Monthly Archives: October 2014

A Dark and Stormy Halloween Night

It was a dark and stormy Halloween night, and the trick-or-treaters stopped their visits early because it was about to rain. At first I was pleased that I was going to have all those bite-sized Snickers and Three Musketeer bars to myself. Then, after a particularly loud clap of thunder, my eighty-pound Labrador retriever jumped into my lap, causing me to scream in agony. She jumped and spun around to stare at me which meant her huge paws dug down deeper into my crotch.
“Arghh! Get off me!”
Before the dog could move, another clap of thunder shook the house. Whimpering she shuffled her feet in the exact same plan and spun around to gawk out the window.
“Get off!”
She whipped her head when I yelled at her again. Her large head crashed into my nose. Anytime I had ever been hit in the nose, my eyes filled with tears. This was especially embarrassing because the last thing a little boy wanted to do in front of the other guys was cry.
My dog forgot about the storm when she saw the tears roll down my cheeks and leaned forward to lick them away. Crack! Another thunder eruption made her lunge forward, bumping into my nose again.
She backed up, her paws unfortunately pushed down into my crotch another time. I did not know which hurt more—my nose or my crotch. I started whimpering which, I think, confused my dog because I sounded just like her. When she got confused she lifted her left paw to high five me. It was a trick I taught her when she was a puppy, and whenever she began to feel unloved she high fived me for reassurance. I was so obsessed with not crying that I did not see her big paw coming right at my nose.
The fourth round of thunder was too much. She lost control of her bladder and wet herself. Because she sat on my lap she wet me too. Blubbering, I tried to push her away but whimpering she pushed back and put her paw up for another high five. I hadn’t been this frustrated since I found out I couldn’t climb out of the crib. Or maybe I just dreamed I wasn’t able to get out of the crib; anyway, I knew I was frustrated and started stomping my feet. What I didn’t realize was that the movement of my legs under the dog scared her even more. She peed on me again. I thought she wouldn’t have had any more urine after the first gusher. I was wrong.
“Stop it!”
Neither of us needed a fifth clap of thunder, but it burst out on the scene nevertheless. I would have shrieked again when her paws dug in deeper, but I was distracted by the sudden warm droppings on my pants. Oh crap. When the dog started howling, I thought my eardrums were about to burst. Right at that moment my wife walked into the room.
“Will you please stop screaming? You’re scaring the dog!”

