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Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Short Story Challenge: Eleven Steps

Eleven Steps by Maegan Langer

Organized again. Stretched across the lawn in one neat row: my children’s army of soccer balls. The kids don’t notice. They dash past them on their way to the bus every morning. The formation stays put until practice every afternoon.


My wife looked at me sidelong the first time it happened, like she took it as some kind of symptom. But she didn’t say anything.

I don’t say anything either.

I know he did it.


Sometimes I stare out the upstairs window after everyone’s gone to bed. I squint through the blinds at the balls scattered across the grass in the dark. I stand there while the sprinklers come on. I’m still there when they stop, leaving a glistening wet sheen over all in the moonlight.

I know he’s there, somewhere. Staring back at me, daring me to watch all night.

Laughing at me.


Still there they are: a path from the front door to the sidewalk clearly delineated in soccer ball stepping stones. I’ve taken to walking that path every morning, counting each step, one for every ball, deliberately setting one bare foot in front of the other in the dewy grass.

Always eleven steps.

How does he do it?

I reach the end of the path and stoop down to collect the paper, careful to keep the coffee cup in my right hand level. This morning, I have to pause mid-stoop. Something novel has caught my eye.

The sewer grate. Centered directly opposite the last ball, a short couple of steps from the end of the path.

This morning, I take those extra steps. I peer down between the bars, at the sun’s reflected light in the dirty water below. I imagine a pair of sallow eyes staring back up at me, wreathed in grimy, gray skin. A tiny, lipless mouth parts. He sticks his tongue out at me before scuttling back into the pipe.

Gotcha now.

I make my way back up the path.

Eleven steps.


Someone is speaking when I return to the kitchen. A woman’s voice. Probably one of those damn early-morning news commentators. But the TV on the counter is blank.

“I said, anything you wanna add to the grocery list?” my wife asks.

No honey, just pick up whatever you like.

She looks at me for a moment. Searching for more symptoms.

I hate it when she looks at me like that.

So I smile at her. Have a good day at work, I say. I’ll be here, just like yesterday, same as tomorrow. I promise to work on my portfolio, monitor the market, thoroughly peruse monster.com. This is only temporary, I want to tell her. I want to tell myself.

Just a little hiccup.

Don’t worry.

I love you.



When the house is empty, I return to the soccer balls. I stand behind the line and face the goal across the yard.

But I’m really thinking about the sewer grate.

He’s still there: grubby little fingertips and jaundiced eyes just peeking at the edge of the curb, waiting to see what happens next.

Carefully, I nudge the nearest ball out of the line with my toe.

It. is. on.

I pull my foot back, holding it in midair behind me before swinging it forward to connect with the displaced ball. It shoots across the grass, stopping just short of the goal. I kick the next one and it settles in the driveway. Now I get a running start. The third ball sails right over the goal frame.

Score!

More running starts, farther and farther back. The soccer balls come to rest in the rose bushes, the porch, they plop into the half-empty kiddie pool, they fly over the fence, they roll into the gutter across the street.

One left. I gather it up in my fingers and stroll to the grate, balancing it in the palm of my hand. Of course he’s gone by then. He’s so quick.

But he can’t have gotten too far.

I leave the last ball on the grate, letting it roll back against the curb. I fold my arms and tilt my head to the side, admiring my work.

Then I stroll back across the grass.



Back at the computer, I can’t keep my eyes from straying to the window every few seconds.

All clear.

Soccer balls still scattered.

Still no line.

Still no . . .

He’s done it again.

In the daylight.

Right under my nose.

Damn.



I don’t bother with a robe. I explode onto the porch in my shirt sleeves and pajama bottoms, slamming the door behind me. I’m running up and down the path, turning circles, glancing over my shoulder, shielding my eyes from the sunlight.

Then I remember the grate.

I’m bent over, grasping the bars and heaving backwards with all my weight. He’s moving around down there. I can see the ripples in the water, hear him splashing. The grate doesn’t budge, so I reach my hand into the space and grasp wildly with my fingers before yanking it out with almost enough force to topple backwards.

He bit me.

Blood oozes onto my fingertip in bright, scarlet drops. Something moves just out of my vision. I glance up, still holding my injured hand.

He’s there.

Watching me.

Hunched on all fours, scaly tail lashing back and forth, like an angry cat.

