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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Last Halloween Fiction

It was a fun Halloween with my Grandson. The following fiction has nothing to do with the people in the picture above. :)

Little Jake rushed up the walkway, sweating behind his plastic skeleton mask, peripheral vision at the mercy of unfortunately small eye holes. A witch and scarecrow nearly run him over in their haste to descend the porch steps Jake hoped to clamber up. He teetered on one foot as they brushed by him. In one horrifying split second of realization, Jake knew his next destination lie on top of the small white picket fence bordering the garden near the steps. Even the sight of pointed stakes rushing at him failed to loosen Jake’s grip on his pillowcase partially full of candy. Just as he decided to release the bag a scarred up hand righted him effortlessly, holding on to him until Jake regained his balance on the step. The hand patted his shoulder reassuringly.

“You almost ended up staked like a vampire, boy,” the low toned voice told him.

Jake looked up into his Grandfather’s eyes with relief. “Oh man… Pa, those kids bumped me. I thought I was goin’ down.”

“Not on my watch, kid,” Pa laughed, kneeling next to Jake. “What’s the rule on house approach?”

“Wait till the other kids get off the steps before I get on them,” Jake grinned into the weathered face. “You gonna’ tell Mom?”

“What… that I almost let you impale yourself on a fence stake? I think not. Just take it easy. We’ll stay out here until you’re ready to stop. Just remember, I’m not carrying you back to the house, so save some energy for the return trip.”

“I want you to carry me back on your shoulders, Pa,” Jake replied, knowing it would evoke some exasperation on his Grandfather’s part.

“I’ll get a stick and whup you like a mule first,” Pa told Jake with a sigh, knowing the boy was playing him. “Get movin’. This is the last house on the street. We’ll need to go around the corner.”

Jake laughed, and hurried up the steps to ring the bell. Pa looked at his six year old Grandson with undisguised pleasure. He had been the backup if plans fell through, and his daughter had to work. He took the train to Sacramento early, the moment she called. She had been planning on him going along with them; but with making sure Jake was picked up from school, and dressed in his costume, his trip had to be moved up a few hours. Having dutifully taken pictures and a few short movie clips where possible, the old man now settled into the routine of keeping pace with Jake to the doors. This year, the number of Trick or Treaters had been low, so the people with their lights on seemed very glad to see the kids they did get ringing their door bells; but apparently not in this case. When Jake returned from his candy excursion, he made a face while mouthing the word ‘sucker’. Pa smiled and took his hand.

“Beggars can’t be choosers.”

“Can you stay overnight, Pa?”

“Well… I…”

“Please… please!” Jake pleaded. “We’ll race cars and play cards.”

“Your Mom told me some friends of yours were coming over to watch movies with you. I don’t think…”

“They are?” Jake looked puzzled for a moment, and then his face brightened. “Wow, that’s great. Maybe it was a surprise!”

“Oh sure, kick old Pa to the curb.”

“You can stay too,” Jake looked up to make sure his Grandfather wasn’t really upset at immediately being displaced. He needn’t have worried. The old man was smiling wide enough for Jake to see it in the dull street lamp glow. “C’mon, Pa, you can talk to Mom while my friends are there.”

“Maybe… we’ll see…”

Jake felt his Grandfather’s hand pull him to a stop as they neared the dark street corner. He heard loud talk and laughter accompanied with rough language Jake knew his Mom would not like. The old man shifted his grip to the boy’s shoulder, waiting patiently as the voices neared them. Pa looked around, realizing he and Jake were the only two on the street now. A group of five young men, cavorting around each other with animated gestures as they walked, reached the corner in front of the old man and Jake. Pa’s caution flowed into Jake. Instead of asking questions, the little boy kept silent. The teens didn’t see them until they had nearly crossed the street. One did, and a hushed, furtive discussion followed quickly, with the group slowing down. Pa turned around, taking Jake’s hand, and guiding him back the way they had come. It was too late.

“Hey man…” one called out, as the group turned down the street toward Jake and his Grandfather. “What time you got?”

