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.”

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