“Dale, what are you doing?” My wife is standing in the driveway, a grocery bag in each arm. My children’s faces stare out at me through the minivan windows. They look white and uncomfortable, like they don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

“Honey,” she calls. “What are you looking at?”

The tiny, lipless mouth parts again, but this time he doesn’t stick out his tongue.

He’s smiling at me.

Slowly, he twists his bare skull. The yellow eyes follow me as I step backwards across the grass.

Eleven steps.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween Short Story Challenge: Lighting yourself on fire is a serious faux pas

Halloween Storytime-Guess what, this story is totally true.

On crisp Halloween night a girl named Rus-crap, let's call her Bette. Anyways, a girl named Bette crushed on a bloke who looked an awful lot like Orlando Bloom. Not the Orlando Bloom of 2011 but more like the one a decade earlier when he played Legolas on Lord of the Rings. This guy of Bette's heart was rocker-hott, long blonde hair with leather pants and a leather cuff on his wrist. Can we say swoon?

Anyways, back to the Halloween night from hell. Rus-er, Bette accidentally lit herself on fire.

The goal of the night was to dress in a super yummified costume. Bette wanted to go as a SWAT team member, cute lil skirt and all. But due to lack of dinero, she had to go as a vamped up Snow White. Which super-hottie Rocker didn't mind at all.

On that night, they bought a whole slew of pumpkins and ran them over with his Mustang. Which did you know if you run over pumpkins repeatedly, you will get a flat tire? After laughing so hard their lungs hurt, they explored the whole town hand in hand.

When super-hottie Rocker took her home the moment of the big kiss at the door step loomed over the two. Rocker put his hands through his long hair and then grabbed Bette's waist. He stole a long, passionate kiss.

Bette was majorly grooving on the guy. She adjusted her feet and grabbed the bloke's hair. She felt a lit Jack o' Lantern near her toes but didn't care. Rocker had her hooked with his soft lips.

And she continued to not care, so much that her long dress grazed over the top of the lit jack o' lantern. The hem of her dress caught on the flame of the candle and because Karma has it in for her the dress caught on fire.

Russ-er, Bette didn't even notice until Rocker sniffed the air and said, "Do you smell a fire?"

Flames danced around the hem of her dress and thankfully, the only thing that saved her legs from burning was her leather boots. Well, her leather boots AND Rocker, who came to her rescue.

The actual fire was put out but in its place a new fire had totally taken over Bette and Rocker. Ah, the flames of love. And man, do they consume and fast.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Nothing Ruins Your Day Like . . .

I love Halloween. I love everything about October. One of my favorite things about this time of year is the parade of scary movies on TV. I just finished watching The Unborn for the first time. I'll admit: the trailer scared the blinking firebugs out of me. I mean, terrifying. Truly. If you don't believe me, you can watch it for yourself here. (But be warned: TER-ifying.)

This is why it took me two years to watch it. I wanted to, but I was too sceered. So when it turned up on TV, I thought maybe it was time to finally face this thing head-on. You know, grab the bull by the horns. Get it out of my system. Plus, I was too lazy to do anything else.

Well, let me tell you. The Unborn? Not. Scary. Just a bunch of flashy effects painted around a weak story and flat characters I didn't care much about. Not even Idris Elba and Gary Oldman - who I love - could rescue this sad, sad excuse for a fright fest. Seriously, dudes! What went wrong?



"At least I have the Dark Knight to fall back on."

"I wonder if that regional manager position is still open at The Office . . ."















It's one thing when you're expecting cheese (whatup, SyFy channel). It's quite another when the trailer is scary and the actual movie is not. Sigh. I hate to say it, but I'm feeling rather disappointed at the moment.

Whenever something like this happens, I like to play a little game called, "Nothing ruins your day like . . ." Nothing ruins your day like a lame-o scary movie. Nothing ruins your day like biting into a piece stale chocolate. A sewage back-up. Road construction. Kanye West. Know what I mean?

What about you guys? What are some of the things that ruin your day?

Friday, October 21, 2011

BLOOPER REEL! The Ridiculous! The Embarrassing! The Silly! The Us!

SO. Welcome to the Blooper Reel And Other Embarrassing Stuff. We're sort of horrified to be putting this up here, but we are willing to sacrifice our dignity for our readers. Because you're that wonderful, and we're that devoted. 

