Olden Days

There are writing prompts for teachers designed to help students focus on their schoolwork during the month of Halloween. I read that students are so  distracted by candy and costumes that they check out and it’s hard to hold their attention in class.

I can believe that.

When I was a kid me and my friends started planning for Halloween sometime towards the end of September and by Halloween we were out of our minds withe excitement and that was BEFORE we downed all that sugar.

But I wonder- do kids really get that excited over Halloween anymore?

I know that for a while  going to the Malls and trick or treating was a big deal – but it was THE MALL. People sent their kids into stores to trick or treat cashiers. I know that some of my friends who worked at the Malls when this started thought it was fun.  I thought it was sad. I thought it was the end of Halloween.

When me and my friends went out on Halloween night it was cold and it was really very dark because the neighborhoods I lived in were packed with evergreen trees and not  packed with a lot of street lights.

I remembered that the  leaves seemed to die and fall Halloween morning and I remember how satisfying it was when they would crunch under your feet as you raced along the sidewalk and across streets to houses with pumpkins that had been carved without the help of stencils and pumpkin carving tools that look like surgical instruments except for they are orange and made out of plastic and those things are small and …and they’re made out of PLASTIC for goodness sakes.

Anything made to carve and cut a Halloween decoration  needs  to be made of well sharpened stainless steel because nothing beats getting to use  THE BIG KNIFE  to carve a Halloween pumpkin – especially if you’re a kid and your Dad let’s you hold the knife as he guides it through the pumpkin’s flesh and all on your own he let’s you scoop out the insides with your Mom’s favorite soup ladle.

Me and my friends  agonized over days trying to decide what we wanted be for Halloween

 When I was really little the costumes were old school- we had those plastic masks that came in boxes with a matching plastic costume- I always wanted to be a dog or a princess…bet you didn’t see that coming did you?

One year I was Casper The Friendly Ghost my Aunt Sharon helped me pick it out. I’m pretty sure I only got it because she loved Casper and I wanted to make her happy. However-I was mortified the entire night.

Even the nifty Trick or Treat Bag she made for me didn’t  help me feel better about the sad situation I found myself in.

 Ghosts as far as I was concerned were not friendly. I figured if a real ghost saw me it would die- again-laughing  when it saw me.  The next year I refused the Witch costume when my Mom pointed it out at the store  because I thought witches were real too and what would happen if I got mistaken for one?

I could get burned at the stake or hung and not only would I be dead I wouldn’t get to eat my candy.

However one year I did give in and let myself get put into a  Vampire costume because I was sure they weren’t real. Plus it was a boy’s costume and I liked that because I got to wear my boots with my costume.

Do kids go through that Drama anymore?

I mean, how thrilling is t to go to the Mall and trick or treat the lady who sells cheese and sausage gift baskets? The cashier at the shoe store or the guy at the camping gear store? And don’t get me started on Green Halloween and Healthy Halloween snacks and Harvest Festivals where you can’t dress up like the Devil but you can dress up like a clown or a scarecrow.

I wouldn’t trust the person who made that one up, I’ll say that outright. That is a weird call.

But I wonder.

Just before Halloween, on their way home from school,  do kids still point houses that could be haunted? Gardens where someone could be hiding dead bodies that are being turned into Zombies and was that sound you heard the night before spaceships from Uranus ( yeah, well- we weren’t always serious when we discussed monsters ).

Or do they talk ( on cell phones ) about computer games where you know for sure you can find haunted houses or Zombies or Space Aliens.

So I wonder- do kids really get  distracted from their schoolwork  by Halloween?

I hope so.

I really do.

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One Night

One night

I set out on a trip all by myself.

I didn’t have a map or a ticket I didn’t know where I was going.

But I went alone.

And I was alone.

For a very long time.

Towards the end of the trip I heard someone walking towards me-

and then I heard someone breathing

just around the corner from where I was walking

all alone.

And then I stopped.

” Someone there? “

I asked.

No one answered.

” Hey!  Is someone there? ” I called a little louder.

