Growing Up On Halloween
© by Gary Morton
Alison carved the face out neatly with her fruit knife. The job was slow and detailed, but finally she stepped back and saw that the finished pumpkin grinned stupidly like Daddy, so she grinned, too.
This fellow was the last pumpkin of her little lot and she knew she had to place him in the perfect spot.
Oaks heavy with autumn leaves shaded the wan afternoon sun, creating a warm colored hazed in the back yard. The largest of her jack-o-lanterns stood in front of a mound of leaves by the tool shed. The second biggest one sat on a small table where it would be clearly visible from the street. Her baskets of Indian corn lined the stone path and hung on the picket fence, so the only place for this pumpkin was by another mound of raked leaves facing the length of rope she'd hung from the porch balcony.
Carrying the pumpkin over carefully she put it in place. And as she admired it the back gate suddenly swung open and Daddy came barging in. Alison ducked behind some evergreen scrub, only she'd ducked too late to escape him.
Daddy roared like a bear. “What're you doing out here with no clothes on! I'll tan your hide, you little pirate!”
He charged the bushes and she flew out and raced into the house. Getting to the bedroom she put on some clothes, hoping Daddy would calm down. But he didn't. He was waiting in the hall when she came out.
“I don't want that rope hanging from the balcony.”
“But that's for my scarecrow.”
“There'll be no scarecrow. I don't want you frightening the neighbours with more of your silly pranks.”
“It's not to scare the neighbours. It's for mommy to see so she can come back in the dark tonight.”
“Oh no, not that again. Mommy is never coming back. She died and you know that little girl.”
“Yes she is. She is!”
“You'll never grow up will you? You're going back to that child psychologist. What's her name again?”
“Her name is Melanie James and she's stupid. Mommy is coming back and I am growing up. It's just that it can only happen on Halloween.”
“There'll be no scarecrow and no mommy talk either. After supper we'll go out on the balcony and remove that rope.” He said it firmly. Then he stormed away.
Hordes of the littlest kids were out in costume and at 6.30 it was quite dark. No one had shown at their back gate so Alison had her sharpened fruit knife out and working again. Connected patterns of cookies and Disney characters emerged as she moved the blade smoothly and delicately. Some of the cute designs seemed to glow with red at the edges and speak strange cartoon words in her mind. On the last shape she stabbed the blade in deep, and then giggled when she thought she heard some sort of gruesome Halloween death rattle.
The rope felt huge and rough in her tiny hands, yet she had no trouble building a knot in the hemp. She threw the noose over the scarecrow's head then hooked the end of the rope around the door hinge. Moving back to the railing she crouched and pushed with all of her might, and slowly the scarecrow went up and over.
Air burst from her lungs in a strange sigh and she staggered back as it fell. There was a violent thump as the door hinge strained and a sickening squish and sound of cracking neck bones from down below.
The full moon was rising now and when she looked down, she saw its light glistening on Daddy's ghastly face as he swung there on the rope. Alison just hoped that scarecrow Daddy wouldn't frighten the neighbours.
She waited on the balcony for an hour, hoping mommy would come, but mommy didn't show so Alison began to cry. Tears rolled from her big blue eyes then she heard a swishing noise and looked out in the yard. Mommy was standing there by a jack-o-lantern and baskets of corn. Her blond hair flowed in the moonlight; she was beautiful, naked and pale, as she looked up at scarecrow Daddy with eyes of glowing fire.
Suddenly her lips parted, revealing a fanged mouth. Her back arched slightly and she hissed wickedly at Daddy.
Alison stood up and she hissed, too. New fangs cut the edges of her lips and deep inside she felt incredibly proud, because just like mommy, she was growing up on Halloween.
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