Friday, October 30, 2009

Please, just take one

"Why are you being such an ass?"

I knew mom was pissed. Anything beyond 'darn it' was ample warning for impending disaster, a burst blood vessel or even a stroke. At least that's how I interpreted the ashes and sackcloth she always seemed to wear during such imaginary crises.

"Because I'm fucking tired from midterms and I want to hang out with the gang. You know, a little mindless fun? Without my sister?"

"Frank, watch your mouth! Janie is sick, all I'm asking is for you to take Melissa out trick or treating. Two hours, you'll be done by eight. Then you can hang out with your friends all you like."

I sighed, one of those perfectly constructed sighs that, while announcing capitulation, rang with the bitter tang of adolescent defiance. We all have our own martyr complexes.

"C'mon, sis, hurry the hell up."


Shooting my mother a disapproving glance, Melissa grabbed my hand the second she bounced around the corner. With room and board costing too many body parts that I could ill afford, I had convinced my parents to let me stay home for a semester or two in order to bolster the coffers. I hadn't counted on being drafted into babysitter service as often as I had. Muttering my naive displeasure to no one in particular, my sister and I left for an evening of free candy and ample practice avoiding scattershot, sugared-up rugrats.

Stories abound about how Halloween is becoming a holiday for adults, but with the influx of younger families into our neighborhood, it seemed that more lights were on now than even when I was a kid. I didn't recognize most of the faces, nor did Melissa, but when the only objective is candy, it didn't matter whose rubber claws were passing out such delicious gifts.

One thing that hadn't changed was teenagers out and about trying to score a high fructose fix amidst telephone poles and railings lashed by cornstalks, everything awash in a flickering orange gleam and boy, did I sure recognize a few of these faces. And a few legs, too.

I felt a tug on my jacket.

"Alyssa wouldn't give you the time of day last year, what makes you think she will now?"

Caught off guard by my sister's astute commentary, a response eventually stumbled out. "Because I'm in college. And when did you become so smart?"

"When you were busy looking at girls."

"C'mon midget, only a few houses left, then it's back home," I said, continuing to be busy until Alyssa and her companion disappeared into the darkness.

"I bet I'll be taller than you," she said as she ran towards a brick bungalow. The porch light was on, but there was no one attending the plastic jack o' lantern resting crooked along a gentle crack in the top step.

"Frank, it says 'please, just take one.'"

"Then just take one," I said, walking towards my sister. "Don't be greedy." I paused for a moment before my hand snatched two Milky Ways from the pumpkin.

"I thought you said don't be greedy."

"This one's for Janie and this one's for me. Besides, you know damn well some punkass kid already grabbed a handful."

"But you aren't wearing a costume. You can't have any."

"I'm going as a college student. Now, hit these last two houses and then we're done."

Still seeing Melissa in the corner of my eye collecting her last pieces of candy, my sight began to shift its focus back on the brick bungalow, completely dark, save for the soft glow of the illuminated steps. The muffled sound of worn soles on concrete getting louder, I instinctively held out my hand, which my sister promptly took in mid stride and we sprinted back home.

Hours passed in a blur and I eventually stumbled back some time after one, sober enough to keep mostly upright. Everyone was asleep, the only noise a crumpled candy wrapper under my shuffling feet and Janie's labored, congested breathing. Exhaustion began asserting itself and I all but crawled up the stairs to my room. Scratching my forearm as I haphazardly pulled off my watch, I dropped it on the table, simultaneously flopping onto my bed like a dying fish.

My eyes opened upon a ceiling still under the fading, yet potent, thrall of night. I tried turning my head to look at the alarm clock, but it wouldn't move. Nothing would move, as if my entire body had been dosed with Novocaine. I couldn't recall having that many shots. Whatever I had, it must have been something nasty. 6:33. My eyes still worked. That was a good sign.

Slouching upright proved to be too difficult, as did swinging my legs off the bed. Now I began to worry. What was wrong with me? I looked at the clock again. 6:36. Too much alcohol, too empty a stomach, all on a brain too tired to properly direct my faculties. Yes, that had to be it, the simplest explanation. 6:40. I'll just lie here for awhile and everything will be fine. 6:42.

Am I paralyzed? 6:56.

Then how the hell did I get home? 6:59.

Pain shot through my arm. Tears began to well, a strong cocktail of physical reaction to this fresh agony and a joy that I was feeling something. God, how it fucking hurt. Mustering all the energy I could, I scrunched my back and managed to force myself upright. Stretching out my arm to grip the table for balance, the sheet fell off my limb, and I fell to the floor, in shock.

Disbelieving, I looked again, and vomited.

The alarm clock was wrong, it had to be. I was still asleep, stuck in a nightmare. Equilibrium trickling away, I battled for my watch, and read the typed note lying next to it.

