Jack the Skull Mask

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
Halloween will never be the same.

Submitted: October 30, 2018

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Submitted: October 30, 2018

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Jack the Skull Mask…

a short story by Josh Sheets

copyright Josh Sheets Oct. 30 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bonfires burning bright

Pumpkin faces in the night

I remember Halloween

Dead cats hanging from poles

Little dead are out in droves

I remember Halloween

Brown leafed vertigo

Where skeletal life is known

I remember Halloween

This day anything goes

Burnin’ bodies hanging from poles

I remember Halloween……

Candy apples and razor blades

Little dead are soon in graves……

Formulae Veteres

Excorsismorom et excommunicationum

Strigas et fictos credere

Daemon pellem lupinam

In trunco quodom cauore

Arboris occultandum

Metamorphose lycanthropie

Possunt inquam

Metamorphose lycanthropie

Possunt inquam

Glen Danzig, Halloween/Halloween 2

 

Halloween’s always spoken to me and, I’m sure, the rest of our country in a certain way all its own, unique in its spirit and festivities along with some strange buzz in the air, something of glee, and something of fear. I call it the turn of the season, where summer ends. I’m a Halloween kid, always have been, then the Fourth, then the Holidays.

So let’s go you shadows running alongside the living, for the veil between this world and another truly does fall while we run around in masks, just look around you.

This is a story from my childhood written from second, third, and fourth hand accounts of a Halloween night a long time ago, people and places are real but names have been changed, it is still unclear how much of this story really took place on that night.

- don’t take candy from strangers

Josh

Halloween Night

After School

3:34 pm

 

Jack sat in classes all day, the little mop head. A head shorter than everyone else and always running around. The white cinder block hallways of the school had decorations taped up and down all of them. His hall was up front, where he could look out of thinnish windows across the two lane highway and catch glimpses of a ranch and cows. He always liked that land, and had tried to get Eric, and whoever else would go, swimming in the cow pond last year at Play Day. Everyone had decided not to, the pond was too far away. The bell rang and Jack already had his books and notebooks packed up. This was it. He’d been waiting. He’d been reading all the books and stories about what he was planning he could get his hands on. There had already been a dance last weekend. It had been at an old gym, and a kid Jack knew turned on Korn and started head banging on the gym floor. A parent had let it go for a few moments and then went to the CD player and turned the CD off. Jack had ran around the gym. Then there had been a hay ride, and he couldn’t find a girl to sit by. He hadn’t been talking to any girls up to the dance. He had been too busy being wrapped up in the whole month. It was good to talk to a girl when the weather cooled off. There were plenty of things to do with them then, but there was also plenty to do without them, and Jack found himself doing those things more often during this time of year. After, maybe, but Christmas was always a good time to break up with girls, get through Thanksgiving, and then break it off right at Christmas. Maybe give them a gift first, maybe not. That way Valentine’s Day was not a bother. He was always embarrassed to buy Valentine’s Day presents. Last year he had broken up with his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day. He bought her a big heart shaped balloon, and had freaked out when the cold air made it shrink. Then, once the helium properties on a cold night inside a balloon were figured out, the balloon was taken home and then given to his girlfriend at school. He was embarrassed of the entire thing, and smiling, broke up with her in the middle of the day. One girl had come to him while he sat in the hallway by himself and had called him a jerk for doing that after asking him why. Mophead had no answer, he just smiled and gave a half shrug from one of his shoulders. He looked away for a moment.

Last class of the day. He was ready to go home. Big plans, big night.

Home

4:01 pm

 

They stood in front of a body length mirror leaning against the wall. It didn’t have a frame, you just didn’t walk to closely to it. You’d break it or cut your toe or foot deep and bad if you happened to kick it by accident. He had his little brother standing in front of the mirror, making the finishing touches on his costume.

“They better fuckin’ put you in first place,” he told him.

His brother didn’t move, he stood like some sort of living dummy, moving around when prodded. There was a bit of hair coming out of the bandage wrap Rick had covered his head over with. He poked it back in a little bit at a time.

“Don’t, you’re gonna fu- it up,” Jack said from under the wrap in a muffled voice.

“No I’m not shut up, who’s out here doin’ this, me or you? You’re just the human dummy,” then Rick affected a mongrel hillbilly accent, “yer justa damn dummy, dummy.”

He whacked his brother on the top of the head.

“Dude! You’re gonna fuck it up!”

Rick looked down at Jack, “Oh shut up, it’s fine, I’m telling you you better win first place with this or they are all a bunch of stupid hicks.”

“Yeah,” Jack said from beneath the bandage wrap. He wore black slacks, a button up white long sleeve shirt, and a sports coat that was too big for him and black leather penny loafers, with a black leather belt and white gloves. He did the gun point at himself in the mirror. There was hair sticking up out of the top of the wrap and he started making noises under the bandage cloth. It was too hard to speak. Rick had wrapped his head up under his jaw so he couldn’t really open his mouth, and when he tried Rick yelled at him and told him to stop. Well, yeah, he wasn’t going to let Jack ruin the best part of the costume because he wanted to bitch about every little thing.

“Look, here’s the hat,” Rick said and lowered it onto Jack’s head, covering the hair, “now shut the fuck up.”

His brother was fifteen, so he cussed more. Fact of life. Then, Rick slid the black shades, plastic cheap looking ones, classic kind, between the space of wrap and Jack’s face, arms first. They held the sides of his head and felt good there. The world darkened, this was it. The final touch. Jack stood before the world, The Invisible Man, sure to win the twenty dollar first prize. Jack went into the living room and sat on the edge of the couch, quiet and ready. Their mom was in the kitchen, doing something but ready to take him and drop him off at the school, and then take Rick somewhere, some dance or party. He didn’t think Rick went to dances anymore, so who knew, probably a neighborhood party at the professor’s kid’s house. Jack had thought about asking himself along but Rick had glanced at him before he could open his mouth, as if to catch him and say, ‘As motherfucking if, I’m not babysitting my little kid brother, there’s gonna be chicks around.’

Jack stopped the words and swallowed them back. Times they were a-changin’.

Drive

5:15 pm

 

In the back seat, under the wrap, the wind didn’t bother his ears. He peered out from behind the shades, warm in the costume, but not unpleasantly so. He couldn’t hear what Rick and their mom were saying, but it didn’t matter. He turned his head as gently as he could, he didn’t want to loosen the wrap, he didn’t want to have to fix it in front of everyone, so if he was easy with his neck movements the wrap would last the whole time. He stepped out of the Suburban.

He’d said, “Bye Mom,” as he slipped out of the back door.

He stood for a moment and straightened up before walking away toward the gym and the Suburbanpulled away. Jack went between the gym and 8th grade hall. He could see people milling around up ahead, out in the commons area with booths set up and hallways opened at the elementary wing. Games, stupid magnet fishing games that Jack loved, the bean bag toss with the bean filled bags his buddy Chase always managed to fling into something, making a wreck and laughing. Other things, if a girl liked you they put you in jail and you had to sit in a cut out jail cell while people passed by and looked and laughed.

A group of girls had swept him into there last year.

“Man! I don’t wanna be in here!” He had said and the girls had giggled and ran off.

The teacher guardsman let him out.

“Thanks Mr. Martin,” Jack had said and went on, slipping away down the hall and exiting like a shadow, out into the darkening night.

Now, he stopped at the side doors to the gym, big heavy metal double doors that could be tapped and opened with ease. The center metal column between the two doors that held the wind out had been removed and set to the side, well, under the bleachers. Jack passed by the water fountain, wanting a drink. People were looking at him from the wooden bleachers. Open mouths and smiles looking down while he walked onto the gym floor where a lot of people were milling about, mostly kids darting back and forth before the contest began. Jack thought he knew where to go, hadn’t she said to meet back at the girl’s bathroom? Yeah, she had.

He moved on, the invisible man, of short stature. Slipping through, he wished he had a briefcase for a second. People stopped and said, “Wow you look awesome!” and he smiled and nodded and moved on. He couldn’t talk, but he hadn’t tried to, he stopped by Karen and someone else and started to talk to them, but he couldn’t make any words, so he was moving his head around and holding his hands and then tossing them around while he spoke muffled nothing words. The girls laughed at him and smiled, impressed. Jack stopped. He kept moving. The first door to the girl’s bathroom was right there. No one was allowed on the boys side tonight. Last year Eric and a few others were caught smoking there. Jack hadn’t had the chance to find them and they were there, doing something cool without him, but he sure did love moving free around the fall festival. Eric and the other guys who were caught with him weren’t allowed to attend this year. He went into the girl’s bathroom. The other contestants were standing around. There was a tiger, Sam, and a few others, but Jack saw the tiger. Good costume. Hard work put into it. Sam glanced over at Jack with narrowed eyes, green, a lot like a cats, that glittered when she stared him down for a second. Jack lifted his chin and looked around, standing alone. Stand on Invisible Man, stand on.

They all waited for the contest to begin, standing in a loose group, listening to everyone mill over to the bleachers.

Gym

5:36 pm

 

They marched in single file. A woman, teacher with a nice voice he’d never noticed having before announced them as they marched around on the gym floor. The tiger was ahead of him, ahead of them all. He noticed that the tiger’s mom was sitting on the panel of judges. His ex-girlfriend from Valentine’s day was in the contest with them. He had been surprised to see her enter, and then some of the other girls standing beside him had made a comment about her entering just because of Jack. They were making their final turn and then heading back to stand in a line shoulder to shoulder to be judged.

“For third place,” the tiger’s mom said into a microphone, “the invisible man!”

Jack didn’t know who that was and then realized it was him. Five dollars. Five dollars! His mom hadn’t given him any money, now he could buy all kinds of crap! His mind was unrolling the possibilities out before him. He stood there, waiting for his ex-girlfriend to claim second with her raggady Anne costume, and the tiger took first, winning the twenty dollars. Mom handed daughter the money. Jack took his five dollars and walked across the gym floor, tucking it into his pocket. He pulled the little metal binders from the edges of the end of the wrap where Rick had tucked it under. He unwrapped his head, revealing a rat’s nest of wavy brown hair that stuck up. Girls were stopping and laughing while he did. None of his friends were around, and they probably wouldn’t have time for him tonight. It’d be alright, he had been a hit, and someone came up to him as he left the gym telling him the only reason she won was they her mom was judge. He unbuttoned the top button on his dress shirt and loosened his tie. The white gloves he stuffed into the back pocket of his black dress slacks. he’d have to wear the shoes all night, but oh well. He looked good, and was happy. He slicked his hair back, walking up the sidewalk with his too big sports coat thrown over his shoulder. Someone called out to him and laughed and commented on what a smoothie Shields thought he was. Then they ran off, Jack came after them, stopping to sling his sports coat into a hallway double glass door and keep going to catch up, but they were pulling away. Jack slowed and walked through the crowd, still looking good, he put his hands lightly in his pockets. Some really little girls giggled at him and hopped around as he passed. Their mom or whoever smiled at him and brought them to her like a mama hen. Jack smiled back and kept walking. All of them had ran down an open walk way between the elementary wing and the computer classrooms. He heard them. He knew Krystle was with them, and he’d like to go be around her. He went into the hallway, opening and shutting the big heavy metal doors, well, the one to the left, and slipping in, hoping he wouldn’t be noticed.

He saw the games, saw who was in jail, played the stupid little magnet boat game and felt dumb for doing it, then went down the hall toward the far doors, to slip up on his friends who were all running around. He found them in the little space between the computer rooms and the back of the coke machines room. Sherman had Krystle wrapped up in a big hug from behind and was keeping her from getting away, she was laughing and trying to run. Sherman looked around, reminding Jack of an ape who has grabbed a human and isn’t quite sure what to do. He kept looking around. Jack looked at them, laughed, and didn’t know where to go. Krystle busted loose to run away with her friends laughing and talking without any breath. They disappeared around the corner. The talent show was coming up. Jack went back toward the gym. He slunk through the shadows behind the buildings at a fast pace, moving away from his friends into the darkness alone. He’d go over to the gym by himself and slip in through the back, he could watch the show from the back side bleachers. By himself, and everyone could see him across the gym floor.