The breathing stopped and the footsteps came towards me-

from around the corner and I closed my eyes tight and put one foot in front of the other and then I flew towards the breathing and the footsteps and the voices that cried out:

” What the hell was that? ” came the voice from behind me and then below me as I took to the darkness above ” What the Hell was that! “

and not a knife in sight….

:::It’s about Pumpkins Today:::

I wrote this story a few years ago- the characters were based on me and my Grandma Ginger and goes a long way to show where I developed my idea of ‘funny’ –  it’s  also one of my personal favorites:

::::A Pumpkin Carvers Story:::

pumpkin4

” How did you get so good at carving pumpkins? “

” Practice.” Enid told her Granddaughter as she delicately put the tip of her butcher’s knife against the side pumpkin’s blank face. ” Lots and lots of practice.”

She pushed the knife into he pumpkin’s flesh and as she broke the skin she told Aubrey, ” I love that smell.”

” That pumpkin smell?”

Enid looked over the pumpkin and said, ” That what?”

” That pumpkin smell.”

Enid shrugged and then pulled the knife up and dropped it down into the pumpkin in one clean motion after another.

Instead of answering her Aubrey, Enid hummed.

When she was finished she put her knife down and wrapped her fingers around the pumpkins stem. She took a breath, closed her eyes and smiled as lifted and  heard the pop and rip as the top of the pumpkin’s skull came away in her hand.

Enid opened her eyes and sighed and then  she answered her Granddaughter. ” No. I don’t mean that smell. I mean that other smell.”

” I can’t smell anything except for Pumpkin.”

” Really?” Enid said, ” You can’t smell that?”

Enid set the top of the pumpkin’s head down and she reached for a large wooden spoon and plunged into the pumpkin and began to scrape it out.

” Go ahead. Take a sniff. You really can’t smell that?”

Aubrey leaned over the pumpkin and sniffed.

” What is it? What should I be able to smell?”

As Enid  stood up she picked the knife up off the table and said  to the back of her Granddaughter’s neck:

” Why. The Fear of course.”

I made this e-card at Spookathon.Com

This was a fun site and I’d say give it a whirl because it was easy to navigate and in the end the picture I created was the Bee’s Knees.

PS. To  save the picture I had to go all the way through and create the card- and if you want there are other options for your artwork, like creating games and puzzles.

Photo: extremepumpkins.com

I hope you enjoyed the treat today…now on to the next part.

bwahahahahh

amm

The Grave Tale Of Vedda Felonwood

When I was a teenager, and that was a very long time ago,  I started my life long  work in a Funeral Home.

I washed and polished the hearses, sometimes I helped the Funeral Directors with smalls tasks like answering the phones or running errands and sometimes I helped in the embalming room too. And once a week I cleaned the toys out of   ( or as we called it around The Home- and never in front of the families – Babyland ) and I stored them in neatly labeled boxes in the basement in of the three rooms that combined were bigger then the Home that sat on top of it.

We call that room The Toy Room, for obvious reason.

The Toy Room is lined with the cherry wood shelves  where the boxes of toys collected from Babyland rest  on shelves that are regularly polished to a glassy shine by  yours truly. The stucco walls and ceiling are painted light blue and the worn tile floor used to be pink.

In a room next to The Toy Room, is a room we call 1105- I don’t know why we call it that, but that’s the room where we keep unclaimed cremains- those too are kept in neatly labeled boxes.

Now and then it’s necessary to replace the boxes holding the Urns as they age and fall apart so that when you walk into 1105- whose stucco walls are a dignified cream color and whose shelves are made of the same wood we store the toys from Babyland- everything in there looks almost new.

There’s a memorial book  for the Unclaimed on a lectern outside the door of 1105 that I keep dust free . The pages are blank and never have been written in and the pen is always replaced when the ink in the old pen dries up.

During the holidays I put fresh flowers in a small vase on the lectern with the Memorial Book and the pen. Forget Me Nots. That’ what sits there next to the blank book in the darkned basement.

Those two rooms are the only rooms I don’t go into unless I absolutely have too but that self-imposed rule does not apply to the third room which is crematorium that Mr. Challoner runs with a smooth quiet efficiency.

Once and awhile I drop in when Mr. Challoner is working to see if he needed help.

