While living and working in Edinburgh in 2008 I set out to write one million words in 366 days... but only managed 800,737.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Halloween Story

[I wrote a story earlier this year that featured Halloween. While I don't have stories stashed away for all the forthcoming holidays, I thought I'd post this one:]

Somewhere in Southern California...

When the power went out, the writer’s sister went to bed early. The writer did not. She lit a candle and dusted off the old Underwood Five typewriter someone had given her as a joke, or perhaps as objet d’art.

But it worked.

She found herself clacking out a story about a woman roughly her own age — which was forty-two — who lived alone — as the writer had until her sister moved in — preparing for the trick-or-treaters on Halloween. This woman had bought a wide variety of candy for the occasion and placed it all in a glass bowl with a wide circumference so the children could select their favourite types of candy without having to dig around too much. The woman in the story, who had not been given a name and perhaps never would, feared digging around could lead to children knocking pieces of candy onto the floor, and then, as she stooped to pick them up, the children — dressed as pirates, werewolves and stormtroopers — would surge into her apartment and begin listening to her record collection with unimpressed werewolf faces, grinding black pepper from her ornamental pepper grinder all over her salt and pepper shag pile carpet, unzipping the backs of her sofa cushions, and changing her answer phone message:

The lady with the big butt is not home. Press 1 for the Pirate. Press 2 for the
Werewolf. Press 3 for the Stormtrooper.

Even with the bowl with the widest circumference she could find, the woman in the story no longer felt comfortable opening the door to trick-or-treaters. She sat on her sofa in silence, waiting for the doorbell to ring, and when it did, she would let them ring and knock until they gave up and went to the next apartment. To calm her nerves while the trick-or-treaters hounded her, she ate candy from the bowl with the wide circumference.

The writer, punching this story out on a typewriter by the light of a candle, suddenly had an incredible urge to eat a Mintie, which is a hard, white candy popular in Australasia. The first time the writer had a Mintie she was on stage for a panel discussion at a book festival in Sydney. She was rendered mute by the chewy mass in her mouth while several topics she was dying to discuss arose and sank, only finishing the Mintie as the chair brought the session to a close. She was then ushered by festival staff wearing headsets to the book signing tent. If it wasn’t for these people wearing headsets she would have slipped away to the airport. Despite her silence during the panel discussion, there were six people already lined up in front of the signing desk. A woman in a headset waved the man at the front of the line forward. The writer asked the man’s name after he placed the opened book before her, but he said, “You can just put, ‘Dear Reader.’”
The writer looked up at this man. He was wearing a blue baseball cap which said, “Seaworld, Gold Coast,” and had not shaved for many days. She looked back at the book he had placed before her. She closed the cover and looked at the spine.

“This is a library book,” she said.

“Yes it is.”

“And you want me to sign it.”

“Yes please.”

She looked at the bag of books the man was holding. “You’re going to take this book back when its due?” she asked.

“I’m the librarian,” he said.

The writer read over what she had written so far of her Halloween story, pulled the current page from her typewriter and inserted a fresh one.

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