Back Hall, Back Bleachers

5:57

 

He stood with a shoulder that touched the metal bleachers on the back side of the gym. Rob was standing out in the middle of the gym floor, singing The Lion Sleeps Tonight. He lifted up the mic and started to sing. He wore jeans and a white t-shirt, sleeves rolled up. Jack drifted back into the hallway, disappearing behind the edge of the metal bleachers, no one seeing him. He went back to the end of the hallway and opened the door, hurrying and waiting for Coach to come down the hallway and call him over. Then Jack would have to split and stay hidden from him, or stop and go back so Coach could put a hand on his shoulder and tell him to get his butt back across the gym floor and not back here by himself where he’d get in trouble. But no one came down the hall and the heavy metal door opened and shut behind him, Jack jumpy and a little panicky until the door was closed and he was flying along the wall in the dim light from a far off security light mounted high up on a pole at the edge of the school property over by the pine trees, but not close enough to be knocked over if a storm every blew through. Jack was away from them anyway, out of the blue light and into yellow from another lower wattage light mounted on the roof of the cafeteria. Long dark shadows reached out to Jack and laid across whatever they touched, flat and black and thick but not. Jack went back the way he’d come to where everyone had been earlier. He came around a corner. People he didn’t know filled the court yard. He went through it, back toward the gym. Little kids moving back and forth. One of his buddies went by, saying something about a haunted house in the back of the cafeteria. He’d just passed through back there and he didn’t see any haunted house this year. He stuck his head in the cafeteria anyway. There were people all through it and the tables had been stood up on their ends and moved in a line against both the long walls. Kids bobbed for apples, there was face painting, more bean bag throwing games, and some other stuff for littler kids. He ducked back out, alley cat heading to the gym. His hair fell down around his face, tan face, surfer dude. He went across the courtyard, dodging little kids and their parents and trying not to run in to everyone else making their way. Jack made it across the courtyard, passing Johnnie’s bench and touching it as he did. Sixth grade, just before you leave the world of little kids. He went down the covered sidewalk. Chains were strung across the spaces of the bars, to keep kids from running in and out of and around the square supports for the overhead awning. A bunch of kids had twisted their ankles or knocked another kid down off of the sidewalk. One day after classes Jack was talking to Junior and he took off running and slammed into one of the chains, hang wiring himself with it. It scraped up his side and took him off of his feet and slung him down. Junior started laughing and went over to make sure he was okay. Jack was spun out.

“Damn I forgot they put those up!” He said to Junior and got up quickly.

Junior couldn’t keep from laughing, but it was good natured, “You forgot that was there?”

“Yeah!” Jack said.

Junior looked at his side and touched Jack’s ribs.

“Aw! Fuck!” Jack said.

Junior laughed again.

“I’m alright I’m alright,” Jack said and laughed a little, “don’t tell anyone.”

He passed the chain that had hung wired him. There were long red scrapes up his side after. Bastard chain. Jack flicked at it and came back with a hurting finger nail.

“Damn!” He said and grabbed the end of his finger.

It was dark out now. Yellow light slanted out of the open double metal doors down at the gym and he could hear people inside. He could hear Cole singing God Blessed Texas. Jack glanced in, and then passed the gym by, going into the dark again. He walked down to the end of the 8th grade hall and gym, going over to the steps at the end of the school building. He sat down. Security lights were far off, star burst of white blue light casting down on the ground. Bugs flew around and up in crazy circles, highlighted. He saw his mom pulling into the school parking lot and ran over. Then he had to run back and grab his jacket out of the hall. His mom was kinda pissed.

“You don’t have any candy?” His mom asked.

“No,” didn’t get any, Jack thought.

“Oh, well, you’ll get plenty tomorrow night,” his mom said.

He leaned back and asked if he could crack the window. His mom said yes and he reached for the little silver buttons on the door. The glass rolled down and the wind caught his hair, tossing it around.

“Where is the bandage wrap?” His mom asked.

Jack reached into his pocket, “It’s right here.”

“Okay good I just didn’t want to lose it, it’s expensive, “his mom said, driving.

It was dark all around them, his mom had Delilah on the radio.

“Slow down and love someone,” the radio sang, coo’d.

Jack thought about singing along but he didn’t. He did under his breath. Stars out the windshield beyond, his mom driving with one arm out, sitting up, poney tail, long hair behind her head, green blue glow from the instrument panel. Jack sat back and watched black shadows of trees rush by overhead and the stars looking at him above them far out and remote, small.

They passed under the witch tree. Jack had named it that last year, calling out that the tree looked like a witch as he and his mom passed under it. She had eyed him from the side and told him she guessed she hadn’t seen it. Jack remembered the shape of a witch like head perfectly, the nose, the chin coming under it, the rounded head to the back, just like the profile of a witch without her hat one as they drove to the tree, then passed under it on that afternoon. His mom had been weird about Halloween for the past few years. Two years ago he had had to stay home and watch an Olsen twins’ Halloween special. For God’s sake it had been the worst Halloween he’d ever had. He sat alone in the front living room listening to his mom in the kitchen do whatever she was doing. She had told him she didn’t like what was going on during Halloween, and told him not to accept any apples from anyone if he went trick or treating. The next year she had taken him up to one neighbor’s house to trick or treat, he didn’t have a costume, and the old lady handed him an apple.

“God dang it!” Jack cursed under his breath as he ran back to the black Suburban, “Here,” he’d said to his mom and handed her the apple.

She took it and looked at it, drawing her nails across the apple’s skin.

“I don’t want it,” Jack said, frown across his face.

Well I don’t want it!” Jack ‘s mom laughed, “Hell there might be razor blades in it.”

Really?” Jack asked, eyes wide and mouth open.

Yeah, there have been rumors about old ladies putting razor blades in apples, that’s why you never take anything unwrapped when you trick or treat,” his mom said.

Jack sat back in his bucket seat while his mom drove home. She sent him down to the church behind their house that night, and they had a little party with kids bobbing for apples and the stupid bean bag toss. Jack didn’t know any of the kids there, besides Adam, and they had an alright time.

This year though, this year was good. He got to dress up, trick or treat and there was a dance the night after. He had tried to make a werewolf costume with putty makeup he’d harangued his mom into buying at Wal-Mart. He wanted to put hairs into the makeup to make a complete wolf man, but the hairs took forever and the crap wouldn’t stick to his face. So he threw away the jeans he’d cut up and sewn patches of coyote fur from an old hand sewn blanket his mom had. He’d had to sneak cutting the squares of fur from the blanket and sneak the sewing needle and thread, not hard for that but cutting the old coyote skin blanket had been tricky without getting caught and yelled at. He had to bury the jeans in the bottom of the big bulky city trash can so he wouldn’t get caught with them being all cut up and sewn back together. A few days after that Rick had suggested that he go to the contest as the invisible man. Boo ya. Now he was riding home. Rick was at some party. They stepped out of the big black Surburban and walked down the flag stone path to the front porch.

“Honey will you go turn the light off in the shop? I saw it on but I don’t know who in the hell keeps going out there and leaving it on. Is it you?” His mom asked, turning and looking past her shoulder at him while she spoke and stopping in the middle of the living room floor.

Jack stopped, “Uh, no, not me, I don’t know who did it, probably Zorn.”

“I don’t think Zorn’s been here, don’t just go blaming your brother when he’s not there,” his mom told him.

“I don’t know who did it,” Jack said.

She went into the kitchen, “Well, will you go turn it off out there please?”

Jack told her yeah and went to the front door, taking the handle in his hand. He opened the door up and went out, sweeping off of the porch and into the night. He ran, wind roaring over his ears. His arms were back behind him. The front door slammed shut well after he was off the porch. He was out front standing in front of the shop like a shadow and then he formed in the light from a far off security lamp as he stepped up to the door. It was closed, and through the window Jack could see that the lights were off. He didn’t notice them being on when his mom pulled into the wide driveway. He opened the door. Dark inside. His hand reached up to the light switch and just as he was about to touch it to flick it down, the light came on. Jack flipped the light switch down and ran, barely closing the door in his wake. His feet may not have touched the ground. Wind roared. He hit the front porch and slid into the door on his hip, bouncing up on the shallow little extra step in front of the door. He got up, awkward and a little disoriented. He opened the door.

His mom looked from the kitchen, “What happened did the spooks get after ya?”

She laughed and Jack laughed about it. The shock of falling down out of nowhere was subsiding. Jack shook his head.

“I thought somethin’ was gonna get me,” he told her.

“Huh? There’s nothing out there sweetie!” His mom laughed.

He kind of guffawed and said, “Yeah I know, but that dang room always freaks me out! It’s like being watched from the window when it’s all dark in there.”

“Oh, you’re just giving yourself the willies,” his mom told him.

Jack looked out of the front door, it was French style. He passed it but tried to see out in the darkness. He couldn’t. He sat down on one of the love seats in the middle front sitting room, where the TV was. The front sitting room was just what they called it, a sitting room, no TV, just art on the walls and a heater and couch, with a long wing table with both sides folded down to make it into a bar of sorts sitting in front of the two old wooden frame windows. Jack sat down, two more old wooden framed windows were right behind his back. The porch swing was behind him. Darkness like an ocean past the porch. He picked up the remote and turned on the TV. Nothing happened, so he got up and turned on the TV at the bottom by the buttons. Then he went back and sat down to flip through the channels.

School

7:01 am

Jack woke up, rubbed his face and yawned and farted. Rick was in the room, standing by his chest of drawers.

“God damn it Jack!” Rick said.

“Hm?” Jack said, rubbing his eyes.

“Don’t stink up the room!”

“I’m not!”

“You have a stinky ass Jack,” Rick said, leaving the room.

Jack blinked and sat for a second, not moving, “No I don’t.”

He crawled out of bed. One year he dressed in his brother Laird’s Tony Hawk shirt, the one that was designed to look like it was ripped with ribs exposed in darkness beneath the shirt. Jack loved that shirt. He loved skeletons. When he was really little he and some family friends were over, Jack lay in the living room floor watching some movie with all of the olderr kids and in the movie there was a skeleton wrapped in chains that pulled girls to the bottom of a lake.

He stood up and stretched. His breath was horrible. It caught in his nose when he yawned. After about fifteen minutes inside he stood waiting for the bus, teeth brushed and hair passable. The too big Tony Hawk shirt tried to hang off of his shoulder, and the sleeves went to his elbows. He rubbed his head and smiled a little. The bus was coming. Rick had ridden with their mom to school, since he was in high school, and didn’t want to ride the bus. It slowed to a stop in front of him. He stood and waited for the door to open, not moving. It stopped, hissed, then opened, and he was up the high steps in two bounds.

“Hey Mr. Martin,” Jack said.

He was gone down the isle to the back. He lay down across one of the seats.

“Jack, anyone comes down there to sit you’re gonna have to move!” The bus driver called back to him.

“Yessir,” Jack called back, an arm over his eyes while he lay down.

After a few moments he sat up, he knew the driver would keep yelling until he finally sat up, so he beat him to the punch. He looked out of the window. After a few miles the bus stopped in front of a trailer park and eight Mexican kids filed onto the bus. Jack groaned a little while the bus waited. He started to gripe but the driver cut him a glance in the mirror and Jack looked back out of the window. The school wasn’t far away, and Jack had gotten in trouble about yelling for the kids to hurry up and sit down before.

“The school is right up there Jack, you can wait a second,” the driver had called back to him, embarrassing him.

They drove around and pulled through the covered bus way in front of the school. Jack filed out of the bus, remembering when Rick was younger. A girl with a pale face and black clothes rode the bus from the high school, Jack was sitting at the back with Rick and one of his buddies. The girl down below who had exited the bus wore black lipstick. Rich dropped his window and yelled at her.

“Hey why are your lips black, been suckin’ a nigger’s dick?”

Rick had laughed and raised his window up, the driver wasn’t on the bus then.

He trooped down the high steps and went out of the bus. Everyone was waiting to go inside. Talking and goofing around. He found his friends, who were happy to see him.

“What happened last night?” Was the first thing he said to Sherman, “you guys just freakin’ bailed on me!”

Sherman dodged out of Jack’s way, missing Jack’s left hook to his shoulder, and said, “Easy man! I didn’t know where you were!”

Jack ignored Sherman’s laughter, “Yeah right, I saw you.”

He went away, losing himself in the crowd and moving over to the glass double doors to wait to go into the hallway. The sky was cloudy and gloomy, but it was supposed to clear up later, before lunch, which was good.

“What’s up Mop Head,” one of Rick’s friends said to him from the door of the office.

Jack looked up, “What are you doing here?”

The guy looked freshly scrubbbed and red faced, wearing slacks and a dress shirt tucked in with a belt. Brown leather penny loafers and dress socks. Hair combed to the side.

“I’m doing something for the office,” the guy said.

“It’s Halloween,” Jack said to him, confused.

He moved on into the hall, raising his arms as he went. He jumped a little forward. The rest of the kids flooded into the hallway talking laughing looking one at one another. Boisterous to the max. Jack slipped around a corner and hid. He’d gone far enough ahead of the crowd to not be noticed, and he waited until Sherman and some other guys were coming and jumped out at them. No one was in a talking mood but he didn’t care, it was Halloween. The other kids dressed up, so it was good to see them and talk to them when usually they were so shy every day. None of Jack’s buddies dressed up. He had his t-shirt, he was ready to go. Wade came to school in a hacked up t-shirt covered in fake blood with a hockey mask on. He had a plastic machete and everything. The teacher made him keep it at her desk. He passed it over and smiled.

“Oh sure no problem.”

And the teachers weren’t crazy about his shirt, since it was only threads hanging off of his body, but they rolled their eyes and ignored him, telling him only once that if any string of that shirt was torn off and he came to class without it he would be sent home.

Jack had run up to him and talked to him, saying he might tear his brother’s shirt, it was old and he didn’t want it anyway, and it’d look a whole lot better all torn up, like Wade’s. He started to tear it.

“Jack!” One of the teachers said from the shadow of the deep doorway.

Jack trotted over to her. She was a pretty teacher, almost oriental, and a friend.

“Do not tear your t-shirt!” She pointed at him.