How Thomas Jefferson’s Ghost Taught Me a Lesson

When I was a child my family went on few trips, vacations—whatever you want to call then, going away to somewhere you haven’t been before.
A couple of times we went to the Arbuckle Mountains in south central Oklahoma. The main attraction there was Turner Falls and really cheap Indian souvenirs. Another time we spent a few days in Hot Springs, Ark. I found out at the same time I was visiting there, another eight-year-old boy lived there by the name of Bill Clinton. Wouldn’t it have been funny if I had seen him on the streets and didn’t know I was looking at a future president?
Most of the time my mother thought it was foolish and impractical to go anyplace where one of our relatives didn’t live. Her idea of fun was sitting in a cousin’s living room all afternoon trying to remember who the other cousins married and who among all the relatives would be first to die. Which brings me to the reason why I got to see Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia. The father of my mother’s favorite cousin whom she visited regularly in Mineral Wells, Texas, died in Virginia. My mother and I joined her cousin in a cross-country car ride to attend the funeral in Charlottesville.
This cut the expenses considerably since the two women could take turns driving, and we didn’t have to sleep in a motel. They also packed lots and lots of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches so we wouldn’t have to stop at any of those dirty cafes along the way.
Because I was good and didn’t squirm or whine during the two-hour funeral service, my mother granted me one request, as long as it didn’t take us too far out of our way or cost too much. I chose to visit the home of Thomas Jefferson, Monticello. It was on the outskirts of town and charged a reasonable fee to explore the house and grounds.
One of my less admirable qualities as a little boy was that I tended to let something catch my eye, causing me to wander off without telling anyone where I was going. My defense was that how could I tell my mother where I was going when I didn’t know what it was I was going to look at before I got there.
On this particular occasion, I spotted the little graveyard in the distance which contained the remains of Thomas Jefferson himself. The tall granite obelisk looked huge to me, and I knew I had to go investigate it. When I arrived I realized a wrought-iron fence surrounded his tomb. On the monument was a metal plaque. I could read the first part very well.
“Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of American Independence….”
I couldn’t quite make out the rest of it. If only I could get closer, I reasoned, I’d be able to read the entire inscription, memorize it and quote it to my entire class the next time we had a Show and Tell session. An idea came to me. The space between the iron bars of the fence were spaced wide enough that I could squeeze between them. I turned my shoulders vertically and eased my way through. Now I could read every word on the rest of the plaque.
“…Of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom
And Father of the University of Virginia.”
Moving my lips, I repeated it several times, committing it to memory. Then I realized I must hurry back to the house before my mother blew her gasket because I wandered off again. Trying to pull out I realized I was stuck. It wasn’t that I was overly fat, but my mother did have to buy me blue jeans labeled “husky”.
I tried turning my shoulders vertical again to slip out of the fence but to no avail. At this point I began to panic, sniveling on the verge of outright bawling.
“Stop that whimpering, young man.”
At first I thought an attendant had wandered over and found me in this most unfortunate predicament. It was embarrassing but at least he could help get me out. I looked around, but I saw no one there.
“Now how on earth did you get yourself in this conundrum?”
My head went from side to side, and I tried to look behind myself without much success.
“Oh, in the name of Providence, look in front of you, lad.”
When I did focus my eyes straight ahead at the monument I could barely make out a grayish figure. This is when I considered I was having another one of my spectacular dreams. I would wake up in a few minutes and I’d be safe in bed way back in Gainesville, Texas.
“So why did you find it so imperative to squeeze your ample torso through these bars?”
“My mother told me never to talk to strangers.” This was a completely random statement to make but I was too scared to think of anything more intelligent.
“Poppycock,” the man, whom I now realized was transparent, “You must have studied about me in school. I’m Thomas Jefferson.”
“No lie?” Now why I chose this moment to question the integrity of a ghost standing in front of me I have no idea.
“You’re thinking of George Washington. He was the one who wasn’t supposed to lie but he did. He lied all the time. When you are tall you can get away with lying. I’m tall, and I was a very good liar. But that’s all right. You can’t run a government and not lie.”
At this moment I thought I was going to poop and/or pee in my pants or vomit. I did not know if projectile puke on a national landmark was grounds for a federal indictment or not. When nothing untoward in terms of inappropriate bodily discharge occurred, I decided to ask Mr. Jefferson for advice. After all, he must have been pretty smart to become President of the United States.
“Can you help me get out of here?” I asked in a whisper.
“No, I am not capable of releasing you. But even if I were I don’t think I would help you. You got yourself into this predicament so you have to get yourself out.”
“Can you give me a few hints?”
“I suppose you could keep trying to wriggle free. Twist your shoulders more. And for Heaven’s sake suck that gut in.”
I decided right then that I didn’t think Thomas Jefferson was a very nice man. But I continued to twist and contort my back and sucked in my stomach until my face was black and blue. Still no luck.
“Well, the only other thing I can recommend is for you to scream as loud as you can to get some help down here. Do you have family members here?”
“My mother.”
“Well, there you have it. I’m sure your mother will be able to find someone to extract you from the bars.”
“But that will be so embarrassing.”
“Oh, young man, you are beyond embarrassing. If something is not done soon, you could permanently harm your body in some way.”
“If this story gets out back home I’ll never live it down,” I stated in a sorrowful tone.
“Nonsense, no embarrassment lasts forever, and if you’re smart enough you can actually learn something.”
“Of course. Did you know I never joined the military during the revolution? And when a force of Redcoats marched on Monticello I jumped on my horse and raced away like a scared rabbit.”
“No, I never heard that story.”
“See,” Jefferson replied triumphantly. “History will take care of us if we are earnest in our motives. I would have been a lousy soldier but I could string words together pretty good and wrote encouragement for those who could fight.”
“JERRY DAN COWLING! Where the hell are you?”
“Oh God, it’s my mother!”
“I hope she’s on our side.” I sensed fear creeping into Jefferson’s voice.
“I’ll be right there!” I called out. With one enormous push I extricated myself with such force that I fell backwards on the ground.
“See what fear can do for you? Never be afraid of fear. Mmm, that sounds awkward. I better work on that one.”
Jumping up I began running back to the house. Over my shoulder I shouted, “Sorry to have inconvenienced you, Mr. Jefferson!”
“Oh, don’t you mind. This is the most fun I’ve had in a hundred years!”

