The Family That Plays Together…

So when I was a little kid, I named all of my dolls and stuffed animals after the characters on the TV show  “ Dark Shadows”

I used to make up little stories about my dolls and animals and they really did take on a  life of their own.

And by far- the most dark and wicked of them all was my stuffed Snoopy Dog with a broken neck- he was named  Barnabas and of course because he was one of the undead and bad- really bad. Snoopy aka Barnabas   managed to escape from my room every night and he ended up on my sister’s bed or in my brother’s sock drawer or on my Dad’s chest when he woke up in the morning and once he even made a surprise appearance at a funeral and he ended up on  coffin in the chapel just as the family arrived for the service

That one cost me, I lost him for a weeks after that one.

And yes, as a matter of  fact…it was worth it.

I had years and years of fun with my toys and looking back on it now, I can see how those games fed  the imagination that would shape me as a writer.

The downside. Well. It took me a while to see that there was one because there wasn’t a down side for me.

It turned out my rich imagination was a down side for my sister.

My sister- for years we teased that poor woman about this unnatural fear she had about her Baby Alive doll. She was convinced that it wanted to kill her.

In my defense I told anyone who would listen that I had nothing to do with that notion.

Besides.

Ask my headless dolls and my Snoopy with the broken neck  what they thought about ” Baby Alive “

That doll was wrong…very, very, very

wrong

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.

On Halloween Night

I know a story about a guy who saw the Devil on Halloween Night.

Dan Moss wasn’t positive that the woman sitting next to him on the bus was Satan until she turned to him and  and said “Evening”

That’s when he knew.

” It’s you. ” Dan Moss said.

” Excuse me? ” Satan asked.

” I know who you are.”

The Devil looked puzzled. ” That’s funny, because I don’t know you.”

Dan Moss, who considered himself to be a good and righteous man, said to the Devil sitting next to him on the bus-” Well, you wouldn’t.”

” Hmmm. ” Satan said ” So, you don’t normally ride this bus?”

Dan Moss leaned over and hissed at the Devil, ” Quit playing stupid. I know who you are.”

” Look, really, don’t get offended but I honestly do not know who you are- I’ve never seen you before.”

” Want to bet? ” Dan Moss asked.

Horrified Dan Moss slapped his hand over his mouth.

” As a matter of fact, ” Satan said as she pulled a small black notebook from out of her purse and started to write in it ” I want to do just that Mr. Moss.” 

Bancho Church Has A Grave Thought

Bancho Church is a horror writer- at least that’s what he gets paid to do and that’s what he says he does for a living and on good days he’ll say to himself, ” I am a horror writer ” and mentally he gives himself a big kiss.

But when Bancho has days where he spends most of his time watching video clips on his computer and chatting on-line with his friends he doesn’t feel like a writer. On those days he wishes he had stuck with his original line of work- he used to be the top salesman for a company that sold pathology equipment.

When he had down days at Waxons he’d clock out and go to the bar around the corner and drink beer and eat peanuts until he had either picked his spirits up or drowned them in a  sea of Dark Ale.

Now when he had down days with his writing he goes outside and does yard work.

So that is where Bancho was the day he saw the old lady waiting at the bus stop across the street from where he lives.

She was wearing a bright red coat to protect herself from the chilly fall air and she was wearing a hat decorated with birds and fruit to cover her almost shoulder length gray hair to- well- as near as Bancho could figure it out- she wore that for fun.

Bancho waved and the old lady slowly raised her arm waved back and then Bancho turned away from the street and started to rake leaves.

There were millions of them.

Millions and millions he was thinking over and over again because he wasn’t thinking about anything useful- like maybe the book he was working on- when he reached down to scoop up the pile of leaves at his feet to put them into the yard waste bin.

They crumbled almost to dust in his hands.

He dropped them into the open bin and started to rake up another pile- and as he did the dark wet leaves curled a little on the edges and started to break apart.

He kicked at the pile with his foot and looked up.

The old lady in the red coat raised her arm again to wave and this time when she waved she wiggled her fingers too.

He waved back.

Bancho moved the little pile of leaves around with his foot and some of them broke apart and the ones that didn’t almost did.

Bancho felt a cool  blast of air make stroll by and he heard it make its way up into the tree’s  branches around him and leaves- some red others gold and lots of still green leaves fell into yards and the street for as far as Bancho could see.

And he knew that if he were to walk to each and every one of those leaves and picked them up in small bunches in his hand or step on them they would crumbled to dust.

The old lady in the red coat with the birds on her hat shrugged.

” Well. ” Bancho thought to himself ” The leaves are dieing. That’s what they do in the fall. They fall from the trees and they die because-“

Bancho ground a fresh green leaf to a fine powder  and he said out loud ” they get old.”

