Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Trick or Treating in Snowtober" By Scott R. Caseley



“How much candy do you think we’ll get this year, fifty pieces, a hundred?” Max asked Peggy while they ate Sloppy Joes and tater tots in the school cafeteria.
“Told you Max, I can’t go,” Peggy answered mournfully pushing her tray away from her. Max with his own full serving of tater tots in front of him, snagged one of hers popping it into his mouth.
“Aw, c’mon, your dad’s gotta change his mind.” He had a mouthful of food, which disgusted Peggy to no end. Delighted by her repulsed reaction, he put their trays side by side to eat from both. “We’re eleven, it’s not like we can go trick-or-treating forever, y’know.”
 “It’s gonna snow tonight, dad says. He may even have to plow if it gets bad enough. He said the weather guys are calling it 'Snowtober'.” She watched him as he shoveled the food in his mouth, in awe that he could ingest so much at once, and not slowing down for a second.
“Yeah, right. First of all, it ain’t gonna snow and second of all, plowing really? Can you see him getting his lard butt off the recliner to do anything?” He swallowed hard, and let out a loud belch.
She waved her hand in front of her nose to brush away the nasty odor. “Not joking, he told me when he walked me to the bus stop.”
“He walked you to the bus stop? Were you in a stroller?” He asked teasing her, though he hoped she wouldn’t take it too seriously.
“Shut up,” she pouted.  A loud succession of three shrill beeps ended their conversation and their lunchtime.
* * * *
Several hours later, the wind swirled around the sky like a spoon stirring sugar into black coffee, but there was nothing sweet about it. It howled, and threatened to throw off Max’s typical play it cool demeanor. But, he still wanted to go trick-or-treating. Though it wasn’t the candy that he really sought. He had a crush on Peggy, which he feared was obvious to everyone, except to her.
He put on his light green ghoul mask and raised his hands up to the side and whispered “Grr!” repeatedly.  Though his sight was limited in the mask, he thought he looked pretty menacing.
“What are you doing dork?” a transparent female finger tapped him on the shoulder; he leapt up a good six inches off the ground.
“Dang Barb, why do you gotta do that?” he turned to scowl at her.
“What’s the fun of being a ghost if I can’t scare my little brother?” she hovered for a bit, placing her hands on her hips floating in front of the bathroom door.
“Fine, have it your way, but you don’t have to follow me into the bathroom.”
“Okay, okay. I’ll leave you be.” She passed through the door and Max went back to straightening his mask.
* * * *
Peggy walked into her bedroom and sat down at her desk. She picked up a strip of four black and white photos taken of her and Max in a photo booth the previous summer. She smiled at them.
“So, you like him too, eh?” Barbara’s voice echoed in her room, but it wasn’t one that Peggy recognized.
She rotated 180 degrees in her swivel chair and shifted left to right, the room was empty. No one had followed her in, no one in living human form anyway. She wanted to say something, though she didn’t know what. What does one say to a voice in their head, she wondered.
“Don’t be afraid, I’m not here to hurt you.” She drifted by the doorway. Through her apparition Peggy could see her dad sleeping on the recliner. “I know it’s strange, believe me, if I were in your shoes, I’d be pretty freaked out too.”
“Thanks, do you haunt… I mean hang around my house often?”
“No, usually at my brother’s.”
“Is Max your brother?” Peggy asked putting the pictures back on her desk.
“Yeah, he is, my baby brother. Funny thing is—” As she spoke, Peggy’s dad rolled over onto his side.
“Would you mind? Seeing my dad through your stomach is kinda freaky, you know.”
“Oh, sorry, you’re right. Sometimes I forget how transparent I am.” She sailed across the room with her arms outstretched like a majestic bird in flight. 
“What’s your name?” Peggy asked watching her glide wishing that she could move so effortlessly, so gracefully.
“When I was living, my parents named me Barbara, but I have since given myself the name Claramonde.”
“Why did you choose it?” She asked, becoming used to her presence much sooner than she expected.
“Well, I like to think of myself as a shining defender. And, Claramonde means just that,” when she spoke with pride, her voice echoed gently like a flute being played in a forest.
“Makes sense.”
“It’s going to be quite the storm tonight, do you still want to go trick-or-treating?”
The wind rattled her windows and the one story house shook a bit. “I don’t know. My dad said I couldn’t.”
“I don’t see a costume anywhere in here. Let’s put one together. Does your father have any coffee grounds?” Peggy gave her a quizzical look, and Claramonde smiled, “Trust me.
* * * *
An hour later, Peggy stood in her full-length bedroom mirror wearing a pair of blue sweatpants, a dark sweatshirt with a white tank top over it with stains on both. On her face, she had five o’clock shadow courtesy of some coffee grounds glued on with honey. She smirked at her reflection.
