Muttering to himself as he always does, ole Gus shuffled to the basement door, pulled it open, and carefully descended the barely lit stairs. Once in the subterranean cavern – as he liked to imagine it – he began searching the dusty shelves for boxes marked ‘Halloween’ in Ester’s neat, tidy handwriting. God rest her soul. Given what a pain in the ass his wife had been in life, he’d never thought he would miss her nagging so much now that she was gone. Oh well, you have to go on, can’t dwell on the past. That’s the way he’d always lived his life, no reason to go changing now. If he could just get the damned Priest from their church to stop coming by, he could finally watch his game shows in peace. To get a little extra change on the plate each weekend, that old coot would do just about anything. Gus couldn’t see any other reason why the man would keep coming by the house to console him; always bringing casseroles, and baked this, or homemade that from strange women Gus had never even met. Yup, it had to be that Sunday Salvation Savings account he kept making deposits into. No other reason for it. She’d been dead for, Christ – what was it, six or seven weeks by now. Treating him like a lost mute-child found wandering the streets was getting to be a bit much! These people just didn’t know how to keep to themselves and stop meddling in his affairs. But at least he was eating well. Ester, God rest her soul, was a fair looking woman with many fine qualities, but cooking wasn’t one of them. Nope. She must have been looking the other way when that train went whistling by. Oh well, that book was closed, no point in flipping through the pages.
Rooting around the musty shelves in the dim light, Gus finally came across what looked like the right boxes. ‘Course, they were behind the ‘X-Mass’ boxes; now he’d have to move those first. Speaking of ‘X-Mass’, that was something he’d always wondered… Why spell it with two S’s on the end? Christmas was spelt with one S, and he couldn’t see the Arch Diocese endorsing X-Priests, like X-Men, so X-Masses had to be out of the question. Now that would be a service he wouldn’t mind paying to attend – hell, they could charge admission. Those money grubbing, wafer toting, alcohol peddling Men of the Cloth zipping around with special powers… that would be a show! What, no change for the plate? Father Laser Eye, incinerate that cheap son-of-a-bitch who came to service empty handed. Zap! Ha! Ahhh, well, it would probably be more like Father Lazy Eye with those clowns, anyway. Speaking of clowns, if he didn’t stop imagining The Flying Priest-capades in his head, he’d never get the lawn set up for tomorrow night. And Ester, God rest her soul, wouldn’t have that at her home. Nope. Better get back to gettin’ to it.
Finally, after clearing the ‘X-Mass’ boxes out of the way, and pulling down the Halloween decorations that had amassed over the years (get it, A-Massed?) – ha! He really should have been in show biz; his talents were wasted in the mill all those years… Anyway, after moving the boxes around and getting the right ones out, he’d need to get a move on it if he was finally going to get back at those little shits for the years of fucking with his Ester’s, God rest her soul, lawn.
A few hours later, he’d managed to drag all the boxes and loose pieces of seasonal ornamentation up from the basement and out onto the front porch. Looking around at the leaves cluttering the lawn, Gus figured there was no sense in raking them, they only added to the ambiance of the festival. Plus his back was way too sore for that kind of manual labor, especially considering what was still to come. Yup. Ester, God rest her soul, was going to be proud of his efforts this year; and whether she was too kind-hearted or lady-like to admit it, she’d enjoy the vengeance he had planned for those crap-faced teenagers. Ha! Well, time to break out the cob-webbing, and get the decorating over with.
Gus worked long into the night, waving to passers-by as they called out a hello, taking a break only to sit and eat the latest dish of whatever you call that stuff the Priest brought by. To any and all watching, it seemed the kindly old widower was going about making his home as inviting as he could for the pip-squeaks who would come mooching for candy tomorrow night. Sometime around 10:30 pm, he placed the final prop in its honored and very conspicuous place. It was the most realistic, most expensive severed head he and Ester, God rest her soul, had collected. It was really a bit too pricey for them, but from the moment she saw it, she simply wouldn’t leave the store without it. He’d spent the last several years sitting up awake on All Hallow’s Eve just to protect that one prop from the neighborhood vandals. They’re just kids having fun, Ester, God rest her soul, would always say. Kids, my ass, he always thought. Lighting his last cigarette before heading inside to wash up and sleep for a few hours, Gus wondered just how much fun they’d be having this year. After a few drags, he flicked the butt onto his neighbor’s lawn, picked up the prized latex head, and trudged inside to catch a little shut-eye.
