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.

41 comments:

Mob said...

That was awesome, true or fictionalized?

Like you were saying a week or so ago about a specific post you liked of mine, this is the one I'd be linking to of yours if the occasion arises.

Great work.

eric1313 said...

Mob

It was fictionalized--but real, too. Candace is real. I have no idea where she is anyomore, but she's real, and she loved Halloween.

But the story flowed. I started it at eleven and finished by one thirty to do revisions.

Thanks gies to the folks who put up with my rambles. You know who you are.

ivan@creativewriting.ca said...

Ah well.
Said the toilet bowl to Julius, "You and I gotta talk, Julie, baby."
Sure been there on rum.

eric1313 said...

Ivan

Yeah, rum has that effect on me.

But the throne spoke to our nameless character, and he had to answer it as best he could.

Peace

singleton said...

I had to keep scooching in closer, and slowing myself down from jumping lines to see what happened next!
"It was fictionalized--but real, too."
Somehow, I imagine, if Candance had shown up last night, it would have been just this way!
Clink!

i beati said...

"soft and feverishly hot "wow !! et tu Eric !!

karma lennon said...

Awesome story! I loved it. You are amazing. :) Wish I had been able to go trick or treating last night. I did get to take pictures in a cemetery though.

X. Dell said...

(1) I wonder if the Black Label giver's wife was named Mabel.

(2) I couldn't imagine going trick or treating as an adult. Like you I would have expected a couple of shotgun blasts followed by a nomination for the Darwin Awards.

(3) Sounds like fun, though.

Danny Tagalog said...

Very funny ending and due to the manner of scrolling down the page, made all the more effective. Didn't foresee the ending and after the black lace hit the floor, the triple verse made me laugh rather too loud for this time of night!

Behind Blue Eyes said...

Sounds like you had a more interesting Halloween than I did, though mine was fun in a different way. Good work, as soon as I got into it, it became seamless.

JR's Thumbprints said...

I've had a few beers and whatnot in my pillow case after trick or treating, but I never had to call Europe on the great white telephone. At least not on Halloween.

eric1313 said...

Singleton

Thank you so much, I love poetry, but short stories were my original prime favorite.

If I can keep your attention with a story like this, then I did my job well.


i beati

That's a great line, too. Thanks for the compliment.

Peace, yalls

eric1313 said...

Karma Lennon

You're never too old! :)

Hope you post some pics some time soon. Graveyard scenes are always spooky, especially on Halloween.


x dell

1) That's a good question. It would have been funny "Hey, Mable, go get me a beer!"

2) I guess it's like the Adult Swim version of Halloween.

3) It had to be fun with all that booze flowing.

eric1313 said...

Danny

Hope I didn't get you in trouble.

Yeah, it was going one way, and went another. I didn'y want to end it with our Julius Caesar really getting stabbed in the back--although, maybe they should have went to a house and had Mark Anthony of last year come to the door. That could have been interesting. I'll have to think about that.

Thanks for the read and the encouragement.

eric1313 said...

BBE

My Halloween consited of writing a short story and editing it at a fevered pace, so don't be too envious.

It was seemless writing that flowed well. The only pause I had was to think about how to end it.


JR

Maybe so, but it was a good metaphor for what happens after having too much fun. Not to mention, my other favorite metaphor in it: Envisioning your self as one thing, and everyone seeing you as something else, then after evcerything finding out the truth of the matter.

Besides, liquor before beer did not mean they were in the clear. Candy did not help, either.

SpongyBones said...

Damn man ... you really sould publish! This had my attention over my coffee this morning ... even was a little worked up, I think it was the refrence to Jack. LMAO, ahh that's my story and I'm sticking to it.. just kidding. Great stuff.

Have a damn good weekend!

morbidneko said...

isnt memory loss associated with copious amounts of alcohol consumed? who knows. glad you remember the night well enough to share the tale.

SA does not celebrate All Hallows Eve. A pity.

But, tell us, have you trick or treated since?

morbidneko said...

just fiction, huh?

you had me glued to the screen all the way to the toilet conversation.

your short story powers are legendary!

Cheri said...

Is it bad that the end of this made me laugh?

Princess Pointful said...

What the hell?? I KNOW I commented on this yesterday. I was wondering why you kept on telling me to read it, as I had. Boo to that. We were having huge network problems on campus, so maybe that was it.
Anyways, I did say previously that, as always, I adored this story. I got very involved-- I love how you include such random details that allow you to get to know the characters that much better. I also wondered how much was fact vs. fiction.

eamonroe said...

Hi, Eric! Just popping in to say a belated Boo! I loved the story! It kept me hooked all the way to the end -- certainly a story I'll never forget! I'm looking forward to more! ~Liz

eric1313 said...

Spongybones

Glad to hear the Jack Daniels reference was not wasted. He's a prty legend.

Thanks for the words, I need to write more stories! It's been a while since I did that. Nice that it worked out well.

Thanks for the encouragement. And you too have a blast this weekend in OKC. Try not to drive up the market price of Jack Daniels too much.

eric1313 said...

Neko

Some would say, "if you remember it, then you weren't there," but I always remember, no matter how drunk. No matter how much I wish I didn't remember, sometimes. It's a blessing from a writer's standpoint, though.

I figured SA didn't recognize such pagna traditions. Lots of places see it as a "crass American Holiday". But we love it all the same.

