Y GRANDFATHER SHOWED SIGNS OF SEVERE DEMENTIA after grandma died. It took about eight years, but the poor man slowly slipped away from us. The Alzheimer's left nothing of us, his kids, or his wife in his memory. We were all strangers to him. But it afforded us the interesting opportunity to see grandpa as a rebellious teenager. Needless to say, it was strange. My older brother Charlie used to say grandpa went nuts because he saw something called Pumpkin bones. I didn’t believe it, but I was obsessed by that. That idea was magical too me, and frightening.
Every Halloween, I’d ask my brother to explain to me what this thing was, and his cheesy answers only fueled my love for weird stuff.
Grandpa hurtled toward us, yelling, “Follow me!” He flashed past us over the side walk and through the crowds. We heard Uncle Jim somewhere swearing while Charlie stood up. Grandpa limped away on his old knees, I was terrified he’d buck
“Where did Pumpkin Bones come from again, Charlie?” I asked, the night before halloween. I was warm under my blankets, listening to the quiet accrue around our house like the frost.
Charlie grumbled. “I’m trying to sleep.”
“But it’s halloween,” I said.
I heard him sigh and sit up in his bed. He clicked on his flashlight, and he held it up to his face. He paused. “Pumpkin Bones rattles in the night,” he hissed. I loved it. “Sometimes it’s waiting in the woods or lurking under sewer grates. You know, typical monster bull. You remember the McQueen family?” he asked. “Their daughter, Mandy, I have a class with her, she saw it,” he said.
“Really?” I asked.
“She’s in some hospital, I think, I don’t know.” Charlie said.
I swore out loud. “Keep it down, Nathan,” Charlie said.
I watched the door. I wouldn’t put it past mom listening at the door. “Sorry,” I said. Charlie threw his pillow at me.
“Go to sleep. Tomorrow’s Halloween.” His flashlight clicked off.
I woke the next morning to the smell of pumpkin pancakes. Charlie was already up. I flung my blankets to the floor and stumbled to the kitchen. Dad stood by the stove, frying eggs and pancakes.
“There’s the man,” he said.
He put down his spatula and wiped his hands on his Bela Legosi apron leaving a spider web of greasy finger prints on the classic Dracula’s face. I looked down at the hideous Frankenstein’s monster slippers, the rattling eyes stared up at me. Dad pushed his glasses up his nose.
“You ready to eat, boy?” He plated me up some grub and I sat down next to my brother who heaped another helping of bacon on his plate. Mom lowered the newspaper when I sat and looked out at me from behind her bat wing eye glasses -- fashionable for Halloween -- and smiled.
“Hi, baby cakes,” she said. I grunted.
“You excited?” she asked.
“Damn right he’s excited.” Charlie said.
“Watch your mouth, dear,” Mom said.
I spent the rest of the day watching all the monster and horror movies we had. Later, I walked past my parent’s bedroom and heard my name. I looked inside and saw Dad sitting on his bed. “Get in here,” he said, waiving me in.
“Make it quick, daddy-o, I got work to do,” I said, then really wished I hadn’t. It sounded so much cooler in my head. Dad just kinda looked at me a second.
“Well, okay then,” Dad said, standing. “I got something for you, Nathan. Close your eyes.”
“Come on, Dad?” I asked.
“Just do it,” He turned and rummaged through a box on the floor. “Are your eyes closed?”
“Yeah.” I restrained the obscenities. I felt dad’s hand engulf mine, slapping something in my palm. I opened my eyes and in my hand was a large jewelry box.
“Geez Dad, aren’t you already married?”
“Smart ass,” he said.
I opened the box, dreading Dad’s infamous lameness. A face stared out at me with stern, unyielding black eyes. I picked up the small object and revealed the black chain dangling from it. A pocket watch, the protective cover ornately decorated with the face of an ancient watcher, a face from the medieval period, bearded, angry, frowning and beautiful. I opened the clock lid, revealing bold roman numerals, and slender hands waltzing around the numbers like wrought iron scarecrow legs. The orange twilight glow of fire from under a black cauldron blazed behind the hands. Three figures stood around it, swirling the ghostly broth with wooden spoons.
Pumpkin Bones continues...