Wednesday, October 31, 2007
The Ides of October
"Halloween is my favorite holiday," Candace said, the wind picking up and making us huddle in our sweatshirts. We sat on the front porch as the sun was going down, torching everything in the golden rose fire of dying light. I could agree or disagree with her, but said nothing, taking a slug from a brown bottle turning clearer by the second. A black label with a common name written on it, Jack Daniels, sounding innocent, even average, veiled the shotgun kick that it carries, something a person won't ever forget.
I put the bottle down as a gang of ghosts, ghouls monsters and movie stars, led by a rubber-faced George W. Bush wandered up to the porch. "Trick or Treat!"
They get the treat, a hand full of candy each. They wandered to the next house as quickly as they came, leaving us to see about any tricks the night might have in store.
"What's your favorite holiday?" Candace asked, as she picked up the bottle from between us and tilted it back for one, two, three seconds.
"The Ides of March."
She put the bottle down with a heavy glass clunk on the concrete porch. "Nick, I meant a real holiday," she said, her lips pursing from the burn she tried to hide the effects of--and failed silently.
"Halloween's not a real holiday," I said, pulling the hood on my sweatshirt up to cover my recently shorn head in the falling temperature. She said it is. "What's so holy about it?" I was swimming in my own skull fish bowl, yet I took up the squared glass bottle to take another pull of the whiskey. Nothing holy about today, I thought as the burn assaulted my body like acid. I shivered and smiled and almost dropped the glass flask. Careful!
"Because it's for the kids; you get to be anything you want, just for a night. And get rewarded for it. I love that."
"You can be anything you want, any time you want," I said "it doesn't take a special day for that to be the case." More kids wandered up. A Jedi sister and her Darth Maul little brother. "Trick or Treat!"
"Blahhh!" I said as I picked up the candy bowl and dumped an amount into their bags that would have made their dentist blanch. They screamed in delight and ran to the next porch. Candace picked up the thread after first one surreptitious sip, then a longer pull from the bottle. It was dwindling. We were stewing in the sauce pretty good, I think. "Well, why don't you like it?" She asked me leaning close then tilting back.
"I never said I didn't like it. I only think it's not a holy day. It's kind of unholy." More kids, more 'blahhs!' and more candy dumped by the clump. The winds had blown a rain in, and it was cold, starting to soak into our clothes. We went back inside to refill the candy dish, but couldn't find the candy.
"When was the last time you went trick or treating?" she asked me as I closed a cabinet door rather abjectly. It swung back open. God bless American craftsmanship.
"I don't know, when I was like fifteen, maybe?" I grabbed the top of our old brown and tan couch. "How about you?"
She had been sitting on the couch but stood up with a little help from the coffee table. "I went two years ago."
"What?" She's twenty nine, so that would make her twenty seven. "Only women would be aloud to trick or treat into their twenties," I was as incredulous as a drunk person could be. "I'd get chased off with a gun! " I took one more small sip from the bottle, passed it to Candace and she finished the rest of it. Jack was no more. God rest Jack Daniels, a country gent, died before his time, boots on and in a strange land.
"Lets go right now, I have my Cleopatra costume from last year," she said, dropping the bottle on the couch. "Come on, mister, you're not too old for this, you never are, you can't be. Unless you're dead." She stumbled to the bedroom. When in Rome, I guess. When in Rome and your girlfriend is playing Cleopatra for the day. At least I had an idea of what to be.
We undressed and somehow kept from fooling around, even in our drunken, not-so-sensible state. The sun was almost down by the time we dressed. I put on some basketball shorts, but draped a white bed sheet across one shoulder, and Candace safety pinned it at my hip in a short robe that fell to my knees. I had no sandals, so my biker boots would have to do. She topped me off with a laurel crown. I asked her where she got it from. She said that Cleopatra hadn't been alone at last year's party, and smirked as she put a new, black lace bra on and clasped it in front. I started to ask about the plastic leaf crown, but figured I really only met her six months earlier. The past is the past. I'm in it for the now. I was amazed at my clarity of thought, considering how drunk I was.
As for my Cleopatra; she looked better than any ancient queen could hope to. Her hair fell in dark waves on her shoulders from a cobra crown of plastic gold. Earrings dangled down glittering by the bedside lamp. Her gown clung to her attributes like it was made from the essence of my lust. It looked like fresh linen with only a few creases pressed into it from a year of being forgotten. Her arms were wrapped in thin silvery jewelry the shape of small, lithe snakes entwining. Her black bra didn't even faze me, but added to the over all effect on my swooning brain. She was the queen of the Nile, and I was her emperor, Julius Caesar. How could the Earth not fall down before us?
We had obviously forgotten that the Earth was rather cold, even though the rain had stopped, leaving a chilled, damp aspect in the air. She stiffened like a bolt as we hit the air, and I did too, but it was too late. We were off into the freshly born night, pillow cases in hand.
We walked a block to get away from our immediate neighbors, and hit the first house with a porch light on. "Trick or treat," Candace said in her best little girl lilt. She elbowed me in the ribs for staying silent as the door opened.
An older man in a white t-shirt opened the door, his eyes lit up like sparklers when he saw Candace and only dimmed a little when he saw me. "Well, it's never too late for some people, is it?" He asked Candace, but not me. Just as I thought. "Here, you can have the rest. The kids must have stopped early this year." He looked me up and down. "Nice boots, Sah-ker-deez." I bit my lower lip as he dumped most of the candy into Candace's bag. I got a few remainders. "Want a beer?" He asked her, then me after she shook her head no. I said sure and he turned back and yelled for his wife to bring a beer to the door, which she promptly did. She didn't even look outside at us, and he handed the tall can to me, smiling at Candace like a hot TV dinner.
