FAVORITED 2 TIMES
Fright Night - A Retro Narrative
Did the bell actually ring that time? I replayed the fantasy in my head so many times I wasn't ready for the real thing. Everyone else in class was bustling out the door which was all the convincing I needed. School was uneventful, as it most always is, even on Halloween. This year though, Halloween fell on a Friday and that meant the county actually would give the go ahead on Trick Or Treating as opposed to whatever was the closest Sunday. This year it seemed real.
I stepped outside the stuffy building and my Pony sneakers seemed to leap off the linoleum as I embraced the chilled air. Through the rush of kids I spotted my best friend Joseph Morriley. I was a bit reluctant to say hi because I didn't want to get caught up in our long winded secret handshake, especially in the midst of half the school but it didn't matter too much to him since he was in his Alf mask and could care less.
"Hello, hello...hello McFly!" I shoved Joey as he tried to rap my head with his knuckles. "Bite me" I threw back at him, I hated the phrase but it was all I had. "Yeah, yeah whatever. Did you see Rachel today? Bodacious!" He was teasing me of course. I've been in love with Rachel Levine since 2nd grade, and here I was a full blown 8th grader. I knew when we went to high school next year the upperclassmen would sweep her even farther from me. But hey, if I didn't have the cajones to even talk to her, what right did I have to complain, know what I mean? She was pretty shallow but very kind and I adored her sincerity. She hit puberty early though and even full grown men would inadvertently take notice. Sadly as her beauty made quantum leaps the attention she got spoiled her rotten. She became this entitled and spoiled monster which no Halloween costume could match. But none of that changed the fact that my heart beat matched the bass line from Every Breath You Take by The Police as she walked by me.
"Yeah, I saw her." The whole school was going crazy over Madonna. I wasn't much of a fan, but the way Rachel wore her costume had me humming Material Girl. "Hey Joey, I'm going to walk the field back to my house. I'll meet up with you later at the dance." It was school tradition to host a Halloween dance on the 31st, the Shock Hop. I thought it was pretty cheesy but with Halloween landing on a 13th of Friday, even I was feeling the electric chill in the air. I started across the parking lot when I was suddenly blindsided by Darth Vader, "Watch it d*ckweed!" Even behind the Mask I knew it was Jake Cottinger, the lucky dog who was dating Rachel Levine. Alongside me, he was the tallest kid in school and we both had the same muscular physique. I never lifted weights but inherited my father's imposing stature while rumor had it Jake was forced to lift weights since he was able to stand. But aside from height we were polar opposites. He was affluent, outgoing and a dirtbag...the total package. He could definitely pull off the Darth Vader though, had to give him that. He'd get what was coming to him soon enough though. I kept to myself usually and played D&D on the weekends and my fellow nerdy friends nagged me because they thought I could be one of the popular kids but elected to hang with them, which I always thought was a bizarre argument against me.
After I finally cleared the pandemonium I made my way across the football field to the huge cornfield. It was a flat expanse during the summer but it was at least 8ft tall by this time. It was almost 3:00 but the sky was darkly overcast and it had to be in the 50s. I zippered up my "flight suit." I was Maverick this year. My father is a mechanic and since we're the same height I borrowed one of his grey coveralls and had my mom stitch some Navy patches on it. The crackle of the foliage beneath my feet soothed me. There was a long night ahead of me and I just wanted to savor the isolation among the stalks of corn. I grabbed my Walkman from my pack and rummaged through my things trying to find my Depeche Mode cassette but couldn't due to my other costume filling up the pack. A hand grabbed my shoulder and pulled me onto my back. I frantically kicked as 2 cloaked ghouls loomed over me. I nailed one in the gut when they took off their masks. It was the McGrady twins. I asked what they were up to and more importantly, what the hell their malfunction was. Turns out they were spending Halloween haunting the cornfield as it was a high traffic shortcut between the school and the burbs and provided great opportunities for scaring Trick Or Treaters. I asked if they were going to the Shock Hop tonight and they responded with a resounding NO and that they had souls to reave. I'll tell you, there's some people who dress up and ask for candy, and then there those who celebrate Halloween.