First up we have an attempt at beginning the whole Loraine Scott interview in rather a creative and entertaining way. It being the month of Halloween and all, we thought we'd go a little "Blair Witch," and do a spoofy, slightly creepy, somehow inspiring and enlightening beginning that was reminiscent of the amateur/art-house-filmed horror adventure that took place in Blair county. Or Blair something. I'm not sure. I've never seen it. Just the commercials. Anyway, we went all dark and spooky to meet Ms. Scott, and this is the result: The Blair Gnome Project. Which, after we saw it, we determined to be too goofy to add to the actual interview footage. Instead, we'll show it here. Note Russo's giggles, Maegan's quiet shyness which masquerades as dignity, and my general spazziness, which works on stage, but is kind of awful here. Ah well. Enjoy. The Blair Gnomes:



Here we have Maegs and me suddenly realizing our mouths are full of gum, which won't do for the interview. Luckily Russo steps in at the last moment to save the day, bless her:


My kid was kind enough to take time off from her life as a college student to film us. Here you get a split second of her voice. You might recognize it from the Blair Gnome clip above. (And don't give me that look, young lady! I'm giving you your 15 minutes of fame! Except it's 3 seconds! You should be grateful!)


Russo preferred to offer quiet support on this venture, so we didn't get a lot of footage or audio of her or her questions. Instead, we got some interesting close-up footage of how her hands entertain themselves when her mind is otherwise occupied. Busy little cutie-patooties, aren't they?


Busy as well were Maegan's feet. Cute. Dainty. And tap dancing all over the place. Lookee:


And finally, since this is an interview with a writer of murder, I thought maybe we should go ahead and create that Halloween-y mood by including a little blip that we originally cut out because of it's . . . well . . . you'll see:


All right, my darlings. There you have it: Your Gnomeslayers--instilling in you confidence that we shall overcome and slay our gnomes! Yours too, most likely, while we're at it. But probably by accident.

(And P.S., don't tell Maegan and Russo that I got the footage of their busy hands and feet. They don't know and would probably kick me off the blog.)

(P.P.S. - Forgive the lousy quality. Apparently my camera isn't as good as I thought it was. It does add a certain je ne sais quois quality to the whole thing though, doesn't it? DOESN'T IT? I agree.)



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Author Interview! Loraine Scott, Maestro of Murder and Mayhem, Part 2

Here we are again, my dears. The lovely Loraine Scott and her cozy book of murder. Today we learn a bit about how one crafts a murder mystery. Which has always been a mystery to me. I admire anyone who can think that way. I mean as a writer. Not a murderer. Just to be clear.


Voilá, Loraine (along with the elegant Maegan, and the loud Janiel. Russo is lending support from off camera, bless her):



Were you taking notes? I like the idea of the binders of info to keep track of everything. Sometimes you need paper and pen in your hands rather than keys on the computer. Bit more personal that way.

On to the Mickey Mouse room. Loraine can do anything. We kid you not. The reference to Maegan's dress came about because Loraine took on the job of hemming Maeg's choir dress so she can wear it on her Welsh Choir tour to New Zealand. And just so you know, NEITHER RUSSO OR I ARE JEALOUS THAT SHE GETS TO GO. Nope. We are happy, HAPPY FOR HER WE TELL YOU. (And in truth, we are.)


So. Um. Mickey:



And now you know all about Loraine. She's cool. Her writing is cool. Leave a comment, win her book, and you'll be cool. Oh wait! You already are! Well, you'll be entertained then.


Tune in Friday for the Interview Blooper Reel--some of which is downright embarrassing to some of us.


See you then!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Author Interview! Loraine Scott! Maestro of Murder and Mayhem - Part One

Hello All!


Today we are thrilled to bring you another Author Interview. Loraine Scott has been a part of your three favorite Gnomeslayers' writing group since . . . forever. She has recently published the second in a three-book mystery series, and we lost no time rushing over to her joint to interview her.


We'll be posting short video interviews with Loraine this week - starting today. Then, if y'all who are interested will leave a comment in the comments section telling us either your favorite mystery of all time (any media), or the first mystery you ever read, we'll enter you in a drawing for Loraine's latest book: NYC: Murder, Brooklyn Style. (You can also click on that link back there, go to Loraine's blog, and buy the book yourself, if you like.)


So. A few caveats: I edited and created this movie at 1:00 in the morning. I inexplicably titled it "Loraine Scott: Missionary, Cop, Author." Inexplicably. She's been all of those things, but why did I put "Missionary" first? I don't know. I was hoping you could tell me.