Sometimes I helped him move – and like the rest of the staff at The Home he always refers to those who have passed by their names- those who have passed from one place to another and he never let me run the board or handle the cremains as they were moved into their urns or boxes.

I do remember the first time he let me do one of those two tasks

” Miss Felonwood” he said and he always called the staff  by their surnames- ” I could use your help, if you don’t mind”

I was at his side in a flash, of course,  and he gave  me a  series of small tasks- handing him a small screwdriver to close the urns, making sure his work area was spotless before he worked on the next set of cremains.

One day he looked down ( Mr Challoner was a very tall man- six-foot five or so I’d say) and said in his formal way ” It appears you’ve taken too much sun.”

I touched my nose, which was slightly red. ” I probably got a sunburn. I spent too much time out there today.”

” You should be careful Miss Felonwood. As you know, those burns can leave scars.”

” I know. But. Well. It was so nice outside …. I’ll, I’ll be more careful next time.”

Mr. Challoner looked like he was going to say something but he stopped himself and motioned me towards the Control Panel. ” If you don’t mind Miss Felonwood.”

Of course I didn’t mind.

Mr. Challoner was my friend, after all.

I was walking up the stairs from the basement one night, when I heard one of the three doors from downstairs open and then close.

Mr. Challoner’s door was new- it whispered open and closed. The other two doors had aged locks and old hinges and they complained when you woke them up to work. One of those two doors was complaining louder than usual and when I heard it close I felt a cool breeze wrap itself around my shoulders and settle there.

The weight of that cold stopped me on the dark stairway and as much as I wanted to turn around and see what was standing there behind me I didn’t.  I also didn’t scream, which is something I really wanted to do.

” Excuse me.” an old man’s voice asked me. ” Do you know the way out of here?”

I couldn’t move- I’d only been that scared one other time in my life and it wasn’t as bad as how I felt on those stairs because it had been over so quickly.

” I’ve been here for so- sometimes it feels like minutes and other times it feels like years- I don’t understand that. Do you.”

I opened my mouth to answer and it took a few tries before I heard myself say, ” No.”

” I was in the hospital and then I was here. I’ve forgotten my name. I try and try to remember it but I can’t. Why can’t I remember my own name?”

I thought about all those boxes with the names printed neatly on cards sitting in that cream colored room on their polished shelves- forgotten and shut away in a basement and I said to the cool weight ” I don’t think you’re supposed to do that anymore.”

“Please Miss.. please… Do you know the way out of here …”

” Vedda, my name is Vedda  Felonwood ” I said knowing how lucky I was to know my own name, to have a home and friends and a job and a place to belong instead of a cherry wood shelf that smelled faintly of lemons. ” I do know the way out of here. But I’ve never gone there… “

I turned around and looked into the sad face of not an old man, but a sort of young man who had aged downstairs in an eternal night ” I got hurt a long time ago- I lifted the hair away from my neck and showed my companion my ruined neck- I looked into his face and parted my lips so he could see my teeth- my horrible pointed and unnaturally white teeth ” I woke up here a long,long time ago and if I stay here. I don’t change, I don’t get- ” I looked for the right words.

” Hungry.”

And then I thought I knew what I should do.

I ran- no I flew past the man and down the stairs to 1105 and I took the pen out of the penholder and I opened the guest book and I wrote my name down inside of it on the very first line.

I heard the footsteps moving up the stairs. I heard the door at the top of the stairs open and before it closed I heard the man call down to me, ” Have a good evening Miss Felonwood, “

” You too- ” I replied from the darkness

” Cadwell. My name is  Calvin  Cadwell.”

What A Treat

When I was little we lived next door to a very nice lady who was fond of baking and handing out cookies. Gingerbread, star shaped,heart shaped , house shaped frosted and dusted- they were all delicious and all of them were on little plates scattered here and there on table tops throughout her old fashioned and softly lit  living room.

One day I was over there for my almost daily cookie fix when she noticed me admiring one of her clocks ( this one had a blank face with hands that looked like tree branches ) that sat was sitting next to a plate of almond cookies when she told me out of the clear blue sky , that her husband had been an executioner.