I cleared the cornfields and headed home to drop off my school stuff and have a snack. My street was caught in a lazy stupor, it was almost 4:00 but way too light out for doing anything remotely Halloweenish. You can see it on everyone's face though, the nervous itch for nightfall. We're all just trapped spirits waiting for release. I go inside my house, nobody's home. My folks must have left for the hospital benefit and who knows where my older sister Claire was. I Microwaved a Micro Magic hamburger, downed a Tab cola and I was out the door to Oak Haven, our tree fort. I'm not even sure if its an oak but it sits 12 feet off the ground and my buddy Mikey broke his arm falling from it 2 summers ago. We're a little old for it but we don't care. I make it there pretty quickly and throw a rock at the trap door. The rope pops down and I'm inside. The Haven is a slipshod structure made from plywood and 2X4s salvaged from the landfill outside of town. The walls are lined with posters of pro athletes and Playboy models. OJ Simpson's head is placed tastefully over a blonde laying on a couch. Mikey and Joey are reading comics and Zane is playing with his new Gameboy gizmo. Zane Meyer's family is pretty well off but you'd never know it from hanging out with him, and we loved him for it. "Lookie who's here! Are you still planning operation Decepticon?!" Mikey yelled out. I shouldn't have let them in on it but I did. "All systems are go." I was past the point of no return now.
We chewed the fat until the light waned and darkness delicately marinated our psyche. It was almost 6 and from the crude plywood cutouts of Oak Haven we could see bobbing flashlights amassing on the streets. The cloud cover was thick but the full moon could be seen in the breaks. The air retained its chill but there was no wind. Edgar Allen Poe couldn't have set the atmosphere better. We all suited up for Trick or Treating. Mickey is Teen Wolf, Joey is Alf and Zane is Jack Tripper which had all of us scratching our heads. I kept my flight suit costume on but put on a full face motorcycle helmet. My height already made me stand out and I just wanted to enjoy the last active Trick or Treat of my adolescent life. The treating was happening now, but the trick was reserved for the Shock Hop.
We hit the streets full force. The amount of of Freddy Kruegers and Batmans running around was dizzying. A few Elviras caught my eyes too though. We hit the usual supply depots. Mrs. Flannigan's homemade hand dipped caramel apples went quick so we muscled our way there first. We giddily chomped down on them as we made our way north to Suffolk court where the Henderson and Gilby families had an all out war for best Halloween set up. There was a huge crowd gawking at the fog spewing from under the decks and the creepy noises from the garages. It was great but I always looked forward to seeing old man Layden's place. He lived alone and his house was consistently immaculate, from the lawn to the siding to the sidewalk. Not a blade of grass was out of place. Mysteriously every morning of October 31st though it would undergo a very subtle and bizarre change. The normally pristine white house had mud and dirt caked on its walls. A few fence boards were actually broken and you could see candles dimly lit in the backyard. All of these changes accentuated by a lone glowing Jack O' Lantern on the front step. I don't know what he was going for but it was brilliant. He never got a single Trick or Treater. We ran and misbehaved like the children we hoped we could remain but knew were gone forever. The school dance was never far from my mind but I had to let it ride shotgun to my last hurrah knocking on doors and asking for candy. With pillow cases bulging with loot, we stashed them at Joe's place and made our way to the school gymnasium.
Jefferson was a 6-12th grade school which consisted of 2 large buildings which separated the middle schoolers from the high school. The gymnasium was an archaic structure with a basement under it where they set up a haunted house while the above basketball floor was reserved for the dance itself. Usually the punk rock and goths would co-exist in the depths below among the other antisocial spores. Usually that's where I would be, longingly listening to the bass from above and wondering what it would be like to be among the living. That night was tonight, no more lurking. This was Halloween and ghouls like me ran wild.
