Just a Girl [Repost]

Prompt: Costume

flapper-costume

I was dressed as a flapper, whatever that was, with a cloche hat and a blue fringed sleeveless dress. My older brother was a robot, a costume he made himself from cardboard boxes and silver paint. We were handed white pillow slips and told to limit our Halloween begging to a three block radius, and under no circumstances cross the busy street behind the house.

The house at the top of the block was in total darkness, as it was every Halloween, because of the owners’ religious beliefs. We got an early and annual education in the sinister side of church-going, since the idea of denying us chocolate and caramels and Tootsie Roll Pops seemed dark and ungodly.

A few doors down from them was the over-decorated house, with sheets meant to be ghosts hanging from the trees, half a dozen carved smiling pumpkins hosting flickering candles, and the black silhouettes of bats and witches on broomsticks bedecking the windows. Mr and Mrs Williams were always jovial but asked too many questions and talked to us as if we were toddlers. “Oh my goodness, what do we have here! What are you all dressed up as, little lady?” A flapper. “Oh!” Much chuckling on their part, and scowling and blushing on mine, until they move along to the next victim, who was not my brother, because he’d got his Mars bar (the full size candy bars being the only reason we bother with the Williams) and escaped from the porch.

Many houses later over on the next block was the scary place, where someone had made a graveyard out of the front garden, and the house was dimly lit inside, and you had to knock on the door in the dark, and you never could remember if the people inside had criminal records, or living children, or had somehow harmed a friend of a friend last Halloween. This night, a teenager with a scarred green face and blood dribbling from his mouth tosses packets of gum into our pillow slips. Maybe we’d skip the scary place next year.

The night wore on and there were fewer and fewer children on the street, but my brother’s stamina was legendary, and he had a special new goal: The haunted house across the busy street.

I had almost reached the status of non-girl in his eyes, as in not as dumb or as weak or as scaredy cat as a regular girl, as in almost tolerable. Was I to risk all this advancement, this near-shattering of the plastic ceiling, because I was afraid to disobey our parents, and terrified to go near the haunted house?

Hell, no.

The haunted house was only haunted late at night, when you were adrenalin-pumped and jittery, and almost ready to go home from trick-or-treating, if you could survive. By day it was a very old Victorian-style wooden house, with the requisite peeling paint and boarded up windows. Tall weeds impeded progress to a sagging front porch, which ran the width of the facade. It was a eyesore, perennially rumoured to be the new location of a Baptist church, or Harvey’s Drive In, or a pet store.

Me, my courageous brother, and his best friend, Donny, approached the house from the north, on the sidewalk, walking nonchalantly so as not to alert anyone or anything that we were possibly frightened and possibly going to do something stupid, like walk up to a house that was surely the site of past atrocities, and damned for eternity. I was trembling. Also shivering. I told my brother I was cold. “Too bad,” he said.

Donny, who was dressed as a cowboy complete with chaps and side arms, was strangely silent as we navigated through the weeds to the front door. For some reason, my brother thought it was a good idea to knock. Logic was never a strong point in my family. So he knocked on the front door. It was a cold, hollow sound.

The door flew open! There was an inferno! A piercing scream!

Donny fell backwards off the porch and landed on his head. Blood poured from his skull. My brother ran down the stairs and dove into the tall grass. I alone stood, paralyzed with fear, on the porch, staring at what I saw was some kind of industrial-strength flashlight, wielded by a boy much older, but no taller than I was. He was wrapped in dirty bandages and his face was lit from underneath, so his yellowish face was in hideous shadow.

He grabbed my pillow case, and slammed the door. The house was dark and silent again.

My brother and I dragged the bleeding Donny to our house, where our parents cleaned him up and called his mother. “It’s not as bad as it looks,” said my mother. My dad, showing more spunk than I thought him capable, went out in the car to check out the haunted house, but no one was there. Our punishment would wait.

Donny was sniffling. His head wound probably hurt. His cowboy jeans were soaking wet. No one said anything.

My brother turned on me, “You’re just a baby, screaming like that and scaring everyone.”

“I didn’t!” I felt anger tears welling to the surface, but dared not lose face by crying.

“Cry-baby scaredy cat,” said my brother. His robot head was off, but he was still wearing a crumpled silver box around his midriff. He scowled at me and took the wrapping off a Tootsie Roll for Donny, just as his mother knocked on the front door.

Donny’s face was a smeared mix of blood and sticky chocolate as his mother picked him up in her arms and carried him out, as if he was a little baby.

My brother laid out his candy haul on the kitchen table, sorting it by weight and value. My mother told him he would be sharing his bounty with me, his younger sister, since my pillow slip had been stolen. He sighed, frowned, and rearranged the piles of chocolate and wrapped candies.

“It wasn’t me, it was Donny,” I said to my brother. “I didn’t scream.”

“I know,” said my brother. “But he would have felt bad if I knew it was him.”

I feel bad because of what you said.”

“Too bad,” he told me. “You’re just a girl.”

Our punishment was harsh. No television, no playing outside after supper, so we basically had nothing to do but meditate upon our sins. Or read, which I did, so I didn’t have to think about Donny.