“What do you think?” Claramonde asked hovering behind her.
“I think my dad’s going to flip out when he wakes up and sees me like this.”
“You don’t think he’ll be flattered? You look just like him, minus the gut of course.”
“I don’t know.”
“Just relax, my brother tells me you worry too much anyway.”
“He does? I do?”
“Yes and yes. Now c’mon, let’s sneak on outta here, you don’t want your dad to see you talking to yourself, do you?”
“My dad actually believes in ghosts.”
“Really? Barely see that with adults these days. He must be open-minded.”
“Nah, just watches a lot of TV, he’ll believe anything.” It was a lie of course, her dad didn’t believe in anything out of the ordinary. But Peggy didn’t want to hurt Claramonde’s feelings if ghosts have them that is.
* * * *
Max walked out his house, and the first snowflake fell onto the shoulder of the brown blazer he wore. He thought if he was going to be a ghoul, he ought to be a well-dressed one. He bought a suit at a thrift store with his paper route money. As he carried his pillowcase, he hoped his investment would be worth it. Peggy emerged out of the darkness and appeared at his doorstep carrying a 
canvas bag from a local grocery store. “Nice costume, Peggy,” Max smiled. “Oh, my gosh, are you really—your dad, really? That’s pretty wild.”
“Yeah, I don’t know about it," she admitted, her arms flopping down to her sides.
“Well, I like it,” He sighed with content.
“Thanks,” Peggy said shyly. Claramonde stood invisible underneath an oak in the neighbor’s yard watching them, admiring their cuteness and hidden crushes for each other. With an invisible finger, she drew a heart with snowflakes to surround them.
“Ready to get some candy?” Max asked as snow continued to fall slowly. Claramonde followed them, but kept her presence unknown to them.
As they shuffled down the street, no cars or other kids passed them on quests for treats, and it seemed like some sort of trick. All the lights in the houses were off, and only a streetlight guided their way. Had Halloween been canceled because of a rumored storm?  Perhaps, Dad was right, Peggy thought, it was going to get pretty dicey out tonight. However, she kept these thoughts to herself. No matter how cold it got, no matter how much snow fell, she felt safe and secure with Max there.
When they were about two miles from their starting point, they finally saw one light at the end of a long driveway. Tall, menacing oaks flanked the sides, of the pathway, but they wouldn’t be intimidated. Though he wanted to go ahead of her, he knew the right thing would be to stay at her pace. The wind crept up behind them and lingered on each vertebra of their backs. The porch light at the distant house became a beacon, a hopeful promise of a night filled with fun and candy.
The wind shrieked behind them and the snow began to come down faster. Peggy shivered to herself, not from the cold alone but with fear. “We’re almost there, don’t worry.” She nodded; somehow he always seemed to know the right things to say.
Claramonde looked at the sky, a dark envelope pouring its contents out onto the ground and the two children below.
“I’ll ring the doorbell, you just look pretty. Well as pretty as an old man with a beer gut can.” He smiled, she laughed.
He pressed the doorbell and the porch light and the rest of the illumination went out at once. A dog inside began barking. Panicked, Peggy started running down the driveway. He chased after her equally afraid, but not about to let it show. When they got to the base of the driveway, Claramonde stood; a light blue aura surrounding her with little yellow sparks flickering around the edges like lightning bugs. She gave them a warm smile.
He looked at his sister’s and wondered how he would explain to Peggy who she was. “Back again, eh?” Peggy asked with a smile. Max looked at his crush, then to the floating apparition of his sister, then back to Peggy.
“Wait a minute? You know about her?”
“Yeah, who do you think gave me the costume idea?” her voice wavering.
“Should’ve known, Barb was always a joker.” Max said, and Peggy noticed he was kind of sad as he spoke about his sister.
“I told you, I’m Claramonde now.” Claramonde said gruffly.
“I know, but to me, you’ll always be Barb.” Max started to walk down the street into the opaque night.  “C’mon Peggy, we should find our way home somehow.” The snow kept getting heavier as the visibility decreased as reams of snow dropped from the sky.
“I can guide you,” Claramonde offered.
“We’ll manage, thanks though,” Max called back without looking at her. Peggy shrugged to Claramonde and rushed up ahead to join him.
* * * *
Fifteen minutes passed, and they were walking down some road, but the night was completely dark, they had no idea where they actually were. To make matters worse, full on blizzard conditions surrounded them.  The sleet pelted them like tiny needles hitting their bodies with precision, injecting Peggy with bits of punishment stinging her skin for sneaking out. “You know, my sister’s always been like that. Protective, I mean.”
“I never knew you had a sister.”
