Prequel: Halloween (5 of 7)


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     The neighborhood abutting the Motel Fairwil and its hulking hotel neighbor was, in no particular order, historic, quirky, picturesque, and easy to navigate.
     Most of the houses were built in the 1920s and ‘30s, which counts as “forever ago” in Los Angeles terms. While LA is often said to be a city enamored of glittery and shiny and new things -- detractors might call it a magpie taken metropolis form -- it also boasted thousands of older homes and buildings croaching up to their century marks. Croaching with a surfeit of character.
     I liked it, the oldness and the quirky, detail-laden houses. It gave my neighborhood a movie feel, meaning I’d often thought that I’d like to shoot my first film in the area. Never let it be said that the good people of Southern California are against doing their own thing, even if their own thing is lavishly wacky. Especially if it is lavishly wacky, in fact. Freak-flag-flying is not only a way of life in my hometown, it is practically a mandatory civic duty.
     But not everyone was letting it all hang out in my immediate vicinity.
     Two quiet people hemmed and hawed while Halloween hubbub hubbub’d at the edge of the sidewalk where we stood.
     “So, what was it? That I needed to see?” asked Fair Finley, the heiress-cum-fake-ghost for the night.
     My cousin de-pocketed his talking-with-our-shoulder-baring-neighbor hands and pointed at the nearest house, a Storybook job that gave any ye olde fairy tale hovel a run for its turret-laden money. “The decorations, on that house.” Gomery took off his glasses, cleaned the lenses on his sleeve, and returned them to his face.
     Our sequin-bedecked neighbor appled her cheeks. “I admire people who try, really try. They just don’t coast when they should be, like. Up in life’s business, you know?”
     “Up in life’s business,” my cousin repeated, mulling.
     Fair gestured at a jack o’ lantern sitting on a bench near the edge of the property. “Too bad the three of us don’t have a front yard, right? I’d decorate the hell out of it.”
     “Right?” Gomery agreed. “Lights and fog and a castle scene, in one corner.” He stopped and laughed. “I have a thousand plans for something I don’t have.”
     “Right?” echoed our sequined neighbor.
     “Right?” I chimed in, feeling left out, but not really.
     “That witch up in that oak is pretty fierce.” Fair witched her face, complete with lip curl and furrowed brow. “Although why witches or any Halloween character always are, like, presented as so angry, or villainous, is kind of a trope that needs to go. Why do we never see witches, like, getting an email from an old friend? Or filling out their taxes? Or running to the store for a quart of, uh, potion? Where are the bored or mildly pleased witches in all of these decorations? They’re all mad or cackling.” Her face softened. “This is my witch-watching-television face. She’s watching a TV show she can’t follow but all the other witches are watching it and she doesn’t want to feel left out.”  
     “Nice witch-watching-TV face,” I agreed. “But can you cackle?”
      She cackled on cue then stopped, mid-hee-hee-hee. “You got me to cackle.”
     “And a fine cackle it was!” I grinned. It wasn’t a sarcastic appraisal. She was pretty hot when she cackled, though I wasn’t sure where the cackle ended and the hotness began.
     “Anyway. An. Y. Way. Sorry.” The heiress again looked down the street, toward her brothers.
     “It was the web you should see, actually, not the witch or pumpkins,” my cousin said quickly, drawing closer to the netting strung between the palm trees. “The best thing I’ve seen tonight. Or one of the best.”
     She approached the yard web, drawing nearly shoulder-to-shoulder with my cousin. “Agree.”
     “What are you? Here? In this scene?” Gomery gestured, then smoothed his tie.
      “What am I? I’m the email-answering witch. I thought I made that clear.”
     “In the web. What are you? Monty and I have determined that we very often feel like the flies, or whatever bug happens to be, er. Trapped and sticky.”
     “Like mastodons in the tar pits. Trapped and scrambling to get out.” She curled her fingers and clawed air.
     “And awaiting a slow death,” my cousin continued darkly.
      Damn it all. He’s reaching out to our neighbor, in an honest way, but rather than getting REAL and talking about the issues we have, especially over the hotel’s complaints and them bugging the crap out of us about our swimming pool, he’s chosen to speak in some sort of annoying code about being a fly caught in a web.
