“Richard, the tally counter arrived,” I said running in from the mail box. “I can’t wait to test it out.”
“Okay, Miss Spunky, calm down and show me this magical device you ordered.”
Ripping open the box and removing the plastic wrapper, I revealed a gleaming chrome plated tally counter complete with finger ring and thumb push.
Slipping my finger into the ring I said, “observe and absorb.” Using my thumb I pushed the advance and the number 1 appeared in the tally window with a satisfying click.
“So what do you think of that?” I asked trying to curb my enthusiasm.
“Fannie, it’s right up there with the Little Orphan Annie decoder ring I’m sure,” Richard said laughing.
“This is the best Halloween tool ever,” I said ignoring him and turning the chrome plated knob on the side resetting it to zero.
“If you say so,” Richard said patting me on the shoulder.
“Now we can keep an accurate count of the number of Trick or Treaters that come to the door this year.”
“So what number are we trying to beat this year?” Richard asked putting his hands in his pockets.
“168,” I said, “I checked this morning.”
“You know Halloween falls on a school night this year?” Richard asked.
“I know but I’ve got it all planned out. You have to help me get the cats up on the roof,” I said.
“Why are we putting Wicket and Sadie on the roof?” Richard asked looking concerned.
“No,” I said laughing, “Don’t you remember, I bought some inflatable cats on sale last year? I have them stashed in the garage.”
“This I have to see.”
Next to the garage door on a row of shelves labeled, ‘Halloween’ sat four boxes of inflatable cat in different poses. Richard took one of the boxes off the shelf and examined the box.
“Black Cat Archway,” he read. “Have you tested any of these to make sure they work?”
“Not yet, shall we give it a try?” I asked my green eyes gleaming in the low light of the garage.
Getting an extension cord from the shelf, we opened the garage door and plugged the cat into the outdoor outlet. The motor roared to life and nine feet later a giant black archway towered over us.
“I guess it’s a good thing we didn’t fire it up in the garage,” I said admiring the cat.
“You’re gonna put this on the roof?”
“Oh know, this one goes in front of the door,” I said putting batteries in a black box tucked under one leg, “it has a sensor which makes the lights flash, the cat screeches and thunder sounds if you are over four feet tall. Go ahead, give it a try.”
Richard ducked under the archway. He jumped sideways into a leg as the cat screeched at top volume, lights flashed and thunder clapped.
“We need to fix the volume,” I said rushing under the cat.
The noise drew Bunny outside.
“Fannie, honey, what are you two getting into this time?” Bunny asked with her refined Texas accent.
“We’re setting up the Cranium Adventure Getaway Graveyard,” I said almost keeping a straight face.
“Halloween, I should have known,” she said smiling.
“Have you ever noticed that the 4th of July and Halloween always fall on the same day of the week every year?” I asked.
“No, I can’t say that I have,” she said. “So how many tombstones are you doing this year?”
“I’ve got 110,” I said grinning.
“How many?” Richard asked his eyes bugging out.
“I thought that’s what you said,” Richard said rolling his eyes, “it looks like I’ll be getting out the power tools to help you.”
“Honey, this I have to see,” Bunny said her blond pony tail bobbing as she shook her head.
“Just give me until Friday,” I said.
Walking back into the garage with Richard, I asked, “Can you put up the pumpkin head on the light post while I plant last year’s tombstones?”
Richard removed the pumpkin head from the top shelf and walked out to the lamp post. I cleared the work bench. Picking up the first tombstone, I nailed the stake into the back with u-bent nails. Carrying the tombstone out to the front walk I planted ‘Viagra, The Fifth Hour’.
“Hey Fannie, where is the foam collar for the pumpkin head, I can’t find it?”
“About that, I washed it last year and left it drying on the bathroom counter, Wicket got to it before me,” I said grimacing. “Why don’t you just use packing tape.”
“Cats,” Richard said shaking his head.
“Speaking of cats, I’m still bribing Little Black Kitty so we’ll have the obligatory black cat for the graveyard.”
“You’re over the top woman.”
Seventy-five tombstones later, my right arm revolted. Time to change tactics. I found the box with our animated zombie. Decanting him from the Styrofoam I discovered one of his fingers fractured during the off season. Liberating some packing tape from Richard, I triaged his finger and planted him in the yard. Activating him, his eyes lit up and he groaned.
