All Hallows’ Eve
Her little monster! Cara smiles as her son wrestles with his decision. What to wear tonight? She’s happy that she’s made sure he has options. The head is a foregone conclusion, but Cara has worked for weeks constructing several plush outfits that would both terrify his peers and keep nine-year-old Logan warm on this chilly October evening. Now he gazes at them, his ferocious energy directed toward making the right choice. She has fanned out the meticulously made costumes at his feet, the old lime carpeting competing with the shaggy surfaces of Cara’s handiwork. The colors make her eyes hurt a little.
Logan looks at his mother. “Which one do you like best?”
“Well now,” Cara answers carefully, “the orange one took the longest time to make, so I guess I’d like to see it get some action, but I think they’re all pretty good this year.”
“The best so far!”
Cara grins at her son’s enthusiasm, but it’s also a bit worrisome. He’s been especially keyed up about trick or treating this year, and she doesn’t want his energy to flag even before night falls. He’s not like other kids his age; she’s got to manage these things. As so often happens, he catches her thoughts.
“Don’t worry, Mom! It’s only one night a year.”
Thank goodness for that. One is quite enough.
Logan beams, his little face glowing.
“I’ll be right back,” she tells her son, and goes quietly down the cellar stairs. The smell of the place is strange this time of year: dust and mildewed stonework mixed with the solutions she uses to vanquish the worst of Logan’s clothing stains. And something else, below the surface of those odors. She locates the old freezer in the gloom; it’s flush against the moldering back wall, beneath a nearly opaque window. She pulls on the ancient cord above her head, and the overhead light blinks on. Next year, Logan will be tall enough to reach it himself. The thought brings tears to her eyes. His childhood is flying by.
She needs to check that the ancient appliance is still plugged in and humming; Logan likes his treats cold. She hoists the freezer lid open and peers inside. It’s frosty, but just about empty. Well, that’s what Halloween is for, right?
Entering the living room again, Cara sees that her son has struggled halfway into the orange outfit.
“Almost dark!” she calls out.
A low growl of frustration emanates from Logan. Too soon. Not yet. Not even out the door. She crosses to him and sees his problem. The back zipper is caught, and she fixes it, allowing Logan’s shoulders to slide inside the furry suit. She settles the fabric around the back of his neck and his head pops out. He is dressed.
“All set,” she reports. “You good?”
“Yeah!” he yells. “I’m ready to go! On my own tonight, right?”
“Right,” says his mother.
Cara feels a bit dizzy, suddenly overwhelmed by memories of many other such evenings. She’d pace herself tonight, maybe try to catch a quick nap before Logan comes home. There’s always so much to do at the end of the holiday.
Cara follows her son to the foyer. She smooths his hair, nearly giggling at the backs of his ears; she’s never gotten used to their pointy angle. Logan turns toward her before reaching for the front doorknob, and she evaluates the look she’s created. She smiles. The costume’s orange color exaggerates the neon amber of his eyes, while the knives she has sharpened and fitted to the ends of each gloved finger echo the shape of her child’s razor-edged teeth.
With a wave, he is out into the night. Logan yowls, a screaming affirmation of his mounting bloodlust. The sound is joyfully repeated, its replication a new game for the stream of children trick-or-treating on the sidewalk. He slips seamlessly into their midst, and Cara sighs. Her baby, growing up so fast!
Carolyn R. Russell is the author of The Films of Joel and Ethan Coen, published by McFarland & Company in 2001. Her humorous YA mystery, Same As It Never Was, was released in 2018 by Big Table. Carolyn’s new YA dystopian thriller, In the Fullness of Time, was published by Vine Leaves Press in March of 2020. Other works include essays and stories for The Boston Globe, Dime Show Review, Bridge Eight, Wanderlust Journal, and Medusa’s Laugh. She holds an M.A. in Film Studies from Chapman University, and has taught on the college, high school, and middle school levels. Carolyn lives north of Boston with her husband and two children.
A Song for Carolyn