Actual History Scarier Than Any Ghost Story

An incident in my hometown during the Civil War sparked the idea of a short story, but further research proved the real thing was much scarier than anything I could make up.
In the middle of October 1862—very close to the date we now celebrate as Halloween with pumpkins and candy—more than 150 citizens of Gainesville, Texas, were arrested and were accused of being Union spies and within two weeks 42 men were killed.
Gainesville, situated on the Red River north of Dallas and Fort Worth, was about as far away from the main fronts of the war as you could get that it should have been able to sit out the war without bloodshed. However, with the completion of the Butterfield Overland Mail route which originated in St. Louis and passed through Gainesville on its way to out west, fear gripped the community like nothing it had ever experienced before.
Locals became alarmed at the growing number of people coming to town from Kansas and other points north where abolitionist fever was high pitched. Only ten percent of the households owned slaves, and voters in Cooke County, whose government seat was in Gainesville, voted against secession in 1860. Even a Union League was formed, mostly to fight military conscription and to protect property from marauding Native Americans from the territory now known as Oklahoma, just a few miles from Gainesville across the Red River.
Neighbor distrusted neighbor. Conspiracies dominated gossip circles around town. All came to a boiling point when Confederate leaders ordered all men who had not heeded their draft notices to be arrested. Within two weeks in October, 42 men were hanged by tribunal—headed by leading slave-owners in the community—and by vigilante mobs. Two of them were shot to death while trying to escape. The son of one man hanged for treason was actually a soldier in the Confederate army. When he heard of his father’s death he deserted and joined Union forces.
No one was ever brought to justice for the hangings. Some of the instigators insisted that at least one or two of the victims actually had sent army secrets to Washington. This begs the point of what on earth could have been going on in this small Texas town that would have been of benefit to the Union army.
For the next hundred and fifty years, people of Gainesville politely ignored the entire incident. In one of the city parks was a granite monument but the inscription was written with a bias toward the Confederacy. Families of the victims eventually moved elsewhere except for a handful who knew it was best not to talk about it. My junior year in high school I wanted to write a research paper about the hangings. This was in 1965, but I was still warned by people not to try to stir anything up.
Just this month, October of 2014, a group sympathetic to the victims and their families raised enough money to erect two new granite monuments with more historically accurate accounts of hangings and a list of the victims’ names. The town is still split over the incident—one third wants recognition for the victims, another group sees a way to make some tourist money out of it, like Salem, Mass., and its witch hanging industry, and finally one group still insists no one should be talking about this at all. It could give Gainesville a bad name.
The only thing each group agrees on is the name of the historical moment—The Great Hanging. It always struck me odd how the death of 42 people could be called great, but then I reminded myself of the Great Depression, the Great War in Europe and the Great Plague. They were great not in a complimentary way but in a completely horrible way.
My first thought was to write a ghost story about the hanging victims who come back to Gainesville for revenge, but I decided that would trivialize such a horrifying episode. Not because something I would write could give my hometown a bad name. Gainesville has to deal with its image on its own. Nope. Nothing Halloween about this.