“The zombie still works,” I said.
“Where do you want this spider?” Richard asked holding up a medium sized black and purple inflatable spider.
“Hang him around the lamp post near the ‘Black Widow Spider Website, click here to enter’ tombstone,” I said, “I have some extra spider webbing left over from last year we can drape over the shrubs.”
Locating the string of flashing eyeballs, I draped them around what was left of the shrubbery. Plugging them into an extension cord the eyeballs flashed on and off.
Joe, from the end of the block, walked up to the end of our driveway. “Hi Richard, hi Fannie, I see you two are at it again.”
“Hi Joe,” I said, “it’s tradition. So are we going to see you and the kids this year?”
“Yes. It’s all they’ve been talking about since school started,” Joe said laughing. “We were waiting for the pumpkin head to know it’s official.”
“Well we should have the self guided tour ready by Friday,” I said smiling, “the rest you’ll have to wait for until the 31st.”
“Sounds great,” Joe said heading back toward his house.
Richard said, “I’m off the get more wood for the tombstones, you going to be all right by yourself?”
“The eyes of the neighborhood are upon me, if I get into trouble Bunny’s got 911 on speed dial now,” I said, “Can you pick up another gallon of exterior white latex while you’re at it?”
“Sure thing,” Richard said walking over to the Love Wagon, a red for F150 complete with disco ball and queen futon in the back.
Walking back into the garage, I found the box for Marcus the Carcass. Spreading him out on the bench, I plugged him in. He lit up then faded to black.
“Now that’s what I call inviting,” Bunny said over my shoulder.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you, I just brought you a bunch of leaves so you can cover the extension cords in your yard,” Bunny said laughing.
“Here,” I said handing her the stakes, “You can help me get Marcus planted and hooked up.”
Walking out of the garage to the small stand of maples, I spread Marcus out between the trees. Bunny handed me a stake. Pulling the hammer out of my pocket I staked him into place. Bunny handed me the extension cord I set out earlier.
“Let’s cover him with some of the leaves,” I said. “You know, we didn’t notice the tent stake George planted in the middle of Marcus until Halloween night last year. We laughed so hard we left it up.”
“We were wondering if you ever noticed,” she said laughing. “Did you get all of your tombstones back last year? I understand a few of them went traveling.”
“Yeah,” I said laughing, “apparently Zack liberated them and thought it was a great idea to wire the Ogre Yoga tombstone to the back of his dad’s car. It went all the way to Seattle and back without a scratch. Clarissa returned them the next day.”
“Now that’s funny,” Bunny said. “Are you going to put out the pink tombstone this year?”
“Of course,” I said smiling, “what would Halloween be without a little color?”
We hung the last ghost in the trees when Richard returned with the wood.
“I see you didn’t have to call 911,” Richard said unloading the wood nodding to Bunny.
“I kept an eye on her for yah,” she said winking.
“Guys, I’m not that bad,” I said shaking my head.
“If you say so,” Richard said smiling.
Richard set up the table saw in the garage. Taking the first piece of wood, he measured and diagrammed four tombstones. While he cut wood, Bunny and I set up the crashed witch for Brunnhilde’s Broom Flight Institute. Nothing like a good example of a landing gone bad.
With Bunny’s help we completed most of the yard by the end of the day.
“Tomorrow, I’ll paint the new tombstones and get the cats up on the roof,” I said, “Bunny, we can’t thank you enough for your help and your leaves.”
“Anytime,” she said.
Monday evening the first few onlookers drove down our street. Thursday evening, we planted the last tombstone. On Saturday evening, we could hear voices and laughter coming from the front yard and see the tell tale flash of a camera.
Richard and I went outside to join the dozen people wandering through the display.
“We love your yard,” a man said walking up to Richard and me. “Hi I’m Allen, I live a few blocks over. Ever since you guys started decorating your yard, I’ve planned my Halloween party around it so we can all come over and take the tour.”
“Glad to hear it,” I said as the zombie activated for no apparent reason. Several people jumped. “Sorry about that folks, it keeps going off randomly and we can’t figure out why.” Turning to Richard I asked, “did you turn that on?”