At 2:00 am, his alarm clock sounded. After splashing cold water on his face and shaking off the sandman, Gus got down to the real business of this year’s decorating. Collecting his shovel and pickaxe from the shed out back, he shambled his way around to the front lawn. He might be an old geezer, but years of working in the mill hardened him into something much different than most people thought. He was a smart man, one who knew how to foster good will and empathy, but one who also knew when it was time to use his strengths to his advantage. Making his way to the spot where the prized head would sit later that evening, he tossed down the shovel and began breaking up the dirt on his front lawn. By 4:30 am, he had a man sized vertical hole dug in just the right spot. He’d wheeled all the loose dirt – minus a few shovelfuls that he used to camouflage the 3ft by 2ft board masking the opening he’d just created – to the back and blended it into his freshly turned garden soil so it wouldn’t look suspicious. Returning to the front once more, he gathered and scattered handfuls of leaves around to hide his handiwork. Back inside, he made his way to the shower, cleaned himself up, then cooked a hearty breakfast of poached eggs, instant grits, bacon, maple sausage links, and six slices of toast. Just like Ester, God rest her soul, used to make… well, maybe a little better, but don’t tell her that.
Sitting out on his front porch that afternoon and evening, Gus dutifully rewarded all the little children with their hands held out begging for candy. As the night wore on, he was sure to keep an eye on that ghoulish head, and all the little bastards who had their eye on it, too. He knew that one of them would come back and make a play for it well after everyone was asleep. With all the wee ones home by 9:00 pm, it was just a matter of waiting the right amount of time. By 11:30 pm, Gus had been alone on his porch for an hour and a half without seeing another soul. He figured now was as good a time as any. Giggling to himself and saying a silent prayer that Ester, God rest her soul, was watching, he began his own Halloween fun! Tucking the latex head inside the house, he slid the board covering the hole out of the way and tossed it under the porch, hiding the evidence of his deceit among the other debris stored there. Sitting down on the lawn, Gus dangled his legs over the opening for just a moment before he shimmied his way into the ground. Having left one arm free, he scooped the loose dirt and leaves that had concealed the board onto his broad shoulders, then worked his arm into the dirt as well. Buried up to his neck, Gus stood in the tight confines of the vertical grave he’d dug earlier and waited. It didn’t take long.
Judging it to be just past 12:30 am, he heard a rustling sound, and the drunken whispers of the aforementioned idiots approaching. Holding dead still, eyes closed, he waited and listened.
“Damn man, it looks so real!”
“Of course it looks real, dick-head, that’s why its such a great grab for this year’s scavenger hunt. Plus that pain-in-the-ass isn’t sitting on the porch guarding it like he usually is.”
“Show some respect, man. The dude just lost his wife. My dad comes by here with food and shit from the church cronies like every night.”
“Yeah, I’m sure he does it out of respect. He’s just hoping the old fuck leaves his money to the parish.”
“Whatever, asshole. Just grab it so we can get the hell out of here before someone sees us.”
The sound of footsteps grew closer as the leaves crunched in his ears. Gus felt the warmth of the little bastard’s hands nearly touching him.
“You sure the coast is clear?”
“Yeah, man. Just hurry the fuck up and grab it!”
Sensing the impending hands closing around his head, Gus’s eyes shot open as quickly as his jaw. He’d taken the time to file his teeth to razor sharp points while he’d waited inside. In one fluid motion, he turned and snapped his mouth closed on the arm of the fuck-wad trying to steal his head. His teeth sliced clean through fabric and muscles, and as soon as the kid yanked backward, his forearm detached at the elbow. They all started to scream like the little piss-ants they were. Blood was spurting everywhere, making Gus’s head really look like the prop. As the teens ran screaming for their lives, Gus spit the arm out towards the bushes. Cackling with maniacal laughter, shreds of fabric and gristle still clinging to his teeth, Gus shouted, “See Ester, God rest your soul, that’s the perfect prop to finish off our display!”
© Copyright 2013 Nina D’Arcangela. All Rights Reserved.
Coffin Hop Goodies!
How do you get them? Comment on my Coffin Hop 2013 posts on this blog – I’m posting something new each day, so keep coming back for more chances to win. When will they be announced? When the hop ends (after October 31st). What are they going to be? A surprise! I like surprises, don’t you? ;}
and the Sirens Call Publications blog:
The Sirens Song
plus the blog for the writing group I belong to:
Pen of the Damned
and all the other amazing hoppers on the Coffin Hop list!