Our crew walked up the stone steps to the gymnasium. Streamers and toilet paper laced the trees as KISS adorned kids defiantly smoked cigarettes and preppies pulled up the curb in convertibles with bimbettes in tow. High School kids had invaded the dance. I don't know why it made me so mad, but it did. This was our time...my time. I made it to the large double door and made my way through the cobwebs and silly string. Still wearing my helmet, I stared in awe at the huge gathering of creatures. Being shoulders above virtually everyone there I could spot Rachel instantly, it's not hard finding a rose in a weed patch. Monster Mash by Bobby Pickett was booming as I saw Jake dancing with Rachel. My visor was fogging up and the bag in my hand felt heavy. I planned for every contingency and calmed down. Just like Maverick would. My opportunity opened. A dance ended and Jake left Rachel to mingle with his fellow neanderthals who just happened to be dressed as cavemen. I quickly made my way through ninjas, Hulk Hogans, Elviras and other creatures straight to Jake who at this point left his posse and was pulling the moves on a scantily dressed Snow White. I took a deep Buddha breath and barged in, "Hey Jake I need to talk to you." He looked at me annoyingly, "What's your damage dork? Can't you see I'm busy?" Canning my immediate urge to deck him I simply said, "Claire wanted to see you, she's in the basement." My older sister was a Junior in high school and arguably one of the prettiest girls in town. She'd hate me for this, oh well. Jake's dumb face took a moment to register what I said and he charged right past me, even leaving his Darth Vader helmet rolling on the floor. I picked it up, it was heavy and looked expensive. Perfect.
I quickly made my way to the bathroom using my weight to barrel through the crowd. I jettisoned my Top Gun suit and took out my other costume. I slipped on the dark black, adjusted the cape and strapped on the chest plate. One look in the mirror and I saw destiny grasping its throat frantically. I was ready. Back in the mayhem I scanned through the helmets dark lens and spotted Rachel with Jem, Wendy and Catwoman. The calm I was feeling was surreal and I marched up and simply took her hand gently. "What is it Jake?"
My voice resonated perfectly through the confining helmet. "Let's dance."
I led her to the most densely compacted area of the gym by the DJ. Jake must have caught on by now and I didn't need him spotting us. It seemed Falkor was watching over me because Love Shack ended and When Doves Cry sounded on, sending shock waves throughout the building. Rachel, dressed in her Madonna inspired lace wedding dress, was doing the electric slide and quite frankly gathering the attention of everyone around her. I'd been practicing the robot and moonwalk for weeks now and a large circle formed around us as I expertly glided across the floor. I heard some of the football players yelling, "Yeah Jake! To the max!" The song ended and Berlin's Take My Breath Away came on. Absolutely elated and drunk off adrenaline, Rachel and I closed in together. In all of my time stalking her, I never saw her look into my visor the way she did with any other guy, including Jake. The crowd around us still watched on. The contrast of our black and white was certainly something to look at. My muscles were taut and Rachel was weightless in my arms as I floated on the slick gym floor. She was putty and it was overpowering to think that she was now under the very spell she cast on everyone who looked at her. She was digging me. The song was ending and I figured now was as good a time as any to pull off my Magnum Opus. "Rachel, close your eyes" She knew what I was asking for and obeyed obediently. I slowly took off my helmet and let Vader's mask crash to the ground. I simply took Rachel's delicate head in my hands, her flowing brunette curls fell over my arms and I kissed her like an asteroid was seconds away from impact. I could smell the intoxicating scent of the Fruit Stripe gum on her cool breath and I felt her surge as she got on her toes and nested her hands on my shoulders. I etched the moment into my soul for one last moment and broke the embrace. She slowly opened her eyes as I let go of her and the realization wafted from her lips like smoke. "....Alex?" I hadn't realized that the gym was completely silent. "Yeah Rachel, its me." I slowly turned around and made my way for the exit. "Wait!" Rachel blurted out, "Will you walk me home"
"Maybe next time"
And so it was. Over and done. I feel like I lost my childhood that Halloween night. What I first envisioned as a prank turned out to be an eye opening experience. The magic facade of youthful love fell down and I felt the clarity of being free of them. I experienced some notoriety at school that lasted a few months. Rachel denied the event like the plague but I still catch her looking at me every so often. I felt sorry for standing her up but I knew what she wanted was attention, and I just wouldn't have been able to cater to her like that. On the upside, one of the dad's who was volunteering at the dance saw what I did and thought so much of it he got me a job at his used car lot. I'm saving up for an IROC Camaro when I turn 16. So far 1989 has been pretty good, let's see what the 90s bring.
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