The Last Halloween

I was in the sixth grade when I celebrated my last Halloween. That is to say, the last Halloween as a child who enjoyed the Halloween Festival at school and trick-or-treating.
Each classroom was transformed into a special treat. One was a haunted house, another a cake walk, a fishing pond, white elephant sale and many more, each costing a dime or quarter to participate. At the end of the evening was a variety show put on by the parents who all acted very silly. The kids loved it. All the proceeds went to the PTA.
When I was selected as one of five boys to be the “spook” in a Hit the Spook with a Marshmallow game I was thrilled. My mother drove me downtown to a five-and-dime to buy a mask. She stayed in the car while I went in to get something to protect my face from all the marshmallows that were going to be thrown at me. When I reached the big table in the middle of the store with the Halloween masks, I froze.
My mother had a way of criticizing every purchase I ever made. I picked up a mask that I liked but put it back because it cost too much. I looked for something really cheap but they looked like something a first grader would wear. Finally I picked out a face paint kit that cost very little. Pleased that I was going to escape my mother’s wrath for wasting money, I ran out to the car where my mother had been waiting.
“Where have you been?” Her tone was withering. “I thought I was about to die in this heat. (author’s note: we lived in Texas which is still very hot even in the last week of October) I thought you were going to just run in, grab something and be right back out! How long does it take to buy a silly Halloween mask anyway?”
I showed her the makeup kit and tried to explain how cheap it was when she interrupted me.
“Now how is that going to protect your face from those marshmallows? I thought the whole idea of getting a mask was to protect yourself.”
Back home I sewed together some old sheets into what I thought looked like a ghost costume. I use the term sewing very loosely. I used an old treadle machine which my mother and threaded for me. At Halloween sunset my mother told me she was too tired to drive me back to school and I would have to walk. It wasn’t that far so I didn’t mind.
Halfway there, however, I remembered I had not brought my money which I had carefully put aside for the past month just for spending at the festival. It was too late to go back home to get it and be at the school on time.
When I did arrive I found out none of the other boys had shown up so I had to be the only “spook” getting pelted by marshmallows. It was that night that I realized I really wasn’t that popular at school. Too many of the boys were way too thrilled in throwing marshmallows at me. This went on for an hour.
Finally the teacher closed down the attraction and said I could go enjoy the rest of the festival. Only I couldn’t. I didn’t have any money to pay to play. I couldn’t even see the variety show.
One woman—I can’t remember if it were a teacher or a parent—who asked me what I was dressed up as. “Are you supposed to be a little girl.”
“No,” I responded weakly. “A ghost.”
“Well, you look more like a little girl.”
When I walked home I didn’t even feel like trick-or-tricking at the neighbors’ houses. The bloom was off the pumpkin, so to speak.
The next time I remember having a good time at Halloween was when I had small children and chaperoned them around trick-or-treating. We decorated the house with fake cobwebs and jack-o-lanterns. Now the kids are grown and the local children don’t stop by our house. Actually, I don’t think there’s wholesale trick-or-treating anywhere, with all the scares about poison in the candy.
Ah, but in the early years, that was fun, before the last Halloween came along.

How Mommy Saved My Life on Halloween

I’ll never forget the Halloween Mommy saved my life. It may seem odd for an old man to call his mother Mommy. When I was five I tried to say mother because I thought it sounded all grown up. We had just moved into an old house the night before Oct. 31. There was a knock at the door as we were still unpacking.
An old woman with no teeth and gnarled hands was on the porch.
“I see you got a youngin’.” Her voice was soft and raspy.
“He’s a good boy. He doesn’t make any noise.” My mother grabbed my hand and squeezed hard.