     He’s hopeless, sometimes. He’s hope-free, needing of hope, and desperately awaiting hope’s return text, which never comes.
     “Gomery’s usually not this deep. Or obvious,” I said, joining the pair.
     “I’m deep,” he protested.
     “He’s making analogies in lieu of saying we’re bored, sometimes, with life at dear ol’ Wilshire and Fairfax.” Leaning back, behind Fair, I shot him a look. “Analogy maker!” My accusation was epithet-like.
      “Oh, well, if we’re making analogies, about the web, then I’m the. I’m the…” She leaned to her left, across my cousin, peering at the decoration. “I’m the window.”
     “What window?” I stood on tiptoe, peering.
     “The house’s front window. See, you can see it perfectly through the web’s, uh. The web’s… Hmm. What are the spaces in web called that aren’t actually spider silk?” She rubbed her cheek.
     “I don’t know that there’s a word for the negative, er, free spaces between a web’s threads.” Gomery pondered. “The outside of a web is the frame, and then there are the web’s various spines, and center, where the spider chillaxes.”
     “Did you just say ‘chillaxes’?” I asked. He gave me a hard look.
     “I’m the window, in this case, or whatever you can see through the web.” Fair pointed. “I’m whatever’s on the web’s opposite side that you can see through it. How’s that?”
     “Odd. But interesting,” said Gomery. “Why?”
     The ghost impersonator thought. “Because if I get bogged down in sticky thoughts, then I stay sticky. But I want to be past the web, like. The spider didn’t get me. I’m on the other side. So two purposes are served. Like I didn’t get caught and, and, and I get to be whatever shows the web off, because you can’t admire a web without some object in the background as reference. Although saying I’m just the reference to the main player sounds sort of lame, too. Let’s just say my goal is to always to make it by whatever wants to drain me of my life force. I’m nobody’s dinner.”
       Something blurred by me, a streak of jeans and hair, just out of range, and a thousand rabbits started popping all over my head.
    “Hey! HEY! You! Get back here!” I ripped.
     The detergent-wielding, pool-messing-with miscreants had appeared out of the Storybook house’s backyard, fast and on the run.
       I was determined to shout them back, my voice a vandal-grabbing lasso, though a lasso far larger than the one that dressed-up dog wore on its furry hip.
     “What’s going on?” Our fancy-gowned neighbor was well startled.
     “Those guys! Get them, somebody get them, hey! Guys! Guys, I want to HELP you, not have you arrested and thrown in the pokey.”
     “Pokey?” asked an amused Gomery, who shared a look with our equally amused neighbor.
     “STOP!”
     I considered the best course of action as the detergent-throwers headed west at an impressive speed. Should I shout my head off or shout my head off and weave in a few colorful expletives or shout my head off and stomp off for home, wishing I’d shouted off my head just a little bit more?
     Decisions.
     The vandals sprinted into the night in the manner of proverbial bats departing their proverbial hellish home address. But while the group’s swift departure was certainly attention-grabbing it was what Fair Finley had done during the pranksters' escape that had captured my full notice.
     She’d stepped out of her high heels.
     “Huh.” I stared down.
     Her face was full of heat. “Sorry, just. I had the weirdest pre-feeling we were about to run. Like, just for a second.”
     “Huh,” I repeated.
     “Do you ever get the weirdest pre-feelings? Or feelings, for that matter?” she asked us.
     “That’s kind of my factory setting,” admitted Gomery. “I only occasionally get the normalest feelings.”
     The normalest feelings. What were those, even? I didn't want to know. Others might flatline their way through existence, but not this guy. Nope nope. If my whole damn life looked like a heartbeat machine, big ups, occasional downs, well, that would be aces, real jake.
     I'd offer to teach detergent-throwers the correct pool-foaming method and I'd get flipped and blown away over by sudden cinematic moments and I'd chat with my nutty neighbor and I'd call my deep-thinky cousin out of his interior rooms whenever required.
     Everything on the outside. EVERYTHING.
     If only I could needlepoint that on a pillow.
              

cr: tuchodi

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