I almost didn’t hear that- because when I wasn’t trying to decide which cookie to try next, I was distracted by those clocks.

Because Mrs. Fenton didn’t have just one or two clocks in her house.

Mrs. Fenton’s house was filled with clocks- big clocks. Little clocks. Hundreds of clocks. Some of the clocks looked like angels or ladies in fancy dress and they had clocks in their stomachs. I’ll be honest- I didn’t get that sort of design back then and I don’t get it now.

What  I did get was that all of the clocks were stopped, roughly at  few minutes after midnight and my neighbor explained that her husband used to buy a clock for each of the criminals he executed and he stopped them at the declared time of death.

I thought that was a neat idea- but I was a kid and at the time I thought shrunken heads were a neat idea too.

My favorite clock was a Grandfather clock – but this clock was stopped at 3:oo .

I assumed that clock wasn’t one of the execution clocks- but I was curious and asked.

” Oh that one. ” She said with a little laugh.

I took a cookie off the cookie table packed with small porcelain cats and waited to find out what the challenge was.

” Miss Clay was called the Greenlake Devil Woman. She killed the people she rented rooms to and after she killed them she chopped them up and fed them to her next batch of boarders.”

I was mid-bite into a cookie and I tried to picture that. I could see an old-fashioned kitchen and a lady in an old-fashioned frilly apron whistling just like a bird as she chopped and stirred and seasoned things in ceramic bowls and boiling pots.

With that happy image in mind I kept chewing.

” Well. Mr. Fenton did his job- and this one involved electricity- and they called Miss Clay’s  time of death and Mr. Fenton was thinking about clocks and the County workers took her to the morgue and a few hours later she was back at her house in her kitchen working like a thing possessed. Mr Fenton and the police and a Priest or two showed up and there she was- a terrible beauty with flour dust in her hair and a smile on her blue yet very kissable lips- Mr Fenton said later. “

” Wow. So she came back from the dead and went home and cooked dinner?”

” No dear.” Mrs Fenton said looking at me curiously. ” Whatever gave you that idea?  She came back from the dead and baked cookies.”

She Was Not Alive

There were three of them in the car that Halloween Night when Mundy Selkirk turned up on Latona Road.

She was walking into town and they were driving out of town and had they not turned around and picked her up the Henshaw’s Party would not have been short a Pirate, a French Maid and a Zombie for the first part of their party. But the fact is they did turn around because they saw Mundy Selkirk  in a Mourning Dress and carrying a the knife she killed her family with over 100 years ago right there in Burnstone out at the Selkirk farmhouse.

” That is the best Mundy Selkirk costume I have ever seen ” the French Maid ( Lee Bressler ) screamed at the top of her lungs ” turn around now!”

The Pirate ( David Lindall ) said ” no ” but he did turn around because the Zombie ( Lister ) was his older brother and  he was agreeing with Lee. So at that point he knew that nobody in the car was listening to him.

They pulled up along side Mundy Selkirk, but she was not as pale and ghostly looking as the ten or so other Mundy Selkirk’s they’d already run into on their way to the Henshaw’s. This Mundy was a little dusty and sweaty looking, she looked annoyed when they signaled for her to stop.

” What?” she shouted at them

” That is the best Mundy Selkirk costume ever.”  Lee said enthusiastically. ” Where did you get it from?”

Mundy stopped and glared into the car. ” My Mother made it for me.”

” Your Mother is cool.” Lister told her.

Mundy seemed to consider what she had just heard Lister say. ” I suppose so.”

” Look, we can give you a ride into town if you want. It’s not a big deal. “

” Well. It would save me some time. I have to get back into town, I don’t want to be late.”

Mundy got into the back seat with Lister and as she slid into the car she handed Lister her knife. ” Watch yourself it’s sharp.” She told him.

” You’re taking a real knife to a party?”

” Well. Yes. ” She said slowly.

The ride into town was short but on that short ride they learned that this Mundy Selkirk liked to read poetry, she played the piano and she had a rose garden.

” So what is your interest in Mundy Selkirk?” David asked from the front seat. ” Most people who are into Mundy Selkirk are into the goth thing and it sounds like you’re into the, I don’t know flower thing.”