Also, we'll post a video, as I mentioned, today, and then another on Wednesday. Then on Friday we'll post the Blooper Reel! Judging by the way I titled the clip, the bloopers should be good.


Righteo. Here you are, dear readers and writers. Loraine Scott. Author, Cop, Missionary, Mom, Grandmother, choir-dress-hemmer-so-Maegan-can-wear-it-in-New-Zealand, and all around cool chick.



(That screencapture above is hilarious. At no time did Loraine sleep like this during the interview.)

Enjoy!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Titus Androncus: Halloween Shakespeare. Brace Yourselves.

*Caution: Squeamish Alert*  If you are, you shouldn't. Watch the clip, I mean.

So. The Shakespeare Festival. Sounds like someplace you'd go to be elevated. To be set adrift on a river of Renaissance revelry. To immerse yourself in the language, ambiance, and romance of that which makes us love the Bard. Yes?

And then there's Titus Andronicus--The most bloody, gruesome, violent, barbaric, and horrifying of all of Shakespeare's plays, and his most popular in his day. It's a script that is unabashed in it's debauchery. So much so that very few in modern times have attempted to stage it. Too hard on the audience. Too hard on the actors. To much criticism to set yourself up for as a director.

Enter American Fork High School and the State Shakespeare Competition.

The drama teacher at this school doesn't shy away from difficult questions or themes. And he has a brilliant eye for the big picture. So naturally, he decided to do a condensed version of Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus for the Ensemble division of the competition this year. With kids ranging in age from 15 to 18. And pulling no punches with the subject matter.

His scene won.

Do you want to see why? Aside from them being stinking amazing? Instead of stepping around the violence, the director chose to portray it all as a sort of Cirque du Freak, using garish characters and colors and extreme costuming and special effects (well, stage effects with makeup and sets, anyway). The result was that instead of just feeling bludgeoned by a blood-fest, I came away with a clear picture of what happens when anger and revenge take over in one's mind. What extremes it can go to. And that our world really really needs to check itself. Even my daughter, who is extremely visual and sensitive, came away from this amazed, thoughtful, and astonished. "Mercy is nobility's true badge."

So. Here's the clip. Be aware that there are depictions of stabbings, dismemberment, forced cannibalism, and rape (which happens off stage)--all of which are in Shakespeare's script. Also be aware that this clip will likely not offer the same impact that this scene had live--partly because of audio and distance issues--but I hope you'll get the idea that I think the director and Mr. Shakespeare were trying to get across. I hope it isn't offensive to anyone, as I don't think it was done simply for the shock value. I'd be interested in your thoughts. And I'm a little nervous. :)

A brief synopsis of what you'll be seeing (and this is with a LOT of the violent plot removed): Titus Andronicus returns to Rome victorious over the Goths. He has the Queen of the Goths, Tamora, and her three sons as prisoners. We meet his daughter Lavinia, whom he loves. Titus declines the throne of Rome, offering it to his son Saturninus. Then, despite Tamora's pleas, Titus sacrifices her eldest son to avenge his sons' deaths during the war. Saturninus, who has denounced the Andronicus family, shocks Titus by marrying Tamora. Tamora exacts revenge on Titus by setting her remaining sons on Lavinia. They rape her, then to prevent her telling anyone, cut off her hands and tongue (yeah. sick, bad, and wrong.) Titus goes nuts, captures Tamora's sons, and kills them himself. Then he uses their blood and bones to make a pasty (pie), that he will feed to Tamora at a feast. At the feast Titus shows to what depths he has lost it by breaking his daughter's neck, so neither she nor he will suffer any more. Then he tells Tamora that she's eating her sons, force-feeds her, and everyone kills everyone, and it ends.

Hmmm. Sounds like a bloodbath. I remember it being horrifying and cool and awful and wow, in sort of a Heath Ledger/Dark Knight kind of way. But maybe I'm warped. Which is weird, because I'm so not. Anyway. Brace yourselves. Here it is:



Um.
Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I got mistaken for a hooker

Yep, the title is right. And to think I wasn't even wearing my thigh high leather boots.

Lemme give you the dirt. I was a tad cranky because I wasn't able to see Lion King with Maegan and Janiel this weekend. The past few days have been filled with redunkulous demands. So, instead of stressing I found a way to bargain with my bestie, Jameses. I would deliver his four large boxes of hair products to a salon downtown, if he would go to the bank for me and take some money out of my account. I needed some dough for a serious shop-a-thon.