“Oh, I’m sure he is. Don’t mind me. I’m just the neighbor from across the street. Just came over to say howdy. I’ll let you get back to work.”
My mother let go of my hand and opened the screen door.
“I’m sorry. I forgot to ask your name.”
The old woman turned to smile. “Sadie.”
My father went straight to bed after supper like he always did because he had to be up and out of the house for work by six in the morning. And no one ever woke him up, no matter what was going on. It didn’t make any difference how funny the television show was I knew not to laugh too loud. Mother and I finally turned the set off and went to bed. The house only had one bedroom so I slept out on what we called the sleeping porch. She tucked me in and wished me pleasant dreams. I had barely fallen asleep when I heard someone coming up the back steps. The thumping made it sound like a man who weighed at least 250 pounds. I was scared but didn’t dare yell. Before I knew it, my mother came from her bedroom and stopped at the back door, putting her hand over her mouth. The footsteps went away.
“What was it, Mother?”
“Nothing.” She forced a smile on her face. “You know, I think I’ll just sleep out here with you tonight.”
The next morning after breakfast she took me by the hand and we walked across the street to Sadie’s house. Again her grip was like a vise and really hurt. I never dared say anything about it. Mother rapped at the door, and Sadie appeared, wiping her hands on a dishcloth.
“I thought I’d be seeing you again soon. So you heard the footsteps last night, didn’t you?”
I watched my mother bat her eyes and open her mouth but the words took a while to come out.
“I saw a man—a big man—on the back steps.” She paused before she blurted, “Who is he?”
Sadie put down the towel and stepped out the door. “Nobody knows who he is.”
“I can’t believe that. A man trying to get into someone’s house. Surely the police—“
“Nobody knows his name because he’s been dead for over a 150 years. He’s a ghost.”
“A ghost? That’s foolishness.”
“That’s what all the folks say who live in that house until one of the children go missing.”
I looked up at my mother’s face. Her lips were pinched. I knew when I saw that look I better go run and hide. Luckily she was mad at Sadie and not me.
“He shows up like clockwork every ten years at that house and a child disappears. Halloween.” She laughed, which wasn’t a pretty sight since she had no teeth.
Mother’s face wasn’t a pretty sight either. She was squinting her eyes and gritting her teeth. Get out of the way. She was about to blow.
“I’ve seen that look before, but it’s true,” Sadie said, wagging a crooked finger at her. “Even before the house was built. One night a wagon train came through and camped right here. Everybody heard the footsteps, crackling on the leaves and twigs. Then a woman screamed. Her little girl was gone, and there ain’t was a thing nobody could do about it. Some think it’s the ghost of some Indian, but that ain’t so. It ain’t an Indian or nobody else. It’s just pure evil.”
Mother squeezed my hand even more tightly. “It’s not nice to say things like that in front of a little boy, just to scare him.”
“He got scared last night before I said a thing, didn’t he?” Sadie didn’t wait for Mother to answer when she added, “I keep warning folks to order that thing to go away. He ain’t wanted here. They don’t listen to me. But you better listen. Show that thing who’s the boss.”
That night at dinner Mother didn’t tell my father about what happened, knowing he wouldn’t have believed her. He went to bed, and we watched television but didn’t find anything funny to laugh at. All the trick-or-treaters passed by our house. Finally we went to the sleeping porch. I was in my bed, and Mother sat in a rocking chair by the back door. I couldn’t sleep. Then we both heard it—the heavy footsteps on the back steps. Mother stood. I knew she planned on doing what Sadie told her—go away, this is my house, you’re not wanted here. At the last minute, she paused and cocked her head.
“I’m so glad you showed up.” It was her friendliest voice. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
The steps stopped. I sat up in bed and saw the hulking mass of—I don’t know, it looked like floating coal dust.
“I love you. Only you.” Her breath was like a soft panting now.
The dark figure stood still for a long time before turning and walking away. My mother rushed to hug me. I squeezed back.
“Oh, Mommy, I love you.”

