Two things are certain: Everything is scarier when you are a kid, and kids make everything scarier. With these two facts in mind, I realized I have a couple of stories that you just might find enjoyable, and I want to share one with you in this Doctor Gash Tip of the Scalpel to Childish Horrors, Part 1.

This is a story that will really hit home for those of you who have children and have seen The Exorcist (and I’m sure many of you thought twice about the former after doing the latter). I certainly welcome the rest of you Dreadies to read and hopefully enjoy this story, but I think it’ll really hit home with you parental veterans of The Exorcist.

Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel

Cuatros Cuertas

As many of you know, I recently completed a series entitled Doctor Gash’s Top 10 Horror Movies…Ever! and the number one movie was, of course, The Exorcist. Well, if you think the film is disturbing just from viewing it, then you’ll appreciate how researching the film and kicking ideas around for a write-up for a couple days could certainly get under your skin. The Exorcist can really get its hooks into you. I saw more images of Regan MacNeil during those few days of research than I ever care to see in such a concise amount of time again. There is just something about that movie. You know it and I know it.

To set the stage for this story, so you’ll appreciate where my mind was at the time, Captain Howdy had taken up residence in my head and he didn’t seem like he would be moving along anytime soon. But eventually the article got written and that unsettling feeling began to fade ever so slowly. That was, until I heard two words…cuatros cuertas.

Doctor Gash is a family man and I was in the process of tucking my four-year-old daughter into bed one night, shortly after The Exorcist article had been written. The slow recession of Captain Howdy described above had begun, and I was starting to believe everything would be okay again when my daughter looked and me and said, very innocently, “Cuatros cuertas.”

“What was that?” I asked.

“Cuatros cuertas,” she said.

“What does ‘cuatros cuertas ‘mean?” I asked, curious as to what Spanish phrase she may have picked up from “Dora the Explorer” or “Sesame Street”.

“Cuatros cuertas,” she said, pointing to my arms. “Four tattoos.” As it happens, I do have two tattoos on each arm.

“‘Cuatros cuertas’ means four tattoos?” I inquired.

“Yes,” she said.

Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel to Childish Horrors, Part 1Having two kids, I’ve seen my share of children’s programming (believe me, I have seen my share and your share and his share…) and I can say, with absolute certainty, that I have never heard Elmo, Dora the Explorer, Bob the Builder, Handy Manny or any other cartoon or children’s programming character talk about tattoos (except for maybe Spongebob Squarepants, but it’s common knowledge that he doesn’t speak Spanish). So I inquired yet again, “You’re telling me ‘cuatros cuertas’ means four tattoos in Spanish?”


And I could have just left it at that. I could have just accepted the fact that somewhere along the line this child, this four-year-old child, somehow learned to say ‘four tattoos’ in a foreign language. But I just couldn’t leave it alone.

“Where did you hear that? They don’t talk about tattoos on Dora,” I asked, referencing her favorite show.

“My brain told me,” was her answer.

Okay, that was moderately creepy, but nothing I couldn’t handle. It wasn’t until the next thing out of her mouth that the images of Captain Howdy, Regan MacNeil and Fathers Karras and Merrin came flooding back in.

“Your brain told you?” I asked.

“Yes. My brain whispered in my ear and told me ‘cuatros cuertas’ means four tattoos.”

Red alert.

Oh my God! Her brain ‘whispered in her ear’ and now the child was speaking in tongues.

This was not good. All I could picture was the scene from The Exorcist with the yet-to-be transformed Regan sitting in the lounge chair with her right arm raised strangely in the air. I believe she was talking about her nice friend Captain Howdy right about then. I was wondering if he had mentioned anything to her about cuatros cuertas.

Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel to Childish Horrors, Part 1

I backed slowly out of the room, not daring to take my eyes off the child/potential hellspawn. I explained to her that “Daddy will be right back.” That I just had to look something up real quick. As soon as I was out of the room, I bolted for the computer, being mindful to keep an eye on the door, just in case she decided to take a run at me or came spiderwalking into the room.

My wife noticed my frantic state and asked what was wrong. I gave her a very quick recount of what had just happened as I typed ‘spanish to english translation’ into Google (I didn’t bother with the capitalization then either). I explained that if this search verified that “cuatros cuertas” meant “four tattoos” we would be packing our bags and leaving, stat! I’ve seen far too many movie families hang in for far too long in situations just like this. We weren’t going to be next. “Let her have the house!” I declared.

As the small Firefox circle spun to indicate work in progress, I heard little feet approaching the door. Horrendously frightening little feet. I quickly accessed the first translation site and typed “cuatros cuertas” into the Spanish side and asked for a translation. Not sure about the spelling, I hoped for the best.

While the site searched for the translation, she appeared in the doorway and began walking toward me (plain walking, mercifully not spiderwalking). My eyes nervously darted between the painfully slowly processing computer and the oncoming child/potential demon. The search results appeared just as she jumped into my lap.

The computer confirmed that “cuatros cuertas” did not mean four tattoos. In fact, it didn’t mean anything. I looked at her and asked, “I thought you said ‘cuatros cuertas’ means four tattoos.”

Her response was nothing more than a wide, knowing grin. Pazuzu had been avoided… for now.

Like I mentioned at the top of the column, everything is scarier when you’re a kid, and kids make everything scarier. Thanks for reading Doctor Gash’s Tip of the Scalpel to Childish Horrors, Part 1.

Doctor Gash's Tip of the Scalpel to Childish Horrors, Part 1

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Scott Hallam

We all go a little mad sometimes...haven't you?

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  • MonsterMash

    entertaining read. I’d have been unnerved myself.

    • Doctor Gash

      I had the car half loaded in case a hasty escape was necessary. Feets don’t fail me now!