He laughed.

“Clear?” She asked, still pointing from the shadows.

Red fingernails, pale face, straight dark hair, red lipstick, she was a vampire.

“Yes ma’am,” Jack laughed and trotted away.

The sun was bright and he held his arms opened up to it down by his sides and looked up, curling his top lip. The light lit his hair, causing a gold halo. The sun light was really freakin’ bright and he moved away, into the cool shadows. These were the trees the asps fell from onto the backs of kids’ necks. Stinging them from above. It had become a test of bravery to stand or sit under them. And it sucked because that was where they had dug for beetles, there in the corner beneath the security lamp post. It was a good place to sit by girls at. Jack moved away from the trees. There were a bunch of people down by the track, girls and guys sitting around and some laying in the grass. Jack took off. Wind roaring in his ears, he went to them.

Day

11:31 am

The day went on. Wade’s costume lost its charm, and he wound up freezing in every class he went into. He asked them to turn the heat up in the office and the other kids laughed. Jack was glad he didn’t tear his shirt, too much. It had a pretty good size hole right under his chest on the left side by his ribs. So it matched the other side of the shirt he wore. Lunch was passe for Halloween, some kinda left overs. So the lunch ladies were going to enjoy their Halloween too. But nope, chicken rings, this day was getting better and better. God love you lunch ladies. Jack took his tray, suddenly boisterous. He smacked the guy standing behind him in the chest and the lunch ladies winced.

“Alright mister, it’s just chicken rings so take it easy,” she handed him the food on a tray, “and go put that tray back up!”

Jack hustled the tray back and then came for his food. He went away quick, eyeing where the ketchup was.

The lunch lady shook her head and looked at the kid coming up, “Would you like your food?”

The kid laughed, “Yeah.”

She looked out over the cafeteria, “Little hyena.”

Jack crouched over his tray, just a little, for effect. He laughed at some of his old buds from last year, somewhat. Jack moved past them and sat with Cody and Brandog. All three guys had brown hair, all sort of looked like one another. Cody had lunch from home, so Jack traded one chicken ring for a Fruit Roll Up. He shouldn’t have done it. He couldn’t get the red gunk from off of the roof of his mouth because he ate the entire thing at once so that he didn’t have to hold it and then he would be able to eat his mashed potatoes and chicken rings faster. So he had to rake the Fruit Roll Up off of the roof of his mouth with his finger and throw it under the table, coughing and cussing until Cody shushed him. Jack drank his milk and then grabbed Brandon’s milk and drank it too. Then after he saw Brandon’s reaction, and that his bigger friend was actually a little upset that he’d stolen and drank all of his chocolate milk, right out of his hand when he was going to take a drink, Jack went and grabbed him an extra milk, only to be called back and made to pay for the milk buy the big red faced red headed cafeteria lady, and bring it back to Brandon.

“Sorry, they were out of chocolate milk,” Jack told him.

Cody almost fell out of his seat laughing. Jack ate four chicken rings in two seconds and started to eat his mashed potatoes. Jack had to bug out just before the guys were finished eating. He was up, and out. He had things to do, things to plan. He went past the detention tables, laughing at Trent and the older kids he liked to hang around, he’d been in detention with them yesterday during lunch, one day, they had a week. Jack sneered at them and went out of the door. A teacher stepped toward him from the cafeteria.

“Jack, where are you going?” She asked.

“Oh I’m going to the library,” Jack said.

“You are,” she said.

Jack smiled up at her, “Yes ma’am, goin’ to look at a book about Hollywood Monsters.”

She peered at him, “And that’s the only place you’re going to go.”

Jack looked hurt, “Yes ma’am!”

“Alright,” she smiled half way, “and Jack.”

He turned, “Yes ma’am.”

“That better be the only place you go, do you hear me?” Her voice was very calm, and very, very pleasant, warm.

Jack stopped, “Yes ma’am, right there and then maybe back outside when everyone comes out.”

“Jack, you go to the library you have to stay there until the bell rings.”

Jack looked hurt again, but he nodded and understood, he didn’t want a bunch of kids following him or getting the idea that they could do the same thing and disrupting the library, this was a privilege. He slipped away, careful not to feel like anyone watched.

“Hey Ms. Pewitt where’s Jack going?” Cody asked.

She turned and looked down at him, he was eyeing out the window, “I think he had to use the bathroom, but maybe he went to the nurses station.”

Cody put a hand to his stomach for a second, “Must have been the Fruit Roll Up.”

“Go back to your seat, he’s fine,” she smiled down at Cody who moved away, skipping a step to the side as he went.

Back at the table, she saw Cody conferring with Brandon.

Jack stepped into the library, glancing toward the set of double glass doors that lead out into the hall toward the office. It wasn’t too late, he could pass by and go wander the halls. The quiet, the alone. The librarian noticed him standing by the door looking over at the other set of doors next to the computer lab. Too late. Now he he had to go in. She was tall and had a stern face, Jack wondered if she had ever made any other faces. He had seen her smile once, but it looked like it couldn’t stand up to the weight of the sternness of her expression, and low and behold, it went, only staying for the briefest of moments, even if it were a good smile.

“Yes?” She said.

Jack hesitated. She was from Austria, and Jack assumed that all people from that country were librarians, or could be if they chose, and all might very well tell kids to ‘Shit in zair share,’ like his librarian did.

He smiled a small smile, “I just came in to look up a book. It’s the one with Hollywood Monsters in it.”

She looked down and her mouth crack for a second into a small smile, “You know where the book is?”

“Yes ma’am,” Jack nodded.

“Okay, just don’t be late for class,” she said from behind the long counter.

“No ma’am,” Jack said while he walked into the stacks.

“Hmm?” She asked.

Jack stopped, turned, “Oh, I said ‘no ma’am’ I won’t be late to class.”

She regarded him for a moment, “Okay.”

Jack went to the back wall of shelves. He couldn’t remember exactly where the book was.

“Jack, do you need help?” The librarian asked from where he couldn’t see her.

“No,” Jack answered over the shelves.

No answer came back. He walked down the wall, looking up and down for the book he had been reading.

Gym

1:18 pm

 

After the library he wandered down the gym. He could hear noise and basketballs slamming on the floor and shoes squeaking. Eric wasn’t in there, he’d been grounded from the gym, so to speak, for throwing basketballs. A war had started. All the guys would stand on the wall of the gym, if someone walked across the middle of the floor during break after lunch, they would be hit with a basketball, usually from behind, usually in the back, or the head. Sometimes someone would get pummeled with them. Jack was in detention with them for joining in, but he had only been able to throw one ball when they all got caught red handed by their coach. They all had to run bleachers during P.E., and Eric had caught Sherman up on the floor and given him a wedgie so hard his underwear ripped up out of his shorts. Jack didn’t like seeing that, but it was a tragedy of war. He fought off the guy who had run up behind him thinking he was going to pull the same trick on Jack. One fist caught the guys chin and then others landed on his shoulders, bouncing him back a step. Jack was surprised, but the reaction had been immediate. No control. The guy went away laughing. He had had to run bleachers with them during P.E., and would have to that afternoon, he figured. Everyone was shooting baskets and talking. All of the girls were sitting on the wooden bleachers to his right when he stepped into the gym foyer, of sorts. There was damp and dirt on the floor under his shoes and two towels lay on the floor to wipe your feet on after you wiped your feet on the mat, which was also damp and dirty. Jack took a drink from the water fountain. Coldest water ever.

“Jack that’s gross that you drink out of the water fountain,” a girl said from behind and above him, looking over the wooden hand rail of the wooden bleachers.

“Huh?” Jack asked, curling his lip and wiping his mouth with the back of his hand and looking around with wild eyes and then up at her.

“Why would you drink out of that?” The girl asked.

“It’s good!” Jack said up to her, “Come get a drink.”

“Ew no!” She said and giggled.

Jack sneered up at her. She went away, back to talk to her friends. Jack went out onto the gym floor. A basketball flew by, nearing his head. He glared and looked around through slits for eyes. Trent laughed and ran off across the gym floor. He must have been released from detention, or talked his way out of it. Jack darted over and grabbed up a ball. He threw it at Trent, hard.

“Jack!” Their coach yelled from somewhere on the gym floor, “Go sit in the stands!”

Jack looked around with panicky eyes and then his face turned red and he trooped up the stands and sat down heavy at the top of the bleachers. The group of girls noticed him, watched and laughed to each other. Jack frown, fumed, and crossed his arms, leaning back against the wall. He sat forward and check his back, making sure there wasn’t any old gum stuck to the wall he might be leaning against. He frumped and looked out over the gym floor. Kids ran back and forth. Kary, Brandon, Cody didn’t, Sherman, some girls, the ones who weren’t sitting in the stands talking to their own little group.

“God damn it,” Jack grumbled.

He looked around, nothing. He twittled his fingers around. One of his shoes had loose laces. He reached down and tied his shoes. Basketballs made an uneven song on the gym floor. Shoes backed the song up in a chorus. Voices rose above them both slightly higher and lighter. Lunch was over shortly after that.

“Thank God,” Jack grumbled and stood up when the bell rang.

One solid peel. One note. Not unpleasant, and not exactly enjoyable. He stood up and one of his knees popped when he went to walk down the bleachers. He stopped. The girls below him looked up at him.

“My knee just popped!” He told them.

The joint didn’t hurt, but he’d never popped a knee before, so how did know if it hurt or not? Well, it didn’t hurt. The girls stood looking up at him. He stopped looking down at them with wide green fire surprised eyes and then smiled a goofy smile and went to the hand rail, dragging his leg along. The girls erupted in giggles and went down the bottom two bleachers. Jack looked up and looked around. He loved the top of the bleachers. The places where fans rarely went. His older brother played basketball, and Jack loved the top bleachers in the high school gym too. Laird would be down below playing in a game and Jack would sit up at the top bleachers with the older black men, not too close, lest he get yelled at, but sort of near them, to hear them talk and watch from the corner of his eye as they either threw peanut shells or craw fish shells onto the floor of the stands beneath their feet. He’d returned a trucker cap to one of them, an old timer, who’d dropped it while he was talking and didn’t notice that it sat on the nasty step by him. Jack knew that these men would yell at him and cause a stink if he neared them. He went over and picked up the hat, oblivious with on the wound of the game and crowd in his ears. The conversation from the black men died away immediately when he approached the old guy. He had gray hair around his ears reaching to the back of his head. He laughed at what one of the other men were saying and upon the look of the crowd he glanced over his shoulder and then looked again, ready to jack slap some kid who had his hat. Jack held it up.

“You dropped this,” Jack told him.

“Thank ya,” the old guy said and turned away.

They group kept talking. Jack had went away, snitched some money out of his mom’s purse, this time with permission, and bought a Butterfinger. He wandered back up to the top of the bleachers but was chased off by one of the men, a middle aged man with a deep steady voice.

“You bess runn off, go on back down there little man,” the guy said, as if speaking to himself.

Jack didn’t catch it.

The older man looked up at him, glanced up at him, glared up, “’Ey! Boy go on now! We tired--”

His voice was cut off by a glance from Jack’s mom back down on the bottom row while Jack was scooting away from them, on his feet. He didn’t go down and sit by his mom, he had kept a bleacher or two away from her, and a bleacher next to the group of black men. Just to show they didn’t scare him, too much, that he just knew to keep out of the reach of them, and that he’d been around grown men before, grown men who talked loud and swiped at kids who hung around too much. Or so he figured anyway. He got bored sitting below the old guys and above his mom and the women she sat with. So he gently stood and eased himself down along the black wooden bench down to the other end off the bleachers. He had finished the game there.

Kids were filing out of the gym. Math, then P.E., then nothing, then the night. He had to get home quick so that Rick would still be there to help him. Last class let out. The bell, one long peel of a single note. He would have to remember to ask Mr. Farr what note that was. Kids filled the halls. The excitement of the morning had changed into excitement for the evening. The costumes that had been worn were now slackened on shoulders and Jack was glad that he hadn’t dressed up more than he did for school. He stood at a set of double glass doors looking out, and then he turned to watch all of the kids moving up and down the hallway. Laughter and shouts and voices filled the long wide and high hall. Heavy wooden classroom doors shut and banged loud. Jack looked up to the end of the hall at the science lab. He had science in the mornings, always had. He really couldn’t figure how the kids in the afternoon class did it. On this wing of the school Jack had science class first thing in the morning, and then English class right after lunch. It wasn’t a very hard class, the hard English class was next year.

Junior appeared out of nowhere beside Jack, “Jack Nuts.”

“Uh,” Jack said, staring off into space.

“Injection,” Junior said and raised his arm.

“Huh? Oh,” Jack shook himself out of his revere and started to grin and look over at Junior, “you sure?”

Junior raised his elbow more by an inch and took a step toward Jack, “Yes! For Halloween.”

Jack stuck Junior in the kidney with a quick jab. An expert boxer’s jab, he thought. Junior took it with a wince and grinned and let out a hurting sigh.

“Good?” Jack asked.

“Yeah,” Junior said, “ow.”

They laughed.

“You going to do anything tonight?” Junior asked.

