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Hand of Fate | 2011 | Of Authors and Uncles


Growing old is no more than a bad habit which a busy man has no time to form.  

-André Maurois


Instead of Throwing Heads

Frightfully cute

When one reaches a certain age, Halloween takes on unwelcome and arguably less entertaining dimensions. You no longer think there is anything frightening manifesting in your closet, aside from a nasty case of black mold from that leak in your roof. For many - though they may like to pretend otherwise - this change is simply the addition of children. For me, it was years ago - I will refrain from saying how few - when I lost taste and opportunity to trick-or-treat. I weighed the price of a costume and a few hours of my time at my job against how much candy that could buy, then realized that I did not care much for most candy. Too many calories for what now amounted to flavored wax. Pragmatism has no place with ghouls and ghosts.

Friday, Amber and I go to a production of the Rocky Horror Picture Show at one of my former colleges as the appetizer for our childless adult fun. As I had napped previously (at thirty, I have come to greatly appreciate my naps), I feel glorious, though not so much that I am willing to dress up beyond wearing an old biker jacket that I swear seemed like a great idea when I was sixteen and clearly had no idea what sort of man I would become. Amber, however, cannot be kept from putting on fishnets stocking, fingerless gloves, heels, and a snap up the front dress. That we managed to leave the house despite my ability to unsnap her dress at a whim should be a testament to my self control.
She said that New England was dressing up like a ghost for Halloween

As I once participated in a production of Rocky Horror (when I was sixteen, cast as Brad Majors, wearing little more than briefs, outside in October, that was written up in a local paper as child pornography), I happened to still remember a startling amount of callbacks. "I hope you don't mind," I warn her when we arrive, "but I am going to be unbelievably obnoxious tonight."

"I never mind," she assures me. For this, I did not squirt her with the water gun that was provided to us as props but instead got her popcorn. Well, because of this and the fact that provoking her ire was unwise given that she had both a controlling interest in our sex life and a full pistol in her hand.

Saturday, we have our big plans. This is to be our Halloween night proper, beginning with a Samhain ritual with Amber's circle, then going to a costume party (the theme being "hipsters of the twentieth century" though we have every intention of ignoring this and just being Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf) at my friend Tom's apartment, to which I had RSVPed in August. When one is an adult for Halloween, one must plan well in advance. But first, there is a brief family Halloween party at my father's job. Before Amber and I leave my apartment, the flurries have begun, but we think little of these. It is October, this snow is just a trick played by the weather patterns. It cannot feasibly accumulate.
Arr... aw.

Within ten minutes, the ground is lightly dusted. "This is not snow," says Amber. "I have some occlusion in my vision. Some pernicious and sticky occlusions. But not snow, because it is October and that would be ridiculous."

We chat with my family and liberally eat the free food until my mother orders us away.

"Mom, there was hardly a dusting an hour and a half ago," I try to argue, but I have noticed that the world outside the window has become oddly white.

We venture out and there is easily eight inches outside the door. More to the point, there are at least six inches on the ground, because the local bureaucracy agrees that is cannot possibly snow in October, and certainly not in such profusion. As such, they are not about to deploy plows.
What big eyes you have.

It takes us the better part of half an hour to drive the three miles home. This, I will later remark, is the most frightened I manage to find myself all weekend. Some people have simply abandoned their vehicles on steep hills, others are wandering around in the street as though this snow absolves them of traffic laws. Because the trees have not had opportunity enough to slough off their leaves, branches fall everywhere, damaging homes and ripping free power lines. This storm knocks out my parents' electricity for days, though I am spared.

Amber and I cuddle on my sofa and watch our plans dissolved. The Samhain ritual is cancelled, though my party remains scheduled (the host lives in a large building and is possibly walking distance from several of the guest, though not me). Instead, Amber and I seek out horror movies (which is to say Sleepy Hollow and Sweeney Todd) to watch to keep in the spirit of the occasion as we carve pumpkins (mine features snowmen and flakes in honor of what horrifies me tonight) and cook the seeds. That will have to be magic enough for the night.

Sunday, we continue to watch horror movies. Eventually, I offer to buy her lunch in lieu of making something, since we have been trapped in my apartment because of the snow. She suggests walking, hooking her arm in mine, which is made all the more darling by the fact that she insists upon wearing her Little Red Riding Hood costume.

"Do you ever notice that we only walk around this town after a disaster?" I ask her.

"I have noticed that. We must like devastation."
What soft lips you have

Having Halloween on a Monday, to say nothing of a Monday directly after a blizzard when many people still have no electricity, is anticipated to be a recipe for boredom. No one seems quite into the spookiness of Halloween, so much so that I hear of towns trying to "reschedule" Halloween, by which I am sure they mean "cancel it entirely and pretend we will do something next weekend". New Paltz, however, stops for nothing.

I meet Amber in a parking lot, where she is waiting for me and saving me a spot. I am worried by the fact that there is a spot to be saved, as it suggests this year's parade and festivities are going to be sparsely attended. Already, owing to Hurricane Irene, the main haunted attraction (the one that uses real, fresh animal parts for authenticity) has been canceled, leaving only the Teen Scene - where children in garbage bags yell in lieu of being properly frightening.

Amber is already in her Red Riding Hood costume, though with a judicious addition of black tights for warmth. She hands over a slightly small black hat, on which she has affixed the wolf ears she has promised to create for me. I smudge my nose with black paint and proclaim that this will have to suffice as I am not about to contrive a better makeup job tonight. In fact, because the cold of the night makes my nose run, most of my wolf nose has been transferred to a tissue within an hour.

I offer her a brownie my mother had given me, telling her that I will inform her what my mother called them after she eats some. She obligingly takes a few bites of the remarkably delicious brownies, expecting something vile, before asking.

"Ringworm brownies," I say with a grin.

"Why? Are there gummi worms?" she asks, hopefully.

"Nope. Cheerios. Ringworms."

She rolls her eyes.

We wander through the crowds, impressed by a few obscure costumes (my favorites being a chubby Robin Sparkles and a spot-on Eleventh Doctor). When the time comes for the parade, easily three hundred people pour down Main Street, further proving the tenacity of the residents. Following close at their heels is a phalanx of police cars, their loudspeakers shouting for everyone to disperse.

"I really think the police car costumes are the best this year," I remark to Amber.

We end our evening after finding Jacki, who has bigger plans that I - as an adult with a job - have to decline. I have to be up early tomorrow for work. Instead, we have soup and bagels, like proper adults enjoy.

Soon in Xenology: A job?

last watched: Community
reading: Hunter of Shadows
listening: Nightmare Before Christmas

Hand of Fate | 2011 | Of Authors and Uncles

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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