Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"The Witch of Mistletoe Lane," Part 4

Read Part 1 HERE

Read Part 2 HERE

Read Part 3 HERE

Part 4 of 5

Who in their right mind serves kids bowls of brown beans with cardboard that looks like cornbread? There was also something shaped like a pumpkin that I think was supposed to be a sugar cookie dyed orange, but after Selsie’s peanut butter masterpieces, I turned up my nose and gave it to Tyrone. We had thirty minutes to scarf down the rest before the High Schoolers were released for lunch and we had to return to class, but I was so nervous I could hardly eat. All Adam, Tyrone, and Jimmy could talk about were plans for Halloween. Tyrone still wanted to go trick-or-treating. Adam was never allowed to go because his parents “didn’t believe in it.” Well, hell, who did? His friends always slipped him bags of candy, however, and they didn’t seem to mind that.

The bell rang. High Schoolers began flooding the halls and lining up to claim their share of the sludge. Elizabeth McDuffy clustered near the front of the line with some other cheerleaders. Soon, she would be all mine. I double-checked my jacket pocket, felt the bulge of the glass bottle and tried not to look sneaky. Suave, gotta be suave. The older kids began filling up the tables, and Jimmy elbowed me. “C’mon, we gotta get.”

I stalled as long as I could, gathering my tray, even sweeping crumbs off the table, which was against school etiquette. Finally, Elizabeth came through the line and, thank Heaven, she sat at the end of a table. I dumped my tray in the trash bin that even flies won't touch, dug the bottle from my pocket and readied my thumb to pop the cork. Only trick was, how to be on hand until she drank the tea and looked at me? How to keep her from looking at anyone else first? Nothing for it, I had try. Thinking “James Bond,” I meandered back through the tables, trigger finger ready.

A foot shot out from under a table, hooked my ankle, and before I knew it, I was sprawled on the cafeteria floor, face planted in shoe-smudged beans.

Laughter roared. “Going for crumbs, Brisby?” Trev Reynolds asked, drawing his foot back into hiding. Across the table, Randy Tillman flicked bits of cornbread at me.

Oh, God! Elizabeth was looking! She’d seen the whole thing. She snorted with repressed laughter and turned away. I prayed, “Jesus, kill me now.”

The bottle! Where was the bottle? I snatched it up from under the next table and ran to the locker room where my mates dug books and pens from mini disaster areas. Tyrone’s eyebrows jumped. “Man, looks like you saw the janitor’s ghost.”

"What the hell's on your face?" ask Adam. "The ghost shit on you too?"

I wiped a smear of beans off my cheek, more off my elbows. 

Jimmy cast me an I-told-you-so look that he’d inherited from his mother. “Them cookies making you hallucinate now?”

What could I tell them? I slapped my forehead into my palm, thinking, “James Bond, hell! You’re the biggest loser ever, Colton Brisby.”

By the end of the day, I had bounced back. I’d have plenty of chances to try again. Four years’ worth, in fact, before Elizabeth graduated and fled Saint Claire forever.


Halloween arrived at last. As soon as the sun went down, the doorbell started ringing. Dad handed out candy, while Mom and Melissa prepared to join the painted throngs haunting the sidewalks. Of course, my little sister dressed up as a Barbie doll. The mermaid version of Barbie. I started to tell her that she looked royally dumb with her feet sticking out of her pink fishtail, but Dad thumped me upside the head and kissed his Barbie-mermaid-princess on her rouged cheek and sent her off with a wave. “You look great, honey. Y’all be back in an hour, hear?”

While he waited for the doorbell, he watched the early evening news, and I purloined Mom’s carton of eggs from the fridge and slipped out the door. Under the vampire cloak I wore last year, I was decked out in black. Jimmy and Tyrone had agreed to meet me at the Elementary playground. They were hanging out under an oak tree when I got there. We ditched our costumes and Jimmy passed around the black shoe polish. Smearing it all over his face, he said, “We’re gonna get creamed.” At least tonight he sounded excited about it. Tyrone had brought a paper bag full of egg cartons. His mom raised chickens and sold the eggs to nearly everybody in town. “If she knew I took these,” he said, handing us each a carton, “she’d skin me.”

“It’s just once a year, Ty,” I said, tucking eggs into the pockets of my sweat suit alongside the love potion. I never knew when I’d run into Elizabeth and get the chance to slip it to her. Maybe tonight. Please, God, make it be tonight.

We started off up the street, a carton apiece stuck under our arms.

“How does this work, anyway?” asked Tyrone. “We just start throwing ‘em?”

“Ain’t you ever watched the big kids go egging?”

“Always had to go home too early.”

In truth, we betrayed our inexperience by showing up with our eggs before it was fully dark. In the meantime, we rang a few doorbells for lack of anything better to do, and while I munched a Tootsie pop (letting the stick hang out of my mouth like it was a cigarette), I began to notice that the number of trick-or-treaters was dwindling. The moon glowed bright above the oak trees; lights on front porches started flicking out. The time had come.

(concluded next week in Part 5)

"The Witch of Mistletoe Lane" copyright 2011 by Court Ellyn. No part of the story may be reproduced without written permission of the author.

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