“I didn’t, I mean. She passed before I was born. But ever since I was a baby, I could see her, you know? She’d watch over me when I was in the crib, always standing off in the corner of my room smiling.”
“I wish I had someone like that.”
“You do, your dad.”
“Oh, he doesn’t count.  When he’s not working, all he does is sit in the living room barking orders at me. Go get me a soda, get me new batteries for the remote.”
“But he’s there. That’s the difference. My parents are always working, they never have time for me.”
“I guess.”
“Was tonight the first time Barb… Claramonde ever came to see you?”
“Yeah, kind of spooked me at first, but not as much as I thought it might. Is that weird?”
“Nah.” A car drove down the road, fishtailing . “What kind of fool would come out on a night like this?” Peggy gave him a dubious look, which of course he couldn’t see, but he knew what she was thinking, “I know, Peggy, but we’re different.”
“When that car went by, I could’ve sworn I saw a street sign a little ways down on the right, want to see where it leads?” Peggy asked.
“Sure, the sooner we get out of this mess the better.” Max started to head down the road, and stopped and held out his hand, found hers and held on tight.
* * * *
“None of this seems familiar,” Peggy said sloshing through the cold, wet snow that sent pins and needles up her calves.
“Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll find our way soon.”
“What makes you so sure?”
“Trust me,” Max said sounding just like his sister, which made Peggy and secretly he wish she would reappear to guide them.
“Girls, guess we’re not the only ones out tonight.” The high-pitched voice of Alisha the most popular girl in their sixth grade class was heard with the aural accompaniment of wind tearing through the night. Her and her two steady companions Keisha and Lisa walked up to them with the radiance of green glow sticks dangling from their necks like lanyards. They were dressed as witches, which both Peggy and Max found to be very fitting.
“Nice costume, Peggy. You look like my dad.” Keisha chuckled.
“Mine too.” Lisa smiled.
“Where are we?” Peggy asked softly.
“You mean, you don’t know?” Alisha said evilly.
“You’re lost?” Keisha added.
“Good luck finding your way, power’s out across town.” Lisa smirked. The three bullies all cackled like a coven of witches. Max popped up behind the trio, and reached behind Lisa’s neck. With a deft move, he untied the string attached to her glow stick. When it released, he grabbed it. For a brief moment, they didn’t notice. And, that was all he needed.
“Thanks for the light, we’ll see ya.” Max grabbed Peggy by the hand and they ran down the road.
They only made it about twenty feet when Peggy slipped into a snow bank. Because Max had been holding onto her, he lost balance too. In the fall and the gale-force winds, the glow stick left Max’s hand sailed off several yards away. They both saw it sticking out of a foot and a half of snow. Max was about to pull Peggy up to reclaim it after noticing the green flicker of light from the two remaining glow sticks bouncing on them as the three “witches” pushed through in the opposite direction.  Suddenly, whole area before Peggy and Max became illuminated in a blue haze to guide them through the wintry terrain.
Claramonde’s aura faded without warning. “How are we going to find our way now?” A pair of headlights answered her. A truck with a plow attached to the front started bearing down on them. Peggy grabbed Max and took him to the side of the road just in case the driver didn’t see them. Tires screeching, the plow truck stopped across the street. The driver came outside with a flashlight in hand. “Margaret, Maxwell?” a baritone voice boomed over the wind.
“Dad?” Peggy asked in disbelief.
“Get in the truck, Margaret. Maxwell, I’ll drive you home.”
* * * *
Twenty minutes later, Peggy and her father sat in the living room surrounded by candles. She was still in her costume, but had a blanket over her shoulders. “I told you, it was going to be lousy out tonight, why didn’t you listen to me?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I just wanted to have fun tonight. Halloween’s my favorite holiday.” She pulled the blankets tighter.
“It’s mine too.”
“Really? Then why didn’t you understand that I wanted to go trick-or-treating so bad?”
“Because honey, you’re all I have. And, I didn’t want you to get hurt out there tonight. Besides, trick-or-treating got cancelled for tonight. It’s going to be rescheduled for tomorrow, weather permitting of course.”
“When did they decide that?”
“Earlier tonight, I was going to tell you, but you had already snuck out.”
“I’m sorry, Daddy.”
“Don’t apologize, I am upset, but I’m glad that you’re okay. I knew you were in good hands, and that calmed me down a bit.”
“You really do like Max, don’t you? You just wanted to be sure about him.”
“Yeah, well, there is that. But, Claramonde told me that I could trust him.” He said with a wink.
“You talked to her? I thought you didn’t believe in ghosts, Dad,” she smiled, raising her eyebrows in disbelief.
“I didn’t think we would ever have a blizzard on Halloween night, and well, after tonight, anything’s possible.”

THE END



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