After our errands, we'd meet up up at the sushi bar for grub. So, after nearly falling flat on my face while walking up ten flights of stairs in my bold buckled stiletto-heeled booties. And getting stuck in traffic. Not to mention accidentally flashing the bloke in the car next to me, I arrived at the bar and plunked my toukus down on the stool. Jameses kissed me on the cheek and passed me a wad of cash.

The server, who looked like a cross between Frankenstein and Chris Brown, couldn't stop staring. He stared at my booties and curve hugging dress and said, "We don't allow your type in here."

Jameses went into a fit, his eyes nearly went cross-eyed as he said, "Is it because I'm gay?"

The guy did a double take and said, "We don't care about that, its just . . . you can't pay a hooker and expect me not to say something."

I launch into a giggling fit and start flipping my head around, trying to find the lady of the night. I take a sip of my lemon water and say, "Wait, where is she? I wanna see."

The server then fidgets as he stands in place and says, "Ma'am, don't play coy. I know what you are."

My excitement vanishes as I realize I won't see the hooker because this bloke thinks I'm the hooker. I'm baffled because why wouldn't he think differently? I'm wearing stiletto booties and being handed a wad of cash by a man who freely kisses me on the cheek and smacks my rump when I hit the restroom.

So, instead of getting pissed at this server's assumptions, I smile widely. At least he thinks I worth a wad of cash. Sure, the bills might be ones but the server doesn't know that, all he sees is a wad of $dinero.

The lesson is simple-sometimes people will judge you. You can't control where their mind will go but the trick is to not care. Which is harder than ever at times.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Raven

*WARNING: This post is intended mainly for our readers of the female persuasion. Guys, you may want to click right on by. Or feel free to keep reading, but don't say I didn't warn you.*

In college, my Animal Reproduction professor was very passionate about his subject. One of our final assignments of the semester was a creative art project (keep in mind, this was a science class). The guidelines were simple: the project could take any form we liked, as long as it had something to do with reproduction.

You can imagine I was at a bit of a loss. I've always liked art, but art mixed with biology? It was difficult to reconcile the two different halves of my brain. With so many possibilities for medium and subject matter, I had no idea where to start. Plus I was already frazzled over preparing for my final exams. So I shoved the reproduction-as-art assignment to the back of my head and concentrated on not failing another organic chemistry exam.

But then a weird thing happened. Persistent, little cawing words kept floating up to the front of my brain. They went something like, Not again, nevermore. Sleep and Ibuprophen I implore. Nevermore. Nevermore . . .

It's amazing what your subconscious can do for you when you give it a chance. Suddenly, I had my repro art project all figured out without even trying! (Yeah, it was more fun than studying chemistry.)

The Raven

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I studied, bored and weary,
Over many a complex and curious volume of forgotten lecture lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of something gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis but stress," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door."
"'Tis the stress, and nothing more."

But, distinctly I remember, the signs of this curse of my gender.
Like clockwork, it appears unbidden at the door.
Regularly, it descends as uninvited as before.
Annoyed, I wished the morrow was not a day of finals sorrow,
So that I could stay at home, safe behind my bedroom door.
Sleep and Ibuprophen, I implore!
These things I require, these and nothing more.

Thus I sat, stiffly boiling, dismayed at this interruption in my toiling,
this inconvenient, disastrous, insufferable monthly chore.
Though the hour was ungodly, yet I still had much to study,
but for this all-too-familiar caller rapping at my chamber door.
Every time it comes, I plead, not again! Nevermore!
Yet it waits, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting,
perched outside my chamber door.
A burden to be lifted
Nevermore. Nevermore.

This is why I don't write poetry. But at least I got full points on the assignment. Check out Poe's original version here.



Postscript: Sadly, I can't remember most of the other students' projects, but to this day I give props to the girl who made a uterus-shaped pinata out of papier mache.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Teenage Halloweenies

October Challenge: Favorite Halloween Things

Hello All!
Today my fonts are funky and my presentation persnickety, because I am writing this post on my iPad from a cozy hotel room in a little university town quite a bit south of where I live, and safe from the snow and windchill outside. I am surrounded on both sides and below by junior high school students, and am just a few blocks from a beautiful, if chilly, replica of William Shakespeare's Globe Theater in England.