My brother gave me the full size Mars bar as part of my share of the loot, but it wasn’t enough. Not by a mile.


  • Original Prompt: Rearrange, October 28, 2016

Dead Bolts [Repost]

Prompt: Ghoulish

scary-ghosts

Suddenly the amusing, cocktail/dinner party story about the house being haunted wasn’t so funny. I don’t know why exactly, but I’d been uneasy all day— testy and irritable when the kids’ father came to pick them up for the a weekend away camping. They even took my canine soulmate, Champ, whom the children said needed a vacation too. From me? I growled and grumbled as I closed the door on them.

Two people had been brutally murdered in this refurbished farmhouse, once isolated in the country and now on the edge of a sprawling community. Two people, husband and wife, tied up, beaten, and stabbed to death, and the killer never found and brought to justice. Which is why, according to local legend, this poor ghostly couple stayed behind. Matthew and Thomasina were sad, angry ghosts, and you could hear them creep slowly across the floorboards, sometimes smell fresh-baked bread which was on the counter when the bodies were discovered, and hear their wails when the wind blew, or so the story went.

I didn’t find it charming anymore, as I lay in bed, awakened suddenly by… what? It seemed unusually dark and cold. There was no light from the night light in the bathroom down the hall. Only a bright moon behind hazy clouds cast a dim light in this darkness, or I would have been totally blinded. There was a wind, and the old house creaked and settled, as it usually did, but somehow, something was different. I could feel it. A rush of cool air, an unfamiliar smell, a pattern of creaks on the hardwood, someone walking, someone coming nearer.

I lay in bed, the quilt pulled up to my nose, staring at the bedroom door, frozen in fear. I saw a shadow across the wall, and then, yes! A man, a large man, blurred by darkness, looming in the doorway. I stifled a gasp, I squeezed my eyes shut, and when I opened them again he was gone. I was shivering with the cold now, paralyzed, listening for movement.

My body ached with tension, but I got up out of bed, wrapped the quilt around me, and crept to the doorway. The house was silent. The wind had picked up, I could hear it rattling the eaves and send echoes down the chimney.

I stepped as softly as I could but the floor betrayed me. Where had Matthew gone? Why had he come to me in the first place?

Why was it so cold?

Then I heard the front door abruptly swing open and crash against the wall in the foyer. The wind, I thought, Matthew and Thomasina making themselves known, demanding justice!

I was wrong. Three police constables with flashlights sending laser-like beams over the walls and floors, and finally into my face, strode right into the front hallway.

“Are you ok?” said a voice.

Did I not look ok? Had my hair turned white? “I, I…”

“You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” said a different voice, without irony. “Your power was out, lines were cut, and we got a mobile 911 call from this house.”

I just stared at him. A 911 call? At that moment the night light clicked on, and I could hear the furnace starting up as the power was restored, and there was a bright light from the kitchen. We found the refrigerator door wide open, contents on the table and floor— milk, eggs, cheese and oranges. The constable flicked on the kitchen light. “You make this mess?” he asked.

“No,” I said.

The back door was open. A car’s taillights could be seen disappearing into the distance. “He must have heard us arrive. Barb, see if you can track that vehicle down,” said an officer. Constable Barb disappeared.

Then the officer turned to me. “You don’t live in the 1950s, Mz Waters,” he said. “You need to lock your doors properly, with dead bolts. Both doors were easily compromised.”

It was hard to speak. I couldn’t seem to take a breath. I couldn’t move.

“Want us to call anyone for you?” said the officer as they prepared to leave. “Doesn’t feel right leaving you alone in this state.”

“No, it’s fine,” I said, finally finding my voice. “It’s ok. It’s fine.”

And I put the kettle on for tea.


Original Prompt: Eerie, October 31, 2016

Just a Girl

Prompt: Rearrange

flapper-costume

I was dressed as a flapper, whatever that was, with a cloche hat and a blue fringed sleeveless dress. My older brother was a robot, a costume he made himself from cardboard boxes and silver paint. We were handed white pillow slips and told to limit our Halloween begging to a three block radius, and under no circumstances cross the busy street behind the house.

The house at the top of the block was in total darkness, as it was every Halloween, because of the owners’ religious beliefs. We got an early and annual education in the sinister side of church-going, since the idea of denying us chocolate and caramels and Tootsie Roll Pops seemed dark and ungodly.

A few doors down from them was the over-decorated house, with sheets meant to be ghosts hanging from the trees, half a dozen carved smiling pumpkins hosting flickering candles, and the black silhouettes of bats and witches on broomsticks bedecking the windows. Mr and Mrs Williams were always jovial but asked too many questions and talked to us as if we were toddlers. “Oh my goodness, what do we have here! What are you all dressed up as, little lady?” A flapper. “Oh!” Much chuckling on their part, and scowling and blushing on mine, until they move along to the next victim, who was not my brother, because he’d got his Mars bar (the full size candy bars being the only reason we bother with the Williams) and escaped from the porch.