“Going trick or treating,” Jack said.

“I’m not,” Junior told him.

Jack looked at him for a moment.

“You’re parents….” Jack creased his eyebrows.

Junior laughed, “Yeah dude my parents are hard core Mexicans, they don’t let us do things like that, but I’ve seen the day of the dead, in Mexico.”

Jack came toward him, “Really? Like you were there? With the big skeletons and shit?”

Junior laughed again, “Yeah I was in Mexico.”

He looked at Jack with mongrel eyes and Jack laughed. They went outside onto the step and looked out over the crowd of kids and the lines to get on the bus. Only one was visible to them, the other was back under the high awning for bus pick up where they couldn’t see. Just shadows moving around, a face every now and then or someone’s bright clothes or back pack, a girl’s green hair bow, bright lime green. High clouds hung in the sky, no breeze, just pines reaching up one hundred feet and still giant clouds. Jack saw the green bow moving away toward bus 6. He only rode that bus every now and then, going to Sherman’s house or Rob’s house. Brandon and Cody’s parents picked them up. He didn’t see them at all. Cody usually left over at the far end of the school.

“I’ll see you later,” Junior said.

He walked down the length of the building between the wall and front bumpers of cars.

“You’re parents coming to pick you up?” Junior turned back to Jack and asked.

“Nah, gonna ride the bus, they don’t get home until later,” Jack said from the step, looking at the line to bus 2, “man shit! That line is gonna take for freaking ever and I’m gonna have to sit up front!”

“Hey does your dad still have that motor cycle?” Junior asked from a little farther off.

“Yeah!” Jack answered, running toward the line.

He ran up to the bus and stood next to the girl waiting by the door in the front.

“Hey, can I cut in line with you,” Jack smiled at her and said.

“Uh, yeah,” the girl guffawed and smile up at him.

She was a year younger.

“Jack! You get to the back of that line!” A teacher yelled from under the front, side entrance.

Jack muttered under his breath while he walked to the back of the line, “Yeah, like your fat ass is gonna come out from under the shade.”

“What?”

Jack heard her voice from under the awning, but she sounded really mad, and she was a big woman, capable of bulling kids out of her way to get to him, he assumed.

“I said I’m going to the back of the line,” Jack answered in a sing song voice.

He went to the back of the line, embarrassed to be there, with his hands jammed in his pockets. The doors flipped open on the bus and kids filed inside.

“Dance of the dead,” Jack muttered and a Mexican kid turned and looked at him that he didn’t know.

Jack looked away over the kid’s head. The line moved ahead of them and Jack took a small step forward and his chest touched the kid’s back and shoulders for a second and the kid moved forward a half step. They moved this way all the way to the bus, chest to back with each kid keeping as little space between them and the next so that older kids wouldn’t barge in and cut. Jack stepped up onto the bottom step of the bus and as he was stepping up into the bus the bus driver looked at him.

“I wasn’t going to let you cut either,” the guy said to Jack.

He was new and rangy looking, tall and skinny. He looked like a mechanic. He probably worked down in the bus barn. He grinned again at Jack and Jack looked at his shoes and smiled and went to the back of the bus. He had to push past knees and back packs to make his way through until he was at the back quarter of the length of the bus. Kids back here didn’t bring their bags home. The only thing Jack took home was whatever library book he happened to be reading, unless he absolutely had to go home and do homework, instead of finishing his assignments in the hall the morning before class. One kid had asked him why he did that before.

“Let me see your homework and I’ll tell ya,” Jack told him.

Jack flopped down in the back seat of the bus, dropping the book he’d been reading the past few days beside him.

“What are you readin’ Jack?” Came a sly voice from the opposite back seat.

Charlie sat over there, with his chin in his hand and sly cat eyes looking at Jack.

“A book,” Jack said.

Charlie laughed.

He looked over the seats.

Jack wondered why he was on the bus, he never rode the bus, but he did live out past Jack. Every now and then he rode, but hardly ever really. Charlie turned to the window. Jack looked up the isle, trying to catch a glimpse of any girls who might have rode today. No such luck, there weren’t really any girls who rode his bus, most of their parents came to pick them up. Jack didn’t like for his parents to pick him up from school, he’d ridden the bus from the age of five until now. Jack glanced over at Charlie. Charlie’s water blue eyes watched the ditches pass by. Jack should’ve taken that seat, he didn’t like the left hand seat because in order to have a view he had to look out over the road, and flashing cars would pass by and break his concentration. He looked over at Charlie and thought about asking him to switch. The bus stopped and nine Mexican kids stood up from their seats and shuffled down the isle, emptying out of the bus to walk up the lane running between trailer houses that they lived in.

“Here’s your stop Charlie,” Jack said and snickered.

The bigger older kid laughed a little and said, “Then you’re comin’ with me.”

“No way!” Jack laughed.

The bus past around a curve and down a small hill. Jack knew that a lot of the small little hills one saw around this part of the country were more often than not Indian burial mounds, or mounds for something far older. They were coming to the S curve where Zorn had wrecked his car and mangled his foot. The bus driver flipped over the blinker to indicate a right hand turn. Jack bucked in his seat and slammed himself around.

“God dang it it’s gonna take forever to get home!” He cussed.

Charlie started laughing, “Jack you’re such a little dick.”

Jack looked over at him, “I’m not a little dick I’m a big dick!”

Charlie laughed out loud and his voice rang out in the bus. He and Jack both looked out of the windows when the bus driver looked back at them.

Costume

4:47 pm

Jack sat at the table and Rick stood up over it on one side, while Jack sat at the end. There was latex skull face laid over a plastic covering shaped exactly like it. When he had harangued his mom into buy it at Wal-Mart the skull face had been under the plastic, but now it rested on top of it. Rick had used one of their mom’s scalpels to cut away the nostrils of the mask and the eyes and now he was getting ready to paint it. Jack was very figity and kept freaking out about the tiniest things that Rick did.

“Do you want to do this?” Rick yelled at his little brother.

Jack looked at the table with a tight face.

“No? Then shut up,” Rick said, “you’ll just mess it up anyway.”

Rick had steady hands. He dipped a thin little brush into a very small square glass container of dark paint. Then he slowly drew paint into the cracks of the forehead of the skull mask.

“Don’t fill in the RIP part on his fore head I don’t like that part,” Jack offered from where he watched.

Rick cut his eyes at Jack, “I know, I’m not going to.”

Jack closed his mouth and watched Rick paint the mask in shades of gray and white and light colors of green for shading and then he added a little bit of red at the corner of each eye that ran down the cracks formed into the latex skull face.

“What’s that?” Jack asked.

His voice was strained.

“So it looks like he’s crying blood,” Rick said.

“Oh,” Jack said, his mouth open while he watched.

Jack was surprised at how fast the masked was finished. Rick set it to the side.

“Wait, don’t I need to try it out?” Jack asked.

“No, we’ll cut the mouth open and do the bottom jaw when we put it on you,” Rick said.

“You’re gonna be here to help me right?” Jack asked as if the world hung on it.

“Yes god damnit I’m gonna be here, and if I’m not Mom can do it,” Rick told him.

He was bringing out another mask under plastic covering with a cardboard backing. Jack picked up the cardboard backing from his own mask and inspected the back instructions and samples of how the mask could be designed.

“Those all look stupid,” Jack said.

“I know, that’s why we did it this way, it looks realistic,” Rick said.

Rick tore open his mask package, careful not to damage it as he did so. Rick’s mask a was the face of a devil, with the nose and the two small horns. Rick laid it over the plastic covering and very quickly painted the face red with darkened shades throughout the creases of the face, mouth and nose.

“So when we get ready to put them on we’ll have to glue them to our faces, but you can’t itch your face,” Rick was saying when a knock sounded on the front door and Josie barked from the living room.

The guys could hear her get up and go to the front door. She was a small Merle Dane, but her barked filled the room, shaking on the walls. Jack came to the front sitting room and moved Josie to the side to open the front door so that Brandon could step in through the front door. Brandon stepped into the front sitting room, carrying his own mask encased in its plastic with its cardboard backing. Brandon had gone to Wal-Mart a day after Jack told him about buying masks. The only one that had been left was a witch mask, so Brandon had bought it, and Rick had promised him that he could work up a mask from that that would look good and still be a good costume. Brandon walked through the kitchen behind Jack.

“What’s up Brandon,” Rick asked.

Brandon looked down with sky blue eyes and freckles and a small smile and said, “Nothing.”

“Did you get your mask?” Rick asked him.

“Yeah, it’s right here,” Brandon said.

“Well let me see it! Gettit out heh bai!” Rick yelled in a faux Brooklyn accent.

Zorn came walked through the kitchen. The front door slammed behind him in the front sitting room, “Tell Mom I brought back the shovel and the lawn mower.”

“Why’d you take a shovel?” Jack asked him.

“Because I needed one,” Zorn said and then looked at Brandon, “Wilson! My man! How you be buddy?”

Brandon smiled and looked down again, “Good.”

Zorn was tall and built like a track star. He had been one until he’d crushed his ankle and suffered a compound fracture on the same leg in a car accident. The doctors thought that they would have to amputate his foot. He had short cut kinky curly hair and a cigarette hanging from his mouth.

“You ever seen anyone do this?” Zorn asked Brandon and slapped Jack on the chest with his palm, covering him in a big whap.

Brandon laughed, “Yeah The Great Kali.”

“Who the hell is The Great Kali?” Zorn asked.

Brandon smiled, “A wrestler.”

Jack was coughing and holding his chest with his eyes squeezed shut.

“Alright I’ll tell her Zorn,” Rick said.

He was annoyed that his brother hadn’t left yet, hadn’t left them to their selves. Zorn looked at what they were doing. Jack thought an argument might be coming because Rick hadn’t let Zorn know what they were doing and he may have wanted to help. But Zorn turned and began to walk out of the kitchen.

“I’m gone, gotta go dress the kids up,” he said.

The front door slammed shut. Jack forgot that is was a different day today. His brothers wouldn’t argue today. He looked down at what Rick was doing. He painted the white latex mask of Brandon’s green.

“That’s the same color as a witch!” Jack said.

Rick cut his eyes over at Jack and looked at him for a long moment, “Shut up, I know what the hell I’m doing. You couldn’t do this shit, neither one of y’all.”

“I didn’t say anything,” Brandon quickly sought to reassure him.

Rick laughed a loud clap of laughter, “You shut up too Brandon!”

Rick took the gray hair to used as the witch’s eyebrows on the mask and glued them to the top lip of the mask, making a big gray bushy mustache. He carefully pulled the green witch mask from the plastic covering where it lay. The masks came in two pieces, the bottom jaw and upper face that was left. He lay the mask back down on the plastic covering and considered things.

“Jack, we’re putting yours on first,” Rick said.

Brandon was let down, but only a fraction, his shoulders moved just a bit and he looked back up. Rick was looking back and forth between the two.

“That way we can see how to do it,” Rick said, directing his voice to Brandon standing next to him around the table.

Brandon brightened a fraction, “Oh.”

Rick looked at Jack, “And he’ll have to wear it the longest.”

Brandon looked at Rick, watching him, “Why what’s that have to do with it?”

“These things get annoying after a while, and you can’t itch your face or you’ll mess it up,” Rick told him.

Rick had a way of spitting his words at people whom he thought asked questions they should already know the answers to. He dipped a small brush into a little tube of latex paint on glue, or something like that, and brought it out and brushed a small amount across Jack’s cheek bone.

“Wait, fuck,” Rick said.

Jack fumed a bit from his nose, holding still and losing patience, and they hadn’t even begun yet.

Rick barked at him, “Hold the fuck on!”

He turned to the mask and set the latex paint on glue down to peel the skull mask from the plastic covering and turned to Brandon, “Brandon, cup your hands together, yeah like that, now hold this and don’t drop it of fold it.”

Brandon laughed a small, short, half laugh and said, “Okay. Dang.”

“Don’t move,” Rick told him and dabbed latex paint on glue stuff all inside the skull mask, dabbing everywhere. Then he picked the mask up from Brandon’s hands and only used his hands flat and brought it to Jack’s still face and slowly, holding the latex mask, light in his hands, he fitted it to Jack’s face. Then he did the same, only faster with the bottom jaw of the skull.

“Keep you face still until it sets, then you ought to be able to just move around,” Rick told his brother.

Jack could feel his breath on his face in the small holes left for his nostrils. He wanted to make Rick move, but he stood still. He didn’t want Rick to slam him around while the mask was setting. He breathed out and relaxed, standing up in the dining room by the table. Next Rick applied his own mask, and turned and leered at Brandon, a devil before them. Brandon’s green witch/old man mask was last, and the chin, like Rick’s own red devil mask, came away, not the entire lower jaw as Jack’s had. Rick stooped over with a straight back toward Brandon and he brought the green mask up to his face. It shrouded Brandon’s sight and then fit around his brows and cheeks. Rick touched different spots on Brandon’s face with light finger tips. He held his breath and stood still.