It isn't supposed to snow this time of year. And watching King Lear prance about beneath an open roof without his shirt on as he goes slowly mad due to the treachery of two of his daughters, and his banishment of the third (and favorite), did nothing to warm us up. By the time Lear's jester was poisoning himself from grief and the King's hair had been pulled out in lunacy-induced patches until he resembled Christopher Lloyd, I, and all the little Thespians with whom I shivered, decided enough was enough. So we abandoned His Royal Crazypants right before he put his own eyes out, and came back to the warmth of our rooms and in my case, the chill of Mr. Ben and his friend Jerry. (Correction: It isn't Lear who gets his eyes put out, it's Gloucster. And by all accounts we missed a marvelously gory scene that made people shriek. Maegan? You should go down and see it, yeah?)

What does all of this have to do with Halloween? Not much. Except that the State Shakespeare Competition always takes place early in the freaky month of October, and it's one of my favorite things about this time of year. I get to work with incandescently hyper newbie teenagers, teach them English in a new (old) tongue, watch them go from befuddled, to confused, to perplexed, to Ahhhhh! to I get it! to "check me and my bad Hamlet out." It's maddening and energetic and explosive and . . . hang on a sec. I'm hearing them slamming doors and stomping and it is past curfew. We don't want to get kicked out. I have to go down and go Opera on all of them. Give me a mo . . .

(I'm serious. That just happened.)

My favorite thing about Halloween? Teenagers.


(I seriously have no formatting on this thing, so pretend my headings are underlined, and when emphasis is needed I have put to clever use Italics and font changes. Also pretend that this is being written by JK Rowling, or The Pioneer Woman, or someone equally scintillating. I mean, while you're at it.)

Favorite Teenage Costume: My friend went as a tornado - she wore a grey sweatsuit and glued little farm animals and houses and furniture all over herself. When people asked what she was she spun around and made a roaring sound.

Also, my little pre-teen had me make (I'm sorry. Let me say that again: she had me MAKE) (I am domestically impaired. That I MADE anything is just this side of the discovery of cold fusion) a costume for her wherein she was Frankenstein's monster carrying Dr. Frankenstein on her back. When I get home and can post pictures, and can find one, I will. Post it. Here. If you want. Did I mention it was a miracle that I made it?)

Favorite Movie: We used to go see "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" at a little old theater where everyone had it memorized and yelled out advice to Don Knotts, which he regularly ignored.

My teenagers have finally reached a point where they can watch it without having bad dreams about organs playing by themselves, and garden shears stabbing the painting of a woman.

Favorite Food: Gingerbread cookies cut like Jack o' Lanterns, iced and decorated with red hots and mini chocolate chips, and then all eaten by my kids and their friends (and me) within minutes after they're done. Also, my kids' halloween candy.

Halloween candy teenage memory: When I lived in Germany we had to go on base to trick or treat because the Germans didn't know what it was and thought we were possessed when we showed up on their doorstep dressed up like Pippi Longstocking and carrying a stuffed monkey. There were rumors of gangs of teenagers roaming the base and calling themselves "The Bag Rippers". They would (ready for this?) pull out knives and rip the bottoms of the trick or treat bags of innocent little ghosties and witchies and steal all the candy. This caused all of us little peeps, including those who decided to dress up as Oliver Twist because we really liked knickers and our sister had a pair of 1970's flowered knickers which made us look like Charles Dickens meets The Mammas and the Pappas, to clutch our trick or treat bags tightly to our chests and toss threatening looks at everyone we passed in order to not get our bag ripped.

Luckily for THEM, the Bag Rippers never ran into some of us. Plus, I think they were just a rumor.

Favorite Music: Oooh! Phantom of the Opera is fun to play as little Halloweenies come to the door! This has nothing to do with teenagers. Although my son is a teenager and loves Jimmi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn.

Favorite cool thing a teenager did on Halloween: We have a neighbor who used to be associate dean of the theater department at our local University, and he and his teenage sons set up EPIC haunted houses and themed yards. One year they actually had the Black Pearl sinking into their front yard, complete with Pirates hanging from the masts and fog shrouding the grass. His sons were live pirates who would attack when you got close. Epic in it's awesomeness.

VERY FAVORITE TEENAGE HALLOWEEN THING: All of my young college-aged nieces and nephews come over for Chili (plain or 3-way: over spaghetti noodles, and topped with cheese and oyster crackers. I'm serious! Go to Ohio. They do this there. It's YUM) and mulled cider and games. And for those that don't scram to their own Halloween partays, the unmitigated delight of helping me take my littlest dude(s) (the older littlest dudes, who are well into teenage-hood, haven't decided if they're too old to trick or treat yet) around the neighborhood to beg candy.

