If the Costume Fits:A Bit of Storytelling for Halloween
At twelve, I lobbied hard for a costume that required me to slide beauty over my everyday face– a belly dancer or a model or even Snow White– but Mama said she didn’t have time to make one. Of course, it was out of the question to buy a costume. We didn’t have much money but, more than that, it was immoral to spend good hard-earned cash on something so fleeting. In our little town, it was a sign of parental flabbiness if a child wore a store-bought costume–so I became the Headless Horseman. I wore an old coat of Dad’s. Under my arm was a paper-mache jack-o-lantern made by my brother the year before. I was supposed to pull the coat over my head when I went to each door and whisper “trick or treat” through the gap between the buttons.
Before I left the car I pleaded, “Mama, couldn’t you just put a little makeup on me. I wore my purple bell bottoms and I could be like, uh, rock star or something.” This was a desperate ploy on my part as my pants were corduroy hand-me-downs from a boy cousin and my shirt a blue pullover.
“Honey, don’t be silly. This costume is perfectly good and it’s scary– which is what Halloween is all about.” I glared at her. She was wrong and what’s more I knew she knew it or Danny wouldn’t have been dressed as a cowboy. How scary was a 2nd grader with a cap gun?
Halloween was about trying on a different personality to see if it fit. I wanted to be someone sexy and daring and she didn’t want me to be. But I didn’t have the words to argue and so sat mutinous in the back seat.
Mama used her eyebrow pencil to redraw Danny’s mustache. He tucked his cap pistol into his plastic holster, grabbed his cowboy hat, and shot out the door before she could lecture him, but I wasn’t quick enough.
“Don’t eat anything that isn’t store wrapped. You never know if its been laced with LSD or pot.”
“Forget it, Mama. Nobody does anything exciting here.” Quickly I got out of the car.
Joining a group of my friends, I soon had a bag of sweets including a delicious looking caramel apple. Rebelliously, I undid the Saran Wrap, wadded it into my bag, and crunched through the sticky outer coating into the crisp white flesh. Buttery sugar melted in my mouth and slid over my tongue. Savoring every bite and mentally sneering at Mama, I didn’t notice that my friends had gone on ahead.
As the dark closed around me, I began dwelling on the word ‘laced.’ I didn’t know what that meant but, now, I imagined a long poisonous string deftly threaded in and out of the apple so delicately that I wouldn’t know it was there. Visions of Snow White’s apple crawled up my gullet and into my grasp. By the light of a street lamp, I examined the core. To my terror, I discovered a long black hair entangled around the stem.
Pound. Pound, Pound went my pulse. It throbbed in my throat like a creature struggling for air. I sat down hard on a lawn. The driveway up to the next house seemed incredibly long, tortured, and evil. The mailbox squatted like a gargoyle, the garbage can lolled like a drunken troll, and faintly, far off, a dog bayed into the night.
I flung the core away with revulsion, wiping my hands on Papa’s coat to rid myself of any contamination. I gazed horrified into my bag of plastic wrapped Snickers bars and Milk Duds searching for redemption. Then I picked out a Hershey bar, unwrapped and ate it as if taking medicine for an illness. Carefully, I held the candy by its wrapper and bit without touching the sweet except with my teeth. I felt my hands dripping with drugs and dirt.
But, while I sat in the dark, I noticed I wasn’t dying. In the rush of elation that followed, I saw Danny and his friend rounding the corner. Blood still humming hotly in my veins, I pulled the coat over my head and waited until they were nearly on me. “Errraaahhh!” I jumped up with a gruesome holler. With a shriek, Danny and friend flung their bags and started running–their small bodies wisps of white in the dark. I flung Danny’s Jack-o-lantern after them laughing wickedly and wildly from the shadows.
Later that night, I sweetly returned Danny’s large grocery bag of treats as well as his friend’s. “No, I never saw any thing there. The street was empty except for these. I’m just glad they had your names on the side or I wouldn’t have picked them up.”
I tucked Papa’s coat securely around the cracked pumpkin head. I grinned, at least next year, the Headless Horseman wouldn’t be an option.
For a look at a parent’s point of view see Brilliant at Breakfast’s harsh review of the current crop of girl costumes.