“No, I didn’t. I thought you did,” he said looking from me to the now silent zombie.
“We’ll have to watch that,” I said running my fingers over my ultra short brown hair.
Over the next three weeks, slow moving cars drove up our street, some stopping to take the tour. The days ticked down on the reader board in front of the house.
“Richard, can you help me inventory the candles for the graveyard?” I asked, “I want to make sure we have enough.”
“Sure,” he said following me out into the garage.
We set up three folding tables. Richard handed me the boxes from the shelves as I stacked them on one of the tables. Opening a box I pulled out a stemless wine glass filled with a partially burned orange candle and a piece of aluminum foil tape to one side to deflect the rain.
“Do you think we will have enough?” Richard asked looking at the boxes.
“Do you know how many of these we purchased over the years? I always like to buy a few extras in case I accidentally break one.”
“I’ll dig out the spent candles if you’ll refill them,” Richard said pulling a folding chair up to the table. Two hours later 110 candle filled wine glasses lined the garage ready for action.
“Wow it smells good in here,” I said sniffing the apple, cinnamon and pumpkin spice, which infused the air.
“Fannie, if nothing else, we’ll have the best smelling yard in the neighborhood,” Richard said laughing.
Sunlight filtered through a thick gray curtain on Halloween morning. Even my zombie avatar was excited to get up.
“Richard, you have to wake up it’s Halloween,” I said shaking him.
Richard rolled over and looked at me. “Well this is a first, I’m going to mark it on the calendar when I get up.”
“Okay, I’m going to start prepping everything for tonight,” I said rolling out of bed. “Where did I put my tally counter?” I asked as I meandered toward the bathroom.
“Just remember, you have only 12 hours before the first Trick or Treater arrives.”
“I know, I can’t wait,” I said putting the tally counter on top of my outfit for the evening.
At 4 p.m. Richard and I opened the garage door. The merchants of Downtown Gig Harbor had two more hours of Trick or Treating giving us plenty of time to light and set out the candles. George and Bunny walked across the street to help us set up.
“I’ll light the candles if you three will place them in front of the tombstones,” Richard said holding up the camping lighter.
Within an hour 110 tombstones flickered in the waning light.
“Darlin’, it sure smells good out here,” George said to me, his soft spoken Texas accent a contrast to the bass voice emanating from his large frame.
“Why thank you George,” I said smelling the air and smiling.
“So what’s the number we’re shooting for?” he asked.
“168 to tie, any more and we break the record,” I said crossing my fingers and waving my hand in the air.
“We’ll be counting,” he said winking.
“So will we,” I said patting the pocket which housed the chrome plated tally counter.
At 5:59 a light blue mini van sped down our street screeching to a halt in front of our house. A short blond woman with six costumed children pour out of the van and rush up our driveway. The doorbell rang until I opened the door.
“We wanted to make sure we were the first to get here,” the woman blurted out before the children could even speak. “We’ve made it our tradition to be the first ones.”
“You’re in luck,” I said smiling at the children. “What do you guys have to say for yourselves?”
A loud chorus of “Trick or Treat” filled the air.
“Everybody take a handful and we have glow necklaces for each of you.”
The kids descended on the candy like the last coming. Richard handed each of them a glow necklace while I ticked up to the number six.
Two minutes later a young father in his late twenties rang our door bell. He carried his infant son in a black and yellow bumble bee costume with black antennas topped with yellow fuzzy yarn balls. He grinned from ear to ear.
“Trick or Treat,” he said holding out a plastic pumpkin with black strap handle in the other hand.
“Oh my gosh, he is so cute, how old is he? And where on earth did you get that costume? It’s fantastic.” I said putting a handful of candy in his pumpkin bucket.
“Thank you, he’s two months old, my wife made him the costume, I just couldn’t wait to take him out for his first Halloween.”
“Glad to see he didn’t make you wait very long,” I said laughing.
Richard handed him a glow necklace since he didn’t have a flashlight.
“Thank you so much, we just love your yard and couldn’t wait to come.”
“We hope to see you next year,” I said.
“Wild horses couldn’t keep us away,” he said grinning.
A few minutes later Joe appeared with two of his three children.
“Joe, where’s Megan?” I asked looking around the yard.
