Previous: Prequel: Halloween (5 of 7)
The failed foamers had been thoroughly and completely swallowed by the night.
“Why didn’t we go after them? What did they do?” Fair Finley reluctantly stepped back into her high-heeled shoes.
“Them? Not worth breaking a sweat over. If they don’t want my good and helpful and ADULT advice, then I’m not chasing after them to shout it. My vocal cords and my sprinting feet and all that is me is too valuable.” I shook my head with extra woe.
“What advice?” she asked, pausing to greet a couple of passing adults she clearly knew, before again facing me.
“They threw a couple of laundry detergent cubes in our pool,” said Gomery. “It would take hundreds of cubes to foam the water, which is what Monty wanted to tell them before they took off.”
“Foam the water? I’d like to see that,” said the heiress. “But hundreds? Those detergent cubes are pricey. We use them at The Wilfair, but buy in bulk. Maybe all those kids could afford was a couple.”
“Taking their side,” I complained.
“You, too, though. You wanted to help them. Which is, like, kind of great and kind of strange.”
“This is why the damn spider gets us every time, Gomery,” I clucked. “We’re NEVER the runners but the runners-after, and not even those, because we can’t be bothered, because we’re bored and sick of it all.” I paced up the sidewalk a few feet, then back. “I wanted a resolution.”
“Sorry, but you got it,” said my neighbor. “Resolution doesn’t always mean things get tied up neatly at the end. Or that a situation ends like you think it will. Maybe it was luck you didn’t come face-to-face with those guys. It might have turned out, like. Just badly, or something. Be grateful for what didn’t happen.”
Being grateful for what didn’t happen seemed like the opposite of grateful, like matter and anti-matter or loudness and silence or peanut butter and jelly.
Wait. Were peanut butter and jelly actually opposites or the best of friends? Hmm.
Still, Fair Finley had a point: I’d pictured the miscreants as people who'd be happy to share in my knowledge of how to make a pool bubble over with foam.
That prediction was certainly way off. Because so far, in my two decades and change on this planet, the only endings that have played out exactly as I planned have been in the screenplays I’ve written.
But in real life? The only time things didn't turn out differently than I'd predicted is when they turned out very, very differently.
“Fair! Fairrrrrr!” The Finley twins skipped up. “Can we do another block? Trick-or-treat? Pleeeeeeease? Fair, did you see the dog that’s a cowboy? Can we get a dog? I want him! Fair, Fair, one more street, twelve more houses, pleeeeeease?”
“Boys. Did you say ‘good evening’ to our neighbors here? Less wheedling and more good-evening-ing, please.” She placed a hand on Wil’s hair, hair that was hardened by some sort of old-fashioned globby paste. How and why the Finleys let their children live inside some sort of cut-crystal, highly polished vintage snowglobe of a life was beyond me. I’d sit those kids right down and make ‘em play video games ten hours a day, if they were my brothers, and subsist on salty vending machine snacks.
The Finley twins, especially Wil, looked embarrassed. “Yes, hi, hello, Gomery, Monty!”
“They would have been much more civilized,” their sister explained. “But they’re currently…”
“Candy crazy!” explained Bo, matter-of-factly.
“Behaving in a manner young gentlemen normally disdain,” followed Wil.
“These kids,” I muttered.
“So, trick-or-treating for another block. Hmm.” Fair counted the kids who stood nearby. “What’s the consensus, boys?”
The twins stared at their sister.
“Consensus,” she repeated. “What does everyone want to do? Not just you? What’s the whole group’s decision?” The heiress asked the heir pair.
“ERERYBODY! We need a ConSenSus. One more street?” called a werewolf-costumed Bo. The question caused the children to erupt in cheers and synchronous jumping. Truth be told, they hadn’t stopped jumping, from the moment they’d arrived on our side of the street, but they jumped higher at the news that the treat-procurement would continue.
“These are all yours?” asked Gomery, perplexed. A dozen small pirates and ghosts milled in the general area.
Fair nodded. “For tonight, yes. Their parents are working the masquerade ball.” She chin-pointed at the gaggle.
“Employees’ kids?” Gomery asked
“We always take out the kids of any staffer who has to work a Halloween shift. Group trick-or-treating is a Wilfair tradition. So is cider and pumpkin pretzels in the Faraway Passageway, after trick-or-treating. That is a very loud tradition, though, as the kids are pretty well human-shaped sugar jars by that point. But it’s a blast.” The heiress started to say something, then stopped, pressing her lips together and staring past our shoulders. “Anyway, it’s a thing. You never saw me, out, when I was little, with a bunch of other trick-or-treaters?”
“I made it a point to never know you existed,” I shrugged.
She shrugged back. “My mom’s working the ball tonight, so I’m out here, both supervising and serving as a walking billboard for our hotel’s most famous legend.” Fair fanned her gloved hands before her dress. “We Finleys are not that benevolent or without agenda, believe it, and definitely not me. I’m pretty selfish. I cannot wait to be home in my bath, in fact.”
“Me, too,” said Gomery.
His short and perfectly constructed statement hung in the air, glinting in the moonlight, attracting night dew and flitting insects, while I determined what I wanted to do with it. The options were tempting and plentiful and I found myself delightfully overwhelmed with indecision. So I ultimately chose to let his response be.
My cousin straightened his tie knot, a slightly nervous lifelong habit, and it occurred to me that he awaited whatever quadruple entendre I intended to launch.
And was maybe a little disappointed that I didn’t.
The evening had grown chillier and we stood before a babysitting, ghost sequin-wearing heiress who only wanted to be home at her big hotel in her big ermine-and-emerald-lined bathtub, which was likely also big.
“Well,” she said. “Be seeing you guys. Men.”