Jack turned and walked away from the dining room through the kitchen. Each step he took resounded in his ears because the edge of the latex mask was over half of his ears, because his face was really too small for the mask, and Rick had forgotten to trim the mask away from his ears, he hadn’t had to do that with his own mask, or Brandon’s, so Jack didn’t say anything, and it resulted in his own breath and each foot step sounding off in his ears. He smiled to himself and walked into the bathroom. Just around the door frame as he stepped in was an oval mirror above the sink, but to his left on the wall was a large flat rectangle of a mirror in a thick and roughened wooden frame, and even then, there was a large flat rectangle of a mirror embedded into the wall with brass swans sitting on the small shelf recessed into the wall beneath the mirror. Jack tried not to see himself in each of the mirrors as he turned. Then, he faced himself in the mirror, the mask, the Tony Hawk t-shirt with the rip painted onto the side and bones underneath. He normally uncombed brown hair was slicked back. Green eyes peered out from the skull at him. He smiled, the skull smiled. He slowly let his bottom jaw hang free, at first just by a fraction, and then completely. The skulls bottom jaw hung open, as if moving on its own, life where there should not be life.

A sound came onto Jack’s ears and around his head and the room slowly turned around the mirror. He waited for it to stop. It didn’t until reaching almost the two o’clock hour and then snapped back and Jack thought about blinking his eyes and shaking his head bu the still didn’t want to shake his mask and mess it up, so he barely shook his head, just a fraction. Jack went back into the dining room. Rick was stooping over looking at Brandon’s chin.

“Well, I used up the last of the latex glue on your face,” Rick was saying, “so it looks like we’ll have to do something different for your chin.”

“What?” Brandon asked from where he stood, stalk still.

Rick glanced and then glared at him for a moment, “We’ll have to do something else. Here.”

Rick looked around and then went across the kitchen to the cabinets above the dishwasher under the white cabinet. He opened them. He looked the shelves over. There were wicker baskets of bottles of medicine, herbal pills and fish oil pills, iron pills and dietary supplements in big plastic screw top jugs. Rick reached around a stand of herb and vitamin bottles and came out with a small tube, foil and crushable. He turned back toward Jack and Brandon standing in the dining room.

“Super glue,” Rick said.

“Super glue?” Brandon asked.

Yeah,” glanced and glared over at Brandon, “do you want the chin on or not.”

The super glue burned Brandon’s chin. He yelled and danced around while Rick burst out laughing.

“Is it burning?” Rick asked him.

“Yeah!” Brandon yelled into the kitchen.

He held it together long enough for their mom to take a picture of them. A witch, a devil, and a skull, each standing shoulder to shoulder with the taller devil in the center. As soon as their mom lowered the camera Brandon tore the witch chin off of his own. He clefted chin was red. He caught his breath and gasped at the same time. He didn’t want to touch his chin.

“Hang on hang on,” Rick said and went away, to return with a dampened rag and dabbed and rubbed at Brandon’s chin, “Is it still burning?”

“No it’s better,” Brandon said.

 

West 1st

6:48 pm

Zorn had Tristren’s arms tied behind his back. His buddy Aaron was finishing up on Teller’s face, her Raggedy Anne makeup was just about finished. Her bald head would be covered with a poofy white hat with little red twisted and doubled thick and soft strands of yarn serving as hair sewn around the edges of the mouth of the hat. Tristren wouldn’t hold still, and Zorn kept yelling and griping at him while he tried to work on his toddler’s Raggedy Andy makeup. Tristren whined and cried and his shoulders sagged.

“Well! If you’d hold still I wouldn’t have to tie your arms back!” Zorn told him.

Zorn’s frizzy curly brown hair hung in his eyes and he blew up across his face. He wore a Spaniard’s mustache and small goatee, like a conquistador. Mel stepped into the dining room door from the kitchen, leaning against the door jam. She looked like a model with a dishrag in her hand and a worn white shirt and shorts on.

“Why are his arms tied behind his back?” She asked in a resigned voice.

Zorn looked over at her. He was thin and tall, built like a track star with deeply tanned skin, some sort of crazy looking Greek Indian White Man.

“Come get my hair out of my face, please,” he told Mel.

She waited for a second.

“Please?”

“Okay! Dick!” Mel said.

She went toward Zorn and Aaron laughed. He fit Teller’s white poofy hat over her head. The toddler looked up at him and smiled with her four teeth.

“There ya go,” Aaron said.

He was a lean cowboy without a hat and blue eyes and a light and easy going voice.

Once Tristren’s makeup was finished, and Zorn had yelled at him again for crying, forcing him to stop, his dad had tried to put a matching hat on his son’s head, but the toddler’s bald head was too big for the hat to fit over.

“God damn it!” Zorn said and Aaron laughed again while Zorn picked up the hat and made several small cuts around the brim to loosen the grip of it up.

Then he fit it around Tristren’s large head.

“Boy you got the biggest head I’ve ever, seen!” Zorn said with a cigarette pinched in his teeth with an ash falling off of it as he fit the hat down, “There!”

Tristren cried in his Raggedy Andy outfit. He cried and cried, leaning over and almost tipping off of the bar stool he sat on with his arms tied behind him.

“Shit!” Zorn caught hold of him and took his little shoulders in his hands, “Here son let me untie you! You look so cute!”

It only made Tristren madder. Teller looked on from her end of the oval shaped dining room table. Tristren went to rub his face.

“Don’t you rub your face!” Zorn yelled, “You will sit there and look cute! I spent too much damn time on y’all’s makeup for you to rub it off!”

Aaron did what he thought was his best black guy impersonation and said, “Yeahhh!”

He pointed two finger guns at Tristren, firing from the hip.

“Alright!” Zorn hallared, “let’s load these little bastards up and go trick or treatin’! Haha!”

Braiden hopped off the couch, dressed in a tiny grim reaper’s outfit with a little skeleton face painted onto his own face. His big blue eyes peeped around the room at everyone.

“Put your hood on,” Aaron said to him.

Braiden put the hood over his head, with his blue peepers still looking about, a three foot tall grim reaper. Zorn set Tristren down on the ground and put the little button up shirt on him and fixed the front. Tristren whined and cried.

“Stop you are fine, there is nothing wrong with you. Don’t touch your face,” Zorn told him.

He stood up and lead Tristren and Teller through the house, with Aaron walking behind him and Mel clicking off lights as she stepped behind Aaron, and Brandon out ahead of the twins, opening the front door and looking back and pulling his hood back so he could see as he went out into the yellow light of the front porch and went over to the step and stepped down as everyone else filed out of the door.

Aaron went out ahead of them, “I’ll see you guys later.”

“Oh, what, you’re not coming with us?” He was asked.

He turned back to Zorn and laughed and stopped, “Hell no Zorn, I’ve for a bar to go to, I don’t have kids!”

He laughed and Zorn laughed.

“Yeah why would he want to go with us? Run Aaron!” Mel said from over Zorn’s shoulder.

Brandon turned and looked over his shoulder at the porch lit by yellow light and the one sculpted white column in the middle of the porch with the yellow light fanning out off of the wall across the darkening yard and he could hear drums in his head and a voice chanting “Halloween” in a sing song voice. As Braiden turned to walk to the back of the car two men came from the front door behind Mel with dark cloaks like his with their hoods over their heads and the same skull paint as he had on. Braiden turned to open the back door and his dad leaned in the back to buckle Tristren in. Teller waited out on the driveway so that Braiden would step up in the car. She squealed at him irritated with his slowness.

“Wait Teller!” Mel said, waiting behind her. Braiden slipped in between the whining Tristren while he bucked to keep his dad to buckling him down. Mel put Teller down in the other car seat on the other side of Braiden and she looked over at him, calm with narrowed eyes. Braiden’s blue peepers blinked at her.

Mel snapped her finger at him, “Braiden! Do not pinch your sister.”

Braiden looked down a little and pulled his jack-o-lantern candy bucket.

Zorn backed the car down the driveway. Braiden blinked, those men had never been there anyway. They drove away into the night just down the road around a short curve that went in front of the old Radio Shack, out under the street light and back in the windows of the old empty windows of where the store used to be. Their car made a sharp rush of noise of air out from under it and off of its tires as it drove away. In it Zorn lit a cigarette and rolled down his window with the now fixed hand crank. A plume of smoke rose from his nose and slipped out the window. They went down the hill with wind blowing in their ears when Zorn rolled the window down more.

“Roll the window up Zorn!” Mel said.

He started rolling it up and asked, “What?

“Roll your fucking window up please!” Mel said, flicking her cigarette out of the seem of the window and ash disappeared off her the cherry.

They drove through the intersection down by where they used to live. Sears was there and across the highway was a Mexican grocery store, El Super Mercado Monterray. Big red letters written across a big yellow sign. On each side of the south side of the red light, as they headed straight east were two gas stations, and back up the road between then and across the rail road tracks was the chicken plant. Zorn had worked at it for a while, from days and then to nights. Across from the two gas stations was an auto glass place, and then an open lot where a house they had lived in that had termites. It was next to a cottage that was always empty save the antique furniture and lace curtains. They went on down the road out away from the shadows of the little glade they used to live in. A boot store and western clothing outlet had been across the street from their house, which on the inside was always dark and cool and very muted, a place of shadows and late night TV. When they had first moved into the house Jack had tucked himself away in their closet and had looked at Cosmopolitan, hoping for a look at one of the models in gauzy see through material. There were usually three or four. Fashion splashed across the pages as he flipped through, somehow seeing the pictures in the darkened closet with only a sliver of light coming in from the door. Mel had found him and baby talked him for hiding away. Another glass shop was on the left and then the little place that changed hands all the time from coffee to donuts and back to coffee and never lasted but always opened back up under someone else. Mel just went down to the Vietnamese donut place when she did go and get them. They had coffee Zorn liked early in the morning, over with kinky curly hair and tired eyes and skinny model’s neck, he enjoyed the Vietnamese chatter like slow English banter and spoke like them for half a block in a loud and neck vein bulging maniacal way. Laughing so hard Mel would think steam was going to blow from his ears. Now they were down by the Ford dealership and passing under the railroad bridge overhead, where they’d seen Rick and his friend Jon Paul walking one Friday evening. Mel had wanted to call someone, but Zorn hadn’t let her. It was his brother, he’d said. They passed the huge strip mall with the cheaper grocery store and clothing stores and Asian buffet and Zorn’s furniture place and music store and Blockbuster Video.

The Skull Mask

7:10 pm

It rode in the back of its mom’s big black suburban, well, the back seat anyway, it didn’t have to ride all the way in the back. Rick sat up front, talking to their mom. Brandon sat over on the other side of the long dark blue bench seat, looking out the window into the night. It hadn’t committed to Brandon’s invites. It wouldn’t be going to any churches this year, not this year. Brandon wasn’t allowed to go trick or treating with Jack, simply because he lived in the next town over, only while his mom looked for a new place to live, either that or he would attend school in the next town over the next school year, so she hadn’t let Brandon go trick or treating because it would be too late to make the twenty minute drive. She understood when Jack had declined his invitation to the church function and told Brandon so, and Jack understood when she wouldn’t let Brandon go trick or treating with Jack. Brandon would go with his cousins, and then on a hay ride and then to a Halloween carnival at Brandon’s church, but Jack had gone on a summer trip with Brandon earlier in the year and he hadn’t liked the church that held the camp, things hadn’t gone well for him and he didn’t speak of it, so Brandon didn’t push Jack with anymore church functions, and he understood when Jack declined the invite, but still put his chin down and creased his eyebrows for a moment. Jack just scoffed and looked away, wanting to be away, wanting to his the streets over in South Gate. Under the night sky, walking the neighborhoods with the other kids of the night.

They dropped Brandon off with his mom at the school. He left the suburban without really saying good bye, and Jack looked away out of the window when the door shut. Rick cleared his throat in the front seat and the big black suburban rolled out of the parking lot. Jack could hear gravel crunching and grinding in dirt under the tires beneath.

Then they were gone, bumping over the drive way entrance and then rocking over onto the street and lurching on down the road, the big V8 engine leveling out. Their mom looked in the rear view for a second while she drove. Her smallest, looking out of the window, neither kid saying much. Rick she knew was fine, but her youngest, she wondered. He sat with hands in lap, looking out the window, still, a skull face in an over sized t-shirt, his hair slicked back and hair sprayed to stay that way. Rick cleared his throat in the bucket seat beside her.

“Why are y’all so quiet?” She asked them.

“These masks,” Rick responded.

He turned his face to look out of the windshield, and she didn’t like the devil that had replaced him, quiet and contemplative, with its tiny skull faced friend in the back. Two spirits.

“Are they uncomfortable?” She asked him.

“Nah, we just don’t want to mess them up,” Rick said.

“Jack, is yours okay?” She asked the back.

“Yeah it’s fine, I just don’t want to itch my face,” he told her.

So quiet misery it must be. She smiled.