Too Late

It was a slow afternoon at my pawn shop, and I was just about ready to pack it in for the day when the telephone rang.
“Do you buy old rifles?” an old woman voice whispered.
“What?” I think I understood what she said, but the question was so bizarre coming from such a sweet small voice that I doubted my senses.
After a long silence, she repeated, “Do you buy old rifles? I am very ill, and I don’t want to die with those guns still in the house. Can you come today?”
“What do you want for them?”
“You pay me whatever you want. I just want them out of the house.”
“I want to pay you a proper price, ma’am. How old are they?”
“I don’t know. Granddaddy used them in the Civil War.”
Dollar signs popped into my head. “How many did your grandfather have?”
“Oh, I don’t know. He had four or five himself, but as time went by and neighbors were hard up, he’d buy their guns so the attic is filled with them now.”
“Will you take a check?”
“I will take anything. I just want them out.”
Smiling to myself, figures kept multiplying in my brain. “If you can give me directions to your house I’ll be right out there, Mrs. …?”
“Hallie May Hope. Miss Hallie May Hope.”
After I wrote down the directions, I hopped into my pickup and headed south on the state highway and went east on Old Missionary Road and made a left on Hope Road. She said the house would be at the end of it. Hope Road started out as gravel but narrowed to a narrow grass-covered path as trees and brush crowded in. Soon I could hardly see the sky for the thick oak canopy dripping with Spanish moss. Thunder rumbled ahead of me and tiny droplets spotted the windshield. For a moment I feared I copied the directions down wrong, until I came to a low brick wall with a wrought iron gate in the middle. Beyond it I saw a two-story natural stone house with a wide verandah and old hunting dogs sleeping on the steps. As soon as I stepped through the creaking gate, the dogs raised their heads and let out a couple of yelps before returning to sleep.
Out of the front door came three men, probably in their late thirties and thick around the waist, swung up their rifles and aimed right at me. I stopped immediately and tried to smile.
“This is my land, mister,” the one in the middle announced in the thickest Southern drawl I had ever heard. “What do you want?”
“The old lady said she had some guns she wanted to sell.”
“That’s a lie,” he retorted. “My old lady died of the fever last year.”
“I’m sorry, I mean the elderly lady, maybe your aunt.”
“We ain’t got no aunt,” one of the other men said.
“You sound like a damn Yankee,” the third one snarled. “We don’t abide by no damned Yankees around here.”
“I’m from Texas.” I became frantic. I had never been called a called a Yankee before. “Lived here for the last twenty years.”
“You don’t sound like no Texan I ever heard,” the second man replied.
“Whose regiment was you in?” The man in the middle stepped forward.
I shook my head. “I was never in the Army.”
“What are you? Some kind of yellow bellied coward?” The third man cocked his rifle.
“Yes, sir, I believe I am.” I looked around to see if a faster way to exit other than through the old gate. All around me was thick underbrush. One tree to the right held a rickety treehouse, and I swore I saw a little face peeking from the door. The sky darkened quickly and a crack of lightning caused me to jump. “Sounds like I ought to get on home before I get wet.”
“You better git out of here and never come back.” The man in the middle lowered his rifle and looked at the fellows on either side of him and nodded curtly.
They did the same and followed him into the house. Right before I reached the gate I heard a little girl’s voice ring out.
“Mister! Mister! Wait! Don’t go through the gate just yet!”
She ran to me from the direction of the treehouse. Rain drops the size of jelly beans fell and exploded on my back. I stooped down when she stopped in front of me.
“Mister, I’m Hallie May Hope. I called you. I want you to take the guns.”
I shook my head. “Those men don’t agree.”
“That’s my daddy and two uncles. You’ve got to take the guns before it’s too late.”
“Too late for what?” I asked.
“Too late for me.”
I was about to assure her that she was just a little girl and she had all the time in the world, when her father stepped out on the verandah.
“Hallie May! You stop talking to that damned Yankee and come here!”
“Please, mister, you gotta take the guns.”
Tears streaked her cheeks but they were washed away by the heavy rain coming down. I ran through the gate and jumped in my truck. As I looked back at the house little Hallie May was nowhere to be seen. Two days later I was back in my pawn shop and reading the morning paper. On the front page was a picture of an elderly woman. The headline read, “Long-time resident dies at age 98.”
I doubted my senses as I read the story about Hallie May Hope who had been matriarch of the eccentric Hope family who rarely left their plantation estate except to buy provisions. She was survived by three great-nephews who still reside at the home. Private burial would be held in the family plot on the property. I waited a week before daring to visit the estate again. Perhaps now the family would be willing to sell. Rifles that old would bring a good price which I figured the nephews would need.
Hope Road looked the same as it had when I drove there last week, except when I reached the stone wall, ivy vines suffocated the bricks and the wrought-iron gate swung at an angle. Walking slowly to the front door, I noticed most of the front windows were boarded up and vines crept up the columns. Around the side of the house walked the nephews, big bearded men carrying the old Civil War rifles.
“This is my land, mister,” the man in the middle said. “What do you want?”
These weren’t the same men who accosted me last week. Their clothes were newer but their beards were streaked with gray. They had the same gritty determination in their eyes, though.
“I wanted to make you an offer on your guns.”
One of the nephews cocked his rifle. “Nobody’s going to take our guns.”
“I didn’t say anything about taking them. I’d pay you a good price for them.”
“You sound like a damned Yankee,” the third growled, taking aim at my head.
“It’s just that your aunt called me right before she died. She seemed to have her heart set on selling the guns.
“Aunt Hallie May was tetched in the head,” the man in the middle declared.
“Is that why she never married?” Why the hell I decided to turn brave all of a sudden was a surprise to me.
“Grandpa said she had suitors, but they were all damned Yankees who wanted to take our guns,” the one on the left explained in a voice that showed he didn’t like the question.
“All you damned Yankees want our guns, but you ain’t going to get them,” the third nephew said with a sneer.
“Sorry to have bothered you.” I began to back up. Looking to the side I saw the tree that at one time held Hallie May’s treehouse. All the lumber had rotten away and the insidious vines filled the void. “Yep, it’s too late.”

