Following my daft sister—who forgot I was following her all the way out in the country and pretty much left without me, but if you know my sister you'll understand—we headed across winding roads where trees had been made naked and black by the wind and open fields lay underneath a ribbon of purple twilight. It was the perfect atmosphere for a Halloween party, complete with full pale moon staring down at us like an omniscient cyclops.
My nephew Tommy, who wants to be called Thomas, was to man a basketball game table, only he didn't seem to want to do the actual work, so my sister and I stepped in. She was the 'barker' and I the ball collector. Not an easy job. Those things shot everywhere and I had to race around like a squirrel picking them up.
Meanwhile, Julia and Liam walked around the carnival. There was a graveyard set up, a psychic tent, a Japanese dragon where you stuck your hand in and mysteriously received candy, a fish tank . . . free popcorn and pink lemonade. Julia salted the heck out of her popcorn because she loves salt. After eating an extremely saliva-stripping piece I asked her if she'd gone in the psychic tent yet and she said, "Yes." I asked what her fortune was and she said, "That I'd be rich someday. Yay!"
A teen boy dressed in black hoodie and wearing a scary clown mask with wild, protruding orange hair began to follow Julia. Now, if you know my girl then you know she can't stand still. She walks and walks, drifts, dances, runs—even in a crowd. She can artfully weave her way through any mass of human population in a beautiful Pavlova style. Well, this boy had caught on to her little weaving pattern, popcorn in her hands, eyes wide and full of wonder, and he began to stalk. I watched from a distance, ready to jump in and defend if needed. Liam was off somewhere else scoring candy. The clown-boy seemed fairly harmless, but still my mommy radar was in full alert. Finally, Julia turned around. She gave a little gasp and a laugh and almost lost her popcorn, then came back to hang out by the basketball table. My sister and I told the boy to knock it off, but alas, there were more scary teens looking for vulnerable little pretty pony girls to scare. Julia did us proud by finally sticking out a hand and yelling, STOP. After that all the boys left her alone.
At the evening's end I had grown tired of chasing balls—no jokes please—and anyway, it was time to go downstairs for the haunted walk. Ghosts, zombies, bloody doctors with severed body parts on a grill, screaming, moaning, flashing lights. Hands clutched mine in fear, faces pressed into my side. When is it going to end? But when it did, "Let's do it again!"
Julia, Liam and cousin Tommy, er, Thomas (as the Slender Man)