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“Right man. Happy Halloween.” He chuckled and walked onward into the store.
Grandpa swore. “All right, folks. Let’s go.”
“Maybe we should head home,” Charlie said.
“No, no, no,” Grandpa said. “You need to see this, because I saw it last Halloween, on the old bridge. I guarantee you’ll see it too.”
“The bridge near East Oaks Cemetery?” I asked.
Grandpa grinned. “Yes indeed,” he said.
“The bridge isn’t that far,” Charlie said turning to Susan and I. “Maybe we could take him then head back home.”
Smoke billowed out of Grandpa’s nostrils. “All right, that’s the ticket. Come on.” We followed grandpa down Starburst Ave past antique shops decorated with pumpkin buckets from the 30’s with the wide grins and giant green eyes, past the old tea shop and crossed into another neighborhood. The sky was studded with a thousand sparkling piercings in the backdrop of dark flesh. Clouds whispered past the moon like mustard gas. Distinct figures of trick- or-treaters scurried across the street like insects. The neighborhood ended in a black road between tall evergreens with heavy boughs, twisting into faces and leers in the wind. Son we heard rustle and ripple of the water sounding below the bridge and growing when we neared. Grandpa leaned against the old Victorian stone, his leathered elbows scratching over the dewy stone.
I tried so hard not to cry. He was mentally crippled. Mentally dying. Charlie looked back at me as grandpa remained silent and smoked. Susan started walking toward me and charlie stopped her, then came over to me. “We’ll be okay,” he said, resting his arm around me. All I could do was nod my head. “We’ll be home soon.”
“Here,” grandpa said. “We’re in the right spot.” We gazed down the path of the glittering stream where it bent around the heavily forested hill. Beyond were the cemetery hills and in the autumn night, the cracked tombstones and weeping angels guarded the resting bodies. Our thin eyesight discerned the distinct outline of the iron fence encircling the colonial graveyard.
“I was here,” grandpa said. “When I saw it. It was down there.” He pointed off to the curving water. “It stumbled down the hill, over the fence and through those trees there then splashed its way through the water. It looked like it had three legs, or maybe a tail. A gigantic head. Then it slithered away over those rocks, and disappeared. I swear it was dragging a body.”
“What do you think it was?” Susan asked.
“Hell if I know. It was Pumpkin Bones,” Grandpa said. “I guess I’m not supposed to know. All I know is I didn’t want it seeing I saw it.” We waited, listening to the stream pass under the bridge, passing over the black rocks glistening under the sparkling moonbeams. “I remember,” Grandpa said. “Last year, I had this watch.”
“Really?” I asked.
“Yep,” He said. “I was looking at it when I saw the damn thing. I must have dropped it.” Grandpa leaned his head and shook it. “It was black, with a black chain. It looked like coal.”
“What happened?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I can’t remember,” Grandpa said. He looked up and stared out onto the cemetery, his eyes like broken search lights, twirling in the hope they would blink back on. “My old man gave it to me. We were walking home this way once, and he gave it to me. I don’t know where he got it.”
I pulled the watch out of the vest pocket and unfastened the chain. I held it out in my hand. “I found this here, recently. Is it yours?” Grandpa’s face betrayed nothing in his head. I thought I offended him and my grin felt stupid.
“Where’d you find it?” He asked.
“Here, I was walking along one day and saw it. Here, take it.”
He picked up the watch, the glistening chain rattling in the dark like snake skin. He pressed the lid release. The orange clock face glinted. He held it up to his ear and we vaguely heard the click of the hands. “This is it.” He said, almost a whisper.
Pumpkin Bones continues...