“Beth, where’s the fog then?” Dad called.
“I don’t know. You turn it on.”
Dad swore “Here,” he said handing me the bowl. “Give out the candy.” He fled down the steps. “Wait,” he said. “Do you smell something burning, Nathan?”
“The food!” Mom cried. She ripped off her hat, racing up the steps past me, and cursing me as she passed.
“You said I could hand out candy!” I called after her.
My aunt and uncle’s van pulled up our driveway. My grandpa wobbled out on creaking knees, but his wrinkled face looked stone cold cruel. His white hair was greased up, he wore a leather jacket, and a distinct lucky strike dangled from his lip. This wasn’t a costume. Aunt Margret and Uncle Jim followed behind him with my cousins.
“Hey, Grandpa,” I said.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“Nathan,” I said. “David’s son.”
He inhaled smoke then dropped the cigarette, stamping it out with new black cowboy boots. “Look,” he said. “I don’t know who’re talking about, but I aint got no son.” Aunt Margret and Uncle Jim came up behind him, smiled a hello to me, unwilling to even try and correct Grandpa. He limped passed me. I wanted to hug him, but I knew I couldn’t. I felt in shock. Aunt Margret placed a hand on my shoulder and complimented my costume then asked where my parents were. I said somewhere. Jim greeted me the same, asked if my Dad had any beers left, it was one hell of a day apparently. My cousins Carole and George passed by, swiping candy. Dad came out on the porch and relieved me of my candy duties, pulling the upside down, severed head candy bowl from me.
“Go on in, and say hello,” he said.
The family was in the living room, drinking cider served from a witch’s cauldron my mom found somewhere. Charlie and Susan were sitting on the sofa together.
“Hey Nathan,” Susan said.
“Hi,” I said.
“Uh oh,” Charlie said. “Looks like you got him excited again. Don’t get a boner, dude.”
Susan punched his shoulder. “Shut up, Charles.”
“Thanks,” I said, and turned away. My face went red behind the makeup. Why was he always saying these things around her? My embarrassment disappeared when I saw Grandpa sitting close by Aunt Margret, a proximity limit she implemented, with his arms crossed. He glanced over at Susan and us, winked and pulled out something from his jacket pocket. “Is grandpa cleaning his fingernails with a switch blade?” I asked. The blade flashed open like a little piece of lightening, and he expertly dug the grit from his fingernails, blowing kisses across the room.
by James Carney