It happened on Halloween night...
The Miller Place would be where he proved that he wasn't a baby
Zack was having trouble eating his dinner and his mother called him on it a few times.
"Zack, what is your problem today?"
"It's Halloween," he said anxiously, "time to prove I'm not a baby!"
"Zack," his father said, "I hope you're not planning something dangerous, you know how I feel about that."
"No, father, it's not dangerous. Me and the guys are going over to the Old Miller Place. And since Carl and I helped with it, I know what to expect and they don't." Zack grinned in anticipation.
"Well, alright, but no dangerous antics," his father said rising from the table to go watch the news on the TV."
Zack shivered inside with anticipation. The house had been operating now for over a week, and everyone was talking about how scari-o-volous it was. He knew his friends had been waiting for Halloween night to go see the place and he couldn't wait to see their frightened faces. A heavy pounding on the door told him that his buddies were here.
“Can I go now?” he asked his mother anxiously.
“Well……” Another loud pounding interrupted her.
“Can I go, mom, the guys are waiting?”
“Oh, alright,” his mother finally agreed, “but you be back before ten, you hear me?”
Zack was already in the hallway opening the door to his buddies and he was so excited that hadn’t heard a thing after 'alright'.
Zack had helped make the house scary so he was confident that he would be able to frighten his friends while appearing brave himself. He needed to succeed badly so he could break the 'baby' title he had borne since he was five years old and had feared the 'black' water of the town's swimming hole.
It's fun to watch the little ones get scared, his friends told him.
“Come on,” Jerry said grabbing Zack's shirt and pulling him onto the porch, “we gotta go or we’ll miss the best part.” Jerry wore a wool cap and his favorite jean jacket.
“What best part?” Zack asked looking critically at Jerry as he donned his sweat jacket.
“You know,” Ray said excitedly, “the part where the little ones go through and scream their heads off.” Ray was short and dumpy. He always wore black to make himself look bad so his size didn't matter.
“Oh, alright,” Zack said, “I’m ready, let’s go.”
They walked down the driveway and turned right, heading out of the town towards the Old Miller Place. Zack walked confidently between Jerry and Ray who kept looking at each other and grinning. Finally, Jerry spoke up.
“Zack, why you walking like that? Trying to make us think you ain’t scared?”
“I’m not scared,” Zack said smiling broadly, “I helped make the house, remember?”
“Yeah, but that don’t change nothin’,” Ray said, “you jump at everything. You’ll be plenty scared.”
“We’ll see,” Zack said still smiling. They were almost at the Miller driveway and they could already hear loud screams and squeals from kids getting scared as they walked through the house. Zack chuckled softly to himself. “It won’t be long now”, he thought, “I’ll get them so good they’ll never know what hit ‘em.” He couldn’t wait.
The dark driveway.....
They had only walked a few feet up the dark driveway when someone jumped out of the woods dressed in a black costume with a jack-o-lantern for a head and shouted "BOO". Zack had been waiting for it since he knew it was his brother, Carl, so he didn’t jump. But the others did, and Ray squealed.
“Thought you weren’t scared,” Zack teased, “guess it’s my turn, huh?”
“Oh, shut up,” Jerry said wiping his forehead, “you’ve been scared a lot more than us.”
Zack’s brother chuckled at their teasing. “Hey chickies,” he taunted, “want to come to my lair?”
“Oh, go away, Carl,” Jerry said, “we knew it was you!”
“Right,” Carl said chuckling again as he made his way back into the darkness.
Zack smiled and walked on with his two buddies following a little bit behind him. They reached a turn in the driveway and stopped to look ahead. In the shadows they could see the outline of the old Miller Place with its dull worn walls. Zack pointed at the roof and chuckled.
“Look,” he said, “they’ve even put up a ghost coming out of the roof.” Ray and Jerry crowded up against him but didn’t say anything. “You’re not scared, are you?” he teased.
“N.n.n.no,” Ray said grabbing Zack’s arm on the left.
“O.o.of c.c.course n.n.not,” Jerry stuttered on his right.