They hadn’t reached the other side of town yet. They cross over the interstate, running west to Dallas and east to Texarkana. Tractor trailers went by under them. Jack looked east, down I-30 and out away along the long line of pines on both sides of the concrete highway that stretched out forever and then into a point, where nothing could be seen further in the dying sunlight of the day. The night would come. Jack looked out through the windshield at the road as it pulled along in front of them. His mom had cracked the window then rolled it back up, and Jack wished she’d roll it down again. The road ran under the big black suburban like a strange path on a grand rolling ball and he had the sensation that they were standing still, and the ground ran under. Highway 67 passed overhead and then the scrap yard passed on Jack’s right. Rick looked out of his window and sought to see over and past the chain link gates and into the yard. He and Jack had gone in their one day with their dad, and Rick had found a caboose to a train. Jack hadn’t noticed it whatsoever until Rick called to him while he was walking around watching his shoes as he walked. They climbed up it and went along the sides, mystified.

“I’ve never seen one of these before,” Rick had said with a hushed voice while he looked up and around as he walked.

But tonight, tonight belonged to itself. Jack looked ahead through the windshield. The afternoon was deepening. It was darkening. Violet light came up from beneath the trees and rose up into their branches, reaching up and into the bottom of the sky. Their mom took a left and then the tires of the suburban thonked over the wood and metal of the railroad tracks. They separated the town from East Side, and Sun Rise, which were really the same place except sort of split in two. As it went of the tracks and down an incline the suburban lurched on its shocks. Jack lost his stomach, just a little, and wanted to ramp the suburban over the tracks and into the field adjacent to it, one day. They were heading south. God Jack hoped they wouldn’t be stopping at any friend’s of their mom’s. Mercifully they didn’t, Jack felt like he was too old to stop and show his costume to family friends, and his mother must have agreed because she kept driving, then stopped on 1st street and went across, heading deeper into the old Mexican neighborhoods but cutting across the side of town they were on to reach South Gate. There was a dark park across the four lane highway from where the suburban sat at a red light. The motor idled, the radio played low. There were shadows thrown all across the ground down there in the park. A creek ran through the middle of the park. Red white and blue mineral springs had once flowed in it. Where the fire station now stood was once a resort during the bath house craze of the early nineteen hundreds. Jack looked out of the passenger side window while they passed the fire station and public pool on top of a hill, rolling down to the bottom and crossing a low bridge over the creek.

“Indian burial mound,” Rick said from the passenger seat up front.

“Hmm?” Their mom asked.

Rick turned away from his window where he’d been looking and looked out ahead through the windshield, “They built that pool and that fire station on top of an Indian burial mound, they say.”

“Oh, well, you throw a rock around here and you’ll hit an Indian burial mound, this place was some kind of graveyard for them, this whole area,” their mom said.

Jack looked out of his window. So the old resort was built on top of the mound as well. There were old steps still leading to nowhere on the back side of the pool. A park was behind the pool and fire station now, had been his whole life. A child molester supposedly used to hang out at the bathrooms there. The old resort had burned down after someone bought it and turned it into a school for unwanted children, of sorts.

Now they were there, driving along the main strip through the neighborhood, and Jack began to see ghouls and goblins walking up and down the streets. He smiled, the skull smiled. Dracula’s laugh echoed in his head.

“The children of the night. What sweet music they make.”

Not the old Hollywood Dracula, the one who looked like an old woman for the first part of the movie, with all of the hot chicks who got naked and the girl who had sex with a werewolf. Jack shifted in his seat and threw an eye over to look from the corner of his skull mask. He could hear his breath in his ears as if caught against the edges of the latex around the edges of his nostrils. It would drive him insane if he let it. Chinese tickle torture. He wanted to reach up and itch the edge of his nose. He looked over at Rick sitting in the front seat. From the way his brother sat so still in the passenger seat that he was more than likely feeling the same way too. Rick swallowed.

“Hey Mom can you let us out here?” Jack asked.

“What?”

“Yeah, can you let us out right here? That way we can go ahead and start,” Rick told her.

He saw his mom’s eyes widen a bit in the driver’s seat in the rear view mirror, “No, I think you need to start from Barb’s house.”

Jack deflated, the rush of excitement left.

“Oh my god it’s right up there,” their mom said and pointed as she clicked the left hand turn signal.

Jack huffed.

Rick guffawed and laughed from deep in his chest, a laugh that came unbidden, “Jack! We’re right here! Shithead!”

Their mom cracked a smile but said, “Don’t cuss around me.”

The suburban rolled down Barb’s street, crunching over acorns spread across the street. Dried up leaves blew across in front of them on a wind, tumbling and chasing one another in a loose group. Lit by the headlights, the snap shot scene seemed unreal, and Jack knew that magic was around, out in the night, somewhere, looking and running and waiting and moving in and through all of the laughter and screams and high conversations that carried across the night streets. Jack had the urge to open the door and jump out. He figured he could stick the landing and take off at a run. He’d shut the door behind him, of course. His hand rose up to the thin silver handle hinged in a recessed rectangle of the door panel.

“Jack,” a voice said.

Rick was looking over his shoulder at him, but the voice hadn’t sounded like his brother. Jack couldn’t see Rick’s eyes inside the latex, all he could see was the devil’s face and dark eyes.

Rudy’s

7:18 pm

Stretts sat over at Rudy’s, sitting in his floor and looking through Rudy’s Dungeons and Dragons character encyclopedias. He always did that. He went straight to Rudy’s closet and pulled one of them from the top shelf in there every time he came into the room, and they always went to Rudy’s room, because his mom was always watching TV. If his dad were in the living room, he’d nod at them. That was it, sitting in his chair. Thick mustache and red rimmed eyes from work, feathered hair. Looked like he didn’t trust having white people to his house, but he didn’t mind a couple of kids coming over, much. Probably best not to cross him. His mom would always smile and nod at them as they filed back into the reaches of Rudy’s frame house and went into his room. The door always shut and the light would squeeze out in the seam of the door and door jam as it shut.

The guys had shuffled in, and then Stretts went for the book. He sat Indian style on the floor down by the foot of Rudy’s bed. Skaiks went over to the drum set. He picked up some beat up sticks.

“Shh, don’t play them too loud my fuckin’ parents are right in there,” he said, holding his hands out while he crept across the floor of his bedroom, smiling.

“Who’s got the fucking makeup?” Skaiks asked.

“Dude, it’s right over here,” Rudy said.

They went over to Rudy’s bathroom between his and his sister’s rooms. He shut her door.

“Where’d her and Amy go?” Stretts asked him from the floor, looking up and putting knuckles under his chin and an elbow on his knee.

Amy was Stretts’s old girlfriend, but she was a best friend of Rudy’s sister.

Rudy awe shucks kicked the carpet and shrugged and smiled and looked down, “I don’t know, they went out earlier, doin’ girl stuff, it’s like ‘who cares’.”

Stretts grinned and his grin came down into a smile, “I bet Amy looked goooood.”

Rudy looked up and smiled, “Dude she does have nice legs.”

Stretts looked back down at the book sitting across his Indian style folded legs and smiled.

Skaiks looked at them both, back and forth, for a moment, “You guys are fucking fags. C’mon! Let’s do out makeup.”

Stretts guffawed, “Who’s the fag now!”

Skaiks shot him a look over his shoulder. He had glass looking eyes that had irises like blue crystal. He and Rudy stepped into the bathroom and they stood at the counter. Rudy took a grease pencil out and started darkening the edges of his eyes.

“You’re not doing white under the black?” Skaiks asked.

Rudy leaned his head back and kept darkening the edges of his eyes, “Nah, I don’t want to have to wear my whole face covered with makeup all night, that shit starts to drive me nuts.”

Stretts came into the bathroom, bumping Skaiks with his shoulder to move him out of the way.

“Motherfucker, if you make me fuck up my makeup I’m gonna fuck you up,” Skaiks said, his voice thick and in his throat, a deadly serious tone.

“No, you’re fucking not,” Stretts told him.

He picked up a yellow foam sponge applicator and dabbed it into the white paint.

“Don’t take all the white!” Skaiks said.

Stretts stretched his top lip away from his nose, pulling his face down from his eyes, “Shut. The. Fuck. Up.”

Skaiks looked at Stretts for a second, who wasn’t paying attention to him. Skaiks dipped the tips of his four fingers into the white makeup and smeared it onto his face. Stretts looked down at the four finger tip wide gouges through the makeup and frowned for a second, then dobbed more makeup onto his foam sponge applicator. Rudy had begun to draw wide black lines around on his face with his finger tips.

“Great Malinko, ha ha haha,” he sang.

Stretts hair was twisted up into twisties all over his head. Skaiks wore his long hair down, he had it pulled back off of his shoulders so that it wouldn’t get into his makeup. Rudy wore his long black hair pulled back while he applied his black makeup onto his brown face. The three wore baggy Jenkos, Stretts wearing shorts that hung to the bottoms of his calves with white tube socks pulled up out of his skate shoes, Emericas, the other two in jeans that almost covered their shoes. All three wore death metal t-shirts, black, except for Stretts, who wore a gray one with some sort of demonic face across the front.

“So where we goin’?” Rudy asked.

His makeup was complete. Finger wide black lines covered his lips and then wavered up his face and ended in matching black dots under his eyes, at his cheek bones. Skaiks wore white with black clown makeup. Stretts looked more like The Crow.

“Every time you do makeup like that you look like the crow,” Skaiks said and smirked.

“So,” Stretts said.

He looked at himself for a moment in the mirror, then he looked down and went out of the bathroom and back into Rudy’s bedroom. He waited for the others to finish. Skaiks laughed into the mirror at Stretts. Rudy was quiet.

South Gate

8:01 pm

Jack was ready to jump out of the damn car, he knew they’d end up late.

“After you show Barb what you look like you can go,” their mom said.

Rick could hear her tone, tired and tired of being patient and playing along with her youngest.

Rick back handed his brother on the shoulder when their mom was out of sight around the front of the suburban, “Have a little fucking patience stupid ass! You’re going to get us in trouble and ruin the night!”

Jack was aghast, “No I’m not!”

“Shut up!”

“Hey! What are y’all arguing about back there?” Their mom asked from the sidewalk, back lit by the yellow front porch light of Barb’s front porch.

“Nothing Mom,” Rick said as he made his way to the front of the suburban.

Jack looked at his big brother, who turned back to him and jumped his way to goose his little brother. The red devil mask was lined in shadows from a mix of blue and yellow light from the porch and street lamp across from where their mom had parked. A single beam of light from the front porch reached out across the yard and stretched past Rick in his devil mask, breaking and vanishing as he turned away from Jack to go up to the house. It was a two story place with dark stained rough wood trim on pale tan stucco walls. The front porch was built recessed into the front bisected walls of the house, the front sitting room windows hidden behind a hedgerow of bushes and a young tree, already thirty feet high. Jack followed Rick up the front sidewalk to the red front door. Rick rang the door bell.

“Just go in!” Jack said behind him.

“Shut up!” Rick hissed, half turning to glare at his little brother from the corner of his masked eye, “Just fucking stand here.”

Barb came to the door.

“Trick or treat,” Rick said in a false and empty bravado.

Jack held his breath for a moment. He stepped around Rick and into the yellow front porch light.

Barb looked at them both, a pretty woman with pursed lips and her mouth in an O while she looked at their masks, “Well. Let me get you guys some candy. You look great!”

She walked away from them through an open hall. The stairs were on the left, marching up to darkness in the second story hallway with the ceiling fan hanging on a long pole from the second story ceiling and it’s blades nearing the walls of the stair well by a quarter of an inch. A chandelier threw more yellow daggers of light from the dining room straight ahead of them where Barb took a drink of wine and picked up a plastic jack o lantern bucket full of candy. She set the wine glass down and came back to them down the short open hall. The front sitting room to their right was dark. Little blue and green lights shown from the computer hard drive and bottom of the monitor with its darkened screen that held a low cast, waiting to be activated. Barb stood in front of them holding the candy out toward them.

“Don’t steal too much now, I may have more little ghouls come by after y’all leave and go to the high school parties,” she told them.

Jack shuffled his shoes on the front porch and smiled, the skull smiled. Rick took a few pieces out of the jack o lantern bucket and dropped them in Jack’s bag.

“Richard you don’t have a bag?” Barb asked.

“Nah, I don’t need one,” Rick told her.

“Okay,” Barb said with the tone she took that always made Jack feel as though she didn’t, wouldn’t, couldn’t believe anything they told her.

Jack waited, about to shift from one foot to the other, but then didn’t. Rick shrugged and looked past Barb down the hall to the dining room.

“Okay,” Rick yelled into the hall, “bye mom!”

Jack looked down the hall to see where Rick had seen there mom while Rick turned and headed across the yard. Jack looked past Barb for one more moment and then turned and ran across the yard after Rick.

“Tell Mom I’ll be with Jack!” Rick called over his shoulder.

“You will be?” Jack asked.

Rick checked to make sure they were out of ear shot, “No, you’re fine, I’m going to Tom Thompson’s.”

“Oh,” Jack said and looked down at his feet for a moment while he walked.

“You’re fine,” Rick said.

Darkness lay on the street they walked on, moving away from Barb’s house at the end of the street. The tree tops reached over the street and meshed together, blocking out the night sky. The dark was still and felt at is if it waited above there heads, lowering down onto the ground their shoes scuffed on. Jack looked ahead of them. He didn’t see any other trick or treaters. He didn’t see anyone anywhere. He turned and looked behind them. It was darker still at the end of the street past Barb’s corner. There were little reflections of the blue street light in the windows down at the end of the block. Jack turned back, facing front. Rick walked along beside him.