"Ahhh, Black Label, the choice of kings," I said. The old man said "wish I could say that's the truth," and closed the door. I put the beer in my pillow case as we walked on to the next house.
"That was weird I said," my teeth chattering like a wind-up toy. "I told you people would think it was strange if a full-grown dude is out on Halloween," I said. I wondered what people would think if Julius Caesar was drinking a can of Black Label beer on their front porch.
"Yeah, but it's not that bad. There's almost no kids out here--it's too dangerous for them." There was only one small group of them, and they seemed to be teenagers, walking a half a block down, not even going up to the lighted porches any more.
"I wonder why," I said with a snort.
Candace laughed as we stepped up on another porch. This time, a little round mother in a blue gown with fairy wings answered the door. "Well, what a surprise! Here, you can have this. I think we're done for the night. Aren't you two adorable. Cleopatra and Mark Anthony." I would have corrected her, but I got the bulk of the candy this time. Sadly, no beer.
"See?" Candace said with a twisting half smile, hugging herself for warmth. "Now you get the special treatment and I get the leftovers."
"But I'll share my beer with you later, if it pleases her highness," I said, putting my arm around her, greedily seeking her body heat. She wrapped her free arm around me and we agreed to share our shivers. We held each other as we shouted "Trick or treat" at the next house.
The young couple who answered the door said little and dumped their candy into our bags, before slamming the door shut and clicking it locked. "See what happens when you can't loosen up?" Candace said. "Your sense of romance dies. I bet they'd rather not even celebrate Halloween."
"I bet they'd rather kill and eat each other," I said and we both laughed and renewed our shared heat deal. The next house likewise gave us the rest of their fill, and the house after that. One of the stops, filled with revelers and music that was screaming for the attention of law enforcement, even brought us each a can of beer without asking us. I thanked them for doing their duty as good Roman citizens. They giggled a good night, closing the door, turning out their porch light as we reached the sidewalk. Soon, our pillow cases were stuffed, and we turned for home.
I cracked open a beer as Candace was unwrapping a caramel chew. Soon, I was digging into my bag for sweets and she was finishing the first beer. The cold only seemed like a minor irritant. We were singing Lollipop, feeling like children in a world that was made only for us. We drank beer and ate candy and sang tunes, the night our captive audience.
We arrived home as we were drinking the second beer. We stumbled up the porch in the dark. "I don't think they're home," Candace said, giggling. I opened the screen door, only to find the main door locked.
"Do you have the keys?" I asked Candace. She looked at me like I asked her if she had the sun in her pocket. "Do you?" she asked.
"Togas don't have pockets, my dear."
We went and checked all the doors. All locked, like good citizens of the empire.
We checked the truck doors. They were locked. The wind gusted and shook the leafless trees, blowing leaves in swirls down the street toward the lit up corner. A police car passed by on the main drag, but kept going.
Candace finished the second beer and I broke out the tall can of Black Label. "I bet Mark Anthony never forgot the keys to the palace. Cleopatra would have had him bit by the snake for that."
I was drunk, and now suddenly frustrated. "I'm not Mark Anthony! You dumped him last year, or whatever. I'm Julius Caesar," I said in exasperation that felt and seemed like it might matter, though it didn't. "Julius Caesar didn't need keys. He'd just as soon burn a place down as knock politely--or wait in the cold." I took a good shot at slamming the Black Label, but the bitter taste of skunky, bottom-shelf beer only made my stomach grouse and churn. I handed Candace the beer. She followed with the same results.
Then she turned to the bush beside our porch step and reversed the process. I figured the bush would be dead by spring, considering how bad Black Label beer tasted. Must be a poison made to kill the undesirable masses, I thought. I held her hair and helped her keep her balance.
When Candace was done being royally ill, I bit the bullet and broke out a window on the front door using a brick from our garden wall. The glass broke into long shards that I carefully pulled out of the sides. I cut my index finger, but that didn't matter. Soon, we were inside.
We went to the bedroom and Candace collapsed face first onto the bed. I took off my costume and put on a flannel shirt and boxer shorts. Candace groaned as I helped her out of her clothing, and took the long, dangling earrings off of her lobes before they tangled in her hair. The arm jewelry would have to wait until morning. I turned out the light and lay down next to her. The sheet/toga and the white faux-Egyptian gown had small, bloody fingerprints on them. My finger throbbed when I thought about it, right on cue.
Soon, Candace was sleeping, her only living noise a full but light snore. The wind howled through the broken front door window. I laid there as the bed spun--soon I was in a cold sweat. Candace slept, her body feeling soft and feverishly hot, like it was melting onto me. The bed would not stop its spin. It would only change directions, but never cease. If there had been a knife wielding brute at my back, I would have slumped forward to make his job easier.
As the bed took a right turn toward Albuquerque, I rolled out and crawled toward the bathroom, my stomach beginning to rise in rebellion against the unholy alliance of Sweet Tarts, Tootsie rolls, whiskey and beer that might have been surplus from the Great War.
Happy Halloween I said to the black lace bra in the floor, to the blood-printed sheet and gown.
Happy Halloween I said to the bedroom door as I bashed it open with my head (it didn't hurt, not until morning, at any rate).
Happy Halloween I said to the light switch in the bathroom, crawling up against the vanity to reach it. I could tell that if I sat on the vanity, it would have bucked me like a bull.
The toilet said, "hail Caesar!" Happy Halloween I answered back--more or less.
Really, it was the kind of night I'll never forget.