The plan begins.....
Zack chuckled and kept walking down the dark dirt driveway towards the house that he had to admit was pretty scary in the dark. And he hadn’t seen anyone putting that ghost on the roof. He wondered how they had done that, but it wasn’t important. What was important was….he was going to finally get the last laugh with his friends. They wouldn’t call him a baby anymore.
They reached the broken sidewalk and Zack marched along it right up to the porch before turning to his friends whose faces had gotten very pale. “Hey, you guys coming?” he asked grinning.
Fear fills his friends.....
“Uh, Zack,” Ray said pointing at something over his left shoulder.
“What?” Zack said still grinning.
“T.t.t.t.turn around,” Jerry said also pointing.
“What?” Zack asked again and then turned around to find himself face to face with a stone-like goblin-faced monster that suddenly moved to stand and tower over him and loudly growled. “Oh, get out of the way,” Zack said shoving at the monster who growled even louder and snapped at him. He hadn't expected the guy to be right there, but the effect was great for his friends.
“D.d.d.don’t think you shhshhshould be doing that,” Ray said from the driveway.
“Me either,” Jerry said, “RUN, ZACK, RUN!”
Jerry and Ray followed those orders and spun around nearly falling down as they ran into each other before untangling themselves and racing down the driveway sending up rocks and sand as they moved. Zack began to laugh as they tripped each other about half-way down and fell face-first on the rocky ground.
“Hey,” Zack called, “it’s just someone playing a monster!"
But his friends were way too scared to hear his words. They raced down the driveway and around the corner, heading towards town as fast as their legs would carry them. Zack could hear them huffing and shouting at each other as they ran and he chuckled louder. "That will teach them," he thought as he turned to the 'monster' behind him.
"Great job," he said, "I don't know who you are, but I am grateful to you just the same." The monster reached up and yanked at his mask. Standing in front of Zack was someone he never thought to see in a Halloween Costume, his father. "Dad?" he said confused, "I thought you didn't like Halloween."
"Well son, you see, I was just as frightened as you when I was your age. I didn't get over it until I was much older and I wanted you to be saved from that suffering. Carl told me what you were planning, so I just sorta helped out. Think it worked?"
"Yeah," Zack said hugging his father tightly, "I think it worked very well."
Zack found his friends sitting on Ray's front porch swing. As soon as they realized it was him, they turned their faces away and tried to pretend the hadn't seen him.
"Hey guys," Zack called, "you're not mad or anything are you?"
"That wasn't funny," Jerry said, "I ripped my favorite jacket when I fell!"
"Yeah," Ray said, "I scuffed my knee and tore my pants. My mother will be furious with me!"
"You gotta admit," Zack said coming up onto the porch and leaning against the rail, "it was funny. I was scared myself at first, because I hadn't expected that guy to be right there."
"Oh sure you were," Ray said sarcastically, "I bet you planned the whole thing. We'll never trust you again."
Zack smiled. "But I'll bet you won't call me baby anymore, will you?"
"No," Jerry said. "I guess we've worn that one out. But we'll come up with another one for you."
"Yeah," Ray said motioning for Zack to join them on the swing, "you wait, this one will be real bad."
Zack smiled as he took his seat. "Perhaps if we sit really still, the little ones will think we are fake and we can scare them," he said softly as a small group of kids approached.
"Sure," Ray said.
"Yeah," Jerry added.
The night ends...
The three of them sat perfectly still and waited until the first kid reached for candy. Then they jumped and shouted "BOO!". The kids all screamed loudly and raced off the porch. The boys spent the rest of the early evening scaring the young ones before they went to do their own trick-or-treating.
That night Zack lay in his bed and thought that it was the best Halloween ever. He finally got rid of his baby name and he had a ball with his friends. What more could he ask for? Then he remembered that he had a report to read in front of the class tomorrow and he groaned. How was he ever gonna get up in front of the class and read it? A vision of his father taking off the mask crept into his memory and he smiled. He could do it. He knew he could, now.
© 2011 Cheryl Simonds
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