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“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.

`“Jesus Christ, Dad,” Aunt Margret said pulling blade out of his hands. “Don’t worry. It’s just a trick comb.”

“I aint your Dad,” he said. “But I’ll be her daddy.”

Charlie laughed. Susan looked a little worried now. Aunt Margret’s face went blank and hollow while Charlie still giggled in my ears, but I couldn’t stop watching her. She put the fake comb switchblade in her pocket. Uncle Jim placed his arm around his wife. “I know,” he said. “I know.” Charlie stopped laughing.

“Come on,” Charlie said. “Let’s get out of here.” He stood, taking Susan’s hand. “You want to go out now, Nathan?” he asked.

“Yeah!” I said running upstairs and grabbing my pillow case for the night’s loot. I came back and Grandpa fought to keep a flask from Aunt Margret.

“Well, Nathan,” Charlie said. “Susan? You ready for Old Pumpkin Bones?”

The struggling stopped behind us. My aunt stumbled back when Grandpa let the flask loose. He stood, with some difficulty, and said, “You say Pumpkin Bones?”

“Uh, yeah,” Charlie said.

“You’ve seen him, haven’t you?” Grandpa grinned. “I have, you wanna see where? I’ll show ya, let’s go.”

“Oh, Christ,” Uncle Jim said. “Get that man back in his seat. Dementia and Halloween do not go together.” Uncle Jim put his hand on Grandpa’s shoulder, settling him into a chair and handing him back his flask. “Here,” Uncle Jim said. “Pass out.”

Grandpa snatched the bottle and took a sip. “Go on without me, I’ll catch up.”

We walked out onto the brick path and Dad called out, “Have a good time, don’t eat any children now, you hear?”Our feet clapped over the wet pavement as we crossed the street. I looked up at the yellow, pock marked moon through the twisted and decrepit bare branches of the neighbor’s tree. The October night filled my lungs with ghostly footprints of fallen leaves, and pumpkin. What a good night, i tried to tell myself, but the image of grandpa hung with me, like millstone around the neck. I was frustrated.

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About Dan Morin

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Born in California, raised in weirdo Oregon, haven't seen father in 20 years which one could argue all social anxiety and artsy-fartsy tendencies come from. Loves bizarre and strange people like Oregonian hippies who've sold out and drive Mercedes.
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