” The Goth thing?” Mundy asked

” Yeah, you know, they’re into vampires and…”

“Vampires?” Mundy echoed.

” Well. Some of them think they’re real and-“

” There are people out there who believe in Vampires and ress up like, M-“

” Yep. And they are into the Vampire thing in a very big way.”

” Mundy Selkirk was not a Vampire.”

” Who knows? ” Lee said with a laugh.  ” They said all of her victims had been drained of their blood. “

” You don’t think that the fact she cut their throats had something to do with that, do you?” Mundy Selkirk asked.

” Well, what happened to it then? All of that blood…”

” Took a very long time to clean up, but it was days before anyone knew something had happened at the House. Mundy had all the time in the world to do what she had to do.”

Mundy tapped the back of David’s headrest with her knife. ” You can let me out here. I’m going to the Bitterman’s House. Honestly. Mundy Selkirk a vampire.”

” So what do you think happened to the real Mundy Selkirk? ” Lee asked Mundy.

” They found her in the woods. ” Mundy told her.

” Well. Yes. But what do you think killed her?”

” She was not alive. ” Mundy said, ” and she hadn’t been for a very long time- that’s all I know.”

David watched Mundy walk up to the Bitterman’s B&B, they hosted a Halloween Party there for the guests every Halloween. The Bitterman party had nothing to do with Mundy Selkirk, Bitterman’s back in the day had been a Funeral Parlor.

As Mundy made her way up the walk, swinging her knife from side to side Lister could see the heavy white thread running up the back of Mundy Selkirk’s dress- that was a weird touch Lister thought.

That’s what they did in funeral homes he had learned a few years ago at the Bitterman’s Halloween Party a few years ago-  some funeral directors cut the clothes in the back to fit them on to the corpses and then they sewed them up the back with heavy thread. 

They weren’t tailors so Lister imagined it looked just like the back of Mundy Selkirk’s dress- the stitches were loose and the fabric was bunched up in places up and down her spine.

Just then she turned and waved as they pulled away from the curb, she was waving goodbye with her knife.

And she was smiling.

 

October Skeletons

 

What would you do about  Halloween if your name was October Skeletons?

Would you celebrate Halloween? Hide from Halloween? Would you spend each day of the year leading up to Halloween cursing your Mortician Father and Science Teacher Mother for not only keeping that weird name but naming you October to boot?

Well. October did none of those things because October Skeletons was a very practical man.

He worked as a baker and read history books and only bought things when they were on sale.

The only jokes October knew were the ones that were printed on paper place mats at one of three diners he ate at when he did eat out. And I should probably mention that he really liked those jokes and told them in such a way that people actually laughed at them.

So just before Halloween October’s friends at the Bakery started to ask him what his plans for Halloween were, and he told them like he told them every year. ” I just don’t have the heart to celebrate Halloween. My Parents were big on it, they were married on Halloween you know, my Mom would throw these big parties for Halloween and people would dress up and play games. It was grand. She was grand. Both of them were exceptional people and once they passed on well…but like I said. I just don’t have the heart to do anything for it.”

This year, October’s friends at the Bakery insisted that this year he was going to Lissie Kade’s Halloween party with the rest of them. He was going to dress up and eat food that had been shaped into body parts and hand out candy at the door to trick or treaters.

They told him that there were going to be no if and or buts or stories about missing his parents or stories or how empty his life was without his Grandparents who had traveled in sideshows and worked as Magicians and how he couldn’t really have fun the way he used to without  his mortician Aunt and grave digging uncles,

because,

as October always said-

he just didn’t have the heart to.

” Oh come on October, they sound like they were great. ” they said to him as they got ready to start the days baking ” but they’d want you to have fun. Right?”

” Of course they would. But I counted on them for that and now…”

Ramsey Mathis is October’s best friend and this time he walked up to his friend, grabbed him by the shoulders and shook him hard, ” You are going to go to this party, you are going to have fun and nobody wants to hear that you…”

” I told you, ” October said as he pulled his friend’s hand from his shoulder and put it on the center of his chest. ” I  do not have the heart for it.”