I just took one. You should have, too.

Numb, I gazed at the sewn-up stump where my right hand used to be.


Agi said...

In junior high, I used to go trick-or-treating in my friend's neighborhood where all the big houses were. Most of the houses gave out lots of good candy. But every year the same house placed a bowl outside filled with after dinner mints with mini bible verses taped to them. Fail.

sunshine said...

Ooooo that was a GREAT story!
I totally got lost in it, which is rare for me. :)

So who cut his hand off? Was it Melissa??


Mary Ellen said...

Great story! I wish I had cut off some of my older brother's limbs...they were such assholes sometimes.

I always hated getting apples or pennies. What a waste of a trip up the driveway.

MRMacrum said...

Remind me to never move to Cleveland. Neat story. Imagery was excellent and I actually understood all of it.

Tengrain said...

Graves, you swine!

Well, there went half of your sex life.



Randal Graves said...

agi, I didn't know that you grew up in Oklahoma. Fucking yikes.

sunshine, if I told you, I'd have to cut off your hand.

nunly, I remember getting pennies sometimes as a kid. Look, you cheap bastards, candy, or at worst, singles.

mrmacrum, thanks and I figured that I'd try my hand at a coherent tale for once.

tengrain, if you were married, you'd know that that's about 90% of a man's sex life.

Mary Ellen said...

Tengrain- :-D :-D

Übermilf said...

That's what he gets for trick or treating the Taliban.

Liberality said...

90% oh man!

anyway, that was one wicked story!

S.W. Anderson said...

Yikes, a morality tale. And a good creepy story. Randal, you never cease to surprise. Well, OK, you get same ol' about sports at times, but nobody's perfect.

Demeur said...

Those were just faded memories. With razor blade laced apples and child preditors most lay low as if Dracula himself was roaming from his coffin. Hiding quietly in darkened homes. Shhh someone's knocking don't make a sound they'll think we're home.

Mary Ellen said...

tengrain, if you were married, you'd know that that's about 90% of a man's sex life.

No wonder you're so fuckin' crabby all the time, Randal. You should have married a is supposed to be dirty...ergo more fun...ergo more often.

Tengrain said...

Graves, you swine!

I said half -- you still have your other hand.



Tom Harper said...

Well, that'll learn ya. Next time just take one. Thief. Or, in case you ever read Stephen King's The Talisman, that's "fushing feef!"

Holte Ender said...

So, your real name is Frank?

Chef Cthulhu said...

Good story.

Just thought I'd chime in.

susan said...

You write a damn good creepy story for a guy with only a left hand. That's my left handed compliment for the day.

Beach Bum said...

Randal that was fantastic! Given the nuts I live around it was all the more scary.

As for the chain of comments coming from Tengrain's, it really is a bonus to be ambidextrous.

sunshine said...

I still say it was Melissa! :)
That would be sooo creepy to have a sister that screwed up!


Randal Graves said...

übermilf, c'mon, even Muhammad would dig a Reeses.

liberality, thanks!

SWA, hey, I'd love to switch up the tone of my sports posts, but fault lies with our teams, not me. ;-)

demeur, I miss the halcyon days of Satanic panic and needles in apples. Good to see the Moral Majority attempting to link witchcraft with candy.

nunly, plus there's the naughty Catholic school girl outfits to look forward too. (relax, I'd still be crabby)

tengrain, that's for holding my booze.

tom, all that walking makes a man hungry!

holte, yesterday it was. Today, it's Larry.

chef, you aren't dead, after all!

susan, better left than back.

BB, since I'm not, I suppose I'll have to practice. Now where did I put that copy of Hustler.

sunshine, you might be right, and I think I like your antagonist better than mine!

Dr. Zaius said...

Very well written. Is there a loanshark involved in this story somehow?

Mary Ellen said...


Check out this costume (don't get pre-excited, it's not porn)

Oh..and I could not believe one of the little trick or treaters that came to my house last night. She was about 7 or 8 years old, dressed as a fairy. So cute...but then I held out the bowl of candy so she could choose which one she wanted. They were all the large size candy, not the mini stuff. She had her choice of snickers, three musketeers, twix, etc. and then I had the big packages of sour punch straws and sour shockers. After she picked around for a minute, she said in a very disgusted voice "I don't see anything in this bowl that I would want. No thanks." and she walked away in a huff! The little brat!!!! For the first time in my life, I was rendered speechless.

Distributorcap said...

i am waiting for the movie

Mauigirl said...

Randal, that was great! Worthy of being told around a campfire on a Girl Scout campout - on Halloween!

Anonymous said...

I really loved this story! When I tell you you're great at writting... too! :) Hugs and kisses from France ;)