Jake felt Pa release his hand; and saw him turn toward the voice, taking something out of his pocket. He saw his Grandfather’s wrist flick, and a seven inch blade clicked smoothly into place. Pa held it slightly behind his right leg so none of the teens could see the movement. Jake took a step back, only to feel the old man’s other hand reach back to squeeze his shoulder comfortingly.

“It’s 7:30.”

“You didn’t even look, man,” the teen laughed, as his friends spread out to either side of him.

“I looked just a moment ago.”

“Look again.”

“It’s 7:30,” Pa repeated, not glancing away. “If you don’t like the time I give you, ask someone else.”

“You ain’t too fuckin’ friendly, Gramps,” the teen retorted, starting to move forward.

Pa took his hand from Jake’s shoulder, the camera bag sliding to the sidewalk. He gestured for the teen to stop. “That’s far enough. I don’t want to kill you, young man, so take your friends and move on.”

“You’re going to kill us?” The teen repeated incredulously.

“Just you, kid,” Pa told the teen. “My job’s to get my Grandson home, safe and sound, or die trying. Move toward us, and I gut you like a fish. Then I’m goin’ to get me some of your friends here.”

“The old man’s nuts, Derek,” one of the others said, not liking the way their little gag was playing out. “Let’s go.”

“He’s bluffin’, Cal,” Derek snorted, trying to sell his bravado unconvincingly, as the others retreated a few steps. “Don’t be pussies! He can’t touch us. He’d go to prison.”

“Been there… done that,” Pa’s voice rasped out, decades of polite society falling away from him, as sheer menace overcame logic in an instant. “Not impressed.”

“You’re on your own,” Cal said, turning and hurrying away up the street, with all but Derek following his lead.

Derek’s hand moved toward his jacket pocket; but stopped abruptly, when Pa’s hand came from behind his right thigh, the blade gripped low and ready. In what little light glinted yellowy off the knife, Derek realized he stood a split second away from death. The teen backed away. It was nearly too late, as the old man’s body tensed. Peaceful conclusions no longer interested Pa. Jake’s cold hand covered his Grandfather’s. Deadly anticipation drained away from the old man, and reality blanketed him. The old man watched Derek turn and jog toward his companions.

“Pa… can we still hit another street?” Jake asked, trying to keep his voice from trembling.

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea, Jake,” Pa replied truthfully, the knife disappearing from his hand in what seemed like a magic trick to the little boy.

“We… we could hurry up to the four corners… you know… where the pizza place and grocery store are. There’re lots of lights and people.”

“I guess that’d be okay,” Pa agreed, picking up his camera bag.

“Don’t worry… Pa, I won’t tell Mom about those guys. You’ll have to carry me home on your shoulders though,” Jake stated, taking his Grandfather’s hand again as they rounded the street corner.

“Why you little…”

“Halfway?” Jake bargained.

“Deal,” Pa sighed. “I hope your Mom has some Advil in the cupboard.”


Charles Gramlich said...

Great story. I really like the grandfather.

BernardL said...

Thanks, Charles, there's nothing more dangerous than a Grandfather with nothing to lose and everything to protect. :)

Jordan Summers said...

Death is looking very scary in that photo. *g*

Great story. I'm still waiting for you to piece together the assassin tale into a NOVEL. ;)

BernardL said...

It's already out on the 'Query' trail, Jordan. I've had a couple bites on it, but no requests for a full look yet.

Yes, the 'Ghoul' was a handful on Halloween. Thank you. :)

Virginia Lady said...

Oh what an awesome photo! Great costume!

Love the story. And the kid gets his first taste of a man on a mission of doom for those that would mess with his people. Very well played.

BernardL said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it, VL. Thank you. :)

raine said...

Oh Bernard, I loved this!
Great characterization in a small space.
GO PA!! :D

BernardL said...

Thanks, Raine. :)

Vesper said...

Scarrier than any imaginary ghost story...

Well done!

BernardL said...

Glad you liked it, Vesper. Thank you. :)