One of her employee’s children, a girl in fairy garb, pulled on her hand as she repeated “Miss Finley” over and over and over. The heiress smiled. “Time stands still for no fairy. Nor tired fake sequin ghost.”
“See you.” Gomery smoothed his tie.
“Good luck with your young charges, Fairy Poppins.”
“Good luck with your detergent thieves. Hope you collar ‘em and show them the proper way to mess up someone’s pool.” She stopped, pursed her lips, started to speak, stopped again, and then blurted her next sentence. “And if you ever want to talk about the pool…”
“Nope. Not on Halloween. I’m enjoying myself.” I said, a distinct note of glower in my voice.
She nodded, a little sad.
“Hey, your little brothers are old-school werewolves, from early movies. I approve.” I crossed my arms.
“Vintage werewolves were so dapper,” said Fair.
“They were still werewolves, but at least they kept it classy as they pursued a potential victim through the moors,” laughed Gomery.
“Yeah,” she sighed. “Well. I should talk. We live in the past, pretty much, at the famous Wilfair Hotel.” She laughed again, a little sad.
Which gave me an idea. “Say, Fair. See that kid over there, with the green head and neck bolts? Who is that?”
Our neighbor followed my gaze. “Scott Junior. Our head chef’s son.”
“But who is Scott Junior, at least tonight?”
“Duh. Frankenstein’s monster! Everyone says ‘Frankenstein’ but everyone is wrong. ‘Frankenstein’ is wrong, wrong, wrong.” The heiress Frankenstein’d her arms, complete with hangy dead hands, then held up a single finger and tick-tocked it, the international sign for “nope, uh-uh.”
I held up a high-fiving hand. “Yes. YES. Total Hollywood girl!”
She witched-out her face. “Or, uh, a girl who loves to read. Mary Shelley, holler! Plus, I’m no girl. I’m a Lady, at least tonight.” She passed her hands stiffly before her dress, the way a car model might over a brand-new showroom convertible. “Anyway. Best get more, like, sugary hyper goo into these goblins' pails.”
“Oh yeah,” I said, turning over our completely candy-less bucket.
She stared at it. “Your bucket is empty because you’re not in costume. Also, you’re like a decade past trick-or-treating age, which is, uh...”
“Creepy.” I suggested. “But I wanted some delicious confections to offset the pain of being unsuccessfully pool-foamed.”
“Emotional eating,” she nodded, like she knew the concept all too well. “Hey!” She waved at the jumping gaggle. “Kids. Who has the fullest bucket here?”
“I do, I do!” The small superheroes and wee ghosts bragged, all wanting to outdo each other.
“No. That is not correct,” tsked Fair. “You all do. I see ‘em. Please reach in your buckets and locate your very worst piece of candy. I mean, the grossest, most barfy piece of candy you’ve got. The one you’ll never eat. The one that’s going to stay at the bottom of your pumpkin pail for the next year. The one you’ll find next Halloween afternoon, all crumbly and dry inside its wrapper. Once found, please donate that piece of candy to Mr. Overbove and Mr. Overbove here, who are far too old to be out with a candy bucket and far too uncostumed to be rewarded for it.”
“Fair Finley! You are evil!” I clapped, then held out my bucket.
“Choose the baddest stuff you got,” she advised the pail-digging gaggle while ignoring me. “Like, who has those teeth-pulling chews that claim they’re blueberry-flavored but actually taste like carpet? Those. I want those inside these guys’ bucket, pronto.”
The kids, who initially eyed her with extreme wariness at the idea of giving up a piece of candy, each dug eagerly to find the piece of candy they’d never, ever eat, even out of sugar-seeking desperation.
“I’ve got the awfulest!” “No, me, the worst!” “No, I found it!”
Moments later, the bottom of the Motel Fairwil bucket held some truly objectionable sweets and the kids jumped higher, excited at the kooky competition.
“There you go,” said the heiress with a half-twirl. “I saved these adorable children from biting into a terrible piece of candy and further tooth decay. I prevented the good homeowners of the Wilshire district from having to encounter the sight of you two showing up at their door, all full grown and without proper costumes, unless you count five o'clock shadows. And you got your candy. Everyone wins, no one is sad, happy Halloween.”
“Happy Halloween!” I clapped. “Deviousness gets applauded in my world.”
“In your world,” she repeated, giving me a longer look before swiveling again. “Say, Wil, sweetheart? Can I see your pail again?”
The small Finley lifted his treat carrier and the heiress reached inside. Moments later, she’d dropped a popcorn ball, wrapped in clear cellophane, in my bucket. “That seems like something you’d like.”
“Popcorn, the quintessential movie food,” I agreed. “What about my cousin, though? No treat chosen especially for him? That's cold, Fair.”
She glanced in the bucket, then frowned at Gomery's tie knot. “Sorry. What sort of thing do you like?”
“A sense of humor, an optimist...” I listed. “Oh HOLD on. Did you mean candy?”
Gomery reached in our bucket, extracted a lollipop, unwrapped it, and stuck it in his mouth. “I actually enjoy these. They’ve got licorice root, a key ingredient in sarsaparilla and root beer.”
I waved my palm at my cousin, in Exhibit A fashion. “Uh-oh. Your terrible candy plot didn’t work. We have a satisfied customer, Miss Finley.”
But I was satisfied, too. The night hadn't gone how I predicted it might, but it had gone much better.
I considered pondering the surprising nature of resolution, but decided pondering was far too cerebral for an evening built on the silly, the strange, and the sugary. Instead, I scrounged for the popcorn ball, peeled off the cellophane, and bit into the chewy treat, satisfied even further.
Next: Prequel: Halloween (7 of 7)