Many houses later over on the next block was the scary place, where someone had made a graveyard out of the front garden, and the house was dimly lit inside, and you had to knock on the door in the dark, and you never could remember if the people inside had criminal records, or living children, or had somehow harmed a friend of a friend last Halloween. This night, a teenager with a scarred green face and blood dribbling from his mouth tosses packets of gum into our pillow slips. Maybe we’d skip the scary place next year.

The night wore on and there were fewer and fewer children on the street, but my brother’s stamina was legendary, and he had a special new goal: The haunted house across the busy street.

I had almost reached the status of non-girl in his eyes, as in not as dumb or as weak or as scaredy cat as a regular girl, as in almost tolerable. Was I to risk all this advancement, this near-shattering of the plastic ceiling, because I was afraid to disobey our parents, and terrified to go near the haunted house?

Hell, no.

The haunted house was only haunted late at night, when you were adrenalin-pumped and jittery, and almost ready to go home from trick-or-treating, if you could survive. By day it was a very old Victorian-style wooden house, with the requisite peeling paint and boarded up windows. Tall weeds impeded progress to a sagging front porch, which ran the width of the facade. It was a eyesore, perennially rumoured to be the new location of a Baptist church, or Harvey’s Drive In, or a pet store.

Me, my courageous brother, and his best friend, Donny, approached the house from the north, on the sidewalk, walking nonchalantly so as not to alert anyone or anything that we were possibly frightened and possibly going to do something stupid, like walk up to a house that was surely the site of past atrocities, and damned for eternity. I was trembling. Also shivering. I told my brother I was cold. “Too bad,” he said.

Donny, who was dressed as a cowboy complete with chaps and side arms, was strangely silent as we navigated through the weeds to the front door. For some reason, my brother thought it was a good idea to knock. Logic was never a strong point in my family. So he knocked on the front door. It was a cold, hollow sound.

The door flew open! There was an inferno! A scream!

Donny fell backwards off the porch and landed on his head. Blood poured from his skull. My brother ran down the stairs and dove into the tall grass. I alone stood, paralyzed with fear, on the porch, staring at what I saw was some kind of industrial-strength flashlight, wielded by a boy much older, but no taller than I was. He was wrapped in dirty bandages and his face was lit from underneath, so his yellowish face was in hideous shadow.

He grabbed my pillow case, and slammed the door. The house was dark and silent again.

My brother and I dragged the bleeding Donny to our house, where our parents cleaned him up and called his mother. “It’s not as bad as it looks,” said my mother. My dad, showing more spunk than I thought him capable, went out in the car to check out the haunted house, but no one was there. Our punishment would wait.

Donny was sniffling. His head wound probably hurt. His cowboy jeans were soaking wet. No one said anything.

My brother turned on me, “You’re just a baby, screaming like that and scaring everyone.”

“I didn’t!” I felt anger tears welling to the surface, but dared not lose face by crying.

“Cry-baby scaredy cat,” said my brother. His robot head was off, but he was still wearing a crumpled silver box around his midriff. He scowled at me and took the wrapping off a Tootsie Roll for Donny, just as his mother knocked on the front door.

Donny’s face was a smeared mix of blood and sticky chocolate as his mother picked him up in her arms and carried him out, as if he was a little baby.

My brother laid out his candy haul on the kitchen table, sorting it by weight and value. My mother told him he would be sharing his bounty with me, his younger sister, since my pillow slip had been stolen. He sighed, frowned, and rearranged the piles of chocolate and wrapped candies.

“It wasn’t me, it was Donny,” I said to my brother. “I didn’t scream.”

“I know,” said my brother. “But he would have felt bad if I knew it was him.”

I feel bad because of what you said.”

“Too bad,” he told me. “You’re just a girl.”

Our punishment was harsh. No television, no playing outside after supper, so we basically had nothing to do but meditate upon our sins. Or read, which I did, so I didn’t have to think about Donny.

My brother gave me the full size Mars bar as part of my share of the loot, but it wasn’t enough. Not by a mile.

Safer

Prompt: Banned


Hello Wednesday,

I once banned myself from a drugstore, which was one of a cluster of shops in the neighbourhood. You see, I was a hungry, rather stupid young teenager, who saw a huge, open display of chocolate bars, and no one around. So I very discreetly (I thought) loaded my pockets, one delicious candy treat at a time, until the owner/ pharmacist came out in his white smock and said to me, a regular customer: “Put them back.”

One chocolate bar at a time went back to its rightful spot. What was probably half a dozen treats seemed like a hundred, as that humiliating few minutes stretched into what felt like hours.

The owner did nothing else; did not call the police or try to notify my parents, for which I should have been grateful. I never set foot in that drugstore again; nor did I try and steal chocolate bars.

Now I buy mini chocolate bars to hand out on Halloween. This is a huge farce, since we rarely get children at our door anymore, so we get to eat the candy. We’ve never been “that house” that hands out healthy treats, unlike the subject of this, the first of my favourite cartoons this week:

cartoon-watermelon-halloween


I’m guessing this cartoon was banned from the pages of the New Yorker magazine:

cartoon-halloween-safe


And look at this cat’s face:

cartoon-cat-story


Happy Wednesday!

FP