I LOVE this time of year. Even if it comes with unseasonal snow, grundles of Junior High students, and too much Ben and Jerry's too late at night. The leaves, the smells, the traditions, the family, the excitement and energy in the air all makes me want to bottle it up so I can open it in winter and take a whiff.

Ahhhhh.

(Sorry! No pics! I'll post them when I get home.)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Embarrassing moment alert

October Challenge: Halloween month adventures

This week was my step dad's 60th birthday and the one thing he asked from me was to head out of town and hit fruit stand way.

He expected a purely country experience where we browsed though side street produce stands and heard the crunch of Fall leaves on the ground. His eyes shined as he talked about his picturesque weekend where the family sipped apple cider on a porch, listened to nothing but the quietness of the mountains. Unfortunately, what he got was the exact opposite of his wish.

Sure, we drove up the mountains and enjoyed the cool fall weather but we also got a flat tire. No biggie. My date, who was a country boy from the deep South, helped fix the flat. I was completely baffled that this bloke was mine and began to pace the asphalt. I stared at the trace of black smudged all over his cheek and thought, "Oh, yeah, this dude has earned his bonus points-changing a flat, spending time with my 'rents."

So, instead of watching my footing, I get distracted as my mom begins screaming, like she has a squirrel in her shirt.

And instead of acting cool and just glancing around to see what was up, I began screaming as well. Me and nature so don't mix.

My mom's hands are shaking and she says, "Skunk, look out."

But she's too late, I end up tripping over the skunk and as a sweet gift to my sorry-butt the lil animal emitted his nasty smell all over me.

The skunk tottered off and at this point, I am shocked. I stand there with my mouth open and staring at everyone's grossed out faces.

My mom glances at the fixed SUV and says, "You smell like someone wiped cow dung all over you."

I cannot stop giggling as I say, "Really? I thought I smell like lavender and cake."

I then get delegated to the back of the SUV by the groceries, produce and etc. My long legs are crammed and I am sitting on a flashlight. I smell like cow dung, as my mom repeatedly reminds me. I am as uncomfortable as a hobbit in a hatbox.

With a sigh, I wipe the dirt off my legs. I lean to my left and rest my head on the seat in front of me. To my surprise, hott country guy turns and faces me. He places his calloused hand on my arm and wipes the hair out of my face.

There are no thoughts of skunks or flat tires, I feel rejuvenated and calm.

Needless to say, Fall is my new fave season-thanks to a country boy from the deep South.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Potions, Plastic Bugs, and Picture Books

October Challenge: Favorite Halloween Things

1. Song.


2. Book. When I was little, I loved this picture book about a boy (I think) who lived in an apartment building and thought his neighbor was a witch. When she invites him over for Halloween, he learns that she's actually a kind woman who's just batty enough to be charming. The only other details I recall are that she does yoga and she uses a wiry strand of her own hair to pick a lock on a doorknob. She may have had a bunch of cats, too. (Is this sounding random enough, yet?) I can't remember the name of the book, but I've been looking for it for years. If you recognize it, please let me know in the comments! I would be most grateful. We're talking mid- to late-eighties era.

3. Movie.



4. Costume. One year in college, I glued a line of little plastic spiders crawling out of my ear and down my neck and bobby-pinned fake cockroaches and a rubber rat into my hair. I completed the look with plain, blue hospital scrubs and went about my campus business as if everything were completely normal. I'm not gonna lie. People were impressed. Alas, I did not get a picture, but you can believe it was pretty awesome.

4a. Costume. No, I have never dressed up as Ian McKellen for Halloween, but I do like the idea. With a t-shirt like that, you could be Ian McKellen, you could be Gandalf, you could be Magneto, or Magdalf, or Ganneto, or some strange combination of all five. See what I mean? Brilliant.




















5. Treat. Witch's Brew, because dry ice is fun. (But also dangerous, kids.)

6. Memory. When I was in 5th grade, my school had a Halloween story contest. I took first prize: a package of Reese's peanut butter cups plus a tiny notion of, Hey, maybe I should look into this writing thing . . .

If you're curious about this embarrassingly self-aware, somewhat preachy baby writing attempt, I've included the story below.