“She’s too freaked out to walk up the driveway. She waiting over in George and Bunny’s driveway. It’s so weird, we didn’t have this problem last year,” he said.
“Well if you can convince her we’re not hell spawn, we’d love to see her,” I said passing out the candy to the boys. Richard handed them glow necklaces.
Tommy, the youngest, squealed with delight and swung it around in the air until it was fully lit.
For the next two hours a steady stream of witches, princesses, fairies, football players, cartoon characters, super heros and super villains filled our front stoop. We could hear people laughing in the yard and see the flash of cameras.
The tally counter ticked up right along with them. Richard broke out the fourth tube of glow necklaces.
“Fannie, I don’t know if you’ve checked your tally, but we’ve given out 150 glow necklaces. We only need 18 more to tie,” Richard said as the doorbell rang again.
I gave the tally counter a quick check before opening the door. Five teenage boys dressed as cheer leaders stood on our porch.
“Don’t freak out, we’re collecting food for the food bank if you’d like to donate,” said the tallest boy.
Richard grabbed some canned food from the pantry, while I convinced them to take some candy. It wasn’t hard.
Click, click, click, click, click.
The clock read 8:12 when the doorbell rang next. Buzz Lightyear, Woody and a wrinkled Mr. Potato Head said, “Trick or Treat.”
Click, click, click.
A few more minutes ticked by.
“Good lord, this is like waiting for microwave popcorn,” I said looking out the window at an empty street.
“Wait, I see some more kids coming down the street,” Richard said.
The doorbell rang at 8:19, four middle grade children dressed as pirates yelled, “ Ahoy, Trick or Treat.”
After we stopped laughing, we gave each two handfuls of candy and a glow necklace.
We could see one of their dads doing an end zone dance out in our yard. Nothing like the bragging rights of Pirates’ Booty after a long night of candy marauding.
Five minutes later two tiny fairy princesses with sparkling opalescent wings as large as they were arrived at our door step. In unison high pitched voices they said, “Trick or Treat.”
“Richard, it’s almost 8:30 I don’t think we’re going to make it,” I said peaking out the window at a quiet street. “We’re at 164.”
“Well, I’m hungry, I’m going to get a snack, do you want anything?” he asked walking toward the kitchen.
“No thanks, I’ll wait until 9 o’clock,” I said returning my attention to the window.
At 8:31 a light green Kia Soul drove down our street stopping in front of our driveway. Three children climbed out and walked up to our front door. The woman driver got out of the car. She took pictures of our yard while I doled out candy to a teddy bear, a frog and a dirty kid.
“Who are you supposed to be?” I asked holding the candy bowl out to the dirty child.
“I’m Pigpen,” he said flashing me a smile missing two front teeth while he grabbed a fist full of candy.
“So you are,” I said smiling handing them each a glow necklace.
Richard rejoined me as I closed the front door. He ate tuna from the can with a fork.
“That’s your snack?” I asked waving my hand in the air.
“What’s wrong with tuna?”
“Nothing if you’re planning on scaring one of the kids when you breath on them.”
Ignoring me he asked, “So where are we tally wise?”
We both looked out the window at an empty street. I opened the door hoping for some sign of humanity.
Joe’s voice carried down the street. “Come on Megan, you’ve known the Craniums most of your life they’re not scary people.”
“Dad, don’t make me do it, I can’t do it.”
“It’s not scary, look I’ll walk up to the front door with you. I’ll be with you the entire time. Don’t you want a glow necklace like your brothers?” Joe asked.
She must have wavered because we could see them walk into view. She made it to the black widow spider then bolted for the street. Joe caught her before she could get too far. They turned around and walked back up the driveway. As they stepped onto the walk leading to the front door, Richard and I stood watching and silently cheering her on.
When she reached the tombstone reading ‘Zombies–Five second rule does not apply, leave all dropped candy here’. The animated zombie came to live for the first time that evening. His eyes flashing red while he groaned. Megan jumped sideways on one leg throwing her arms out in front of her. She wailed like a banshee and ran down the driveway in pure panic.
Joe ran after her yelling, “Megan stop. Megan, please stop.”
When they were out of ear shot we could hear George and Bunny from their front porch chanting, “Run Megan, Run.”