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“Grandpa’s really gone, isn’t he?”
“Don’t worry about that right now,” Susan said. Charlie didn’t say anything.
I felt pretty badass in that outfit, regardless. I only wish I hadn’t tripped on my way back from the first house door. “Smooth one, Drac,” Charlie said.
“Leave him alone, you shit,” Susan said. We started walking off down the street to the next house.
“You see, at least someone loves me,” I said.
“I love you,” Charlie said, slipping the hockey mask up on top of his head. “Who else will give you your first cigarette?” Charlie pulled out his pack and gave one to Susan and I. “Come on,” he said.
“Don’t make him,” Susan said, removing a lighter from her pocket. “He’s just a kid.” I couldn’t believe she said that. I thought she always had my back. At first I didn’t want to smoke.
“Give it here,” I said.
“Atta boy,” Charlie said. He lit the cigarette in my mouth. He laughed when I coughed. “You all right?” he asked.
“I think I’ll be okay,” I said. The veins in my head throbbed with the flutter of a headache. I inhaled again and wished I hadn’t.
“I’m sorry man. Put that thing out.” Charlie said.
“Why’d you let him have one,” Susan asked.
“Ah hell I don’t know,” Charlie said. “Here, put it out.” I dropped the cigarette and stamped it out. “You wanna go home?” Charlie asked.
“No,” I said. “We’ve only been to one house.”
”Look I’d rather you spew at home than on the street,” Charlie said.
“But it’s Halloween,” I said.
“You don’t look so good, hun,” Susan said. “We should take him home.”
I knew if I didn’t sit down I’d vomit. I lumbered over and sat down under a tree in the neighbor’s lawn. Charlie and Susan sat down on either side of me. Charlie put his arm around my shoulder and Susan felt my forehead.
“I’m sorry, man,” Charlie said. “I really wanted to have a good night.”
“Me too,” I said, watching the rippling mass of costumed boys and girls. A recorded shriek sounded form a lawn decoration somewhere nearby.
“We should quit, Susan,” Charlie said.
“Yeah” she said. “I don’t want to die of lung cancer.”
We sat huddled together in the breeze watching witches and madmen. We heard cursing, and the patter of feet.
“Is that grandpa?” I asked.
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 buckle and be trampled.
“Christ,” Charlie said and ran off down the side walk. Susan stood too. “Wait,” she called. Susan and I followed the annoyed voices until we came to the end of the block where Polaris Ave crossed with Apollo Blvd. We found Charlie staring down Apollo coughing into his hand.
“Where’d he go?” Susan heaved.
“There,” I said pointing down the street toward Starburst St.
“Oh hell,” Charlie said. “He’s heading for the gas station.” He didn’t have to say why. It was the first place for the next three miles that sold booze. Everything else were houses.
Grandpa was leaning against the wall, smoking his cigarette, as we approached the gas station. He saw us then waved us over. He looked exhausted, thin, wrinkled. My heart was pounding from fear more than running down here. For the first time in my life, I genuinely feared for the safety of a family member. I never wanted to feel like that again.
“You made it,” he said.
“Grandpa, what the hell are you doing here,” Charlie asked.
Grandpa flicked his cigarette at Charlie and said, “Don’t any of you dare call me that no more.” Grandpa patted his jacket pocket hiding the switchblade. Charlie didn’t say anything. A man got out of his parked car, and started past us toward the store entrance. “Never mind,” grandpa said, watching this guy. “Hey,” grandpa said. The man turned. “Hey sir, you look like a kind fellow. How about buying me a bottle?” Grandpa offered money. I saw the pink bills. It was monopoly dollars. I looked up at Charlie. His eyes seemed to ask the same question I was thinking: What happened to grandpa? The man looked at him for a moment then looked at us.
Pumpkin Bones continues...