Bancho looked up and across the street and the Old Lady was now hatless.  Her hat was now on her left hand and she was twirling it on one finger.

And then from down the street Bancho could hear the bus coming towards them.

It crawled to a stop and Bancho could see the Old Lady make her way to the back of the bus and she wasn’t moving like an old woman.

She bounced down the aisle  and he could see her swing into a seat and he saw her, as the bus slid away waving to him- at least he thought it was her- he saw the red coat and she was actually waving her hat at him- but the woman he saw had long dark hair.

It couldn’t have been her, he thought as he reached for his rake.

What had he just seen, he asked himself A Vampire who feeds off of leaves to make herself young?

Bancho laughed at himself  as he pulled his rake along the ground and when the sharp pain shot up from the middle of his back and he was forced, for a few minutes to support himself against his rake he tried to  keep on laughing.

But he could not.

To Grandfather’s House We Go

Over the river and thru the wood,
Oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes,
And bites the nose,
As over the ground we go.

Lydia Maria Child

Petty Morrell asked his wife, on Halloween Night, the same exact question that he has asked her for the last 30 years on Halloween Night.

” Marginata, why do we do the same exact thing for Thanksgiving? Why can’t we for once do something different.?”

Marginata answered Petty’s question the same way she has answered it for the last 30 years.

She ignored Petty.

“We bring the same food- as wonderful as you pumpkin pie is, you’ve done it to death and we sit at the same table and we hear the same stories about your Grandfather- who you never knew because he died in that accident at the Circus before you were  born. I mean, Mar- please a little variety. Can we wear funny hats or bring pizza or hey, here is an idea let’s not go.”

Marginata closed her eyes- for all of his going on and on about getting stuck in a mind numbing routine Marginata thought that Petty would find something new to add to the conversation.

So just as Marginata was about to give her standard reply they both heard voices and then a knock at the door. Marginata grabbed a silver bowl full of mini chocolate bars and little bags of candy corn and she said, ” I like the funny hats idea Petty. That was a funny line the first time you used it and almost 30 years later it still makes me laugh”

” You’re not laughing.” Petty pointed out.

” I am on the inside.” Marginata told him as she opened the door to two mini-sized devils, one medium-sized space alien and in a stroller made up to look like a basket with a baby dressed up like a stalk of celery sitting in the middle of it.

She handed out the candy. closed the door and turned to Petty and then- surprise!  He had something new to say:

” You would think that a man who born with a tail and a full set of teeth would have produced a family with people who were at least open to new ideas.”

Marginata shrugged, ” lots of us in the family were born with tails and teeth Petty. Even me.”

” So why do we have to sit at a table and pretend to be like everyone else?” Petty asked.

“Well. It’s fun.”

” You think acting normal is fun?”

” No, I guess not. It’s more funny than anything else. After all my sister Ella  found five bodies buried in her shed. Only somebody in my family would end up buying a house that was once owned by a spree killer who buried the bodies in a tool shed with no tools in it.  Normal is sort of neat idea in our book”

” Your Uncle Beltrane certainly thought so.”

” My Uncle Beltrane thought someone cut his hand off while he was sleeping and replaced it with his neighbor’s hand. Uncle was weird yet practical on…well, the other hand.”

” Maybe so, but I’ll bet he’s glad for that weird old Insanity Defense being there when he went to get his hand back.”

Marginata said slowly. ” The woods truly are full of crazy people.”

” Your brother would know all about that. “

” He never said the woods were full of crazy people- he said the trees were crazy. Sometimes I wonder if you ever really listen to what people are saying or if you just react to what they say.

There was another knock at the door and the little group of forest animals, Pirates and Werewolves remebered to  thank Petty for the gummy candy eyeballs after he shut the door.

” You need to embrace the weirdness that is your family, your history Mar. I mean, I fell in love with that too you know.”

Marginata smiled a real warm smile at her husband and hugged the bowl to her chest. Then went back into the kitchen to fill the bowl with more candy.

Petty said, as he heard Marginata opening plastic bags ” Look, just try one new thing this year-anything you want. Big, little, doesn’t matter. Just shake things up a little.”

Marginata called  back ” Well, ” she thought out loud ” I suppose I could try  baking something  new. That might be fun.”

Petty groaned silently and rolled his eyes up into his head and called back ” sure, that’s the spirit.”

Marginata’s bowl of candy was overflowing and she said happily as she walked out into the living room,” I’m thinking apple.”

” Oh yeah?” Petty said encouragingly.

Spiced apple.” Marginata said.

” Now there’s a thought.”

” You don’t love it?”

” I like the idea Mar…really.”

” But you don’t love it.”

” I could.”

” Yeah. Well. Let me think-” this time the bell door bell chimed and Marginata walked towards the door with her bowl of candy she was saying something to herself about spiced apples and rum raisins  and then she sighed.

