All Hallow’s Eve ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
Farnsworth ate the liver and onions without tasting. When his mother was satisfied he had eaten enough, she let him go. He ran upstairs and put on his costume.
He was a ghost this year, same as last year. Next year he would try to dig up something different; more than two years as the same thing was boring.
The false face still had dried spit around the mouth, but he didn’t care. It was his spit. He put it on and checked himself in the mirror. Something was missing. Oh, yes, the old derby hat. It was the one thing that made his costume look just a little bit creepy and scary. Without the hat, the costume was just a cheap little-kid’s getup.
Mother was in the living room and heard him come down the stairs.
“Come here, Farnie,” she said, “and let me look at you.”
He stepped reluctantly into the living room.
“You be careful now, won’t you?” she said.
“We’ve already been all through that!” he said.
“Just a couple of years ago you wanted me to take you around trick-or-treating in the car. What was wrong with that?”
“Nobody does that anymore.”
“Who are you going with?”
“I already told you. Some friends from school.”
“What are their names?”
“Charlie, Eric, and Stan.”
“I’m going to call their parents and speak to them.”
“Please don’t do that!”
“As young as you are, you need adult supervision.”
“I think Charlie’s older sister is coming along.”
“How old is she?”
“I don’t know but she’s in high school.”
“That’s not exactly an adult.”
“We’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”
“Be home by nine-thirty. Ten at the latest. You have school tomorrow.”
“No, I don’t,” he said as he went out the door. “Tomorrow is Saturday.”
He was glad to finally be out of the house. He breathed deeply of the cool air that smelled of the fallen leaves and began running. Trick-or-treaters were already in his neighborhood in twos and threes, even though it wasn’t all-the-way dark yet. The littlest kids were accompanied by their mothers.
He met his friends at the corner by the park. Eric was a skeleton, Stan a hobo, and Charlie the Long Ranger. Charlie’s sister, Oda May, was smoking a cigarette. She wore a tight tweed skirt that came to below her knees and a boy’s jacket. In her hand was a gorilla mask.
“You had that same stupid ghost costume last year,” Eric said.
“So what?” Farnsworth said.
“Let’s get going,” Charlie said. “All the good candy will be gone.”
Oda May flipped away her cigarette and put on the gorilla mask and they headed for the neighborhood on the other side of the park where all the best houses were.
A few of the houses were dark, meaning stay away, but most were brightly lit. Oda May was the leader of the little group. She chose the houses and rang the doorbells or knocked as fitted the occasion. When people opened their doors and saw her in her gorilla mask and tight skirt, as tall as a grown woman, they looked alarmed and readily forked over the candy. After an hour or so on the same street, their bags were getting heavy.
“And that’s how it’s done,” Oda May said as she sat down on the curb, hefting the bag of candy appreciatively between her legs. She lit a cigarette without taking off the gorilla mask.
“Where to now?” Charlie asked.
“I don’t know about you punks,” Oda May said, “but I’m going to go meet my boyfriend.”
“What about us?” Stan asked.
“You’re on your own. I’ve played nursemaid long enough.”
“It’s all right,” Charlie said. “We don’t need her.”
“And don’t you dare follow me!” she said, and then she was gone, carrying her bag of candy.
“Leave the mask on!” Charlie called after her. “Your boyfriend might like you better that way!”
“What will she do with all that candy?” Farnsworth asked.
“Probably give it to her boyfriend.”
“Who is her boyfriend, anyway?” Eric asked. “Why don’t we get to meet him?”
“He’s a criminal, I think,” Charlie said. “She doesn’t want me to see him because she’s afraid I’ll tell on her. I think he’s really terrible looking, like a convict.”
“I’d like to see him,” Stan said.
“Hey, I stole some of her cigarettes when she wasn’t looking,” Charlie said, passing them around and lighting them.
Farnsworth took a puff and began coughing, causing the others to laugh.
“I’ll bet you haven’t ever smoked before, have you?” Charlie said.
“I’ve smoked plenty!” Farnsworth said.
“It tastes terrible!” Stan said, taking the smoke into his mouth and blowing it out.
“Why do people like doing that?” Eric asked. He threw his cigarette down and spit on the ground.
“Oh, you big babies!” Charlie said. “I like to smoke! I inhale it all the way down into my lungs. Tastes so good! So smooth!”
“My mother says smoking is bad for you,” Farnsworth says. “She used to smoke but she quit.”
“Are you always going to listen to what she says? They’re always going to be telling you not to do things you want to do!”
“Why are we just standing here?” Eric said. “Let’s get going before all the candy is gone.”
They went into a neighborhood they didn’t know. After a couple of houses, a gang of older kids began chasing them to steal their candy, so they ran down an alley to get away. When they came out the other end they were almost downtown, so they kept going in that direction.
“This is just like The Wizard of Oz,” Stan said, “with the Wicked Witch after us.”