“Where is everyone?” Jack asked.

Rick shrugged and mumbled ‘I don’t know,’ with his mouth never opening. He didn’t seem worried. Jack was. He was worried everyone would be gone. That Halloween would be over.

“Isn’t there supposed to be a curfew tonight?” Jack asked.

“Not ‘til ten!” Rick barked at his brother.

It was still dark all around them. The houses on this block didn’t have porch lights lit, a sign to trick or treaters that no candy would be given out. Jack looked back up the street from where they came. Barb’s light was on. The skull and the devil reached the end of the block.

“There’s Aaron,” Rick said.

A shorter guy with a plastic skull mask came trotting up to Jack and Rick.

“Hey there lil man, looks like you stole my costume,” Aaron, Rick’s friend, said.

He raised his mask. Aaron was a short, dark skinned, black haired kid that Rick had run around with for years.

“Mine doesn’t come off,” Jack the skull answered.

Aaron looked at him for a moment, smiling, and said, “Nah, that’s really cool. Yours is glued on too Rick?”

Rick was doing a weird dance in the street light now and he turned to face them, “Yeah.”

“Like with super glue, or Elmers,” Aaron asked.

Rick laughed and said, “No man! It’s latex glue. That way it doesn’t burn your skin.”

“You used super glue on Brandon’s,” Jack pointed out.

“Oh haha! You mean my little cousin?” Aaron laughed.

Jack grinned and looked down, “Yeah.”

“Is he your friend Jack?” Aaron asked.

“Yeah,” Jack said.

“C’mon dude! Let’s get the fuck outta here!” Rick yelled and then they were gone, running down the street.

Here, looking north, just a few feet off of the block Barb lived at the end of, the streets lights rose high into the night air. No trees blocked there light. Jack could see masked and costumed kids of every shape and size walking back and forth across the streets down where Rick and Aaron ran to. He smiled. The skull smiled. He had found Halloween. Without a glance backward, he went down the street, down toward the ghouls and goblins, released for the night and running the streets.

“’Cause I’m the god damn devil!” He heard Rick scream, and a group of girls’ laughter that he ran to.

Jack walked toward the trick or treaters milling up and down the street. On his right, in an empty lot, he noticed a tall figure standing, made of branches held together by drywall screws with a jack-o-lantern for a head, sitting ten feet high with flames licking out of its triangular eye sockets. He moved along down the street away from the empty lot and toward houses and laughter and costumes and the rest of the night.

East Side

8:10pm

Rudy drove some sort of light tan POS Ford Pinto, or something along those lines. Fourteen inch rims, made of aluminum, old tires on them with barely any tread, a shifty automatic transmission, a knocking u-joint in the back passenger side, that thankfully wasn’t making much noise tonight, and old vinyl seats that were cracked and pinched your ass if you moved around in them. Stretts sat in the back, mainly because Skaiks demanded that he do so, on some sort of account of Stretts being three inches shorter than Skaiks.

“Weehhhhhhhh,” Stretts mimicked the engine as they pulled away from Rudy’s driveway.

“Rudy when are you getting a better car, this thing sucks,” Skaiks said while he turned the hand crank to roll down the window.

“Careful,” Rudy told him, holding a hand out to steady his friend’s movements, “the window kind of falls out of the track sometimes.”

Rudy smiled and then laughed. Stretts howled in laughter in the back seat and Skaiks scoffed, rolled his eyes and shook his head. He chewed at gum, chin jutting. They stopped at a red light and a group of Mexican kids crossed the street in front of them, headed toward Rudy’s neighborhood.

“We oughta egg em,” Skaiks said.

Rudy sighed and grinned a little and rolled his eyes and said, “No way dude, they’re just little kids, that’d be fucked up.”

“They’re just little Mexicans,” Skaiks said and laughed his mad, squeaking bird like laughter, “I mean, not like you.”

The light turned green and Rudy pushed the gas pedal down. His window was rolled down. Stretts stuck his head in the open window space behind Rudy’s seat and babbled loudly at the group of Mexican kids, making them jump and look around. All three of the guys laughed. Skaiks threw his half empty bottle of Big Blue over the car, sailing it across the street at the group of kids where it slid spinning to their feet. One of the girls cried out and the other kids laughed at her while they skipped steps in order not to be hit by the plastic bottle. The little engine in Rudy’s car whirred on and the fourteens rolled hard. Three skateboards were piled up in the driver’s side back floor board. Stretts opened his drink and took a sip, careful not to disturb his makeup. He’d forgotten for a few minutes that he was wearing the white and black face, and hated the thought of smearing the black lines before the guys hit the party. Skaiks would have plenty to say in front of everyone if he did.

“Let’s go by Fat Banks’ house before we go over to the Denman’s,” Skaiks said.

Rudy looked around out of his windshield, “I don’t know where that is.”

“You’ve never been over to Fat’s?” Skaiks asked.

“Nah, I don’t know him that well though,” Rudy said.

He turned south on the strip through town.

“Yeah he already quit school. We’re quitting school soon aren’t we Stank?” Skaiks asked Stretts.

Stretts stared out of the little back window as Rudy’s car whirred along, “You may, I’m not gonna.

“Pussy,” Skaiks said, and lit up a cigarette, curling his lip and blowing twin plumes of smoke from his nostrils.

Rudy kept quiet, Stretts brooded out the window. The little brown car headed east into the older neighborhoods. The car rolled up and over the railroad tracks and dipped hard while Rudy turned the wheel to cut right, leaning the car on the shocks. All the guys laughed. A few lights shown up ahead on the right from the treeless yards of some brand new brick houses. The windows in all three houses were dark. The guys looked at them and the wind blew all around the car. They looked ahead and drifted down a hill. Now the road was shadowed by trees with high branches in old yards, pale yellow under the street lights, under their branches the air was more still, and stale, and thicker than the air out on the road. Skaiks saw a little white cape walking along the curb. He took a mostly empty bottle of water and held it. There was one kid, walking with a pumpkin bucket. He was alone, assuming it was a he, Skaiks couldn’t really tell because the cape hung down past the knees of the little kid in his fitted looking black pants. What the fuck was this kid supposed to fucking be? He had a little white cap over his head sewn onto the cape, what do you bet his fucking face was painted like a skeleton.

Skaiks leaned up and grenade tossed the bottle as they passed the kid. Rudy noticed, his eyes searching through the ceiling of his car. Stretts seemed to notice and he kind of looked up and out the window. He started laughing. He slid down in the back seat laughing, tight tears came to his eyes and he laughed until it sounded like it hurt. Rudy looked in the rear view and the kid was running into the fence, or just bouncing off of it and falling down on one knee.

“Did you hit that fucking kid in the head with that water bottle?” Rudy asked, his voice carrying an edge of laughter and rising a little, which made Stretts laugh even harder, crying out in the back and falling into the floor. Skaiks was laughing as well, a cruel bird like laughter. Rudy laughed some, joining them in the wind. Then everyone stopped and the sun made everything purple in its last light. The summer had held on this year, the heat remaining all the way up to the last part of the week of Halloween. Now the wind was cool, suddenly, and everyone loved it. They rode on for fifty feet in silence.

Then Rudy said, “That’s so fucked up.”

Every one fell apart laughing, Stretts howling his laughter in the back seat, Skaiks screeching in his bird voice until it all rose to a pitch and Rudy for a moment saw them, one as a bird and the other as a half wolf half teenager with a hanging mouth and too large teeth, the laugh deepening and deepening, Rudy almost screamed and pulled the wheel a little, tearing himself out of something and swerving the car a little as he did so.

“Whoa man you’re gonna fuck your shit up,” Skaiks said, holding two careful hands just above the dash board.

“Hey watch it, this my baby, don’t sneeze on her, you’ll knock a fuckin’ hole in the dash,” Rudy said and rubbed the dash.

Stretts started sniggering in the back seat, then said, “Ah fuck! I rubbed my fucking chin!”

He bitched about the makeup on his face for the rest of the way to Fat’s, suddenly it was driving him insane, so he was driving everyone else insane. Every now and then along the way there were little Mexican kids walking along the quiet streets.

“What the fuck? Why don’t they just go across the road to South Gate? This is fucking sad as fuck over here because everyone has gone over there!” Skaiks said over the low wind and laughed.

Rudy laughed at Skaiks, “Dude they probably don’t even know what South Gate is..”

“What?” Skaiks couldn’t see what he was saying, “Why the fuck would they not know what South Gate is?”

Rudy laughed and yelled at the same time, “Because they don’t even fucking know what the fuck that means!”

Skaiks looked over at Rudy, “Why the fuck would they not know what the fuck that means?”

“Because their not from this country dude!” Rudy couldn’t keep from laughing.

Stretts had only stopped laughing for a second or two and began cracking up and doubling over all over again, this time laughing about the Mexicans.

Skaiks rubbed his chin and looked out the window, “Ohhh so like all the new little Mexican kids don’t get to go trick or treating because they don’t know what the fuck that is either huh?”

Rudy looked out ahead while he drove, his eyes were searching the ground under his head lights, then looking out into the shadows, and he said, “No, some of em don’t dude.”

“Fuck,” Stretts said, “how fucking sad is that?”

Rudy lowered his chin and grinned, “Not every country does it like the good ol’ US of A right boys?”

Stretts too a huge drag off of his cigarette and said, “Damn right!”

Fat’s was right up the street and Rudy slowed down to turn, the little wheels of his cars rolling and bumping along. They parked in the parking lot over where the dumpster was. There was small field with pine trees lining its edges by half where kids would play soccer or football and on the rare occasion a game of baseball. It was quiet up and down the two little street joining around the six unit apartment complex. No one was around. Fat was gone. His dad had yelled for Skaiks to open the door, instead of getting up and answering. He had said two thing, Who is it and Eric isn’t home. Skaiks had asked if he knew where he’d gone to and the tired and loud answer of a dangerous No came from his chair. Skaiks shut the door, cussing the man under his breath and moving down the sidewalk in the shadows of the building and pine trees standing in a line through what amounted to a yard in front of the apartments which was really just a dirt strip.

Then all hell broke loose because Fat’s little brother Kyle was running around doing some pre-trick-or-treating trick-or-treating, and he came running around the side of a brick house next to Fat’s dad’s place, his mom lived in the apartment, but Fat’s dad was taking Kyle trick-or-treating, so in the mean time he was hanging out and watching horror movies and drinking a few beers.

An old Lincoln, probably the guy driving’s grandmother’s, pulled into the parking lot. Some thug guys were in the big pale tan car. The driver hung onto the wheel like he was drunk, but he clearly wasn’t. Skaiks went over to Rudy’s window. Rudy rolled it down. Skaiks leaned down to him and said, “Gimme a cigarette out of my pack right there.”

Rudy did and handed them to him, asking, “What’s up?”

“Just hang on a second and we’ll leave,” Skaiks was being quiet, “these motherfuckers break into houses and shit.”

Rudy said Oh quietly and let go of the steering wheel. Stretts looked impatient and slid down in the back seat, “Well ask em who the fuck their looking for.”

Skaiks glared at Stretts in a bolt of a look, “You go fuckin’ ask em motherfucker!”

Stretts let his eyes drift out through the windows as he slouched back half facing the old car, “I fuckin’ will here in a few minutes, I’m ready to get the fuck out of here, Fat’s not even here.”

Then the old car was backing away, turning so that they could pull forward and leave at the T. Fat’s little brother was trucking it across the street, almost to the curb and stepping off, when the old tan pale Lincoln rolled up next to him. Skaiks had moved around Rudy’s car as the Lincoln rolled by and was standing behind the car, but his door wasn’t open. He had finally lit the cigarette and stood to watch the thugs in the car pull away. Then a short scream a lot like a girl came from over where the car was and it was Fat’s little brother. Skaiks had never seen a fat little kid move so fast. He was sobbing and moved like a big fat little blur through the shadows, pounding on the door to the apartment before Skaiks really knew what was going on. The brown Lincoln squealed it back tires as is ripped around the corner. Eggs started flying from the dark windows, pale hands threw them from the ink black inside the old car. They hit the pine trees and the ground, one or two almost reached the apartment and splatted on the concrete. Skaiks watched.

It was quiet, and his voice came from above the car where it was muted somewhat to Rudy and Stretts when he said, “How fucking pathetic. They didn’t even hit anything.”

He looked down in the car, “Did you see those fuckers?”

All of the guys laughed and looked through the windshield of the car. Suddenly there was a rush of a huge man coming up from the dark corner of the building, back from where Fat’s dad was. His huge body moved like lightning and he appeared before Skaiks ice, yelling and cussing in a long cry. The only thing that Stretts had time to think was ‘Wow this guy is just like a wrestler.’ When he grabbed Skaiks by the neck and slammed him into the car and pushed him up against it.

“Who the fuck through eggs at Kyle?” Fat’s dad yelled, again sounding like a wrestler to Stretts.

