As I walked a back alley of Ghost Town, an ominous purple fog hung in the air, and with each step it swirled like a brew in a witch’s cauldron. Eerie green lamplights flickered devilishly, casting a sick pallor on my skin. From the corner of my eye, I saw something lurking, something in tattered clothes with a hideous half-missing face, like the victim of a flesh-eating bacteria.
Then it spotted me. Though handicapped by a dragging, lifeless foot, it moved fast, and quickly gained ground. In one huge lunge it split the curtain of fog, the only thing separating me from this abomination. I froze.
It dragged itself even closer and grabbed my arm. Then it spoke. “Pam, my mask is coming unglued.”
“Again?” I said, and reached into my Monster Repair Kit. With spirit gum I reattached the latex prosthetic and sent the foot-dragger back into the fog. When I heard a blood-curdling female scream, I knew my monster was hard at work.
As head of wardrobe for Halloween Haunt, monster repair was just part of my job; I was also in charge of the daily cleaning of 500 costumes. At 2 am, when the talent returned after an 8-hour shift, their clothes were wringing wet and reeking with sweat and bad cologne.
While prepping the first load of laundry, I reached into a monster’s pocket looking for the usual forgotten Chap Stick or Tic-Tacs, and pulled out something I’d never before found—a small folded piece of paper.
I opened it, and read, “Hi, I’m Julie. Call me,” followed by a phone number. I burst out laughing, not because I find young love amusing, but because this particular monster wore a putrid pea-green mask with skin the texture of large-curd cottage cheese. One of its eyes had escaped its socket and oozed down the cheek, where it collided with a torn and bloody lip. This girl clearly had no idea what the person beneath the mask looked like. And because he also wore a pair of fake fangs, I doubted the two had had much of a chance to talk. The monster could only show his interest with his eyes, or in this case—eye.
This had to be an anomaly, I thought, until I moved on to the extremely stinky costume of a monster that sported a gray rotting-corpse mask, complete with pupating fly larvae. I found a phone number in his pocket too. Sandi, a resourceful girl who’d dotted her “i” with a heart, had given her cell and work numbers.
Now, I’ve heard that love is blind, but apparently, it also has no sense of smell.
After cleaning the costumes I debated whether to toss the numbers, but in the end—love triumphed. Yet, even though Julie was attracted to the putrid cottage cheese face and Sandi was more your rotting-corpse type, because it was Halloween, I confess, I played a trick and reversed the mash notes.
I doubt the girls ever noticed.
After my morning chores, I shut myself in my office and get to work. Then the door opens and my retired husband sticks his head in. “Why is the door closed?” he asks.
“So I can write,” I say.
“You know I don’t like it when the door is closed,” he says.
“OK. I’ll leave it open if you promise not to interrupt.”
“I can do that,” he says.
Fifteen minutes later he calls to me, “Pam, you’ve got to see this. There’s an artist who stacks rocks in amazing positions.”
I huff in exasperation and go look at the rocks. Without enthusiasm I say, “Yeah, they’re amazing.” Actually they are, but I don’t want to encourage him. He’s always finding things on the Internet I simply must look at.
“What are you thinking of for lunch?” he asks.
“I was thinking of working through lunch,” I say, and his smile disappears. “Is tuna OK?” I make the sandwiches, which he insists I eat with him.
Back in my office, my cat is asleep on my keyboard. It’s cute until I see that his chin is on the delete key and he has blown away 64 pages. I do a quick Undo and a catectomy.
I’m at work again when a super ball bounces past my door and down the hall. Boingy. Boingy. Boingy. Next, a cat is bounding after it. The ball whacks the hall closet and bounces back, with two cats in pursuit. I shut my door again, but my husband pops in and asks, “Would you like a cup of tea?”
“No thanks, I’m good.” When he heads for the kitchen, he leaves my door open. I write barely ten lines when the teakettle whistles . . . and whistles. “Frank,” I call, but he can’t hear me because the kettle is now screaming. So I get up and make him a cup of tea, probably his plan all along.
I go back to work and he decides to work too, and starts by shredding old bills. Grawlll. Grawlll. Grawlll. After 20 pages I’m vibrating. “Frank,” I yell. “I can’t think.”
“Sorry,” he says, and my office becomes blessedly quiet.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I see him pass by my door, yet not pop in. He’s finally learning, I think. But a moment later, he passes by again, and then again. I turn to see that he is naked. He is 74, overweight, and stark naked. He’s parading back and forth humming the March of the Tin Soldiers. Dee dee deet dee dee, dee dee deet dee dee . . .
I can’t help it; I crack up, and I remember how much I love this crazy, silly, big baby of a man and how real people are more important than the ones we invent.
“Do you want to watch the news with me?” he asks.
“I’d love to,” I say, and join him, except for the getting naked part.
There’ll be time to write later, when he takes his afternoon nap.