“This is nothing like The Wizard of Oz,” Farnsworth said.
They stopped at a delicatessen, where an old man ran them out with a broom as soon as they walked through the door.
“Ain’t givin’ away no candy here,” he said. “If you want to buy something, then buy. Otherwise don’t come in here in no spook disguises.”
“How’s that for hospitality?” Charlie said.
“Let’s play a trick on him,” Stan said. “It’s ‘trick or treat,’ remember?”
They were going to throw a brick through the front window, but no bricks were available, so they put chewing gum on the back side of the door handle and ran down the street giggling.
They had better luck at a tavern. A large man in an apron was standing outside the door, handing out candy from a plastic pumpkin.
“Yous kids need to be home in bed,” he said, as he threw handfuls of candy into their bags.
At a bakery a woman gave them day-old cupcakes, which they ate on the spot. A girl at a music store gave them each a miniature harmonica wrapped in plastic. Somebody at a fruit market gave them apples. They weren’t so quick to eat the apples but stowed them away in their bags.
“You have to check for razor blades before you eat them,” Charlie said knowingly, but the others didn’t know what he was talking about.
They came to a bright oasis of light that was a movie theatre. A crowd was milling about, waiting for the next feature to begin.
“Do you see what I see?” Charlie said.
Standing in line at the ticket booth was a person not to be missed, a woman wearing a gorilla mask and a tight tweed skirt. It was Oda May and she wasn’t alone, either.
“She’s got a kid with her,” Stan said.
“That’s no kid,” Farnsworth said.
“Oh, my god!” Charlie said.
They could see clearly that the person accompanying Oda May wasn’t a child but a fully grown man of a child’s size. He was dressed in a cowboy costume, including large white hat, chaps, boots, spurs, and guns and holsters. Oda May was leaning over to him with her hand on his shoulder.
“Her boyfriend is a tiny cowboy?” Eric said.
“It’s a midget,” Charlie said. “She’s dating a midget. And he must be thirty years old. I am definitely going to tell on her now.”
When it was Oda May and the midget’s turn at the ticket booth, Oda May went around behind him, put her arms around his waist and lifted him up. After he had paid for the tickets and had them in his hand, she set him back on the ground and the two of them went into the theatre, seemingly oblivious to all else except each other.
“Now I’ve seen everything,” Charlie said. “Can you imagine what their children will be like? I don’t even want to think about it.”
“Let’s go,” Eric said. “We’ve spent enough time here. If we’re going to do any more trick-or-treating, let’s do it before all the candy is gone.”
It was starting to rain and Stan figured it was about time to go home, so they worked their way over to his house, stopping to trick-or-treat at all the houses that still had their porch lights on.
Now, the interesting thing about Stan was that his father was an undertaker and the family lived above the funeral parlor. It was a subject of endless fascination to Stan’s friends.
“I think I’m going to call it a night,” Stan said when they were at the corner near his house. “Thanks for walking me home.”
“Do you mean you’re not going to ask us in after we’ve come all this way?” Charlie said.
“Do you have a body in a casket we can look at?” Eric asked.
“Stan’s right,” Farnsworth said. “I should be getting home, too.”
“I have to go to the bathroom,” Charlie said. “I don’t think I can wait until I get home.”
“Oh, all right!” Stan said. “You can come in but you have to wipe your feet first.”
They were delighted to discover that Stan’s parents were out for the evening and they had the house to themselves. Stan took them down to the basement to show them around but made them promise not to touch anything. First he showed them the room where the embalming was done and then the adjoining room with its cabinets full of jars and bottles where the bodies were dressed and prepared for burial. The most impressive part of the tour, though, was the casket room, where more than fifty caskets were opened up for display. After removing their shoes, they were each allowed to lie in a casket with the lid closed to see how it felt. They were all subdued afterwards.
“I’m going to be cremated,” Charlie said. “That’s the best way.”
“I’m not ever going to die,” Eric said. “It’s too awful.”
“It’s only awful for living people,” Stan said. “Dead people don’t know anything that’s going on.”
“I need to get home,” Farnsworth said. “It’s after ten o’clock.”
He walked part of the way home with Charlie and Eric, but they left him and he had to walk the last four blocks alone. He held his bag of candy, his treasure, in his arms because it was so heavy and the bottom was a little soggy and might easily break through. He was a little afraid that the older kids would jump out at him and try to rob him, but he encountered no one. Everybody seemed to have gone home.
His mother was waiting for him at the door in her bathrobe. “Did you have a good time?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said.
“Now I can breathe easy. My baby is home.”
Without saying anything else, he took his bag of candy and went upstairs and locked himself in the bathroom and weighed himself on the bathroom scale, first with the candy and then without. He weighed eleven pounds more with the candy. It was the best Halloween ever.
Copyright © 2013 by Allen Kopp