Petty heard that and regretted bringing up the idea at all.

Despite the fact Marginata’s Mother who as a child was suspected of starting a fire that burned down the Leaning Birches Prison back in the 50’s and may have caused the deaths of over 200 inmates- Marginata was and would always be a sweatshirt wearing suburban housewife.

” I don’t know Mar- your family does love those pumpkin pies of yours, especially when you whip up the whip cream with the nutmeg. It’s a nice touch.”

” I make it with fresh cream straight from my cousin Beezer’s dairy farm “

” Is his daughter still in jail?”

” Yeah.”

” Sorry to hear that. I still don’t know what made that girl think she would not get into trouble for sneaking into the County Morgue and-“

” Kids.” Marginata said as she opened the door.

Petty heard the chorus of  Dracula’s and witches and clowns  sing out ” trick or treat” but he didn’t hear Marginata ooh-and ahh over the costumes or offer to let them choose their own treats from the bowl.

He turned and the door was wide open and Marginata wasn’t looking outside- she was facing into the house. The bowl of candy was in her hands and she was smiling.

” Petty, ” she whirled around and faced the Trick or Treaters ” I have a great idea for a pie.”

 

 
 photo by: wintersixfour

Curses!

Happy Halloween

” Did you see this? ” Marlene asked her friend Beset Lee as she handed her the morning newspaper.

Beset Lee, who was a Witch and her friend Marlene who was also a Witch were chosing out their Halloween costumes from a trunk in Beset Lee’s  attic.

Every year they liked to dress up like something candy related. Don’t ask me why, I’m just telling this story.

” I don’t like to concern myself with current events on Holidays.” Beset Lee said waving the paper away.

” I know, it puts you in a bad mood, ” Marlene told her friend ” that’s why I waited until now to show you this.” Marlene smooshed the paper in Beset’s face. ” Read it. I really, really think you should.”

” I can’t breathe.” Beset Lee said from behind the newspaper.

” Oh sorry. But read it. Please. Now. It’s just awful what they are saying.”

Beset Lee took the paper from Marlene and warned her: ” If this kills my buzz I am going to cast an evil spell on you and it will involve spiders”

Beset Lee set the paper down after she read the story and said, ” I think that this year I want to be a that candy bar with the pirates on the wrapper. That way I can carry around a sword.”

“I  hate to tell you this Beset Lee but they’re not Pirates. They’re musketeers. Now what are we going to do about this story?”

” Why should we do anything? It’s wrong. The Press, they can’t get anything right, can they? Where is that silver tunic?” Beset Lee went back to work digging through the trunk.

” That’s not the point. Hey, why don’t we ever dress up as anything other than food?” Marlene asked.

” So what’s the point. And food is fun. Especially candy.”

” The point is, people will know we are up to something.” Marlene said.

” Marlene, we are Witches we are always up to something- especially on Halloween. Everybody with a brain knows that. For Pete’s sake, even the ones who don’t have a brain knows that.”

” When you are right, you are really right Beset Lee. I still think that story is just awful.  I’d go as far as to call it disgraceful. As if we would curse candy.”

” Besides it’s a stupid plan all around. ” Marlene continued as she started to feel better about their situation.  “As if everyone eats candy on Halloween. Besides that we love candy we must eat a mountain of it ourselves on Halloween.”

” Exactly.”

Beset Lee  found the silver tunic at bottom of the trunk of and  she said as she pulled it out with a flourish, ” That’s why every year we use my plan to curse toothpaste for Halloween .”

smiling pumpking

Reflection Of My Love

sleeping

” What are you looking at Jingle? ”  Milo Hungerford asked his wife.

Jingle was standing in front of their bathroom mirror with her hairbrush in her hand and she turned slowly towards him and said, ” I don’t know. “

He came up behind her and stared into glass and shook his head.

” That’s not right Jingle. “

She put her hand to her face and looked into the mirror again and when she turned back towards Milo she started to cry. ” Milo what’s happening to me? “

Milo  pulled Jingle to his chest and turned her away from the looking glass.

” Is it still there Milo? “

Milo held Jingle tighter and said, ” yes. “

” The one in the foyer- let’s try that one too. “

” Jingle- it won’t…” he started to say and then when he saw the look on her face he nodded. “okay, we’ll try that one too.”

Milo held his wife’s hand and they walked down the dark halls to the entrance to their home and together they looked into the mirror there and Jingle burst into tears and grabbed her face.

” Oh Milo- oh Milo what’s happening to me? ” she cried.

Milo looked into the mirror and there in the glass he saw his wife holding her hairbrush, her dark hair framing her face- all alone except for the darkness that was their home and he turned her gently towards him and said,

” I don’t know how it happened Jingle…but I think you’re alive. “