posted by Dana
A relentless snoop and mystery seeker since childhood, Julie Hyzy gets to play detective by writing amateur sleuth adventures. She’s thrilled to have won the Anthony, Barry, Lovey, and Derringer Awards, and still can’t believe that she has “New York Times Bestselling Author” across the front of her books. Julie writes the Manor House Mysteries and White House Chef Mystery series for Penguin/Berkley Prime Crime, the most recent of which, Home of the Braised, came out January 7th. Julie, take it away!
What Would You Do If the Pig Got Out?
We all know that vivid imaginations are a job requirement for mystery writers. Yet, once I had kids, the cool-creepy adventures that danced in my head weren’t as much fun anymore. I had three daughters I needed to protect from the dangers of the world. And I didn’t have the first idea of how to do it.
To combat these very real fears without terrifying my children, I came up with a way to make learning fun. You’ve heard of families running practice fire drills? Well, I ran practice “Avoid the murderer” drills. No, I’m not joking.
One of our games started with “What would you do, if…”
For instance, if we were returning to our minivan after visiting the library, I’d point to some innocent stranger returning his books. “Pretend that guy starts coming toward you. What do you do?”
In this variation, the goal was to jump into the van and lock the doors as fast as possible. (This also provided the added benefit of getting them into the vehicle quickly, with minimal complaint. Sneaky Mom!) The more we practiced, the faster we “escaped.”
My intent was never to frighten the girls. It was to help them remain calm and in control if they ever did encounter trouble. On top of that, our games taught them to be aware of their surroundings. “Have a plan,” I taught them. Because, well, you never know.
Our favorite “What would you do?” moment took place when my friend, Rene, and I were Girl Scout leaders. We’d taken our troop of 21 girls (including all our daughters—six between us) to tour a local farm, where there was a huge pig who snorted and pawed the ground. Housed behind a rickety, weathered fence, he had to be at least 400 pounds, with a murderous look on his hairy face.
“What would you do,” I asked the scouts, “if that pig got out?”
This resulted in some discussion about how pigs couldn’t unlatch gates, but if this one happened to manage it, the smart move would be to climb up a tree or onto the nearby pickup truck. We all agreed that trying to outrun him could be disastrous.
Thus decided, we left the giant swine in his pen and headed over to the cookout area some distance from the animals, where we fired up the coals, settled ourselves around picnic tables, and pulled out the food.
We were just about finished with lunch when one of the girls pointed. “The pig!” she shouted. And there he was, hurtling around the barn’s far end, headed straight for us. The scouts screamed, but every single one clambered onto the top of a picnic table, pulling her feet up, watching with wide eyes. Not a single one ran, not a single one panicked.
The pig’s keeper came scurrying after his charge, apologizing and doing his best to corral the beast who was clearly interested in snagging our leftover hot dogs (cannibal!).
Eventually, with help from the other hands, the keeper managed to return the pig to his pen and restore order. The scouts stared at me, slack-jawed, thinking I had some sort of ESP to have predicted the pig’s escape.
My daughters knew better, of course.
Julie and the Femmes Fatales want to know: Have you ever pre-planned an escape from an imaginary danger?