Thank you for the huge compliment. There are some here in blogolonia who made me cringe at my own paltry abilities; you can find them on my sidebar. They stand out as forces of nature, believe me.

But thanks all the same.

eric1313 said...

Cheri

No it isn't bad at all! I was cracking up, too. Plus, I had no idea how to end it. The story would have been too long and drawn out and predictable to have him get stabbed in the back like JC did in history.

Thanks for the stop. Peace out and have fun this weekend, you.

eric1313 said...

Princess Pointful

Blogger often bobbles people's comments, as well. I've had them disapear on me too. And you know how detailed I get in response. Makes another synapse pop whenever it happens. I'm running out of them! Not long before I'm a catatonic vegtable!

That's the fine work of my old creative writing prof. The details are the convincing part, she always taught us. And it's true. Thanks for getting to know the characters. I may put them to work again one day.

Peace out, Princess.

eric1313 said...

EA Monroe

Well, well, well. Always glad to have you drop by. Like a ghost you are. Miss your writing a lot, but you've got the dream coming down the pipes. I hope your novel gains you the rep you deserve.

And any time, come on by and maybe I'll have another story up for reading.

Thanks for the shout. Peace, everybody.

benjibopper said...

this made me want a whiskey.

the halloween before i got married the fiancee and i got pretty hammered. i ended up wrapped around a garbage can, whining to her as she sprawled across the floor at the other end of the room, "let's not drink this much at the wedding."

this year i went as 'death of the empire'.

eric1313 said...

Benjibopper

That sounds most interesting: Dressing as a concept and not as a figure. I like that. I'd love to find a way to dress up as inspiration. Then get a picture of myself so I won't forget!

I imagine you stuck mostly to your vows on the wedding night. The things we do when drunk do have a way of sticking with us.

Thanks for the anecdote. Peace out, bro.

Crashdummie said...

and happy halloween 2 u too.

You should definetly write more short stories eric, this was really good. Kept wondering though where brutus was lurking around.

Kinda fitting that I was listning to "Self Control" by Laura Branigan while I was reading it - somehow it makes sence...

dunno why, but this song has been in my head since my iPod played it - gotto love random play ;)

cheers

Maithri said...

Wow, you have such a powerful sense of imagery,

Awesome stuff!

Love, M

eric1313 said...

Crashy

I mentioned above that I thought Brutus was too obvious to make an appearance.

But, I could always right a parallel universe version of this and have the long knives come slashing from the darkness. Or maybe Cleopatra will snub Caesar and Anthony, in favor of running off with Brutus, who happens to be one of Caesar's best friends.

The posibilities are endless!


Maithri

Thank you for noticing. It's all in the details. That's what my teacher taught me. If the details aren't there, it won't be convincing.

Glad you liked it. It's a nice change of pace. Thanks for the reads, my brother.

Peace and love to all.

mystic rose said...

:).
cute!

Ant said...

Aw pish - I think Blogger has eaten my original comment as well... It was quite long (for me) too! :-(

Anyways, the gist of it was: nice story, me likey! :-)

eric1313 said...

Mystic Rose

Thank you for coming by.


Ant

That's happened to me before, too. Blogger has issues with eating comments, that's for certain.

But thanks for checking back in. That's dedication that one cannot ask for or expect. My regards to you.

Peace, y'alls.

Crashdummie said...

The world is your oyster..

... justy hope your not allerghic to shellfish ;)

eric1313 said...

Crashy

As luck would have it, I'm not!

So lets crack open a few and have'm on the half shell...

Cheers!

morbidneko said...

Halloween is not really a SA holiday, but some people do dress up and have the parties.

i blame Hollywood.

but, it's good fun.

eric1313 said...

Morbidneko

Hollywood is a good bunch to blame. Mostly because they really are at fault for lots of social ills, as well as promotong anti intellectualism.

But Halloween isn't so bad.

gingatao said...

Man, your story writing is as good as your poetry. In fact there is many subtle tricks of language informed by your poetic skills. "stiffens when hit by the cold air" sticks out in the mind. But the best thing about the stories is that the people are real, they are defined by their senses, their engagement with the world. The art of the storyteller is muchly in creating three d people without describing them, by placing them in a living environment and tracing the interactions which you are very very good at. The lady seems so huggable. It does sound more like a night that would be hard to remember rather than unforgettable though, what with all that grog.

gingatao said...

i was sitting here drinking johnnie red and thinking why did that story stick in my head/attract my attention and i realised a resonance, the decadence of rome, the touch of horror in halloween, symbols give resonance, then an harmonic, they are engaged in the activity of children, trick or treating trying to squeeze one more sweet surprise from life, and what is more selfindulgently decadent (and a litte horror) than a child and we all have one of those in us, or should. All of which one can see in their commonplace behaviour, childishness, decadence, hence not only a technically perfect piece of story telling with its control over the timeline, natural sense of place and 3d characters, but also a resonant work of art, with something to say, hence, fucking brilliant, exactly the sort of prose which should be published, ie have a wider audience, i will change the link to this piece but noone follows my links anyway which is sad, but at least this comment will be here so when you are a famous writer people can say, we should have followed his links, heh eric, how they hanging?

Jo said...

well l followed the link here and I am very glad I did......thanks. Life needs more of this.