The Eyes

Numbing pain aroused me from a troubled sleep. A faint squeaking filtered through my ears. When I opened my eyes I saw mice scampered around a clear box which encased my head. Slamming my fists against the container did no good. It did not break. The mice just scurried about more furiously.
Memories of the previous evening entered my mind. Joe had invited me to his house for dinner. I hated Joe. He was a boor, but I considered myself to be gracious so I accepted. The food was mediocre at best. I put on a smile and ate it anyway. He showed me his collection of—I don’t remember what it was—and feigned interest. We settled into chairs in his little, dark den and drank terrible wine. Glancing at my watch, I decided I had stayed long enough to be considered polite and tried to stand but fell back into the chair, feeling disoriented and dizzy.
“Do you know what I hate most about you?” Joe said. “Your eyes. They have such contempt in them. You think you are being charming, but you cannot mask your true opinion of me. Some people may think your eyes are attractive, mesmerizing and cordial. The way he looks at you as you speak, they say, you can tell he’s truly interested in you as a person. Are they blind? Can’t they see that your eyes are the windows to your soul, and your soul is dead? You care only for yourself. You think everyone around you is stupid, and you can fool them with your casual smile and tilt of the head. You don’t fool me. No one will be fooled by your eyes again.”
Those were the last words I remembered Joe saying before I passed out. Looking around the room I saw I was still in his den. He was sitting in one of the chairs, sipping on a glass of wine. I screamed as a mouse nibbled on my ear lobe. Jerking around, I felt the mice flying about my heard and heard them squealing. In desperation I ran into the wall, hoping the impact would crack the box. The mice clawed into my hair. I banged my head against the wall several more times.
Joe laughed as he poured himself more wine.
“For God’s sake! Help!” I ran to him, falling to my knees and groveling.
He continued to laugh and tap on the sides of the box. The mice became more agitated and scrambled across my cheeks. The stinging sensation of my skin made me try to feel my face but my hands only scratched the clear surface.
“I’m sorry! Please forgive me! We can be friends!”
I screamed, but a mouse tried to clamber into my mouth. I tried to spit it out. I felt it bite my tongue. Falling back I banged my head on the floor. Instinctively I thrust my head back against the floor several times. The mice crept across my forehead, peering down at me.
“Not the eyes! For God’s sake, not the eyes!”

Halloween Board Meeting

Here it was a month before Halloween and all hell was about to break loose.
Not that a little hell was unexpected in the realm of the impish ghouls who relished ruling the last night of October. In the last hundred years or so they discovered eating candy stolen from the little humans was much more delightful than eating the little buggers themselves who nowadays tended to be a bit on the spoiled rotten side. No, it was much uglier than that. It was a pure grab for power. The leader of the wolf pack challenged the royalty of darkness for the chair at the head of the table.
“You all know it ain’t fittin’ for nobody but a descendant of Dracula himself to rule the roost on Halloween night.”
The latest top vampire was from southern Transylvania which many gossipy gargoyles attributed as cause of the latest political shenanigans. Werewolves, contrary to popular belief, are fussy about diction, which begged the issue of how can one mispronounce a midnight howl at the moon?
The top Halloween honcho decided to call the meeting at everyone’s favorite restaurant Frankenstein’s Beanery. The wait staff, who were stitched together at the last minute to ensure proper service, had not quite perfected the art of placing bowls of hot bean soup on the table, so the meal ended in the laps of the wolves which made them even more crotchety.
Also, Dracula’s darling put zombies in charge of the registration table. How can anyone be expected to fill out a ballot properly after the zombies have drooled on it? Third Dracula looked like Top Dog. The sexy hexy crowd blew on the smoldering cauldron which held the Frankenstein bean soup and cried fowl.
“It’s not my fault they didn’t have chicken noodle on the menu tonight!” Dracula’s kin hissed.
“And it didn’t have enough bay leaves in it!” Wolfie snarled.
“We’re not talking about the damn soup,” the sexy hexy crowd cackled. “It’s time to look for an alternative Halloween head leader. Someone compassionate and soothing. We want our Mummy!”
The vampire waved aside their protests. “The mail monster delivered a letter this afternoon from Cairo. The Mummy is all wrapped up in other problems and won’t be here for Halloween.”
“Not so fast, fang face!”
Every goblin in the room turned to look at the door, where stood, dripping in sands from the Sahara, the Mummy. The buzzards buzzed. The crows cawed. The black cats hissed.
“All my babies are upset!” the Egyptian cried out. “It’s time for good old-fashioned Addams family values! That’s why Mummy’s back in town!”