Monday came, dragging the upcoming school week behind it like a murderer’s axe, and it was time for Benjamin to break the bad news to the others.
The cafeteria had been festooned with Halloween decorations since the last week of September, and by now all the paper skeletons, 3D crepe pumpkins, and tissue-paper ghosts were dull and pointless — just another bit of background noise. Still, there was a buzz about the holiday running through the students’ conversations: planned parties and costume ideas and the risk/reward of being ‘too old’ to go trick-or-treating weighed against the potential score of bagfuls of candy.
And on the edges of all that cacophony, at their usual table, Benjamin let his friends know their world was ending for a week.
Maybe longer, if they couldn’t find a place to play Saturday.
“You’re sure your folks won’t let us come over, Eddie?” Benjamin asked. They picked at their chicken strips, the snack bar having disappointingly run out of burritos.
“Nope,” Eddie said. He’d torn his chicken into enough smaller pieces to arrange and spell some cuss words on his tray. Randall kept nudging him whenever the teacher monitoring the lunchroom had wandered close by, but Randall’s anxiety just seemed to tickle Eddie.
“They’re painting the house or some such,” Eddie continued. “It’s a no-go for the game.”
“Inside or outside?” Cy asked.
“The painting. Inside? Outside?”
Eddie shrugged and shifted his chicken fragments around to spell something even more obscene. “Who knows? Who cares, man? It doesn’t involve me.” He turned to face the smaller kid. “Anyway, why don’t we do it at your place, Cy? Y’know, since we never have.”
Cy pursed his lips and looked at Eddie’s tray. “You know, that word’s not spelled with two ‘K’s.”
“You’re dodging the question.”
“And your memory’s fading,” Cy said. “My parents? Randall’s parents? Same thing. They’d flip if they knew what I got up to with you guys.”
Eddie smirked and popped a French fry in his mouth. “Sure am glad we’re able to contribute to the corruption of you two good churchgoing boys. Hail Satan!” This last bit caught the ear of one of the Pentecostal girls who sat a couple of tables away. She frowned at Eddie.
“So we never really talked about that,” said Randall. “I mean, y’all know how tight a leash my folks keep on me and my brothers. Shoot, half the time I’m playing Voidville? They think I’m at Bible study. How bad is it for you, Cy?”
Cy stirred his fork around in the little mound of sweet corn on his tray. “Ah, not bad. But they think I’m a little china figurine or something, like I’m going to break if a stiff breeze hits me crossways. Real overprotective.”
“But what do they think about your sister being a cheerleader? Isn’t that a little…worldly?”
Cy looked up. “You know anything connected to football is exempt from religious rules, man. Rose working in service to the Dragons is not the same thing as working in service to the Serpent.”
“Okay…then what about you? How do you get out of the house to come play?” Randall asked.
Cy smiled, soft and secretive. “I have my ways.”
Randall shook his head. “Well, I dunno. I don’t think I can play Saturday anyway. My folks are going out of town, and I…have to…watch my…broth…” He trailed off as the others stared at him. “What?” He swiped a hand around his mouth. “Did I get it?”
“Randall,” Benjamin said. “Are you hearing yourself?”
Randall wiped his mouth again. “So I didn’t get it? What is it, ketchup?”
Eddie pointed at him with a fry. “Did you, or did you not, just say your parents are going to be out of town the same day we need a place to play?”
Randall’s eyes widened. “We can’t do that.”
“Why not?” asked Benjamin. “It sounds perfect.” He hoped he didn’t sound too needy.
“I gotta watch my little brothers, mainly,” Randall said.
“They can play!” Benjamin said. “They can work props or something.”
“They are just as churchy as my mom and dad,” Randall said. “And they’re a couple of little tattletales. Plus, they got that whole creepy-twin thing going on, which makes the tattle-taling that much worse.” He shook a finger at each of the guys in turn. “If Caleb or Carter gets a whiff — just a tiny little whiff — about what the game’s about, they’ll be sure I don’t ever leave the house again. I don’t think Church of Christ does exorcisms, but by God, Mom and Dad’ll try to have one done on me if they find out about –”
“So we’re agreed, then?” Eddie asked the others. “Randall’s place, Saturday? Noon work for y’all?”
“Hang on just a minute,” Randall said, voice getting higher. “You three don’t understand. I’m talking about never getting to play again. Never getting to hang out with you guys again.”
“I’ve got a plan,” said Eddie. “Calm down.”
Cy and Benjamin leaned in.
“We bring Benjamin’s kid sister,” Eddie said. “If I know Sunday school kids, especially boys, they’re going to be fascinated and terrified by her. Boys that age know one thing — girls that age are breeding grounds for cooties. They’ll be so fixated on her we could do anything we wanted. Orgy, human sacrifice…”
Another disapproving glare from the girl two tables down.
“What do you think, Benjamin?” Eddie asked.
“I’m supposed to be bringing Eury with me anyway.”
“Good! Between her and your lady love being there, Heckle and Jeckle won’t know what hit them.”
Randall could only look from friend to friend, eyes wide and mouth working to no avail, until his voice came back.
“Y’all are out of your minds. There’s no way this is gonna work. We can’t do it. I don’t care what you say. Y’all have to find another place to play.”
The lunch bell rang, and students began rising from their tables to drop off their trays and head back to class.
“Okay, then” Eddie said. “It’s settled. Randall’s on Saturday.”
Today’s Words: 1019
Total Words: 11689
Notes: Had a thought about the book’s structure, particularly something to do when the ‘cassette’ of the chapter breaks flips sides. Not positive I’ll do it yet, but it’s lurking in the back of my mind…
I’m attempting to write a Halloween-themed horror novel in October! Visit Day Zero for more information or Day One to read from the beginning, and check out Countdown to Halloween for more blogging that’s altogether ooky!
(And the cat is Valentine — I figured the presence of a black cat would make things that much more Halloween-y!)