Symphony 63

It was depressing, and the other papers were worse. Much worse.

The grammar and spelling was bad enough, but the images were horrid. Neil had expected ghoulies and ghosties and things that go bump in the night. What he got was torture and dismemberment. Given the movies that kids watch, it should not have shocked him, but it did. Neil carried the same images of violence in his own head. Television assured that. But in Neil, that violence lay over a bedrock foundation of images of kindness and decency, the heritage of his own youth. These violent images were all today’s children had to think and feel with.

He drove home, deeply depressed, and nothing would have pleased him more than to lock his door against the world. But evening was coming on and the pack was out, moving from house to house to sweetly extort their bags of loot.

Neil arranged the bowl of candies near the door and turned on the shower. Before he could undress, the first of night’s legions arrived. He fed a pirate and a sheeted ghost, then went back toward the shower. He never made it; the doorbell stopped him short. Three tries later, he managed to get far enough to turn the shower off, and for an hour he fed the ghoulies. By eight-thirty, the crowd had tapered off and Neil was almost out of candy. He turned out all the lights and sat in the darkened room, hoping the world would just go away. It did not. Ten minutes later, there was a ringing at his doorbell. He ignored it, but it rang again. And again.

Finally, he went to the door. Again he was confronted by masked faces, that shouted, “Trick or treat!” He fished out the last of his candy and distributed it, trying to smile, and then said, “That’s it. I’m out of goodies.”

The crew giggled and nudged each other. Spiderman said, “Don’t you know who we are?”

He had not expected to know any of his callers. He was too many miles from Kiernan School for any of his students to come to his apartment, and he didn’t know any of the local kids. Then Cinderella slipped off her domino mask and Linda Muir stared up at him, laughing. The other masks came off of Shelly Gibson, Stephanie Hagstrom, and Larry Whitlock. Neil leaned down to look closely at the Incredible Hulk’s green painted face and saw that it was Sean Kelly.

Fiona Kelly was waving from the parking lot. Her station wagon was standing with all its doors open. Neil grinned and waved back.

“It wouldn’t have been Halloween if we hadn’t come to see you,” Stephanie said.

Linda added, “That was a great story today. Bump, BUMP.  Bump, BUMP!” She grabbed her chest as if to stop her heart from pounding so loudly.

They filed down the steps, pushing at each other and giggling. Neil waved one last time to Fiona after she had herded them back into the car, then turned to his delayed shower feeling quite human again. more Monday

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