‘Damn this guy would make a great wrestler,’ Stretts thought to himself in a flash of a second while sitting sort of dumbfounded in the little back seat of Rudy’s little car that rocked on its shocks when the huge fat man with the blonde mustache slammed Skaiks against it.

Stretts could hear him telling whoever the hell the big fat guy was that he didn’t know who had thrown the eggs but it hadn’t been him and that he’d better fucking let him go, and then he had said the guy’s name but Stretts didn’t hear it. Rudy had opened his door and stepped out of the car, facing the powerful man holding his friend by the neck and yelling for him to let him go. Stretts sat in the back, he couldn’t get out through the passenger door that was for fucking sure, and if he went crawling out of the car then the huge dude would probably think they were trying to jump him, or worse, Skaiks would do something crazy like hit the guy in the face, and then they would all have to fight him. Stretts really didn’t think it would work out for them. He drew Skaiks back and slammed him against the car one more time. Stretts knew it had to hurt Skaik’s back up by his shoulders.

He let him go and was gone. Skaiks and Rudy stood outside the car, looking into the dark of the building where he had gone, and then looking at each other. Rudy went to speak but didn’t, and he was interrupted by Stretts anyway.

“Let’s fucking go!”

The two crawled down in the little car and Rudy started it up. A belt squeaked. They pulled up to the T and took a right. Skaiks waited until Rudy had driven past the narrow two story apartment six unit apartment building. Another set of six units sat mirroring the darker and gloomier one, cast in shadow as it was, across a small white rock covered alley. Skaiks immediately started bitching when they were out of sight of the building.

“Man I oughta go to the fuckin’ police!” He said at one point after explaining to everyone in the car that he had no idea what had happened to that fat little terd, he damn sure hadn’t been over there, and everyone else had seen that it wasn’t them and it was those fucking thug motherfuckers, God he hated them. Everyone had agreed with him on that point.

“Well, if y’all are driving to the fucking police station, tonight of all nights, then let me out right now and I’ll walk over to South Gate,” Stretts said from the back seat, his voice was lazy.

Skaiks turned to him, “Dude it will take five minutes to...”

Stretts interrupted him, “Fuck that shit Rudy pull over and let me the fuck out. I’m not spending Halloween fucking night at the God damn police station!”

The car was quiet. Stretts had a damn hard edge to his voice. Skaiks was quiet. Rudy stopped the car at a stop sign and looked up and down the highway, leading away and back into town, a business strip that went on for miles one way and a long highway surrounded by ranch land in the other. No one was really on the highway right now, but they would be after trick or treating had stopped.

“That’s fuckin’ bullshit man,” Skaiks’s voice was small and tight, but it rose as he spoke, “it’s fuckin’ bullshit that you won’t go, and it’s fucking bullshit that he did that shit in the first place!”

Skaiks was hurt now. He long brown hair hung straight over his face when he dipped his chin. Stretts watched. He had seen him do that before.

“Well, I’m not going to the motherfucking police station dude. I agree with you though you did not deserve for that to happen, and he’s a little fuckin’ bitch, and fucking fat ass bitch, but anyway, I’m not going. Skaiks if you want so bad to go to the police station and sit there for fucking ever and then fill out a police report and then talk to a fucking cop, and by the way didn’t we smoke a joint earlier? Then you go right the fuck ahead,” Stretts told him.

They crossed the highway.

“Yeah Skaiks I’m not going to the police station either,” Rudy said. He was pulling the car to the curb, but he decided to park farther down in front of the creek running through a park farther back to the right on the other side of where a street of condos were as well as a very large white brick house with big white columns on the front porch. There was a bright yellow light burning on each side of the red double doors. The porch was that God damn painted concrete that was always some bland ass type of red. It made Stretts want to puke when he was around porches like that.

They passed under more shadows of pin oaks lining the curb of the street. These houses were also holders of dark windows with ghostly white curtains. The people living over in this part of the neighborhood were all at parties hosted by very successful businessmen and their wives in private parties where people laughing and wore masks, acting in ways they usually didn’t act, it being all part of wha they thought of as tradition, without ever really know why they thought of things in this way for sure.

Rudy’s little brown bean car topped a hill, or mound, whatever, they’d built a road right the hell over your precious burial grounds hadn’t they Indians. Basically not all of the mounds were purposed for burials. It was also more than likely that the original purpose of the mounds had also been confounded through the many thousands of years since their creation, and they only buried their dead chieftains because thousands upon thousands of years ago some gigantic and unknown drill had pulled up minerals and crystals from the earth to be harvested and used for stone work. Rudy came to a stop sign with his car angled down at the T to meet up with one of the larger thoroughfares.

“Dude just go to the fucking park and park. Fucking driving around like you’re God damn lost,” Skaiks muttered from the passenger seat, he was sulking and sullen.

They drove around the block and parked at the edge of shadows from the tops of trees growing through and around the park. A creek cut through the middle. High lights shown down on tennis courts and basketball courts across the way next to a very long chrome slide and a swimming pool with lights on high poles turned off and dark.

“That’s an Indian burial mound where that pool sits, see the hill? It’s an Indian burial ground,” Stretts said from the back seat, waiting for Skaiks to let him out of the car.

Skaiks slammed the passenger door and moved away from the car, Stretts scooted over toward the driver’s side, cracking up at Skaiks, “Thanks a lot fucking asshole!”

He knew that would erk the living shit out of his pouting friend.

Trick or Treat

8:37pm

 

Jack had a pretty good haul going. Rick stayed ahead of him with his little buddy, but Jack knew that they had an eye on him constantly. He liked being on his own, and he knew that Rick knew, so he was glad his brother just let him be. Jack didn’t like having to go up to houses with a bunch of little kids in their stupid, cutsie,or sometimes downright sad costumes.

“Whoaa! Look at that! Mr. Skeleton Man!” A guy in one doorway said to him before dropping candy in the Wal-Mart Jack had pulled from his pocket to carry his candy in before starting off.

He stepped away from the house, but as he walked toward the curb and saw a new group of littler kids hesitating to approach through the yard, he turned to see exactly why, deciding to tell the littler kids it was okay the guy was actually pretty nice. He saw the group of kids eyeing the coffin decoration set up in distrust. Jack thought again of assuring them that the house was fine and the guy there was nice, goofy, but nice.

Then some of the kids started to approach through the grass of the front yard. Jack stopped and watch, the skull mask waited in a sort of jaded curiosity. It cocked its head to the side a bit. Music seemed to play inside its empty cavity where a brain once was but now rotted away to dust. From both sides of the yard came two men in dark robes, closing in on the group of littler kids as they almost made the front door of the brick house in front of them. Suddenly chainsaw engines roared and the two men came at the little kids. They screamed hysterically and scattered, running around in confused little circles and bumping into one another while the two tall men in Scream masks and costumes waved chainsaws over their own heads, pulling the triggers of the machines and making the engines scream like murderous voices across the night air of the neighborhood. Before the kids could run out to the street the saws stopped and woman came walking from up the sidewalk with a smile on her pretty face and her black hair waving behind her.

She spoke across the yard to the kids, “They told y’all they were going to scare you!”

Both men had pulled the hoods and masks from their heads with big grins on tanned faces, one spoke, “Did that scare y’all?”

They all sounded like they wanted to cry but had recognized the men and answered in their meek little voices at different times but still all together, “Yes!”

Jack smiled, watching it all. The skull mask smiled.

Upon noticing him standing at the sidewalk, the woman stopped a moment, blinked, then smiled and gestured to him, “Look he’s been watching.”

Rick called from back down the street with a group of older kids, all of them animated shadows in the glare of a yellow street light, “Jack! Let’s go!”

His heart sank just a bit, he looked down for a moment as he walked, he hadn’t had the chance to hit as many houses as he wanted. He wanted this night to never end, and they were about to make their way back toward that ending it seemed like.

Rick’s voice called from down by the main drag through the neighborhood from amidst the laughter of teen age girls, “Come on! We’ll hit a few more houses on the way back! The curfew is almost up!”

He could see his little brother’s mood from that far.

“You’re such a downer Jack, quit bein’ so hard on yourself and enjoy things,” Rick’s little buddy told him, squeezing his shoulder while they walked.

Rick looked over at him as he walked with the group of girls, “Jack. You’re costume looks awesome.”

The skull mask looked up, its face brightened a little.

Jack let himself fall behind the group of older kids as they made their way back to the street where Barb’s house was. These streets were quieter, darker, and less crowded than where they had been a few moments before. He was content with the night’s take, and his costume did look awesome, so yeah, he’d go back without much of a fuss, maybe grumble a little about not being able to go to as many houses, but that would only get him in trouble, so he’d probably stay quiet, but one could never tell.

Some kid, an older kid, some teen who looked old enough to drive in stupid looking face makeup and long, greasy looking hair with dark clothes and dark baggy Jinco’s on, jumped out of nowhere, looming over Jack and yelling and laughing.

“Trick or treat! Or just trick!”

Jack was carrying his Wal-Mart bag by the handles. The kid yanked the plastic bag and Jack was left with nothing but ruined plastic strips in his hand. The kid turned and ran away with all of his candy.

“God fucking damn it!” Jack yelled, turning away to power walk past the group Rick and his buddy walked in.

He tore the skull mask off of his face, leaving on the bottom jaw attached.

Rick saw what happened with the mask, “Jack what the hell are you doing?”

Jack turned, eyes wild and filled with hating hurt, “They stole my fucking candy!”

All three of the girls immediately stood closer together and made small comments on how sad that was. Rick’s little buddy turned on his heel and chased the guy down. Jack watched, so angry he could do nothing else, feeling ashamed of himself, while Rick’s little buddy faced down the older kid, then yanked the bag of candy from his hand after saying a few words. He came trotting back to hand Jack the Wal-Mart bag.

Rick held a hand out to Jack, “See? Now you’ve ruined your costume.”

Jack wanted to be happy, he wanted to be angry, he was embarrassed, and wanted to cry, which only made everything worse. Just off to the group’s right the tall figure made from branches stood with flames licking out of its triangle eyes. Jack ran to it.

He fell to his knees in front of it, crying out while the group of pre-teens watched, “Spirit of Halloween night! Great Satan! Find me! Hear my voice! Avenge me!”

He was very still, hands on his knees in front of the great still man made of branches with a jack-o-lantern head. The group started to take small steps toward him, out into the empty little lot. They neared him. The girl feeling sorry for him, the two guys looking at the back of him in alarm.

Jack turned to them in a quick rush, his hair slicked back and hair sprayed to stay that way, the skin of his face seeming like some sort of wrinkled up and smoothed out soft paper, his grin looking a lot like the jack-o-lantern’s behind him. He reached up and took hold of the edge of his forehead next to his slicked back hair and yanked the skin from his face. Green flames burned in the empty sockets of his skull. The girls all screamed in unison, faces like women in a comic book. The skull opened its mouth and echoed their screams, bottom jaw hanging open much too wide.

“What the fuck!” Rick screamed and babbled as his voice grew higher.

The two guys and three girls all dispersed like shadows in the night, their screaming voices rising into the night sky. From behind Jack, the figure assembled from tree branches with the jack-o-lantern head reached down and picked him up to place him in a riding position on its back.

“Vengeance. Is. Yours.” It said to Jack in a voice like old wind through a graveyard.

“We have to make a stop first.”

Party

9:15 pm

 

Skaiks was in a better mood. He laughed with eyes like glass and a frozen smile of insanity while he and the other guys related what happened a few minutes before, “Did you see that fucking skull kid’s face?”

Rudy laughed, “Dude no, he had a fucking skull mask on!”

Skaik’s madcap bird laughter rang through the streets. Music came from a house they were walking by. Older teens drifted around inside in costumes, some were standing out in the front yard of the house smoking cigarettes. Skaiks stopped laughing and watched.

“Fucking rich kids,” he muttered, “you know, we oughta….”

Skaiks never finished his sentence. A gigantic skeleton made from tree branches picked him up by his shoulders and held him up to its jack-o-lantern face. Fire blew from its smiling mouth as if it were being shot from a blow torch, burning away all of skaiks hair, eye brows, and eye lashes at once. He screamed and kicked his legs, coughing and crying in the flames surrounding his head. The tall wooden skeleton man dropped Skaiks, who flopped to the ground and cracked his skull on the black top road.

Rudy and Stretts stood dumbfounded. At first they had thought that Skaiks was part of some kind of joke that had been played on them, ending their Halloween night on a bang or something, but Skaiks was just laying there with smoke rising from his head and face that looked like some sick mockery of an old man on a kid’s body.

Chainsaw engines erupted and screamed, tearing across the night time neighborhood, and Rudy and Stretts barely had time to begin to cast an eye behind their selves before they were cut down and into several different blood spurting pieces, arms, a hand, one of their heads, gigantic gouts of blood blowing up and out of the trunks of their bodies as the little kid with a green flame eyed skull mask spun himself in circles revving the engines of two chainsaws that screamed in glee, drenching Halloween night streets in blood and gore. The boy turned and looked at the gigantic wooden skeleton before him, dropping the chainsaws and screaming in the mockery of girl’s voices from before. The giant jack-o-lantern man mimicked him, screaming back. Voices rose screaming in terror from the party.


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